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The Fan Vault of King’s College Chapel

By Ryan Croyle

Published by Ryan Croyle at Smashwords

Cover Copyright © 2013 Ryan Croyle


King’s College Chapel is an exceptional structure, not only in its physical form, but in the architectural ideals that manifest throughout. Of particular interest in the chapel is the great fan vault and the circumstances in which it may have been constructed. There is considerable evidence suggesting that the fan vault of King’s College Chapel was not part of the original design. Two primary historians, Robert Willis and Francis Woodman, have conducted thorough research into the matter and have produced several theories as to the nature of the vault. The argument for an alteration of the original design during construction can be seen through observational, structural, and formal analysis.


The design of the vault and its relationship with the lateral walls of the chapel is, as Francis Woodman states, “a major problem for all those who study the building.” Close inspection of the roof during restoration uncovered variations in the vaulting shaft form, which has since led to theories on a possibly unexecuted and lost design for the building. The condition in question begins at the Henry VIII screen that separates the choir from the ante-chapel. Shafts in the choir spring from corbels at a level above the stalls and have five small shafts in section, which correspond to the form of fan vault they carry.

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