Illustrated Dictionary of British Churches

History and Architecture

Bay

A vertical division of a building. In church architecture the term usually refers to the division of the nave into sections. In Norman architecture the divisions are often marked by tall shafts extending from floor to ceiling, though later a bay could be marked by pairs of columns or pillars. When stone vaultied ceilings replaced earlier wooden ones, bay shafts (or groups of clustered shafts) terminated in a capital which supported the vaulting. The vaulting istelf could be divided into bays by ribs. It is common to refer to a church or section of a church by the number of bays, such as 'a three-bay nave'. That might suggest that bays were a form of standard measure, but in truth a bay could be any width or height.

Related: Capital   Nave   Vaulting  

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