Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.


bands or bars of stone, wood, or other material, either subdividing an opening or standing in relief against a wall and forming an ornamental pattern of solid members and open spaces. The term refers especially to the subdivisions in the arched openings of Gothic architecture. In Romanesque design the enclosing of twin openings within a single arch created a wall space above them, where a circular or quatrefoil opening was pierced as an ornament. This plate tracery became more complex in 12th-century rose windows of the Cathedral of Chartres and in early Gothic English churches. Later, windows became larger, areas of solid stone smaller, and masonry members more slender; the patterns in the spaces above the arches were created by bars of stone rather than by a pierced design. Such bar tracery (e.g., in the cathedral at Reims) prevailed in both France and England by the first half of the 13th cent., creating circles, trefoils, quatrefoils, and other varied geometrical designs. The terminations of these shapes, termed cusps, were finished in square or sharp points or in ornamental blobs. Tracery came gradually to be used also for ornamenting buttresses, gables, spires, interior walls, and choir screens. In France, Rayonnant-style tracery was marked by a multiplication of thin vertical bars within a rational, geometrical order. In England there appeared in the mid-13th cent., mainly in window heads, a new curvilinear tracery of free, flowing curves. The French developed that type into the elaborate, flamboyant tracery of the 15th cent., which produced windows and architectural adornment of amazing lightness and intricacy, as in the cathedral at Rouen and in the wood choir stalls of Amiens. In England, however, the flowing forms were abandoned c.1375, and emphasis passed to perpendicular mullions running the entire height of the windows. By the early part of the 16th cent. the severe tracery of the Perpendicular style, with its closely spaced verticals, was dominant in both windows and wall adornment, providing a contrast to the elaborate fan vaulting, as in the Henry VII Chapel in Westminster and King's College Chapel, Cambridge. Medieval tracery achieved extraordinary effect in the great French rose windows of stained glassstained glass,
in general, windows made of colored glass. To a large extent, the name is a misnomer, for staining is only one of the methods of coloring employed, and the best medieval glass made little use of it.
..... Click the link for more information.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.


The curvilinear ornamental branch-like shapes of stone or wood, creating an openwork pattern of mullions; so treated as to be ornamental; found within the upper part of a Gothic window or opening of similar character.

bar tracery

A pattern formed by inter-locking branching mullions within the arch of Gothic window tracery.

blind tracery

Any tracery that is not pierced through.

branch tracery

A form of Gothic tracery in Germany in the late 15th and early 16th century made to imitate rustic work with boughs and knots.

fan tracery

A tracery on the soffit of a vault whose ribs radiate like the ribs of a fan.

geometric tracery

Gothic tracery characterized by a pattern of geometric shapes, as circles and foils.

intersecting tracery

Any tracery formed by the upward curving, forking and continuation of the mullions, springing from alternate mullions or from every third mullion and intersecting each other.

panel tracery

Gothic style window tracery in sections within a large opening.

perpendicular tracery

Tracery of the Perpendicular style with repeated perpendicular mullions, crossed at intervals by horizontal transoms, producing repeated vertical rectangles which often rise to the full curve of the arch.

plate tracery

Tracery whose openings are pierced through thin slabs of stone.

reticulated tracery

Gothic tracery consisting mainly of a net-like arrangement of repeated geometrical figures.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved


The curvilinear openwork shapes of stone or wood creating a pattern within the upper part of a Gothic window, or an opening of similar character, in the form of mullions which are usually so treated as to be ornamental. By extension, similar patterns applied to walls or panels. See bar tracery, branch tracery, fan tracery, etc.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


Archit a pattern of interlacing ribs, esp as used in the upper part of a Gothic window, etc.
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The inner timber tracery is carried by the steel structure and will flex with the steel stems.
Windows were traditionally of translucent alabaster, but during the second Turkish occupation, (7) deeply coloured stained glass began to be used in the decorative plaster window tracery.
Visual images evoke sound-memories, so Blake conjures up Holst's Saturn, more of Foulds' tired microtones disturb the otherwise gossamer tracery of his Brunet piece, John Martin summons a Siegfried Idyll out of Vaughan Williams, and Boutigny seems to equate with the shepherd's melancholy piping in Tristan and Isolde before an ending as brutal as Berlioz' March to the Scaffold.
Two massive graphite wall drawings--which required fifteen assistants and are the artist's largest to date--filled two walls with looping tracery. In Wall Drawing #1166 Light to Dark (Scribbles) and Wall Drawing #1167 Dark to Light (Scribbles) (both 2005), blackness was alternately absorptive and reflective.
The programme, completed by Mozart's so-called Jupiter Symphony and Tchaikovsky's rarely heard but substantial G Major Suite, was pretty enough in pointing up precision and the delicate tracery of blended orchestral groupings.
Beautifully balanced hands, resourcefully pedalled, drew the delicate tracery of soundworld in Ravel's dreamlike Sonatine and the dynamic refinement of Poulenc, and tellingly coloured accounts of Debussy's second book of Preludes underlined the assimilated influence of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.
Never mind the crown of thorns; for me that gargantuan tracery called up Briar Rose's thicket.
This created a marvellous collage of delicate tracery,most readily reminiscent of the magic found in Shostakovitch's two better-known piano concertos.
Looking in the opposite direction, from the rear with the translucent glass corridor in the foreground, you see through the delicate tracery of the Victorian shop front to the animation of the street.