GLOSSARY OF TERMS

This glossary below is divided into sections for ease of use, viz Armour,  Architecture (including that relevantto monuments) Churches, Dress, etc

Click on the relevant link to access the correct section. Each sectionis also alphabethically bookmarked.

There is also an illustrated glossary showing labelled drawings of muchof this material: click hereto access this section.

In progress


ARMOUR

A B CDE F G HI J K L MN O P QR S T U V W X Y Z


 AKETON.  A padded coat worn beneaththe mail in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and also oftenused as a defence in its own right.
 
AILETTES. Wing-like additions to the shoulders, normally rectangular,sometimes found laced to the mail in the later thirteenth and earlyfourteenth centuries.  Thought once by many writers to have had adefensive purpose, but they were probably purely decorative and oftenserving heraldic significance, to display the wearer’s arms. There use was almost wholly confined to England, France and Flanders.
 
ARMING POINTS.  Cords furnished with tags and attached to thearming doublet, hose and shoes for tying on elements of armour, usuallythreaded through holes in the upper vambrace, couters, cuisses andsabatons.
 
AVENTAIL.  A tippet of mail attached to staples (vervelles) alongthe edge of the face-opening of the basinet to protect the throat andneck, and the top of the shoulders.
 
BACINET.  The bacinet was originally alight helmet (the word means ‘little basin’ in French), but it waslater applied to what is now called a great-bacinet, and eventually, inthe sixteenth, the tilting-helm.
 
BESAGEW.  The besagew was usually round or oval, and could be onthe elbows, or even (horizontally) as a guard on the haft of an axe.
 
BEVOR.  A defence for the lower part of the face.
 
BREASTPLATE.  Protection of the chest, generally formed by onemain plate of steel, but in the fifteenth century often of two plates,an upper and lower, the latter overlapping the former.
 
CAPE.  A term used in this article todescribe the lower part of a coif or aventail which covers the top ofthe shoulders and upper chest.
 
CANNON.  One of the tubular plates protecting the upper and lowerarms.
 
CHAPE.  The metal terminal of a scabbard or a belt.
 
CIRCLET or CIRCLE.  A narrow fillet around the brow of the head,worn over the coif.  Sometimes circlets are decorated, at othertimes they are plain.  In some case the plain examples mayrepresent a strap, possibly securing a metal scull-cap under the coif.
 
COAT ARMOUR.  See surcoat.
 
COAT-OF-PLATES.  It consisted of metal plates attached by rivetsto a textile cover or, more rarely, lining.  It started to comeinto use from the first half of the thirteenth century.  Gownslined with such plates, often only identifiable by the heads of therivets holding them.
 
COIF.  A hood.  The mail coif fitted closely to the head andneck, and a flap crossed the chin and was fastened at the side, leavingonly a portion of the face exposed.  At first it was an extensionof the hauberk, but about the middle of the thirteenth century it wasmade independent of it, falling to the shoulders.
 
COUTER.  The defence for the elbow.
 
CREST.  Heraldic device surmounting the helm, introduced in thesecond half of the twelfth century, but not common until the fourteenthcentury.
 
CUISSE.  Armour for the thigh.  Cuisses on effigies are oftenrepresented as mail, leather, metal and in some instances quilted.
 
CUSP.  A curved projecting point in the ornamentation ofarchitectural arches and armour decoration.
 
DAGGER.  The dagger is first recordedas an accompaniment to the sword in the late thirteenth century. It first appears on English effigies in the early fourteenth century.
 
ENARME.  A loop on the inner side ofthe shield grasped by the hand or through which the left arm was passed.
 
GAUNTLET.  Defensive glove.
 
GORGET.  Defence of the neck and throat, and upper part of thechest.
 
GREAVE.  Plate armour for the leg between knee and ankle,introduced at first for the protection of the shin only and strappedover the mail in the second half of the thirteenth century. Closed-greaves consisting of a front and back plate, modeled to thecalf and hinged together, came into use in the fourteenth century.
 
GRIP.  That part of a weapon (e.g. of the hilt of a sword ordagger between the pommel and the guard) which is grasped in the hand.
 
GUSSETS.  Mail patches sewn to the arming-doublet to cover partsnot protected by plate: the armpits, elbows and fork.
 
HAUBERK.  A shirt of mail.
 
HELM.  The great helm, covering the entire head and face andreaching nearly to the shoulders, was introduced at the end of thetwelfth century.
 
HOSE.  Mail stockings.
 
LAMES.  A thin plate, especially one ofmetal.  Mobility was achieved by means of loose-fitting rivets andinternal leathers.
 
LOCKET.  Metal band encircling the scabbard, including that at themouth of the sheath.
 
MAIL.  Flexible armour made of iron orsteel rings, each passing through its four neighbours.
 
