Vaults: Mesmerizing Patterns on Cathedral Ceilings

The next time you find yourself in a Romanesque or Gothic european church, cathedral or basilica, lay down on the floor and cast your eyes up to the mesmerizing ceiling. Built between the 12th and 16th centuries, it’s hard to believe the level of detail and variation in these marvels of architecture from over half a millennia ago. The designs, full of intricately repeating ribbed diamonds and triangles, look like kaleidoscopic designs carved from stone… actually, that’s not far from the truth.

In his book Heavenly Vaults, photographer David Stephenson continues his work he began with his book Visions of Heaven, taking images of the ancient houses of worship that fill the european continent. The book captures many ceilings of the transcendent structures, designed in a time when they easily towered over any surrounding buildings, with the intention of inspiring passerby to higher callings. Stephenson’s images flatten the vaulted ceilings, simplifying them to their essential shapes and emphasizing their repeating patterns, intricately carved detailing and colorfully painted ornaments.

The beautiful book contains 104 pages of photographs and an accompanying essay by Stephenson charting the history of the vault and explaining its technological developments. You can see more images from his series here.


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