What is a transept? Medieval Architecture

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Transept of Rouen cathedral (France, 1200s AD)

Transept of Rouen cathedral (France, 1200s AD)

Transepts were part of medieval Christian churches. Most churches were shaped like a cross, to remind people about Jesus’ crucifixion, and the transept is the cross-piece of the cross.

Floor plan of Chartres Cathedral

Floor plan of Chartres Cathedral

Sometimes there were big rose windows (round windows) and doors in each end of the transept.

Here is a floor plan of Chartres Cathedral, looking down at the church as if you were floating over it. You can see the nave at the west end, the apse at the east end, and the transept between them.

The place where the transept crosses the nave is the crossing, and the tower is often right above the crossing.

Transepts in cathedrals
More about Naves
More about Aisles

Bibliography and further reading about transepts and other parts of a church:

Arches to Zigzags: An Architecture ABC, by Michael J. Crosbie (2000). Shows what an arch is, or a gable, or an eave. Easy reading.

Eyewitness: Building, by Philip Wilkinson, Dave King, and Geoff Dann (2000). Lavishly illustrated, like other Eyewitness books, and with good explanations of most architectural terms.

What’s an apse?
What’s a nave?
What’s an aisle?
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By |2018-04-15T10:15:07+00:00May 24th, 2017|Architecture, History|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. What is a transept? Medieval Architecture. Quatr.us Study Guides, May 24, 2017. Web. January 20, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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