Fan vaulting, Cloister – Gloucester Cathedral

13th January 2023

Cathedral Treasure, Finalist Number 5.

Fan vaulting: a Gloucester invention – Gloucester Cathedral


There are 10 finalists in our Cathedral Treasure competition. You can vote for your favourite and you’ll be in with a chance of winning a copy of Janet Gough’s brilliant Deans’ Choice: Cathedral Treasures of England and Wales.

The cloisters are the great architectural treasure of Gloucester Cathedral. They formed the heart of the monks’ lives at Gloucester from the 1090s until the dissolution in 1540. The monks lived, ate, worshipped and worked around the four sides of this garden space.

The glory of the cloisters is the fan vaulting, which dates from between the 1350s and the 1390s. This is a development of the new style of English Perpendicular Gothic architecture, whereby the panels that already covered the walls and windows were extended up onto the ceiling to meet each other overhead. It is called ‘fan vaulting’ because it is formed of hollow cones or ‘fans’, with decorative tracery forming part of each stone. The fans would have been made in a workshop and then assembled piece by piece in situ. This form of ceiling on this scale was invented and first used in Gloucester.

Amidst the beauty of the architecture are some hidden treasures: medieval games. Boards are scratched into the surface of the seating on the far side of the cloisters. They were used for two medieval games: fox and geese and nine men’s morris.

Modern versions of the game boards are now carved into stones in Upper College Green so that visitors can play. Although some of the boards have since been obscured by graffiti or repairs, you can still see, on close inspection, the marks left by monks, novices and singing boys enjoying the opportunity to relax.


Vote for your favourite here.

Source : Deans’ Choice: Cathedral Treasures of England and Wales, Janet Gough.

Take at look at all the finalists and vote for your favourite here or tap / click the image below.

Cathedral Treasures - Finalists