Light, shadow, line

Vaulted ceilings of Florence

Charles W. Perini
April 2, 2015

Vaulted ceilings are essential and ubiquitous elements of architecture in Italy. For millennia, they have been used to span large and small spaces, and have also brought, with their gently flowing lines and repetitive shapes, an almost palpable sense of serenity and calmness. They are, without doubt, one of the best forms of evidence for the axiom ‘form follows function’ and have been glorified in art from the pre-Renaissance to the present. In addition, the structural aspects of a vault often follow the mathematical proportions of the ‘rule of threes’ and the golden mean, which is perhaps one of the reasons for their graceful lines and proportions. Another interesting component of these vaults, beginning in the Gothic period, is the iron tie bar, which allows the arch and vault to carry the load without the support of large, heavy masses from the adjacent sides. The wrought iron bars, original and necessary to the vaulting, emphasize the elegant lines of the arches by providing a contrasting lineal counterpoint.


When entering a vaulted space, we may or may not be totally aware of all the contours, lines and colours of the vault, but—nevertheless and invariably—we feel a sense of tranquillity and wellbeing, which, I hope, is conveyed in these photographs.


These images and text were reproduced with the author’s permission from his book, Light. Shadow, Line. Vaulted Ceilings in Florence: A Portfolio of Photographs by Charles W. Perini.







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