image index
medieval architecture

Site Resources

back to glossary main

Letter "S" Glossary

sacristy — Rooms in or attached to churches where the sacred utensils and vestments are kept; used as robing and disrobing rooms for the clergy.

sandstone — A consolidated sedimentary rock, consisting of sand grains united with a natural cementing material; the most common sand in sandstone contains quartz, with considerable feldspar, lime, mica, and clayey. Used as a building material.

sarcophagus (pl. sarcophagi) — Coffins made of stone or clay (Etruscan examples in clay), often ornamented with sculpture either abstract or figural, and placed in a church, vault, tomb or, in the case of Early Christian burial practices, a catacomb. Many Late Antique and Early Christian sarcophagi are ornamented with strigillation, a repetitive curving fluted pattern.

screen faŤade — Facades constructed to conceal the shape or size of the buildings to which they are attached by exceeding them in height or width. In Medieval architecture, screen facades are usually richly ornamented with sculptural or decorative elements.

scriptorium (pl. scriptoria) — Rooms designated for the production and copying of manuscripts.

semi-dome — A half-dome often abutting a central dome acting as support.

sexpartite vault — Vaults divided into six vaulting cells or sections.

shaft — Small columns that are usually attached to walls or piers, sometimes referred to as engaged shafts or colonettes.

socle — Plain blocks used as low pedestals for statues or columns or the plain faces at the lower part of walls or pedestals.

soffit — The underside of a part or member of a building such as the underside of an arch. The rounded molding forming the underside of the arch may be called a soffit roll.

span — The distance (width) between the upright supports of a transverse structural member (e.g. a lintel) or between the columns or piers supporting an arch.

spandrel — Wall surfaces, basically triangular in shape, surrounding an arch.

spire — An elongated, pointed structure rising from a tower, turret, or roof and acting as a capping element. Spires, often located on the crossing tower, may be surmounted by a cross or orb (global representation of the earth) pointing skyward and lending increased visibility to the church from great distances.

spring line — The starting point at which an arch or vault begins to curve.

springer — The base voussoirs, or bottom stones, of an arch or vault at the point of transition from the vertical support to the curve of the arch or vault.

squinch — Arches or corbelled transitional elements, sometimes arranged in concentrically wider arches, that span the interior corners of a square or polygonal base serving to support a circular or polygonal dome.

squint — Small windows, often obliquely cut, in the wall of a church, placed to offer a view of the high altar from the transept or aisles.

stained glass — Window glazing composed of colored glass in which the design is meant to be observed through refracted light. The stages of manufacture were described in a manual written in the early twelfth century by the monk Theophilus. The stained glass design is made by cutting pieces of colored glass, with blue, red and yellow colors predominant, following a design worked out in a full-scale cartoon (drawing). The irregularly shaped pieces are held together by strips of lead. Details such as facial features and drapery folds may be painted on the surface of the pieces of glass and fired in a kiln before piecing the glass together. Together with sculptural programs on the church facades, stained glass in the clerestory was used to illustrate Biblical texts as well as events from lives of the saints.

stringcourse — Thin horizontal bands of masonry running along the face of a nave, transept or choir wall and in some instances continuing across piers or engaged columns; may be flush or projecting and may be flat surfaced, molded, or otherwise decoratively enhanced often with foliate designs.

Synagoga — Personification of Judiasm often shown as a female figure, blindfolded and holding the tablets of the law. Often appears with Ecclesia (Personification of the Christian church).

back to top

home page
| site image index | site resources | glossary main

media center for art history and archaeology | columbia university