triforium (trĪfôrˈēəm) [key], in church architecture, an arcaded gallery above the arches of the nave. In the interiors of medieval churches each bay of the nave wall customarily had three divisions in its height—arcade, triforium, and clerestory. The triforium was thus located beneath the clerestory windows and above the side-aisle vaults and corresponded on the exterior to the lean-to roof over the aisle. In Italian basilical churches this interior surface was generally decorated with paintings or mosaics. In the north the triforium had arched openings with apertures in the wall behind it to ventilate the roof space over the aisle. In most Romanesque churches it appeared as a second-story vaulted gallery over the aisle and was equal to it in depth and sometimes also in height. In Gothic churches, the depth behind the triforium arcades was generally limited to the thickness of the nave wall, into which a narrow passageway was built to furnish a second-story circulation around the church. Developed French Gothic flattened the pitch of the aisle roofs, thus leaving the outside wall of the triforia exposed and free for glazing. The inside face retained its rich open tracery arcades. Late Gothic subordinated the triforium between the higher main arcades and clerestory and sometimes omitted it entirely.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.