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Amiens's Architectural Terms

Consider these architectural terms before passing through Amiens's main medieval portal (front door):

CHANCEL: The space around the altar that's off-limits to everyone but the clergy. It's at the east end of the church and sometimes blocked off by a rail.

CHOIR: The section of the church set off to seat the choir. It's in the chancel.

CLERESTORY: The upper part of the church walls, typically lined with windows (often the stained-glass variety) to bathe the nave with light.

CROCKET: Usually adorning a spire, pinnacle, or gable, this carved ornament often takes the form of foliage, such as acanthus leaves.

CRYPT: An underground chamber usually used as a burial site and often found directly below a church's nave.

GABLE: The triangular upper portion of a wall comprising the area of a pitched roof.

NARTHEX: A hall leading from the main entrance to the nave.

NAVE: The main section of the church that stretches from the chancel to the main door. This is where worshippers sit during services.

PIER: As opposed to a column, this is a solid masonry support, ranging from a simple square shape to a compound pier often comprised of several distinct subshafts.

RIBBED VAULT: A distinct form of Gothic architecture made up of diagonal arches, called ribs, that spring from column to column to create an overhead framework. By transferring the weight of the building from the roof directly to the columns, they reduced the masonry needed for the exterior walls, enabling these to be filled with large (usually stained-glass) windows.

TRANSEPT: The part of the church that extends outward at a right angle from the main body, creating a cruciform (cross-shape) plan.

TYMPANUM: A recessed triangular or semicircular space above the portal, often decorated with sculpture.

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