My European Education

By which I mean, "We vacationed in Europe." But first, yet another apology -- back in June I may have hinted (or said outright) that I was going to start catching up on blog content. Apparently I took the summer off. So,'s nice to see you all again.

Canterbury Buttress.jpg

Sure, the trip to Europe was vacation, but there were plenty of fun learning experiences, which I'm happy to share with you. You're welcome.

For this first return blog, I thought I'd focus on buttresses. Like many people, I always assumed the "flying buttress" was a professional wrestling move, or that weird Airlander 10 ship built by those wacky Brits a few years back.  Turns out that "flying buttress" is actually an architectural term. Go figure.

So, what's a regular, run-of-the-mill buttress?* Check out the photo I took, above, of Canterbury Cathedral. See those vertical ridges along the walls? That's right: buttresses. Pretty simple concept; the roof extends a lateral force against the walls, which effectively makes them push outward. The buttress is very heavy and sunk into the ground, and it pushes back.

But a FLYING buttress? Is this some sort of futuristic, levitating buttress, defying gravity itself while pushing back against the roof?** Not exactly. The flying buttress simply isn't attached directly to the wall. The stone pier stands off at a distance, and is connected to the wall by a span from the top of the pier to the top of the wall. With the buttress doing its buttressing from afar, the architect is free to use more of the wall decoratively, with windows and gargoyles and such.

Flying Buttress.jpg

Of course, you can also put gargoyles on a flying buttress if you like. I'm not the kind of guy who gets pushy about where you put your gargoyles.***

The flying buttress has been around for a really long time, but apparently hit its peak of popularity during the Gothic period of architecture. I'm not very up to date on my architectural history, but I'm pretty sure that the Gothic period precedes the classic era and disco.

So, there you have it. Flying buttresses. We saw a lot of cool things in London**** and had a great time, so expect more blogs from the trip. And when you impress your friends with your knowledge of buttresses, give me a little mental thumbs-up.

* I'm so glad you asked.

** If architecture involved more monoliths, megaliths, and buttresses that literally levitated, I guarantee there'd be more architectural students in universities today. 

*** Now I feel like I should 3D print some gargoyles for my office.

**** I even got a picture of Baker Street. Sad that Gerry Rafferty departed so early; he was one talented guy.