Corbel Arches - The Hidden Gem of Interior Archways
Archways are a great way to elevate the design of your home. Corbel arches have been around for thousands of years and we still use them today. From ancient Mayan and Greek architecture to Victorian cornices, Corbel arches have been around the block (so to speak).
In ancient times, arches were used purely for functional purposes. As the years went by, they became a form of decoration for buildings. In modern times, they’re a major player in adding aesthetic appeal to a structure.
Let’s take a look at what a corbel arch is and where it all started.
What Is A Corbel Arch?
You’ve probably seen a corbel arch so many times, without knowing what it’s called. It’s also known as a corbelled arch. Fun fact, the name comes from the Latin word corbellus, a root word of corvus, which means “raven”, because the arch shape is likened to its beak.
Corbel Arch vs True Arch
An arch is an arch, right? Not quite. A true arch has a continuous line from one end to the other, almost dome-like. There are no overlapping bricks or stones. Think of clean lines and wedge-shaped bricks or stones lined up to form the archway.
A corbel arch uses overlapping stones to create the arch-shape. In times of old, the key differences between a corbel and a true arch would have been the structure and strength of a true arch. The true arch used to be much stronger and more durable than the corbel arch. This is all thanks to its design being able to carry a load better than that of a corbel arch.
Comparison of a generic "true" stone arch (left) and a corbel arch (right). Credit: Wikipedia
Corbel Arches in History
Throughout history, from the Mayans to modern times, corbelling has been a part of architecture. The Mayans used corbelling techniques for walkways, entryways, and vaults.
Another great example of a corbel arch is The Treasury of Atreus in Greece, which was built in the 13th century B.C.
A little later on from the ancient Greeks and Mayans, the Vikings and then the Normans widely used corbelled arches.
Corbel arches were rather common in central and south-east Asia in medieval times. The Mughals in India made use of them for decorative purposes. They were also common in Indonesia and Cambodian temples and bridges.
In ancient times and even in the 20th century, brick and mortar were used to build archways.
Times have changed, but the principle and style remain the same as a corbel archway can be visually appealing.
History lesson aside, corbel arches have been a staple in both ancient and modern architecture, providing structure and beauty.
A corbelled arch at the tomb of Nasir ud din Mahmud, Ghori, New Delhi. Credit: Wikipedia
Corbel Arch in Architecture
Corbelling is a technique whereby bricks or stones are placed overlapping each other. This allows for each stone to act as a counterweight for the ones around it. This allows for more even spreading of the load of the structure above the arch.
The corbel technique isn’t the best for very heavy load-bearing walls and true arches are stronger. They are, however, great as a decorative feature.
Corbelling isn’t just a technique used in archways, they can also be brackets or cornices. These are especially popular in old churches and cathedrals. The Victorians loved using this style in their architectural designs as well as it gave them a more ornate appearance.
The corbel structure can be made out of stone (very common in ancient times), wood, brick, or metal.
Famous Corbel Arches
Possibly some of the most famous examples of corbel arches would be that of the ancient Egyptians. They used corbel arches in the vaults of some of the pyramids (the Meidum, Bent, and Red Pyramids). The Great Pyramid of Giza also features corbelling in its Grand Gallery.
The Mayans and ancient Greeks used corbel arches in their buildings, many of which still stand today like the Cahal Pech Belize. Notable arches can be found in Borobudur in Indonesia where the interlocking stones form a “T” shape.
Though not an arch, the famous gargoyles of Notre Dame cathedral are a type of corbel. Corbelling also applies to brackets or other structures that serve as support structures. Since gargoyles or similar figures were used as supportive brackets, they’re considered corbels.
Corbel Arches in the Home
In modern times, a corbel arch in the home is mostly decorative. With advances in building technology, the need to have structural arches has all but disappeared. Since so many arches are rooted in historical architecture, corbel arches are a great way to spruce up the design of your home and add a touch of old-world elegance.
They can be a great addition to entryways to rooms in the house, They’re even perfect in the kitchen. Corbels are versatile and can be an affordable way to elevate the design of your home with an ornate touch.
If you’re thinking of remodeling, it’s good to know that all of our arches are easy to install and can be custom-made to your specifications.
Here are a few ideas for adding a corbel arch in your home:
If you have a more traditional-style kitchen, adding a corbel arch above your range hood is a great idea. It can complement the overall style of your kitchen and add an extra dimension to the design.
A corbel arch combined with a custom range hood
If you’d like to keep it simple, you could add a corbel arch to the entryways and hallways in your home. For example, if your living room and dining area lead into each other, you could add a corbel arch to mark the subtle divide between the two. It’s a great way to add dimension to the two rooms, without having to tear down the whole house.
If you have beautiful glass doors leading outside, why not frame them with a corbel arch? This makes the exit look much grander and more elegant.
Final Thoughts on Corbel Arches
At Archways & Ceilings, we make custom corbel arches for any area in the home. We have corbel arch kits with center arches and ones without. Also, if you have a specific design in mind, we can help create that for you too!
As with all remodel projects, it’s a good idea to consult with an expert. If you’re thinking of sprucing up your home with a custom arch framing kit, get in touch with us and we’ll help elevate your home.