Tracing the Past – ‘Vault Design at Exeter Cathedral’ online lecture (free)

Tuesday 22nd June 2021 at 14:00

Some of the most remarkable features of medieval works of architecture, particularly greater churches and cathedrals, are the ribbed vaults spanning their interior spaces. For over nine hundred years, they have inspired worshippers and visitors alike, their eyes drawn heavenwards by these captivating constructions, prompting the question ‘How did they do that?’ No corresponding texts or drawings survive but digital methods now enable answers to be proposed.

Tracing the Past is an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project at the University of Liverpool which uses digital methods to record and analyse medieval vaults. Over the past seven years the project team has visited a number of key sites in England, including Exeter Cathedral, to create digital scans of the building vaults, which they’ve processed and analysed to try to identify the methods by which these vaults were designed and constructed.

Initial findings are being shared in a series of free online lectures and workshops for six of the project’s key sites, together with a virtual exhibition on the project website.

Each lecture will introduce the project and the digital methods used and will share some of the key findings relating to an individual site. The associated workshop will guide participants in creating a plan of a vault at the site, following the same approach used by medieval masons.


The Events and Booking Details:

Bookings for the lectures and workshops must be made through Eventbrite here:

The ‘Vault Design at Exeter Cathedral’ online lecture by Alex Buchanan and Nick Webb will take place on Tuesday, 22 June 2021 from 14:00 until 15:00.

The ‘Vault Design at Exeter Cathedral’ online workshop led by Alex Buchanan and Nick Webb will take place on Tuesday, 13 July 2021 from 14:00 until 15:00. Anyone who signs up for this workshop by the deadline of 29 June 2021 will be sent a workshop pack consisting of a printed template, compasses and ruler.


For other lectures and workshops in the series (4 May to 20 July), search ‘Vault Design’ on Eventbrite.  These relate to St Mary’s Nantwich, Chester Cathedral, Lincoln Cathedral, Ely Cathedral and Wells Cathedral.

A book, titled Digital Analysis of Vaults in English Medieval Architecture, by Alexandrina Buchanan, James Hillson and Nicholas Webb, will be published by Routledge in Summer 2021.

The Tracing the Past team consists of Dr Nick Webb, Dr Alex Buchanan, Dr James Hillson, Dr Sarah M Duffy and JR Peterson and combines expertise in architecture, architectural history, digital methods, archaeology and archives.

The team visited Exeter Cathedral in March 2016, when they scanned the Lady Chapel, the main vessel and transepts, the chapel of St James and the remains of the south walk of the cloister – see the blog post: http://www.tracingthepast.org.uk/scanning-at-exeter-cathedral/

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