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In building construction, a vertical load-bearing member such as an intermediate support for adjacent ends of two bays or spans. Bulkier than a column but smaller than a wall, a pier can support an arch or beam. The lower portion of a pier may be widened to better distribute the downward pressure of a massive overlying structure. In Romanesque and Gothic architecture, a feature of the nave arcade is the compound pier, which is cross-shaped in cross section, with shafts placed in the recesses.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pier, visit Britannica.com.