Opus spicatum

Opus spicatum

Opus spicatum paving in Trajan's Market, Rome.
Wall in opus spicatum.

Opus spicatum, literally "spiked work," is a type of masonry construction used in Roman and medieval times. It consists of bricks, tiles or cut stone laid in a herringbone pattern.


Its usage was generally decorative and most commonly it served as a pavement, though it was also used as an infill pattern in walls. Unless the elements run horizontally and vertically, it is inherently weak, since the oblique angles of the elements tend to spread the pattern horizontally under compression.


Fireplace at Usk Castle

Herringbone work, particularly in stone, is also used to make firebacks in stone hearths. Acidic flue gases tend to corrode lime mortar, so a finely-set herringbone could remain intact with a minimum of mortar used. Usk Castle has several fine exampled. The herringbone pattern produces opposing shear plane faces, increasing the relative surface area and therefore rendering it a more sound design for mortar and brick.


The herringbone method was used by Filippo Brunelleschi in constructing the Cathedral of Florence (Santa Maria del Fiore).[1]

Herringbone brickwork was also a feature of Gothic Revival architecture.

See also


  1. ^

Opus caementicium roman walls