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This article is about an architectural structure. For the large tree root, see Buttress root.

A buttress is an architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall.[1] Buttresses are fairly common on more ancient buildings, as a means of providing support to act against the lateral (sideways) forces arising out of the roof structures that lack adequate bracing.

The term counterfort can be synonymous with buttress,[2] and is often used when referring to dams, retaining walls and other structures holding back earth.


In addition to flying and ordinary buttresses, brick and masonry buttresses that support wall corners can be classified according to their ground plan. A clasping or clamped buttress has an L shaped ground plan surrounding the corner, an angled buttress has two buttresses meeting at the corner, a setback buttress is similar to an angled buttress but the buttresses are set back from the corner, and a diagonal (or 'French') buttress is at 45 degrees to the walls.[3][4]

The gallery below shows top-down views of various types of buttress (dark grey) supporting the corner wall of a structure (light grey).

Buttress ground plans
Angled buttress 
Clasping or clamped buttress 
Diagonal or 'french' buttress 
Setback buttress 


A buttress (and mostly concealed, a flying buttress) supporting walls at the Palace of Westminster 
Buttress at The Saviour Chapel, Żejtun, Malta 
Facade Buttresses at Milan Cathedral, Italy 
Thick buttresses characterize Earthquake Baroque architecture like Paoay Church, Philippines 
Buttresses of the western side of the Mosque of Uqba in Kairouan, Tunisia 

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Buttress", www.britannica.com (Encyclopedia Britannica) 
  2. ^ "Counterfort", www.1911encyclopedia.com 
  3. ^ "Glossary : Buttress". www.lookingatbuildings.org.uk. 
  4. ^ Edward Wyatt. "CHURCH ARCHITECTURE : SPIRES AND BUTTRESSES". www.prestbury.net. 

External links[edit]