Explain the importance of the flying buttress in architecture.

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Flying buttresses are exterior arched or diagonal supports for the upper sections of tall stone walls. These were inventions of the Romanesque period and were perfected and elaborated on later during the Gothic era. As a result of their implementation, taller churches with larger windows than before were constructed across...

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Flying buttresses are exterior arched or diagonal supports for the upper sections of tall stone walls. These were inventions of the Romanesque period and were perfected and elaborated on later during the Gothic era. As a result of their implementation, taller churches with larger windows than before were constructed across Europe during the High Middle Ages through the Renaissance. Flying buttresses support the weight of the ceilings and upper walls by transferring their thrust downward and outward to the standard buttresses on the exterior of the building.

Even though knowledge of the benefits of the flying buttress existed as early as the 10th century, most architects shunned these exterior supports as being unsightly. However, by the 12th century, more and more architects started to utilize these structures as they strove to build larger churches with large windows which would allow more light into the building. As flying buttresses became more popular, they began to be adapted to have an aesthetic appeal in addition to a purely functional one.

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Flying buttresses allowed architects to design buildings with much higher ceilings and much thinner walls with more of the wall area being available for windows. These changes allowed for significant changes in the construction of churches and cathedrals in the Middle Ages.

The heavy stone structure needed for vaulted ceilings of churches exerted tremendous outward pressure on the walls of the building. Buttresses constructed separate from the main wall could counteract that force through arches braced between the buttress and the main wall. At various times, the arches and buttresses were given added decorative touches.

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