Gothic architecture

Gothic architecture
Top: Notre-Dame de Paris; Salisbury Cathedral: Centre: buttresses of Cologne Cathedral, Facade statuary of Chartres Cathedral; Bottom: windows of Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
Years active 12th–16th centuries
Influenced Gothic Revival architecture

Gothic architecture is an architectural style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Originating in 12th century France and lasting into the 16th century, Gothic architecture was known during the period as Opus Francigenum ("French work") with the term Gothic first appearing during the later part of the Renaissance.

The defining element of Gothic architecture is the pointed arch. It is the primary engineering innovation and the characteristic design component. The use of the pointed arch in turn led to the development of the pointed ribbed vault, the flying buttress and window tracery.[1] These elements together formed a structurally and aesthetically integrated system, or style, that characterises the Gothic.[2]

At the Basilica of Saint-Denis, near Paris, the choir was reconstructed between 1140 and 1144, drawing together for the first time the developing Gothic architectural features. In doing so, a new architectural style emerged that emphasised, internally, verticality in the structural members, and the atmosphere created by the play of light through stained glass windows.[3]

Gothic architecture is most familiar as the architecture of many of the great cathedrals, abbeys and churches of Europe. It is also the architecture of many castles, palaces, town halls, guild halls, universities and to a less prominent extent, private dwellings. Many of the finest examples of Gothic architecture are listed with UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

With the development of Renaissance architecture in Italy during the mid 15th century, the Gothic style was supplanted by the new style, but in some regions, notably England, Gothic continued to flourish and develop into the 16th century. A series of Gothic revivals began in mid-18th century England, spread through 19th century Europe and continued, largely for ecclesiastical and university structures, into the 20th century.

Name [ edit ]

Gothic architecture was known during the period as opus francigenum ("French/Frankish work") [4] and in France as the Style Ogivale (style with pointed arches).[5]

The term "Gothic architecture" originated as a pejorative description. Giorgio Vasari used the term "barbarous German style" in his Lives of the Artists to describe what is now considered the Gothic style,[6] and in the introduction to the Lives he attributes various architectural features to "the Goths" whom he holds responsible for destroying the ancient buildings after they conquered Rome, and erecting new ones in this style.[7] At the time in which Vasari was writing, Italy had experienced a century of building in the Classical architectural vocabulary revived in the Renaissance and seen as evidence of a new Golden Age of learning and refinement. Vasari was echoed by François Rabelais, also of the 16th century, who referred to "Gotz" and "Ostrogotz."[8]

According to a 19th-century correspondent in the London Journal Notes and Queries:

There can be no doubt that the term 'Gothic' as applied to pointed styles of ecclesiastical architecture was used at first contemptuously, and in derision, by those who were ambitious to imitate and revive the Grecian orders of architecture, after the revival of classical literature. Authorities such as Christopher Wren lent their aid in deprecating the old medieval style, which they termed Gothic, as synonymous with everything that was barbarous and rude.[9][10]

Definition and scope [ edit ]

Gothic architecture is the architecture of the late medieval period, characterised by use of the pointed arch.[citation needed] Other features common to Gothic architecture are the rib vault, buttresses, including flying buttresses; large windows which are often grouped, or have tracery; rose windows, towers, spires and pinnacles; and ornate west fronts.[citation needed]

As an architectural style, Gothic developed primarily in ecclesiastical architecture,[citation needed] and its principles and characteristic forms were applied to other types of buildings. Buildings of every type were constructed in the Gothic style, with evidence remaining of simple domestic buildings, elegant town houses, grand palaces, commercial premises, civic buildings, castles, city walls, bridges, village churches, abbey churches, abbey complexes and large cathedrals.[citation needed]

The greatest number of surviving Gothic buildings are churches. These range from tiny chapels to large cathedrals, and although many have been extended and altered in different styles, a large number remain either substantially intact or sympathetically restored, demonstrating the form, character and decoration of Gothic architecture. The Gothic style is most particularly associated with the great cathedrals of Northern France, the Low Countries, England and Spain, with other fine examples occurring across Europe.[citation needed]

The scope of Gothic architecture
Rheinstein Castle, Trechtingshausen, Germany
The Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy
Oudenaarde Town Hall, Oudenaarde, Belgium
Church of San Pablo, Valladolid, Spain

Influences [ edit ]

Political [ edit ]

At the end of the 12th century, Europe was divided into a multitude of city states and kingdoms. The area encompassing modern Germany, southern Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic and much of northern Italy (excluding Venice and Papal State) was nominally part of the Holy Roman Empire, but local rulers exercised considerable autonomy. France, Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Scotland, Castile, Aragon, Navarre, Sicily and Cyprus were independent kingdoms, as was the Angevin Empire, whose Plantagenet kings ruled England and large domains in what was to become modern France.[11] Norway came under the influence of England, while the other Scandinavian countries and Poland were influenced by trading contacts with the Hanseatic League. Angevin kings brought the Gothic tradition from France to Southern Italy, while Lusignan kings introduced French Gothic architecture to Cyprus.[citation needed]

Throughout Europe at this time there was a rapid growth in trade and an associated growth in towns.[12][13] Germany and the Lowlands had large flourishing towns that grew in comparative peace, in trade and competition with each other, or united for mutual weal, as in the Hanseatic League. Civic building was of great importance to these towns as a sign of wealth and pride. England and France remained largely feudal and produced grand domestic architecture for their kings, dukes and bishops, rather than grand town halls for their burghers.[citation needed]

