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A pinnacle (from pinnaculum, a little feather, pinna, compare ) is an ornament originally forming the cap or crown of a or small , but afterwards used on at the corners of and in many other situations. The pinnacle looks like a small . It was mainly used in .

The pinnacle had two purposes:

  1. Ornamental – adding to the loftiness and verticity of the structure. They sometimes ended with , such as in .
  2. Structural – the pinnacles were very heavy and often rectified with , in order to enable the to contain the stress of the structure and roof. This was done by adding (a result of the pinnacle weight) to the thrust vector and thus shifting it downwards rather than sideway.

Some have stated that there were no pinnacles in the style, but conical caps to circular buttresses, with finial terminations, are not uncommon in at very early periods. gives examples from St Germer and St Remi, and there is one of similar form at the west front of .

In the 12th-century Romanesque two examples have been cited, one from in , and the other from in . In these the buttresses run up, forming a sort of square turret, and crowned with a pyramidal cap, very much like those of the next period, the .

In this and the following styles, and mainly in , the pinnacle seems generally to have had its appropriate uses. It was a weight to counteract the of the , particularly where there were ; it stopped the tendency to slip of the stone copings of the , and counterpoised the thrust of ; it formed a pier to steady the elegant perforated parapets of later periods; and in France especially served to counterbalance the weight of overhanging tables, huge , etc.

In the Early English period the small buttresses frequently finished with , and the more important with pinnacles supported with clustered shafts. At this period the pinnacles were often supported on these shafts alone, and were open below; and in larger work in this and the subsequent periods they frequently form niches and contain statues. About the Transition and during the , the different faces above the angle shafts often finish with gablets. Those of the last-named period are much richer, and are generally decorated with and , and sometimes with . Very fine groups are found at and at the rise of the spire of . Perpendicular pinnacles differ but little from Decorated, except that the crockets and finials are of later character. They are also often set angle-ways, particularly on parapets, and the shafts are panelled.

In France pinnacles, like spires, seem to have been in use earlier than in England. There are small pinnacles at the angles of the tower in the . At there are pinnacles in a similar position, each composed of four small shafts, with caps and bases surmounted with small pyramidal spires. In all these examples the towers have semicircular-headed windows.

See also

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