Elaborately decorated classical-style stone corbels support balconies on a building in Indianapolis.
Corbel of the Troyes Cathedral.

In architecture a corbel (or console) is a piece of stone jutting out of a wall to carry any superincumbent weight. A piece of timber projecting in the same way was called a "tassel" or a "bragger".[1] The technique of corbelling, where rows of corbels deeply keyed inside a wall support a projecting wall or parapet, has been used since Neolithic times.[2] It is common in Medieval architecture and in the Scottish baronial style as well as in the Classical architectural vocabulary, such as the modillions of a Corinthian cornice and in ancient Chinese architecture.

The word "corbel" comes from Old French and derives from the Latin corbellus, a diminutive of corvus (a raven) which refers to the beak-like appearance.[1] Similarly, the French refer to a bracket-corbel, usually a load-bearing internal feature, as corbeau (a crow). A cul-de-lampe is a kind of bracket-corbel supporting a vault; the term is also used for a corbel with a tapering base.[3] Italians use mensola ("little table"), the Germans Kragstein ("collar stone").[1] The usual word in modern French for a corbel in the context of Classical architecture is modillon.

In traditional Chinese architecture, such a load-bearing structural element, made of stone or wood, is called dougong and has been used since the late centuries BC.


Decorated corbels

Norman (Romanesque) corbels often have a plain appearance,[1] although they may be elaborately carved with stylised heads of humans, animals or imaginary "beasts", and sometimes with other motifs (Kilpeck church in Herefordshire is a notable example, with 85 of its original 91 richly carved corbels still surviving).[4]

Similarly, in the Early English period, corbels were sometimes elaborately carved, as at Lincoln Cathedral, and sometimes more simply so.[1]

Corbels sometimes end with a point apparently growing into the wall, or forming a knot, and often are supported by angels and other figures. In the later periods the carved foliage and other ornaments used on corbels resemble those used in the capitals of columns.[1]

Throughout England, in half-timber work, wooden corbels ("tassels" or "braggers") abound, carrying window-sills or oriel windows in wood, which also are often carved.[1]

In Classical architecture

Corbel of a balcony in Venice, Italy.

The corbels carrying balconies in Italy and France were sometimes of great size and richly carved, and some of the finest examples of the Italian "Cinquecento" (16th century) style are found in them. Taking a cue from 16th-century practice, the Paris-trained designers of 19th-century Beaux-Arts architecture were encouraged to show imagination in varying corbels.[citation needed]

Corbel tables

Romanesque corbel table featuring erotic scenes at Colegiata de Cervatos, near Santander, Spain

A corbel table is a projecting moulded string course supported by a range of corbels. Sometimes these corbels carry a small arcade under the string course, the arches of which are pointed and trefoiled. As a rule the corbel table carries the gutter, but in Lombard work the arcaded corbel table was utilized as a decoration to subdivide the storeys and break up the wall surface. In Italy sometimes over the corbels will form a moulding, and above a plain piece of projecting wall forming a parapet.[1]

The corbels carrying the arches of the corbel tables in Italy and France were often elaborately moulded, and sometimes in two or three courses projecting over one another; those carrying the machicolations of English and French castles had four courses.[citation needed]

In modern chimney construction a corbel table is constructed on the inside of a flue in the form of a concrete ring beam supported by a range of corbels. The corbels can be either in-situ or pre-cast concrete. The corbel tables described here are built at approximately ten metre intervals to ensure stability of the barrel of refractory bricks constructed thereon.[citation needed]


Corbelling, where rows of corbels gradually build a wall out from the vertical, has long been used as a simple kind of vaulting, for example in many Neolithic chambered cairns where walls are gradually corbelled in until the opening can be spanned by a slab.

In medieval architecture the technique was used to support upper storeys or a parapet projecting forward from the wall plane, often to form machicolation where openings between corbels could be used to drop things onto attackers. This later became a decorative feature, without the openings. Corbelling supporting upper stories and particularly supporting projecting corner turrets subsequently became a characteristic of the Scottish baronial style.

Medieval timber-framed buildings often employ jettying, where upper stories are cantilevered out on projecting wooden beams in a similar manner to corbelling.



  • Maes Howe, a particularly fine Neolithic chambered cairn in Scotland.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h  Chisholm, Hugh, ed (1911). "Corbel". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  2. ^ See for example, Maes Howe, a particularly fine Neolithic chambered cairn in Scotland.
  3. ^ definition
  4. ^ CRSBI website: St Mary and St David, Kilpeck, Herefordshire


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Corbel — Cor bel, v. t. To furnish with a corbel or corbels; to support by a corbel; to make in the form of a corbel. [1913 Webster] {To corbel out}, to furnish with a corbel of courses, each projecting beyond the one next below it. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Corbel — bezeichnet eine Gemeinde in der französischen Region Rhône Alpes, siehe: Corbel (Savoie) eine serifenlose Microsoft Schrift, siehe; Corbel (Schriftart) Corbel ist außerdem der Familienname folgender Personen: Cécile Corbel (* 1980), französische… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Corbel — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Corbel puede referirse a: Corbel (Saboya), Rhône Alpes, Francia Corbel (fuente tipográfica), una fuente tipográfica. Obtenido de Corbel Categoría: Wikipedia:Desambiguación …   Wikipedia Español

  • Corbel — Cor bel (k[^o]r b[e^]l), n. [F. corbeau, for older corbel, dim. of L. corbis basket. (Corbels were often in the form of a basket.) See {Corbeil}.] (Arch.) A bracket supporting a superincumbent object, or receiving the spring of an arch. Corbels… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • corbel — mid 14c., from O.Fr. corbel, dim. of corb raven, from L. corvus (see RAVEN (Cf. raven)); so called from its beaked shape …   Etymology dictionary

  • corbel — ► NOUN ▪ a projection jutting out from a wall to support a structure above it. DERIVATIVES corbelled (US corbeled) adjective corbelling (US corbeling) noun. ORIGIN Old French, little crow , from Latin corvus raven (perhaps because the shape of a… …   English terms dictionary

  • corbel — [kôr′bəl, kôr′bel΄] n. [OFr, dim. of corb < L corvus, RAVEN1: so called from its beaked shape] 1. a piece of stone, wood, or metal, often in the form of a bracket, projecting from the side of a wall and serving to support a cornice, the spring …   English World dictionary

  • Corbel — Corbel, Muschel, so v. w. Corbule …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • corbel — /kawr beuhl/, n., v., corbeled, corbeling or (esp. Brit.) corbelled, corbelling. Archit. n. 1. any bracket, esp. one of brick or stone, usually of slight extent. 2. a short horizontal timber supporting a girder. v.t. 3. to set (bricks, stones,… …   Universalium

  • Corbel — Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Corbel peut désigner : Corbel, commune française de la Savoie, limitrophe de l’Isère. Cécile Corbel (1980) harpiste et chanteuse française, Claude… …   Wikipédia en Français

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