Religious [ edit ]

The Catholic Church prevailed across Western Europe at this time, influencing not only faith but also wealth and power. Bishops were appointed by the feudal lords (kings, dukes and other landowners) and they often ruled as virtual princes over large estates. The early Medieval periods had seen a rapid growth in monasticism, with several different orders being prevalent and spreading their influence widely. Foremost were the Benedictines whose great abbey churches vastly outnumbered any others in France and England. A part of their influence was that towns developed around them and they became centres of culture, learning and commerce. The Cluniac and Cistercian Orders were prevalent in France, the great monastery at Cluny having established a formula for a well planned monastic site which was then to influence all subsequent monastic building for many centuries.[12][13]

In the 13th century St. Francis of Assisi established the Franciscans, or so-called "Grey Friars", a mendicant order. The Dominicans, another mendicant order founded during the same period but by St. Dominic in Toulouse and Bologna, were particularly influential in the building of Italy's Gothic churches.[12][13]

Geographic [ edit ]

From the 10th to the 13th century, Romanesque architecture had become a pan-European style and manner of construction, affecting buildings in countries as far apart as Ireland, Croatia, Sweden and Sicily. The same wide geographic area was then affected by the development of Gothic architecture, but the acceptance of the Gothic style and methods of construction differed from place to place, as did the expressions of Gothic taste. The proximity of some regions meant that modern country borders do not define divisions of style.[12] On the other hand, some regions such as England and Spain produced defining characteristics rarely seen elsewhere, except where they have been carried by itinerant craftsmen, or the transfer of bishops. Regional differences that are apparent in the great abbey churches and cathedrals of the Romanesque period often become even more apparent in the Gothic.[13]

The local availability of materials affected both construction and style. In France, limestone was readily available in several grades, the very fine white limestone of Caen being favoured for sculptural decoration. England had coarse limestone and red sandstone as well as dark green Purbeck marble which was often used for architectural features.[citation needed]

In Northern Germany, Netherlands, northern Poland, Denmark, and the Baltic countries local building stone was unavailable but there was a strong tradition of building in brick. The resultant style, Brick Gothic, is called "Backsteingotik" in Germany and Scandinavia and is associated with the Hanseatic League. In Italy, stone was used for fortifications, but brick was preferred for other buildings. Because of the extensive and varied deposits of marble, many buildings were faced in marble, or were left with undecorated façade so that this might be achieved at a later date.[citation needed]

The availability of timber also influenced the style of architecture, with timber buildings prevailing in Scandinavia.[citation needed] Availability of timber affected methods of roof construction across Europe. It is thought that the magnificent hammer-beam roofs of England were devised as a direct response to the lack of long straight seasoned timber by the end of the Medieval period, when forests had been decimated not only for the construction of vast roofs but also for ship building.[12][14]

Architectural background and early development [ edit ]

Oriental influence [ edit ]

The pointed arch, one of the defining attributes of Gothic, was employed in Late Roman and Sassanian architecture by the 7th century. In the Roman context it occurred in early church building in Syria and occasional secular structures, like the Karamagara Bridge in Modern Turkey. In the Sassanid architecture of Iran, parabolic and pointed arches were employed in both palace and sacred construction.[15][16] Following the Islamic conquests of Roman Syria and the Sassanid Empire in the Seventh Century, the pointed arch was incorporated into Islamic architecture and widely used.[12]

Increasing military and cultural contacts with the Muslim world, including the Norman conquest of Islamic Sicily between 1060 and 1090, the Crusades, beginning 1096, and the Islamic presence in Spain, may have influenced Medieval Europe's adoption of the pointed arch, although this hypothesis remains controversial.[17][18] Certainly, in those parts of the Western Mediterranean subject to Islamic control or influence, rich regional variants arose, fusing Romanesque and later Gothic traditions with Islamic decorative forms, as seen, for example, in Monreale and Cefalù Cathedrals, the Alcázar of Seville, and Teruel Cathedral.[19][20]

Arches at ar-Raqqa, Syria

Romanesque tradition [ edit ]

Gothic architecture grew out of the previous architectural genre, Romanesque. For the most part, there was not a clean break, as there was to be later in Renaissance Florence with the revival of the Classical style in the early 15th century.[citation needed]

By the 12th century, Romanesque architecture (termed Norman architecture in England because of its association with the Norman invasion), was established throughout Europe. The important categories of building: the cathedral church, the parish church, the abbey church, the monastery, the castle, the palace, the great hall, the gatehouse, the civic building and the warehouse, had been established in the Romanesque period.[citation needed]

Many architectural features that are associated with Gothic architecture had been developed and used by the architects of Romanesque buildings, particularly in the building of cathedrals and abbey churches.. These include ribbed vaults, buttresses, clustered columns, ambulatories, wheel windows, spires, stained glass windows, and richly carved door tympana. These were already features of ecclesiastical architecture before the development of the Gothic style, and all were to develop in increasingly elaborate ways.[21]

It was principally the widespread introduction of a single feature, the pointed arch, which was to bring about the change that separates Gothic from Romanesque. This technological change permitted both structural and stylistic change which broke the tradition of massive masonry and solid walls penetrated by small openings, replacing it with a style where light appears to triumph over substance. With its use came the development of many other architectural devices, previously put to the test in scattered buildings and then called into service to meet the structural, aesthetic and ideological needs of the new style. These include the flying buttresses, pinnacles and traceried windows which typify Gothic ecclesiastical architecture.[12]

