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Exterior support, usually of masonry, projecting from the face of a wall and serving to strengthen it or resist outward thrust from an arch or roof. Buttresses also have a decorative function. Though used since ancient times (Mesopotamian temples featured decorative buttresses, as did Roman and Byzantine structures), they are especially associated with Gothic architecture. See alsoflying buttress.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on buttress, visit Britannica.com.