The Open Construction & Building Technology Journal

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Static Analysis of Cross Vaults: The Case of the Cathedral of Casertavecchia

M. Contestabile1, E. Babilio2, *, A. Fortunato3, L. Guerriero1, M. Lippiello2, M. Pasquino2, M. Angelillo3
1 Department of Architecture and Industrial Design, Second University of Naples, Caserta, Italy
2 Department of Structures for Engineering and Architecture (DiSt), University of Naples “Federico II”, Napoli, Italy
3 Department of Civil Engineering, University of Salerno, Fisciano, Italy


In the present paper, on assuming that the material has infinite friction and no cohesion, i.e. it is No-Tension in the sense of Heyman, we study the equilibrium of cross vaults of unequal rise, such as those of some Romanesque and Gothic churches. In particular the case study of the lateral cross vaults of the Cathedral of the old town of Caserta is analyzed. The scope of the paper is not to study in detail and quantitatively any particular vault, rather we give a compressive equilibrium solution (compatible with the unilateral material assumption) for the general case of cross vaults, constructed on arches of unequal rise, and loaded by a uniform load.

For the purpose of the structural analysis, the vault is modelled as a thin shell made of Rigid No-Tension material. The webs of the vault that we consider, are supported on two crossing ribs. To obtain the axial force inside the ribs, equilibrated and singular stress fields (that is stress fields concentrated on curves and balanced with the loads) are constructed.

An estimate of the thrust forces transmitted by the vault to the peripheral arches and walls is also obtained, so that the stability of these structures can be checked.

Keywords: Masonry vaults, Membrane equilibrium, Old masonry, Pucher's approach, Singular stresses, Unilateral materials.

Article Information

Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2016
Volume: 10
Issue: Suppl 2: M11
First Page: 329
Last Page: 345
Publisher Id: TOBCTJ-10-329
DOI: 10.2174/1874836801610010329

Article History:

Received Date: 15/1/2015
Revision Received Date: 15/5/2015
Acceptance Date: 10/7/2015
Electronic publication date: 31/05/2016
Collection year: 2016

© Contestabile et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 4.0 International Public License (CC BY-NC 4.0) (, which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Structures for Engineering and Architecture (DiSt), University of Naples “Federico II”, Napoli, Italy; E-mail:

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