Comparative elements of Romanesque and Gothic architecture [ edit ]

# Structural element Romanesque Gothic Developments
1 Arches Round Pointed The pointed Gothic arch varied from a very sharp form, to a wide, flattened form.
2 Vaults Barrel or groin Ribbed Ribbed vaults appeared in the Romanesque era and were elaborated in the Gothic era.
3 Walls Thick, with small openings Thinner, with large openings Wall structure diminshed during the Gothic era to a framework of mullions supporting windows.
4 Buttresses Wall buttresses of low projection. Wall buttresses of high projection, and flying buttresses Complex Gothic buttresses supported the high vaults and the walls pierced with windows
5 Windows Round arches, sometimes paired Pointed arches, often with tracery Gothic windows varied from simple lancet form to ornate flamboyant patterns
6 Piers and columns Cylindrical columns, rectangular piers Cylindrical and clustered columns, complex piers Columns and piers developed increasing complexity during the Gothic era
7 Gallery arcades Two openings under an arch, paired. Two pointed openings under a pointed arch The Gothic gallery became increasingly complex and unified with the clerestory

Transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture [ edit ]

The characteristic forms that were to define Gothic architecture developed in Romanesque buildings at different locations, as the result of structural requirements.

Although the pointed arch is strongly associated with the Gothic style, it was first used in Western architecture in buildings that were in other ways clearly Romanesque, notably Autun Cathedral in France, Durham Cathedral in the north of England, and Cefalù and Monreale Cathedrals in Sicily.[citation needed]

The vaults of most Romanesque churches were barrel vaults or groin vaults. By the early 12th century the ribbed vaults, characteristic of Gothic architecture, were coming into use. They appeared at the naves of two Romanesque churches in Caen, France, the Abbey of Saint-Étienne and the Abbaye aux Dames in 1120. The ribbed vault over the north transept at Durham Cathedral in England, built from 1128 to 1133, was the first time pointed arches were used in a high vault. Pointed ribbed vaults were used in the chancel of Cathedral of Cefalù in 1131.[citation needed]

The three-tiered interior elevation of arcade, gallery and clerestory that is typical of great Gothic churches, was well established in the Norman buildings of England, appearing at Norwich, Ely, Peterborough and Durham Cathedrals as well as the Abbey of Saint-Étienne, Caen, in France.[citation needed]

One of the features that unifies the internal appearance of a great Gothic church is the emphasis on vertical elements, in particular attached shafts that pass from the floor to the vault.[citation needed] These first appeared in France in the early 11th century in churches that have broad ribs reinforcing a barrel vault. They are also seen at Lisbon and Speyer Cathedrals, Santiago de Compostela and la Madeleine Vezelay in conjunction with groin vaults, as well as at the three Norman cathedrals of East Anglia, of which Peterborough and Ely retain wooden ceilings, while Norwich was not vaulted until the 15th century.

The admission of light to the building through a multiplicity of windows was an important element in England. At Peterborough Cathedral, the polygonal Norman apse has remained, as has three tiers of large Norman windows, now filled with Gothic tracery and 19th century stained glass.[citation needed] The transept ends at Peterborough, Ely and Norwich each have three rows of large Norman windows. This grouping of windows prefigures the clusters of Gothic lancet windows that are found in many English churches such Salisbury Cathedral.[citation needed]

Rose windows, which are characteristic of the west fronts and transept ends of the cathedrals of France, were in the Romanesque period, common in architecture of Germany, where they appear in various forms at Worms Cathedral, and in Italy where they are either untraceried ocula or wheel windows such as that at the Basilica of San Zeno, Verona. The first rose window above the west portal in France is said to be that at the Abbaye Saint-Denis 1140.[citation needed]

The Basilica of Saint Denis is generally cited as the first truly Gothic building, however the distinction is best reserved for the choir, of which the ambulatory remains intact.[citation needed] Noyon Cathedral saw the earliest completion of a rebuilding of an entire French cathedral in the new style from 1150 to 1231.[citation needed] While using all those features that came to be known as Gothic, including pointed arches, flying buttresses and ribbed vaulting, the builders continued to employ many of the features and much of the character of Romanesque architecture including round-headed arch throughout the building, varying the shape to pointed where it was functionally practical to do so.[citation needed]

At the Abbey Saint-Denis, Sens Cathedral, Noyon Cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris and at the eastern end of Canterbury Cathedral in England, simple cylindrical columns predominate over the Gothic forms of clustered columns and shafted piers. Wells Cathedral in England, commenced at the eastern end in 1175, was the first building in which the designer broke free from Romanesque forms. The architect entirely dispensed with the round arch in favour of the pointed arch and with cylindrical columns in favour of piers composed of clusters of shafts which lead into the mouldings of the arches. The transepts and nave were continued by Adam Locke in the same style and completed in about 1230. The character of the building is entirely Gothic. Wells Cathedral is thus considered the first truly Gothic cathedral.[22]

The south western tower at Ely Cathedral, England
The nave vault with pointed transverse arches at Durham Cathedral
The sexpartite ribbed vault at Saint Etienne, Caen
interior of the Cathedral of Cefalu.

