pinnacle (pĭnˈĭkəl) [key], minor architectural motif of vertical tapering shape, usually crowning a pier, buttress, or gable. Although sometimes it appears in Renaissance design, as in the Certosa di Pavia, it is almost exclusively a medieval form, originating in the late Romanesque and becoming common in Gothic. Topping the piers of the flying buttresses of side aisles and choirs, pinnacles weighted the pier and thus counteracted the thrust of the flying arch, while furnishing also effective vertical adornments. With the advance of the Gothic, pinnacles appeared in all parts of the church. In France they multiplied and assumed the widest variety of forms, adorned with gables, tracery, colonnettes, and canopied niches and culminating in a richly crocketed finial. In England they were far less important and remained relatively simple.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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