Abacus The flat slab of stone at the top of a column forming the top of a capital and supporting the arch or wall above it
Abbess (f.) Person in charge of an Abbey
Abbey A monastic community. Abbeys belonged to particular orders, such as the Cistercians (More...)
Abbot (m.) Person in charge of an Abbey
Abutment The section of wall to the side of the curving part of the arch erected to counter the thrust of the arch
Accosted When heraldic changes are side by side
Accrued In heraldry a tree that is fully grown
Achievement A combination of shield, helmet, crest etc.
Adorsed When animals and other changes are positioned on a shield back to back (also endorsed, indorsed)
Affronty When a charge is shown facing the front. E.g. a lion full-faced (affrontée)
Ailettes Small square metal plates or shields attached to the shoulders to protect against sword blows
Aislé With wings
Aisle The passages to each side of the nave, separated from the nave by screens or columns
Alien Priory A priory that was directly dependant on a foreign mother house, usually in France. Disbanded in 1414 due to the security risk they posed.
Almayne Rivets The style of armour where sections are fastened with rivets that are allowed to slide giving more freedom of movement
Almery or Ambry or Aumbry. A box or cupboard for alms, or a cupboard in the chancel for sacred vessels
Almonry The office of the Almoner where alms were distributed
Almoner Monk in charge of a monastery's almsgiving and other charitable work
Altar Flat topped wooden or stone table containing the cross. Usually at the east end of the church (More...)
Alure The path along the top of a parapet at the top of a wall
Ambulant Heraldic term for walking
Ambulatory The processional aisle around the apse at the east end of a church
Amercement A medieval fine
Ampoule Vessel containing the sacred oil to anoint the kings of France at the cathedral at Rheims
Anelace A short sword with a broad blade used by both ordinary people and military
Anglo-Saxon English architectural style C10-11, followed by NORMAN
Angon A six foot long spear for throwing. Used by Anglo-Saxons
Annulet A ring around a circular pier or shaft. A circle on a shield used in heraldry
Antipope Someone elected in opposition to the current Pope. Not recognised by the Vatican City.
Appanage Part of the royal domain granted to a younger son by the king for his upkeep
Apse A semicircular projection usually found at the east end of a church
Apsidal Ending in a semi-circle
Arbalestier A crossbow man
Arcade A row of arches and columns dividing two places
Arcading A row of blind arches in a wall, such that the arches are filled in and lead nowhere
Arch A pointed or curved construction of wedge shaped stones. See Voussoir
Architect A person competent to design buildings and to supervise their construction
Architrave The ornamental moulding running around the curve of an arch, a door or window
Archivolt A moulding carried around an arch

Argent A colour used in heraldry representing the metal silver (More...)

Armature Metal framework in large untraceried window used to support the stained glass
Arming Points Strips of leather used to tie sections of armour together
Arrow-slit A long narrow opening to shoot arrows through. Some are cross-shaped for crossbows
Ashlar Hewn and squared stone ready for construction purposes
Atrium Covered row of columns in front of the door of a church
Aumbry A recess or cupboard used usually for sacred objects
Aventail Section of a helmet covering the lower face and neck for protection
Axe Common medieval weapon with large blade fixed at ninety degrees to the handle

Azure A blue colour used in heraldry (More...)


Backplate Section of armour covering the back from neck to waist. Part of the cuirass
Badelaire A cutlass or short sword
Bailey The open area in a castle between the keep and the curtain wall. This area can have working and domestic buildings in it
Bailli Royal officer set over the bailliage, entrustrusted with the administration of justice
Baldric A belt worn around the neck an to the hip from which the sword was hung
Ballflower Ornament in the shape of a flower with a ball surrounded by petals
Ballista War engine used for throwing large arrows
Balustrade A row of balusters which are vertical members that support the handrail of a staircase
Baptistry Area of the church reserved for the administration of the sacrament of baptism.
Bar hole Horizontal hole to hold a timber bar used for securing a door
Barbican Outer defences of a castle where attackers would be vulnerable. Normally a double tower over a bridge or gate
Bardings Armour for horses, covering neck and breast
Barmkin Scottish term for a fortified castle courtyard. Similar to a barbican
Baron A feudal lord given lands and title from another lord or king
Barrel-vault A tunnel-like semi-circular vault
Barrow Burial mound built over stone graves
Barry or Barruly, where shield is divided into an even number of horizontal bars. The number is normally specified.
Barry-bendy Shield area divided both barry and bendy.
Bartizan A watch-tower or turret jutting out from the top of a castle
Base The lowest part of a shield
Base course The lowest course of masonry of a wall or pier
Baselard A short sword or knife used in close combat
Basinet A conically shaped helmet with open front. An aventail was added for face and neck protection
Bastion A solid tower at the end or middle of a curtain wall
Bastle Two-story rectangular building where the lower floor is used to house animals and the upper floor for living quarters
Batter The inside face of a wall
Battlemented Describes the top of of a wall where there are rows of rectangular teeth. This is also known as crenellated or embattled
Bay A compartment into which a building is divided. Bays are marked by buttresses, pilasters in the walls, by the position of the main ribs of the vaulting of the interior, etc.
Beading Small circular objects in a row
Belfry A bell-tower or campanile

Bend One of the main ordinaries. A diagonal band from dexter chief to sinister base (More...)

