A vault is generally composed of separate units of material, such as bricks, tiles, or blocks of stone, so shaped or cut that when assembled they form a tightly wedged and stable construction whose weight can be concentrated upon the proper supports. Vaults are also formed in a homogeneous material, as when built in concrete. In modern work ceilings in the form of masonry vaults are often merely of plaster applied against a curved framework of wood or metal. Since antiquity vault surfaces have been enriched at various times in diverse ways—with coffers, carvings, plaster decorations, mosaics, or frescoes.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.