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Main roof frame and then the cupola: cove, zodiac, lantern

by on 28 Jun 2011

Most of our departments have completed their tasks and are folding their personnel into the ongoing main effort. Pitsawing is all done and the trestle stands empty. It will remain here when we go, a gift to the Skansen.  Likewise the last timber on our list has been hewn, although you can still hear the music of a broad axe or two.  Seems that the habit of hewing, once acquired, is hard to break. And prudence dictates that we have a few spare timbers on hand against the possibility of breakage during shipping or assembly. So we accommodate  the residual hewing jones, and let our people down easy. The main roof frame is complete and two of the six trusses (all that will be installed in this first partial raising) stand ready to go up. And the box frame is done apart from the hip rafters.

So the focus of attention is now on the cupola. The lowest stage — the Cove — is framed and sheathed and the ribs and hips (or are they really valleys?)  for the octagonal dome are being installed.  Once they are in, boarding can begin. Then it’s on to the Zodiac stage (another four sided cove), so called because its surfaces were painted with the symbols of the twelve astrological signs. And finally the cupola is capped by the Lantern, which has been both framed and sheathed over the last several days,  and is assembled, ready to fly in during  raising on Tuesday.

The installation of the cupola makes abundantly clear the we are dealing with two separate structures, one nested within the other.  And this close dovetailing can been seen both on the geometrical and the spiritual planes.  From above and outside, the frame is apparent and ascendant; from below and inside, the cupola dominates. Indeed from the street, the synagogue is in disguise, assuming the shape and style of the workaday wooden Polish streetscape, as a kind of masquerade. But open the door and you enter a different world, a complex curved polychrome tent of wood.

The experience is compelling as seen in glimpses through old paintings and photos, and via the virtual synagogue evolving in our Cad drawings.  The effect of the full size structure is impossible to gauge, save as we watch it slowly morph into being here at the Skansen. At the moment it seems impossible to apprehend either with eye or camera, a dense pack of timber, workmen and women, tools, staging and rigging gear.

Effective photography being near impossible at the moment, frame drawings and historic documents should do a better job of making the point.

View of the Synagogue from the west

The timber frame of the reconstructed Gwozdziec Synagogue roof as seen from above. The sheathing of the cupola has been omitted for clarity.

Here is the ceiling as seen from below. The cupola ribs are highlighted behind the sheathing boards.

One more element in the mix, an historical one. It is believed that the original, Seventeenth Century sanctuary had a simple barrel vault roof as shown in the drawing below. It was several generations later that the building was remodeled in the latest fashion resulting in the compound cupola we know.

One of the historic Breier drawings. You can see what we take to be the curve of the original ceiling vault cut into the lower brace on the left and then carried on as a light dashed line on the upper brace. The full curve of the supposed original ceiling profile is shown on the right as the dark red dashed line.

Finally here is a section through the reconstruction of the remodeled roof showing the cupola nestled into the roof frame and filling the interior space. Now visualize the extraordinary polychrome painted ceiling and walls and you will understand the breath of the transformation from mundane secular exterior to the transcendent sacred interior space.

*     *     *

A photographic account of weekend progress:

A couple of timber lifts.

And again:

Phil learns the pleasures of the Millers Falls Boring Machine

As does Emma’s Dad Tom, just in from Boston

Mitre joint on a flying plate corner, apart…

…Coming together…

…And home.

Mark and Mark work on the interlaced cupola support structure

Miah dovetails dessert

Leon puts finishing touches on the interior of the Lantern

Dome ribs going in

To be continued…

  1. What an amazing project!

    To all of you in Poland, You probably would not have seen it yet, but the current Journal just got to me. The cover of it is a montage of earlier Journal covers showing what are probably the guilds most significant projects: Raising the Obelisk, The Golden Bridge, Battle for Trebuchet supremacy and on…

    And you folks are right in the middle of another significant project.

    Really can’t tell you how jealous I am…

    Safe travels and happy building!

    Albert Rooks

  2. Shan permalink

    I’m entertained, educated & inspired.

  3. Judith Hanson permalink

    I’m so excited for you all seeing this all come together. It looks fantastic, I’m so proud of all of us. We’ll stay tuned here stateside, all our best to you all. Judith

  4. Witold Karwowski permalink

    I have no comment – Marek probably could say more.

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