The Arc Rampant – Amuse-bouche #9 (Dennis Aubrey)


The arc rampant, as it is known in French, is an arch in which the starting points of the arch are not the same height. They seem to be found in side aisles to support the arcade walls.

Arc rampant, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc,  Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle
Arc rampant, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle

Sometimes these arc rampants seem to be accidental, or later additions, so it took awhile before I discovered that they were intentional structures. They usually function as internal buttresses, similar to flying buttresses that appeared later in Gothic architecture.

South side aisle with arc rampant, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Nazareth, Vaison-la-Romaine (Vaucluse)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey
South side aisle with arc rampant, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Nazareth, Vaison-la-Romaine (Vaucluse) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

This is a rare feature which I can think of in only a few churches off the top of my head; the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Nazareth in Vaison-la-Romaine, the Église Saint-André-de-Sorède, and the south side aisle of the Abbaye Saint Junien in Nouaillé-Maupertuis near Poitiers.

This is part of a series of posts featuring an amuse-bouche, a bite-sized appetizer to whet the appetite of diners. Each of these will explore a single interesting feature of medieval architecture or sculpture. To see other amuse-bouches, follow this link.

5 thoughts on “The Arc Rampant – Amuse-bouche #9 (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. How interesting. Actually one of the many things I have yet to learn from you and your wonderful observations. Thank you, Dennis

  2. This is like a missing piece of an evolution toward the flying buttress. How would one classify it? The ‘twisted arch’?

    1. Darrell, it is not so much twisted but springs from a higher level on one side than the other. In a way, though, you are right about being a piece in the evolution of the flying buttress. In Caen, at the Abbaye aux Hommes, the builders placed a continuous half-barrel vault in the tribunes to support the upper nave wall. Queen Mathilda’s contemporaneous Abbaye aux Dames on the other side of town did something unique. They only placed the vault segments (quarter rounds) at the places where needed to counteract the trust of the nave vault. It is believed that these quarter rounds (at the time on the interior of the church) were the direct inspiration for the flying buttress. And we can see that in effect, a quarter round is almost the same as an arc rampant.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.