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Tudor Arch: Design, History & Examples

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Do you think you know all the major kinds of arches? In this lesson, we are going to check out the unique Tudor arch and see what makes it similar and different from other popular forms of arches.

The Tudor Arch

The Tudors had to do everything different, didn't they? Don't forget, this is the dynasty of English monarchs that included Henry VIII, who even left the Catholic Church to start his own Protestant religion. Since the Tudors did everything uniquely, they obviously couldn't simply use the same arches that everyone used. They had to use their own.

A Tudor arch is an architectural feature that become popular in England's Tudor Dynasty (1485-1603). It was also a feature of Tudor-revival architecture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It functions like any other arch, but it's just unique enough to be notable. Just like the Tudors.

Point, Rise, Span

So what exactly defines the Tudor arch? There are two distinguishing features that define this structural element. First is the pointed apex. While a traditional arch has a rounded or curved top, the Tudor arch culminates in a distinctive point.

A Tudor arch in the Trinity College of Cambridge
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The second feature is the relationship between the rise and span. The actual arch is the part of the opening that occurs above the spring line, the point where the arch begins to curve inwards. The rise is the amount of vertical distance from the top of the arch to spring line, while the span is the width of the arch at the spring line. A Tudor arch has a greater span than rise, which means it is wider than it is tall. This gives the Tudor are a very shallow, flattened feel. As a result, it's primarily used in low, wide spaces as opposed to tall and narrow ones.

Tudor Versus Gothic Arch

Despite these distinctive features, it may not always be easy to identify the Tudor arch. It was part of English architecture during the medieval era, when the Gothic style dominated Britain. So, the Tudor arch is part of Gothic architecture. However, one of the definitive features of Gothic architecture is a pointed arch called the Gothic arch. So, what's the difference between the Gothic-era Tudor arch and the actual Gothic arch?

Gothic arches are taller, with a steeper slope
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