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date: 19 August 2019


  • Stephen Heywood


The extension of the aisles around the sanctuary of a major aisled church to form a passage or walkway. The ambulatory is found throughout western Europe, especially in France, and was particularly popular between the 11th and 13th centuries. It is often provided with radiating chapels that project from its exterior face. Its function was to provide separate access to the radiating chapels and perhaps originally to facilitate the circulation of pilgrims past relics. The ambulatory with radiating chapels was an important innovation of the Romanesque period and is a particularly potent illustration of the style’s preoccupation with the articulation of structure (see Romanesque, §II).

The origins of the ambulatory are found in Carolingian outer crypts (see Crypt). A good example from England is the simple, barrel-vaulted corridor that runs around the apse at All Saints’, Brixworth (Northants), probably built during the 9th century (for illustration ...

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