MUFFLER.  Muffler is the term for a mail mitten.  A bag-likeextension attached to the sleeve of a hauberk or gambeson with aseparate stall for the thumb.  The mail did not extend over thepalm of the hand, which was covered by either fabric or leather, with aslit so that the hand could be released when fighting was not imminent.
 
ORLE.  The orle was a roll worn aroundthe skull of the bacinet.  It was often represented as ifdecorated with precious stones and pearls.
 
PAULDRON.  Plate defence for theshoulders, attaining its maximum development in the large Italianpauldrons of the fifteenth century, when it had large extensionscovering the armpits before and behind.
 
POLEYN.  Plate defence for the knee introduced to reinforce mailin the second half of the thirteenth century.  It later had afan-shaped wing on the outer side, and was articulated both to thecuisse and to the greave. 
 
POMMEL.  The spherical or other-shaped termination of the hilt ofthe sword or dagger on the end of the grip farther from the blade,acting as a counterpoise to the blade and giving support to the hand.
 
QUILLONS.  A quillon is one of thetwo bars forming together the cross-guard of a sword.
 
SABATON.  Armour for the foot,comprising a toe-cap and a series of overlapping lames crossing theinstep.  Introduced early in the fourteenth century.
 
SALLET.  A light helmet shaped like a sou’wester, that in England,France and Germany during the second half of the fifteenth centuryvirtually supplanted every other form for use in the field.  Thebasinet survived only for the tournament.
 
SCABBARD.  The sheath of a sword or dagger.
 
SCHYNBALD.  A plate defence for the lower leg, which was strappedover the hose.
 
SKIRT (of lames).  A defensive skirt consisting of a series ofhoop-like lames descending from the waist of the breastplate andoverlapping upwards.
 
SKULL.  That part of a helmet covering the cranium and occiput,sometimes referred to by old writers as the "basnet" or"bassinet-piece.  Also used of a light steel cap.
 
SPAUDLER.  The spaudler is the early term for the small version ofwhat was to develop into the pauldron.
 
SPURS.  Early spurs were of the prick variety, that is to sayfurnished with a simple goad or spike, often mounted on a ball, orcone.  The rowel spur, with a wheel of five or more points, wasintroduced in the thirteenth century, but only became general inEngland from about 1330.
 
STANDARD OF MAIL.  Upstanding collar of mail, frequently worn inthe fifteenth century.
 
SURCOAT.  A sleeveless garment worn over the mail in thethirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.  It was graduallyshortened, until in the second half of the fourteenth century it becamebrief and tight fitting.
 
SWORD.  The medieval knightly sword was of simple cruciformstructure with a straight, double-edged blade either with a centralhollow, or sometimes of diamond section.  Its component parts werethe hilt and the blade with its tang, of which the former consists ofthe pommel, grip, and quillons.
 
TASSET.  One of several shaped platesthat normally hang from the front of the skirt, but also sometimes fromthe sides and rear (hind tassets).
 
VENTAIL.  A flap of mail on the coif,drawn across the lower part of the face-opening and secured to the sideof the temples.
 
VERVELLES.  Staples along the edges of the bacinet.  Overwhich a leather band with corresponding holes attached to the upperedge of the mail aventail was secured by means of a lace passed throughthem.


ARCHITECTURE 

A B CDE F GH I J K L MN O P Q RS T U V W X Y Z


ABACUS: the flat slab on the top of acapital

ACANTHUS: decoration based on a Mediterranean plant. Stylisation of theacanthus leaf began in Greek and Roman decoration, especially on theCorinthian capital.

AEDICULE: the frames surrounding a classical doorway or window flankedby a pair of columns and topped by a pediment, but which has itsorigins in the architectural treatment of the shrines of the classicalperiod.

APRON: panel at the bottom of a hanging wall monument, often withdecorative carving.

ARCH: the spanning of an opening by reasons other than that of a lintel

ARCHITRAVE: the lintel extending from one column to another.

ALTAR TOMB: Monument with a tomb chest. They were never actually usedas altars.

ARCHIVOLTS: bands or mouldings surrounding an arched opening.

BALLFLOWER: a globular motif often usedin concave moldings on tombs in the first half of the 14th century. Itlooks like a flower with three (or sometimes four) petals nearly closedover a central ball.

BARBED QUATREFOIL: a four-lobed geometrical motif with a triangularprojection at the intersection of two adjacent foils.

BALDACCHINO: a type of early l7th century English tomb featuring acentral stage-like area, revealed behind curtains that are pulled openat each side either by being tied to columns  or else manually bystanding (and occasionally seated) figures.  These include angels,putti, and allegorical figures, as well as armed servants and soldiers.