Abbot Suger [ edit ]

The eastern end of the Basilica Church of Saint-Denis, built by Abbot Suger and completed in 1144, is often cited as the first truly Gothic building, as it draws together many of architectural forms which had evolved from the Romanesque and typify the Gothic style.

Suger, friend and confidant of the French Kings, Louis VI and Louis VII, decided in about 1137, to rebuild the great Church of Saint-Denis, attached to an abbey which was also a royal residence. He began with the West Front, reconstructing the original Carolingian façade with its single door. He designed the west front of Saint-Denis to be an echo of the Roman Arch of Constantine with its three-part division and three large portals to ease the problem of congestion. The rose window is the earliest-known example above the West portal in France. The façade combines both round arches and pointed arches of the Gothic style.

At the completion of the west front in 1140, Abbot Suger moved on to the reconstruction of the eastern end, leaving the Carolingian nave in use. He designed a choir that would be suffused with light.[23] To achieve his aims, his masons drew on the several new features which evolved or had been introduced to Romanesque architecture, the pointed arch, the ribbed vault, the ambulatory with radiating chapels, the clustered columns supporting ribs springing in different directions and the flying buttresses which enabled the insertion of large clerestory windows.

The new structure was finished and dedicated on 11 June 1144, in the presence of the King. The choir and west front of the Abbey of Saint-Denis both became the prototypes for further building in the royal domain of northern France and in the Duchy of Normandy. Through the rule of the Angevin dynasty, the new style was introduced to England and spread throughout France, the Low Countries, Germany, Spain, northern Italy and Sicily.[11][13]

The west front at the Abbey of Saint Denis, with its three deep portals
The ambulatory at the Abbey of Saint-Denis
The choir of Sens Cathedral
The nave of Sens Cathedral
The west front at Noyon Cathedral, showing transitional characteristics
The interior of Noyon Cathedral

Structural elements [ edit ]

Pointed arch [ edit ]

Norman blind-arcading at Christchurch Priory, Dorset.
Equilateral Arch

One of the defining characteristics of Gothic architecture is the pointed or ogival arch. Arches of a similar type were used in the Near East in pre-Islamic as well as Islamic architecture before they were structurally employed in medieval architecture.[24] It is thought by some architectural historians that this was the inspiration for the use of the pointed arch in France, in otherwise Romanesque buildings, as at Autun Cathedral.[12]

Contrary to the diffusionist theory, it appears that there was simultaneously a structural evolution towards the pointed arch, for the purpose of vaulting spaces of irregular plan, or to bring transverse vaults to the same height as diagonal vaults. This latter occurs at Durham Cathedral in the nave aisles in 1093.[25] Pointed arches also occur extensively in Romanesque decorative blind arcading, where semi-circular arches overlap each other in a simple decorative pattern, and the points are accidental to the design.

In Gothic architecture the pointed arch is used in every location where an arch is called for, both structural and decorative. Gothic openings such as doorways, windows, arcades and galleries have pointed arches. Gothic vaulting above spaces both large and small is usually supported by ribs forming pointed arches.

While structurally, use of the pointed arch gave a greater flexibility to architectural form, it also gave Gothic architecture a very different and more vertical visual character to Romanesque. Rows of pointed arches upon delicate shafts form a typical wall decoration known as blind arcading. Niches with pointed arches and containing statuary are a major external feature of Gothic cathedrals. The pointed arch lent itself to elaborate intersecting shapes which developed within window spaces into complex Gothic tracery forming the structural support of the large windows that are characteristic of the style.[14][21]

Many Gothic openings are based upon the equilateral form. In other words, when the arch is drafted, the radius is exactly the width of the opening and the centre of each arch coincides with the point from which the opposite arch springs. (See diagram) This makes the arch higher in relation to its width than a semi-circular arch which is exactly half as high as it is wide.[12]

The Equilateral Arch gives a wide opening of satisfying proportion useful for doorways, decorative arcades and large windows.

The structural beauty of the Gothic arch means that no set proportion had to be rigidly maintained. The equilateral arch was employed as a useful tool, not as a principle of design. This meant that narrower or wider arches were introduced into a building plan wherever necessity dictated. In the architecture of some Italian cities, notably Venice, semi-circular arches are interspersed with pointed ones.[26]

The equilateral arch lends itself to filling with tracery of initially simple equilateral, circular and semi-circular forms, but with increasing diversity and complexity over the Gothic era. Windows of complex design and of three or more lights or vertical sections, are often designed by overlapping two or more equilateral arches.[14]

Pointed arches
One of three large arches that screen the front of Peterborough Cathedral.
The North transept of Salisbury Cathedral has grouped lancet openings
LIncoln Cathedral has arades, galleries, clerestory, vault, and blind arcades of pointed arches
At Santa Maria Novella, the wedge-shaped voussoirs that support the pointed vault are emphasised by colour.
The eastern end of Wells Cathedral evolved in three stages to form a harmonious vista of pointed arches.
The west front of Reims Cathedral shows the pointed arches of portals and galleries combined with gables and rose window.
A detail of the windows and galleries of the west front of Strasbourg Cahedral

Ribbed vault [ edit ]

