Understanding Cathedral Structures
Cathedrals are marvelous structures. To construct these massive buildings, the main substance used at that time was stone, largely limestone. Enormous amounts of rocks were gathered prior to the construction process. Bricks were not widely used at that time, with the exception of some countries like Germany and France.
Earlier, when cement was nonexistent, mortar was used to hold the stones or the bricks together, whereas wood was employed to clutch the roof, flying buttresses and doors. The kind of wood used in the construction process depended upon its availability. Moreover, stained glass windows added to the charm and were one of the characteristics of cathedrals that made them stand out before all other architectural structures.
The beauty of cathedral architecture was enhanced by figurines of flora, fauna and gargoyles. During rains, it would apear that the gargoyle figures were sputtering water on the floor. For this reason they were erected on the buttress that was joined to gutters at the end of the roofs.
Gothic vaults are also one of the main features of cathedral architecture. Though complicated to construct, especially when made from stone, Gothic vaults are extremely beautiful. Due to lack of machinery, the practice of making arches was initiated, which included the positioning of blunted stones on the frame. These vaults were a protection against fire. However, the vaults are heavy and put a lot of pressure on the foundation.
Flying buttresses supported the structure from the exteriors. This was done to equalize the pressure from the vaults or else the walls would bend towards the exterior. For flying buttresses, initially “centering," or impermanent wooden frames, were erected. This would hold the burden of stones along with sustaining the contour of arch until the mortar dried. Centering was erected on the foundation, then raised into place and tied to the piers between one buttress and another. Thus, they acted like temporary flying buttresses until the actual stone arch was completed.