[Italian] In architecture. An arched roof, so contrived that the stones which form it sustain each other. Vaults are on many occasions to be preferred to soffits or flat ceilings, as they give a greater height and elevation, and are besides more firm and durable.
The art of constructing vaults does not appear to have been known to the people who, anteriorly to the Greeks, were accustomed to the exercise of architecture; at least, we find no examples of them in the ruins of Indian or Egyptian edifices. The Greeks, therefore, may perhaps be regarded as the inventors of vaults; but at the same time it is obvious that this species of building was understood among them very early, and it is possible might have been adopted from some more primeval people. The cloaca, or common sewers of Rome were built by Etruscan architects (according to tradition) under the directions of Tarquin the Elder. The Museum Etruscum of Gori (1st vol. diss. 1, chap. 5) may be consulted with advantage as to the ancient construction of vaults, and any elementary work on ARCHITECTURE (see the list at the end of that article) will afford the student practical information.
— “A general and bibliographical Dictionary of the Fine Arts.” By James Elmes
- “A general and bibliographical Dictionary of the Fine Arts.” By James Elmes