The Gothic vault of pointed arches, unlike the semi-circular vault of Roman and Romanesque buildings, can be used to roof rectangular and irregularly shaped plans such as trapezoids. The other structural advantage is that the pointed arch channels the weight onto the bearing piers or columns at a steep angle. This enabled architects to raise vaults much higher than was possible in Romanesque architecture.[12]

In Romanesque architecture, the rounded arches of the barrel vaults that covered the nave pressed directly down on the walls with crushing weight. This required massive columns, thick walls and small windows, and naturally limited the height of the building. Gothic architects found a solution through an innovative use of the rib vault.[27][28]

An early kind of rib vault, used at Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba (8th century), was found under a cupola or dome, but was different in form and function from the later Gothic rib vault. The cupola itself was supported by pendentives or squinches, a practice used in Byzantine architecture. The ribs were decorative. The vaults in churches in Sicily dated to the 11th century, after Sicily had been conquered by the Normans, and resembled the vaults used at the same time in Normandy and England.[29]

Gothic builders designed a new and lighter kind of rib vault. They divided into compartments by a diagonal crossing of thin stone ribs (ogives), and completed by two additional arcs perpendicular and parallel to the nave (doubleaux and formerets). They also made innovative use of the broken arch or pointed arch. In Islamic and Romanesque architecture, pointed arches had usually been used in doorways and windows. Gothic architects used them at the meeting points of the ribs at the top of the vaults, which distributed the weight of the roof downwards and outwards, not just downwards.[30] These ribs divided the early vaults into six compartments, each as wide as two traverses of the nave. Some of the ribs went downwards as colonettes and were bundled into pillars on the ground floor. Other ribs carried the thrust outwards to the walls, where it was counterbalanced by heavy flying buttresses outside the walls. Since the weight was supported by pillars and buttresses, the walls themselves could be much higher and thinner. This made possible the expanses of stained glass that were a characteristic of Gothic cathedrals.[27][28][30]

The earlier Gothic rib vaults, used at Notre-Dame, Noyon, and Laon, were divided by the ribs into six compartments, were very difficult to build, and could only cross a limited space. In later cathedral construction, the design was simplified, and the rib vaults had only four compartments, and could cover a wider span; a single vault could cross the nave, and fewer pillars were needed. The four-part vaults also made it possible to build the cathedrals even higher. Notre-Dame de Paris, begun in 1163 with four-part vaults, reached a height of 35 meters, remarkable for the time. Amiens Cathedral, begun in 1220 with four-part ribs, reached the height of 42.30 meters (138.8 feet) at the transept.[27][31]

In the later period of the Gothic style, from the early 14th century, the rib vaults lost their elegant simplicity and were loaded with additional ribs, sculptural designs, and sometimes pendants and other purely decorative elements.[27]

Ribbed vaults
Notre Dame, Paris- square, sexpartite vaults spanning two nave bays
Salisbury Cathedral, England- rectangular quadripartite vault over single bay
Lincoln Cathedral, England- quadripartite form, with tierceron ribs and ridge rib with carved bosses.
Bremer Cathedral, Germany- north aisle, a reticular (net) vault with intersecting ribs.
St Marien's, Wolfsberg, Austria- stellar vault with intersecting lierne ribs.
Salamanca Cathedral, Spain- vault has Flamboyant S-shaped and circular lierne ribs,
Peterborough Cathedral retrochoir- fan vaulting, which further evolved into pemdant vaulting.

Buttresses [ edit ]

Another important feature of Gothic architecture was the flying buttress, designed to support the walls by means of arches connected to counter-supports outside the walls. Flying buttresses had existed in simple forms since Roman times, but the Gothic builders raised their use to a fine art, balancing the thrust from the roof inside against the counter-thrust of the buttresses. The earliest Gothic cathedrals, including Saint-Denis and Notre-Dame in its beginning stages, did not have flying buttresses. Their walls were supported by heavy stone abutments placed directly against the walls. The roof was supported by the ribs of the vaults, which were bundled with the columns below.

In the later 12th and early 13th century, the buttresses became more sophisticated. New arches carried the thrust of the weight entirely outside the walls, where it was met by the counter-thrust of stone columns, with pinnacles placed on top for decoration and for additional weight. Thanks to this system of external buttresses, the walls could be higher and thinner, and could support larger stained glass windows. The buttresses themselves became part of the decoration; the pinnacles became more and more ornate, becoming more and more elaborate, as at Beauvais Cathedral and Reims Cathedral. The arches had an additional practical purpose; they contained lead channels which carried rainwater off the roof; it was expelled from the mouths of stone gargoyles placed in rows on the buttresses.[32]

Section of Reims Cathedral with flying buttress over single aisles.
East end of Lincoln Cathedral, with wall buttress, and chapter house with flying buttresses.
Wall buttresses and simple flying buttresses behind a parapet at Canterbury Cathedral
The complex buttresses of Amiens Cathedral support one of the highest Gothic vaults
The east end of Notre Dame de Pariswith flying buttresses supporting the high vault

Gothic architecture of Cathedrals and great churches [ edit ]

While many secular buildings exist from the Late Middle Ages, it is in the buildings of cathedrals and great churches that Gothic architecture displays its pertinent structures and characteristics to the fullest advantage. A Gothic cathedral or abbey was, prior to the 20th century, generally the landmark building in its town, rising high above all the domestic structures and often surmounted by one or more towers and pinnacles and perhaps tall spires.[12][33] Each cathedral served as a regional religious centre for its surrounding diocese, and with the large town churches, was a focus of community and civic pride.[citation needed]

It is in the architecture of these grand Gothic churches that a unique combination of existing technologies established a new building style. Those technologies were the ogival or pointed arch, the ribbed vault, and the buttress.