BAS-RELIEF or LOW RELIEF: sculpture in which the carved forms projectonly slightly from the background.

BASE: the architectural element on which a column or pier rests.

BATTLEMENT or CRENELLATION: a parapet with alternating openings(embrasures) and raised sections (merlons).

BEAD AND REEL: a decorative motif consisting of oval motifs alternatingwith round or elongated bead-shaped motifs. Much used in the ancientworld and copied in the Middle Ages.

BILLET MOULDING: a molding composed wholly or in part of a series ofbillets: small cubes, cylinders or prisms placed at regular intervals,so that their axis and that of the entire series is parallel to thegeneral direction of the molding.

BLIND ARCADE: a row of decorative arches applied to a wall.

BROKEN PEDIMENT: a pediment with the raking cornice interrupted at theapex, the outline of which usually consists of a pair of S-curvestangent to the cornice level at the ends of the pediment, rising to apair of scrolls on either side of the center, where a finial oftenrises between the scrolls.

CANOPY: the architectural roof-likeprojection over a monument.

CARTOUCHE: Ornamental or inscribed wall tablet, with an elaboratescroll-like frame resembling curling pieces of parchment, common inBaroque work.

CHEVRON: a zig-zag motif.

CIBORIUM: a canopy resting on columns over the tomb chest.

CINQUEFOIL: a five-lobed ornamental shape.

COADE STONE: an artificial stone manufactured in London in the late18th and early 19th centuries, used for figure sculpture, monuments,architectural dressings, and decorative work. Essentially a type ofclay, fired in a kiln at high temperature, it was named after EleanorCoade (1733–1821), who set up in business in Lambeth in 1769.

COLONNADE: a row of columns carrying an entablature or arches.

COLUMN: an upright pillar or post.

CORBEL: a supporting architectural bracket or block projecting from awall.

CORINTHIAN CAPITAL: A capital used originally by the Greeks and usedoften in the medieval period in a system of supports called theCorinthian order. It is decorated with 3 superimposed rows of carvedfoliage (acanthus leaves) around the capital. At the comers of thecapital there are small volutes.

CORNICE: the uppermost section of moldings along the top of a monument.

CROCKET CAPITAL: A simplified adaptation of the Corinthian capitalcommonly used in the Gothic period.

CROSS SLAB: a stone monument which has an incised or relief cross asthe main feature. They were especially common in the period to 1300.

CUSP: a curved, triangular-shaped projection from the inner curve of anarch or circle.

DENTIL: one of a series of closely spaced,rectangular blocks that form a molding. Dentil molding usually projectsbelow the cornice.

DEPRESSED ARCH: a flattened arch, slightly pointed on top. It appearsin Late Gothic tombs of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
 
DIAGONAL RIBS diagonal ribs: the moldings which mark the diagonals in arib vault in a tomb canopy.
diaper: a pattern formed by small, repeated geometrical motifs setadjacent to one another, used to decorate stone surfaces on monuments.

DOG TOOTH: an ornamental motif consisting of a square, four-leafedfigure, the center of which projects in a point.

DORIC ORDER: the earliest of the Greek orders also adapted by theRomans.

EFFIGY: the carved figure representing theperson commemorated by the monument.

EGG AND DART: a repetitive decorative motif often used in classicalantiquity and copied in the Middle Ages. It consisted of oval(egg-shaped) motifs alternating with dart-like motifs.

ENTABLATURE: superstructure which lies horizontally upon the columnsand constituting the architrave, frieze, and cornice.

EVANGELIST SYMBOLSE  symbols for the authors of the four NewTestament books which are narratives of the life of Christ. Thesesymbols were often seen on incised slabs and brasses. The symbols were:Matthew: angel (man); Mark: lion; Luke: ox; John: eagle.

FAN VAULT: a vault of a tomb canopy whichconsists of fan-shaped half cones which usually meet at the center of avault.

FLEUR-DE-LYS: stylised lily which served as symbol for the Frenchmonarchy.

FINIAL: a formal ornament at the top of a canopy, gable, or pinnacle.

FLUTING: shallow, concave grooves running vertically on the shaft of acolumn, pilaster, or other surface.

FOLIATE CAPITAL: a capital decorated with foliage elements.

FRIEZE: a horizontal band that runs below the cornice. The frieze maybe decorated with designs or carvings.

GESSO: raised decoration made from calciumsulphate or calcium carbonate and animal glue.

GREEK KEY: an ornamental motif consisting of continuous bands arrangedin rectilinear forms.

HANGING ARCH: an arch which has, orseems to have, no vertical supports.

HANGING WALL MONUMENT: Mural monument mounting some distance above theground.

HOOD MOULDING: a projecting molding on the wall above an arch.

INCISED SLAB: a monument with thedesign cut into the stone slab.

