Groin Vault

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Term Definition
Groin Vault

A groin vault or groined vault (also sometimes known as a double barrel vault or cross vault) is produced by the intersection at right angles of two barrel vaults. The word "groin" refers to the edge between the intersecting vaults.

Sometimes the arches of groin vaults are pointed instead of round. In comparison with a barrel vault, a groin vault provides good economies of material and labor. The thrust is concentrated along the groins or arises (the four diagonal edges formed along the points where the barrel vaults intersect), so the vault need only be abutted at its four corners.

Groin vault construction was first exploited by the Romans but then fell into relative obscurity in Europe until the resurgence of quality stone building brought about by Carolingian and Romanesque architecture. It was superseded by the more flexible rib vaults of Gothic architecture in the later Middle Ages. Difficult to construct neatly because of the geometry of the cross groins (usually elliptical in cross section), the groin vault required great skill in cutting stone to form a neat arris. This difficulty, in addition to the formwork required to create such constructions, led to the rib vault superseding the groin vault as the preferred solution for enclosing space in Gothic architecture.

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