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Cathedral ground plan. The shaded area is the transept; darker shading represents the crossing.

Full descriptions of the elements of a Gothic floorplan are found at the entry Cathedral diagram.
For the periodical go to The Transept.

The transept is the area set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform ("cross-shaped") building in Romanesque and Gothic Christian church architecture. The transept separates the nave from the sanctuary, whether apse, choir, chevet, presbytery or chancel. The transepts cross the nave at the crossing, which belongs equally to the main nave axis and to the transept. Upon its four piers, the crossing may support a spire, a central tower (see Gloucester Cathedral) or a crossing dome. Since the altar is usually located at the east end of a church, a transept extends to the north and south. The north and south end walls often hold decorated windows of stained glass, such as rose windows, in stone tracery.

Occasionally, the basilicas and the church and cathedral planning that descended from them were built without transepts; sometimes the transepts were reduced to matched chapels. More often the transepts extended well beyond the sides of the rest of the building, forming the shape of a cross. This design is called a "Latin cross" ground plan and these extensions are known as the arms of the transept. A "Greek cross" ground plan, with all four extensions the same length, produces a central-plan structure.

When churches have only one transept, as at Pershore Abbey, there is generally a historical disaster, fire, war or funding problem, to explain the anomaly. At Beauvais only the chevet and transepts stand; the nave of the cathedral was never completed after a collapse of the daring high vaulting in 1284. At St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, only the choir and part of a southern transept were completed until a renewed building campaign in the 19th century.

Other senses of the word

The word "transept" is occasionally extended to mean any subsidiary corridor crossing a larger main corridor, such as the cross-halls or "transepts" of The Crystal Palace, London, of glass and iron that was built for the Great Exhibition of 1851.

In a metro station or similar construction, a transept is a space over the platforms and tracks of a station with side platforms, containing the bridge between the platforms. Placing the bridge in a transept rather than an enclosed tunnel allows passengers to see the platforms, creating a less cramped feeling and making orientation easier.

See also

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TRANSEPT (from Lat. trans, across, and septum, enclosure; synonymous terms in other languages are Fr. croisee, nef transversee; Ital. crociata; Ger. Querbau, Querschiff), in architecture, the term given to the large and lofty structure which lies at right angles to the nave and aisles of a church. The first example is that which existed in the old St Peter's at Rome, but as a rule it is not found in the early basilicas. At the present day the transept might be better defined as that portion of a cruciform church which extends from north to south across the main body of the building and usually separates the choir from the nave; but to this there are some exceptions, as in Westminster Abbey, where the choir, with its rood screen, occupies the first four bays of the nave; in Norwich two bays; in Gloucester one bay; and Winchester one bay. In some of the English cathedrals there is an eastern transept, as in Canterbury, Lincoln, Salisbury and Worcester; at Durham that which might be regarded as an eastern transept is the chapel of the Nine Altars, and the same is four.d in Fountains Abbey. Four of the English cathedrals have aisles on east and west sides, viz. Ely, Wells, Winchester and York, while at Chester there are aisles to the south transept only, and at Lincoln, Peterborough and Salisbury on the east side only. In some cases the transept extends to the outer walls of the aisles only, but there are many instances in which it is carried beyond, as at Lincoln (225 ft. long), Ely (180 ft.), Peterborough (180 ft.), Durham (175 ft.) and Norwich (172 ft.); in all these cases the transept is carried three bays beyond; in York (220 ft.), St Albans (170 ft.), Lichfield (145 ft.) and Canterbury, east transept (165 ft.), two bays beyond; and in Canterbury, western transept (130 ft.), Chichester (160 ft.) and Worcester (130 ft.), only one bay on each side, the dimension in all cases being taken within the north and south walls of the transept.

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