Against Gravity

Anathasios Koumantos

Wooden Reinforcements in Byzantine Masonry: A Rough Guide to Their Position and Arrangement
The use of integrated systems of wooden reinforcements has been noted in numerous surviving Byzantine monuments, and it is widely accepted that these must have existed in the majority of Byzantine churches. Nevertheless, the discovery of such reinforcing beams is usually incidental, and their study fragmentary, as, in most cases, they largely remain out of view, embedded within of the masonry. This paper attempts to propose a systematic account of their placement within Byzantine structures. Towards this goal, it draws data from a number of already surveyed monuments, ranging from the 6th to the 14th century, and a range of geographic locations from Kiev to the Peloponnese, and from Italy to Cappadocia, as well as a few more recent comprehensive studies of Byzantine monuments in Greece. Apart from their documented placement within foundations, walls and arches, the use of such systems in more complex vaulting is also investigated. Pending the final results of ongoing research towards a doctoral thesis, the author believes that it is still possible to anticipate the existence of such wooden reinforcing systems at various horizontal levels of the structure of Byzantine churches, and to provide a guide to facilitate their detection and documentation by future researchers.