Cathedrals in their cityscapes

Plan, elevation and parts of a Gothic Cathedral [ edit ]

Plan [ edit ]

Plan of a Gothic Cathedral

Most large Gothic churches and many smaller parish churches are of the Latin cross (or "cruciform") plan, with a long nave making the body of the church, a transverse arm called the transept and, beyond it, an extension which may be called the choir, chancel or presbytery. There are several regional variations on this plan. The area where the nave and transept meet is called the crossing, and in England is often surmounted by a stone tower, as at Salisbury Cathedral and York Minster, visible on a groundplan by the sturdy piers that support the tower. (see below)[citation needed]

The nave is generally flanked on either side by aisles, usually single as at York Minster and Florence Cathedral but sometimes double as at Bourges and Cologne Cathedrals. (see plans below). Aisles may extend along the sides of the transepts as well, as at Cologne, Amiens Cathedral and York Minster.(see plans) In the South of France there is often a single wide nave and no aisles, as at Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges and Albi Cathedrals.[citation needed]

In some churches with double aisles, or additional rows of chapels between the buttresses as at Notre Dame, Paris, the transept does not project beyond the aisles (See plan).[citation needed] In English cathedrals, transepts tend to project boldly and there may be two of them, as at Salisbury and Lincoln Cathedrals. The double transepts are to provide extra chapels, in lieu of the apsidal chapels found in French cathedrals (See Salisbury plan).[citation needed]

The eastern arm shows considerable diversity. In France and Germany, the eastern end is generally polygonal and surrounded by a continuation of the choir aisle called an ambulatory. Surrounding the ambulatory may be a ring of chapels called a "chevet".[citation needed] In England the eastern arm is generally long and may have two distinct sections- choir and presbytery. It is almost always square ended with a cliff-like exterior face. Often there is a projecting Lady Chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as at Salisbury.[12][21][33] In Italy, the eastern projection beyond the transept is usually a shallow chapel or sometimes an apse.[citation needed]. See section below

The groundplans of the cathedrals show not only the larger parts of the building, developed for Catholic liturgy- the nave, aisles, transept, choir and chapels - but also reveal that each building contains a pattern of regular divisions called "bays". These bays or compartments are square, rectangular and sometimes trapezoidal, and are defined by the positions of the piers, columns and attached shafts that support the arcades and the overhead vaults. While internally the divisions are created by the locations of the vertical members, externally, the bays can be determined by the positions of the buttresses.[36]

Other elements that are visible on the plans are the locations of towers on the west fronts, porches such as those at Bourges and Salisbury, and the octagonal Chapter House at York Minster.[citation needed]

Bourges Cathedral, France, length 125 m.
Notre Dame de Paris, France, length 128 m.
Amiens Cathedral, France, length 145 m.
Cologne Cathedral, Germany, length 144 m, completed C19th, to dimensions established in C14th
Salisbury Cathedral, England, length 135 m
York Minster, England, length 159 m

Elevation [ edit ]

The most common elevation for a Gothic cathedral is that of the architectural form known as the "basilica". This term, used architecturally, does not have any ecclesiastical or spiritual significance such as is associated with Catholic basilicas that have been designated by the pope as a church of great significance, e.g. the Basilica of St Peter, in Rome, or the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary at Lourdes. (see Papal Basilica and Minor Basilica)

Architecturally, a basilica is a church that has a longitudinal nave, with a lower aisle on each side, separated by rows of columns or piers, and generally with windows let into that part of the nave that rises above the outer roof of the aisles. This upper section is called the clerestorey. This architectural form is so named because it was commonly used by ancient Roman builders as the structure for secular basilicas used as halls for meetings, markets and as places of justice. Early Christian churches such as Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, and San Apollinare in Classe have this form, which was adopted by Romanesque builders for their great abbeys and cathedrals, across Europe, such as Durham Cathedral, Saint-Etienne, Caen, and Monreale Cathedral.[citation needed]

During the Gothic period, most cathedrals were built with a single aisle on each side of the nave, such as Salisbury Cathedral, but some had double aisles with the outer lower than the inner, such as Bourges Cathedral. In the South of France cathedrals are sometimes just a single high, wide hall, with tall windows but no aisles, and the lower stage giving a robust fortified appearance, such as Albi Cathedral. Gothic churches of the Germanic tradition, like St. Stephen of Vienna, often have nave and aisles of similar height, without clerestoreys, and are called Hallenkirche.[citation needed]

Internally, the nave and choir are usually divided horizontally into three stages, the arcade, the triforium gallery and the clerestorey. This arrangement is usual in England where it can be seen at Salisbury, Lincoln, and Ely.[citation needed]

In some French Cathedrals, such as Laon and the nave of Rouen, there is a fourth stage, a shallow tribune gallery between the triforium and the clerestorey.[citation needed] In the transepts of Notre Dame, the wall above the triforium gallery is pierced with rose windows. In later Gothic cathedrals and abbey churches, the vertical members in the tracery of galleries and clerestorey may merge into a single decorative unit where the stages are present but not clearly defined, as at Saint Ouen at Rouen and the choir of Gloucester Cathedral in England.[citation needed]

