The Gothic vaults were very difficult to build.
Especially, when you have to get the stones in at the precise area, or the whole thing
would collapse. The stones were usually heavy and there was no real technology to help
them pull up those huge stones. Soon, the builders decided to make arches formed by
placing blunt, wedge-shaped stones called voussoiros on a framework.
that the cathedrals had so many of these vaulted roofs is because the medieval builders
thought that they helped reduce the risk of fire. That was really good because fires often
there were no fire fighters to help extinguish the fire. Also, it made the inside of the
cathedral have a finished look.
The cons to having these vaults, however, is that they have a
tremendous amount of weight and exert a lot of pressure upon the foundation. The builders
had a way to help spread out the weight and pressure. They used piers or columns to help
1. Maculay, David. Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction, Boston, Houghton
Mifflin Company, 1973
2. Perdrizet, Marie-Pierre, and Eddy Krahenbuhl. People of the Past: The Cathedral
Builders. Brookfield, The Millbrook Press, Inc. 1990
3. Watson, Percy. Building the Medival Cathedral, Minneapolis, Lerner Publications
Photographs of the Washington National Cathedral are provided by Alex Lee and his father.