Flying buttress  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

A flying buttress, or arc-boutant, is a specific type of buttress usually found on a religious building such as a cathedral. They are used to transmit the horizontal thrust of a vaulted ceiling through the walls and across an intervening space (which might be used for an aisle, chapel or cloister), to a counterweight outside the building. As a result, the buttress seemingly flies through the air, and hence is known as a "flying" buttress.

Although they are considered a hallmark of Gothic architecture, they were employed by the Byzantines, and in early Romanesque work, but were generally masked by other constructions or hidden under a roof. However, by 1150 flying buttresses were intentionally left exposed by architects and became decorative features in their own right, such as in the cathedrals of Chartres, Sens, Le Mans, Paris, Beauvais, and Reims.

Its presence outside the clerestory walls created a web of stonework that disguised the solidity of the structure, and gives the impression hat the cathedral is being suspended from heaven. It balanced the network of ribs under the interior vaults that give the same impression, as if the upper stonework is forming a tent-like canopy over the congregation.

This technique has also been used by Canadian architect William P. Anderson to build lighthouses at the beginning of the 20th century.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Flying buttress" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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