INTERLACE: a decorative motif consisting of threads passing aver andunder each other like threads in lace.

IONIC CAPITAL: a capital used originally by the Greeks in a system ofsupports called the Ionic order. An Ionic capital has a volute, or aspiral scroll-like carving, on each side as its major decoration.

IONIC ORDER: an order that originated in Asia Minor in the mid-sixthcentury B.C.

JAMB: the vertical face of an arch.

LEDGER SLAB: a floor monument withinscription, often below an achievement or shield of arms.

LIERNE: a minor rib in a complex rib vault. Liernes do not spring fromthe main springers.

LINENFOLD: decorative motif in the form of a folded piece of linencloth, usually carved in low relief.

LOZENGE: a diamond shape.

MANDORLA: an almond-shaped motif in whichChrist sits; sometimes used also for the Virgin.

MONUMENTAL BRASS: brass: an engraved copper-alloy plate used as acommemorative monument. Sometimes these were set murally or in the backwall of a tomb recess, but usually they were set horizontally, flushwith the pavement of a church.

MOSAIC: decoration created by setting small pieces of glass, stone, ormarble in a matrix. This was most popular for monuments in theVictorian period.

NAIL-HEAD: an ornamental motif of smallpyramids, said to represent the heads of nails, very popular in the12th century.

NICHE: a vertical recess in a wall monument or tomb chest, usuallyarched and containing a ‘weeper' figure or saint.

OBELISK: a tall, tapering shaft of stone,usually monolithic, of square or rectangle section and endingpyramidally.

OCULUS: a circular opening in a canopy.

OGEE ARCH: an arch with a pointed apex, formed by the intersection oftwo S curves usually confined to decoration and not used in arcadearches.

PASTIGALIA: raised decoration made fromcalcium sulphate or calcium carbonate and animal glue, commonly termedgesso.

PEDIMENT: a low-pitched triangular gable on the front of a monument.

PENDANT: a hanging architectural member formed by ribs. They oftenappear in conjunction with fan vaults.

PILASTER: a rectangular support that resembles a flat column. Thepilaster projects only slightly from the wall, and has a base, a shaft,and a capital.

PLINTH: the base of a monument.

POLYCHROMY: the painted decoration applied to medieval stone tombs. Thestone was initially sealed by a layer of size, perhaps animal glue;next a thin layer of lead white was applied to form a ground; andfinally a thin layer of oil sealant added to prevent absorption intothe porous ground of binding media from subsequent paint layers, andthus to ensure that the translucency of the polychromy was notcompromised. The complex and sophisticated applied decoration involved,as well as the layering of pigments, the use of raised decoration andgold and silver leaf beneath translucent glazes.

PUTTI: chubby angel-like figures seen on post-Reformation monuments.

QUATREFOIL: a decorative moulding oftenseen on tomb chests composed of four equal lobes, like a four-petalledflower.

RIB: an arch of masonry, often molded, whichforms part of the framework on which a vault rests. Ribs generallyproject from the undersurface of the vault.

ROUNDEL: a circular ornament or moulding.

RUSTICATION: masonry cut in massive blocks, sometimes in a crude stateto give a rich and bold texture.
sarcophagus: a stone coffin, often bearing sculpture, inscriptions, etc.

SEMI-EFFIGIAL MONUMENT: amonument with a figure of the person commemorated shown only in part,such as a bust or the head and feet, usually shown in apertures in theslab.

SHAFT: the trunk of a column between the base and the capital.

SOFFIT: the underside of an arch, opening, or projecting architecturalelement.

SPANDREL: the triangular space between the side of an arch, thehorizontal above its apex, and the vertical of its springing; thesurface between two arches in an arcade.

SPIRE: a tall, pyramidal, polygonal, or conical structureterminating  in a point.

SPRINGER: the lowest voussoir on each side of an arch. It is where thevertical support for the arch terminates and the curve of the archbegins.

STRAPWORK:  a kind of ornament consisting of a narrow fillet orband folded, crossed, and interlaced.

TERRACOTTA: fired but unglazed clay, used mainly for monuments insixteenth century.

TIERCERON a major rib in a complex ribvault Tiercerons spring from the main springers.

TRACERY: the ornamental work in canopies and on tomb chests, often useddecoratively in blank arches.

TUSCAN ORDER: a Roman order that resembles the Doric order but withouta fluted shaft. In the Tuscan order, the column had a simpler base andwas unfluted.

VOLUTE: a spiral scroll on an Ionic capital.

VOUSSOIR: a brick or wedge-shaped stone forming one of the units of anarch.

WEBBING OR INFILLING: thevault surface between the ribs of a rib vault.

WEEPER: a figure in a recess in a tomb chest, often representing arelative or associate of the person commemorated.