In architecture, Tracery
is the stonework elements that support the glass in a Gothic window. The term probably derives from the 'tracing floors' on which the complex patterns of late Gothic windows were laid out.
The earliest form of window tracery, typical of Gothic architecture prior to the early 13th century, is known as plate tracery because the individual lights (the glazed openings in the window) have the appearance of being cut out of a flat plate of masonry.
Romanesque church windows were normally quite small, somewhat taller than wide and with a simple round-headed ('segmental') arch at the top. From around the 1140's, the pointed-arch Gothic window (employed by Abbot Suger
for the redesign of the choir at ) started to take over. As the buttressing systems of early Gothic architecture reduced the structural need for broad expanses of thick walls, window openings grew progressively larger and instead of having just one very large window per bay division (which would create problems with supporting the glass), the typical early-Gothic 'twin lancet
plus oculus' form of plate tracery developed. This consists of two (sometimes three) tall thin lights topped with pointed arches, with a round or trefoil
opening placed above them, often contained within a blind arch which gives the whole assemblage a pointed lancet shape (see the example from Soissons Cathedral
, right).... Read More