In the Gothic cathedrals and abbey churches of Italy, triforium galleries are most often found in churches influenced by the arhitecture of Normandy, and were used at abbeys of women, as a space for the nuns to attend services.[citation needed] Elsewhere, many churches such as Florence Cathedral and the Abbey Church of Santa Maria Novella, had an interior alavation of two stages, the arcade and clerestorey.[citation needed]

French Gothic elevations
Notre Dame de Paris, showing the nave and double aisles; vault and flying buttresses.
Notre Dame de Paris. Interior elevation of transept shows four stages- arcade, triforium gallery, tribune with rose windows and clerestory. Left- a later stage with larger windows.
Amiens Cathedral. Three stages- tall arcade, small gallery, and tall, traceried clerestory.
Saint Ouen, Rouen, left; Sees Cathedral, right. Saint Ouen shows a highly unified scheme wher the triforium merges visually with the clerestory.
English Gothic elevations
Lincoln Cathedral, elevation of the east end of typically English form with single aisles framing the central choir.
Lincoln Cathedral. The proportions are low and wide compared to Notre Dame, the arcades are high and there are three stages. .
Ely Cathedral choir. Three stages, Decorated Gothic, but with proportions set by the earlier Norman nave. Exterior view shows windows into the high triforium arcade.
Italian Gothic and hall church elevations
Santa Maria Novella, Florence. Nave and aisle. Steep vaults and thick walls reduce the need for large external buttresses,
Santa Maria Novella, Two stage elevation with small round windows.
Poitiers Cathedral, France. Hall church with high aisles and no clerestory. Large aisle windows between large square buttresses.

West front [ edit ]

The façade of a large church or cathedral, properly referred to as the West Front, is generally designed to create a powerful impression on the approaching worshipper, demonstrating both the might of God and the might of the institution that it represents. One of the best known and most typical of such west fronts is that of Notre Dame de Paris. To emphasise its importance, the west front may be of a powerful design, with towers, imposing portals, jutting buttresses, gables, windows and an array of sculpture.[citation needed]

Central to the west front is the main portal, often flanked by additional doors, after the manner of Suger's west front at the Basilica of Saint Denis. In England, the lateral doors may be present but relatively insignificant. In the arch of the central door, particularly in France, the tympanum, is often a significant piece of sculpture, most frequently Christ in Majesty or the Last Judgment. If there is a central doorjamb or a trumeau, then it frequently bears a statue of Jesus or the Madonna and Child if the dedication is to Mary. Figures in niches set into the mouldings around the portals.

Above the main portal there is a large window which lights the nave. In France and Spain this is generally a rose window as at Notre Dame de Paris and Burgos Cathedral.[citation needed] In Italy there is generally an untraceried ocular window as at Santa Maria Novella.[citation needed] In England, rose windows are rare and the west end is generally dominated by a single very large traceried window as at York Minster and Canterbury, while some Early English fronts retain rows of lancet windows as at Salisbury and Ripon Cathedrals.[citation needed]

The west front of most French cathedrals and many English, Spanish and German cathedrals have two towers, which, particularly in France, express an enormous diversity of form and decoration.[12][13] In Germany and Eastern Europe there may be a single tall tower at the western end as at Freiburg Münster.[citation needed] In England, where the principle tower is usually over the crossing, the west front may be framed by large turrets,[citation needed]

In Italy, with the exception of Milan Cathedral, the form of a Gothic west front is less strongly architectonic and sculptural than in other parts of Europe. The underlying structure may be brick, rather than stone, overlaid with a veneer of polychrome marble, and ornamented with marble sculpture and coloured mosaics as at Siena and Orvieto Cathedrals.[citation needed]

West fronts
Notre Dame de Paris- deep portals, a rose window, balance of horizontal and vertical elements
Burgos Cathedral, Spain- deep portals, rose window, elaborate openwork screen and spire
Salisbury Cathedral- wide sculptured screen, lancet windows, turrets with pinnacles
York Minster, England- shallow portal, very large traceried window, towers with pinnacles, vertical emphasis
Brussels Cathedral- gabled portal, large window, emphasis on vertical elements.
Cologne Cathedral- massive towers with very tall spires, completed C19th.
Orvieto Cathedral, Italy- balance of vertical, horizontal and diagonal, large portals, polychrome

East end [ edit ]

The eastern end of Gothic Cathedrals shows significant regional variation. See groundplans, above.

In France the eastern end is generally polygonal and surrounded by a continuation of the choir aisle called an ambulatory. Surrounding the ambulatory may be a ring of chapels called a "chevet".[citation needed] In many cases the chevet comprises projecting apses, as at the Abbey St Denis and Amiens Cathedral where there are seven. This is also the case at Cologne Cathedral in Germany and Prague Cathedral in the Czech Republic, while Chartres Cathedral has three and the Basilica of Saint Anthony, Padua, had nine radiating square chapels.

In England the eastern arm is generally long and may have two distinct sections- choir and presbytery. The building usually terminates in a square and a cliff-like exterior face as at York Minster and Lincoln Cathedral. Often there is a projecting Lady Chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as at Salisbury, Wells, and Ripon Cathedrals.[12][21][33]

In Italy, the eastern projection beyond the transept is usually a shallow chapel, as at Santa Maria Novella. At Florence Cathedral there is a polygonal apse, identical in size and shape to the transepts, radiating from the dome. Milan Cathedral has a polygonal east end. The Gothic cathedrals at Siena and Orvieto are both constrained by their mountainous sites to have square ends.[citation needed].