Bendy When a shield is divided diagonally by bands of lines. Number of lines normally specified.
Benedictine Order of monks founded by St. Benedict. Followed the Benedictine Rule
Berm Strip of ground between the outer curtain wall and the moat
Billet Moulding Norman ornamental moulding with cylindrical blocks
Black Death Bubonic plague thought to be spread by rats or a virus that took many lives across Europe
Blank arcading See arcading
Blazon The name given to the description of a heraldic design (More...)
Blind arcading See arcading

Bordure A heraldic shape forming a border around the edge of a shield (More...)

Boss An ornamental projection in ribbed vaults used to hide the joins
Bourdonasse A lance for jousting that breaks easily on contact to prevent injuries
Bourg Early Medieval New Town
Brassarts Armour for protecting the upper arm from elbow to shoulder
Brattice A wooden tower or a projecting wooden gallery at the top of a wall
Breastplate Armour to protect the chest. Part of the cuirass
Bressumer A beam used as a support for a projection
Breteche Hoardings: Wooden boards fitted to top of wall used as extra protection for defenders
Broach an old English term for a spire, or to denote a spire that springs from a tower without an intermediate parapet
Bull Authoritative papal letter sealed with the Pope's lead seal
Burh A fortified area used by the Saxons (or burgh)
Buttress The projection of stonework at the side or corners of a building to provide strength against the lateral forces
Byrnie A long shirt of leather or chain mail finishing at the elbows and reaching down to the knees


Cable Moulding A moulding in the form of a rope made from twisted strands
Calefactory Warming house in a monastery
Camail Chain mail armour covering the head and falling over the shoulders
Canons The chapter members. The people running the cathedral
Cantilever A projecting beam fixed at one end only
Canton A small square in the dexter chief corner of a shield. Smaller than a quarter
Capital The stone at the top of a column that supports the abacus and arch above it. The capital is usually carved
Caracute Another name for a hide which is an area of land about 120 acres in size.
Cartouche Oranmental tablet in the shape of a scroll of paper
Casemate Bomb-proof vault in a curtain wall for cannons
Castellan The governor of a castle or keep
Castellation Another word for battlements. The defensive detail at the top of a wall or tower
Castle Medieval fortification
Cathedral The principal church of a diocese where the bishop has the throne
Causeway A bank built across marshy ground with a path running along the top
Celestory Windows or opening set high in a wall to illuminate the area below
Cell A monastic dependency of a religious house
Ceorl Anglo-Saxon free person ranked above a slave and below a thegn.
Chain mail Flexible clothing made from interlinking rings of metal
Chamber A room on an upper floor for living and sleeping
Chamberlain Officer of the royal household responsible for running the household affairs
Chamfer The surface created by cutting away the angle of a beam along its length.
Chancel The east end of the church, sometimes divided into the sanctuary and presbytery. Anglo-Saxon and early Norman chancels were normally apsed and later chancels were square
Chancery Medieval administrative office or writing office headed by the Chancellor
Chanfron Armour for horses covering the face
Chapter The group of canons, with the Dean, who are the governing body of a cathedral
Chapter House The building where the canons and Dean met each day to hear a chapter of St Benedict's Rule read out and to conduct the business of the abbey
Chevet East end of a church with an apse surrounded by other smaller ones
Chevron A zigzag form of ornamentation used in the Norman period

Chevron Angled shape on a shield used in heraldry (More...)

Chief Horizontal stripe on upper third of a shield used in heraldry (More...)

Choir The area of the church where the choristers and clergy sit
Cinque Ports Ports on the south coast with special privileges. Originally five
Cinquefoil A five-lobbed ornament
Cistercians Order of monks, also know as the White Monks
Clearstory The upper story or row of windows lighting the nave of the church

Cloister The rectangular covered area around an open space (garth) of a monastery or cathedral surrounded by covered walkways used for study and meditation. A photograph of the cloister at Lincoln Cathedral

Cob Walling material of straw and unbaked clay
Colours In heraldry the main colours (tinctures) are azure (blue), gules (red), sable (black),vert (green) and purpure (purple) (More...)
Column Circular shaft with base and capital, designed to support the weight above
Concentric A concentric castle has a series of defences enclosing another
Constable Person in charge of the defence of the castle.
Conversi Also known as Lay Brothers. They perform manual tasks within an abbey or monastery rather than religious duties.
Corbel A stone jutting from a wall designed to support a roof or floor beam
Corbel table The horizontal section high on a wall of a church containing carved stone heads
Cottar The poorest people in a medieval village.
Cove Concave moulding at junction of ceiling and wall
Crenellation Notched battlements at the top of a wall
Crinet Armour for a horse to protect the neck area
Crocket A small carved and decorated projection in the form of a flower
Crossbow A weapon able to shoot arrows. Lot of varieties
Crossing The point at which the roofs of the four cross-arms of the church met. Below the crossing is the choir
Cruciform Cross-shaped. A church with transepts has a cruciform plan
Crupper Armour for a horse to protect the hind area
Crusade Military expeditions to win back or hold on to the Holy Lands from the Muslims
Crypt Vault or chamber under the church
Cuirass Medieval armour covering the back (backplate) and chest (breastplate). Plain or ornately decorated
Curtain Wall The wall around the bailey with a sentry-walk along its top
Cushion capital Typical in Romanesque work, having a square top and rounded off lower section
Cyclas A sleeveless tunic
View walkthroughs of the TimeRef Virtual Medieval Abbey above or explore it yourself.

Medieval Castles


Medieval towns


Medieval villages