East end
The east end at Bourges Cathedral has a double ambulatory and small apses
Ely has a square east end in the Early English style and a Decorated Lady Chapel to the right
At St Albans, the Lady Chapel projects from the east end as is often found in England.
Milan Cathedral- a projecting pentagonal range of chapels at the east end.

Towers and spires [ edit ]

Great churches, abbeys and cathedrals of the Gothic period generally have towers. The position, construction and height of these towers is as subject to variety as the nature of the west front, and was already well established by the beginning of the Gothic period.

In many parts of Europe, the location of twin towers on the west front of cathedrals was usual in the Romanesque period and may be seen at Abbaye les Hommes, Caen; Southwell Cathedral, England; Lisbon Cathedral, Portugal; Magdeburg Cathedral, Germany; Cefalu Cathedral, Sicily, and Lébény Abbey Church, Hungary.[citation needed] Romanesque churches in the Rhineland often had many towers of different shapes, as did the Abbey Church of Cluny.[citation needed] In mainland Italy, churches generally had one tower and that was freestanding from the building, sometimes at a distance, as at Pisa Cathedral.[citation needed] In Norman England, the crossing of large churches was often marked by a large tower, while abbey churches and cathedrals might have western towers as well.[citation needed] Smaller churches, across Europe often had a single tower at the west.[citation needed] The various configurations of church and tower of the Romanesque period continued into the Gothic, but with a greater emphasis on height.

In France, the plan for the Basilica of Saint-Denis called for two towers of equal height on the west front, and this plan was copied during the Gothic era at [Notre-Dame de Paris]], with towers of 69 meters (226 ft) in height, and at other cathedrals of northern France such as Laon, Reims and Amiens.[37] Some of these churches were given towers over the crossing and transepts as well, with Rouen having three large towers, Laon having five, and the Romanesque Abbaey les Hommes, Caen, receiving additional towers during the Gothic period, until they numbered nine.[citation needed] French Gothic towers are sometimes topped with spires. Chartres Cathedral has two on the western towers, of different dates and very different construction. That on the south is the tallest masonry spire of the 12th century, while that on the north is a highly elaborate Flamboyant design. The irregularity seen at Chartres also occurs at Rouen where there is a central tower in addition to the western towers. This tower displays another distinctly French feature, a delicate openwork flèche made of wood covered with lead.[citation needed]

Openwork spires of stone, sometimes of great height, were popular in the Flamboyant period, occurring singly at Strasbourg Cathedral, Burgos Cathedral, Freiburg Cathedral, Stefansdom, Vienna; and also at Cologne Cathedral and Ulm Minster, both designed in the Medieval period but not realised until the late 19th century.[citation needed]

In England, during the Gothic era, there was a continuing fashion for three towers, with the largest being that over the crossing. This arrangement is seen at Canterbury, Wells, Lincoln, York, Lichfield. and Durham Cathedrals.[citation needed] In England, wherever the ground was considered stable, the central tower was surmounted by a spire. Like the south spire of Chartres Cathedral, English spires are often constructed of masonry. The earliest is the comparatively small spire at Oxford Cathedral.[citation needed] The tallest Medieval masonry spire is that built in the 13th century at Salisbury Cathedral (123 m - 404 ft).[citation needed][citation needed] Others exist at Norwich and Chichester Cathedrals, while Lichfield Cathedral has three. Other cathedrals had tall spires of wooden construction sheathed with lead or copper. Two of these, on the central towers of Lincoln Cathedral and Old St Paul's Cathedral surpassed 550 feet in height and were the tallest structures prior to the 19th century.[citation needed]

England's Gothic parish churches and collegiate churches generally have a single western tower.[citation needed] A number of the finest churches have masonry spires, with those of St James Church, Louth; St Wulfram's Church, Grantham; St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, and St Michael's, Coventry, all exceeding 85 metres (280 feet) in height.[38]

In mainland Italy, the tower, if present, is sometimes detached from the building, as at Florence Cathedral, or projects from the side of the building as at the Basilica of Santa Croce. In Italy there is no defined stylistic break between Romanesque and Gothic, as the architects had a seemingly pragmatic approach to the use of round and pointed arches. Towers of apparently Romanesque form often appear in conjunction with otherwise gothic structures. They tend to have graded series of openings in the Romanesque manner like the tower of the Badia Fiorentina. Some, like the tower at Santa Croce, have large openings of Gothic form and are surmounted by spires.[citation needed]

In addition to towers and spires, great Medieval churches, may have several other architectural forms, rising above the roofline, particularly over the crossing. These include the octagonal tower at Burgos Cathedral, the wooden octagonal tower at Ely Cathedral and the octagonal dome of Florence Cathedral, conceived in the late Gothic period and engineered by the Renaissance architect, Filippo Brunelleschi.[citation needed]

Towers and spires
Laon Cathedral- the strongly articulated towers of the west front.
Chartres Cathedral- C12th masonry spire, and Flamboyant spire
Canterbury Cathedral - the large tower over the crossing
Rouen Cathedral- three different towers and a lead-covered fleche
St Stephan's Cathedral, Vienna- openwork stone spire
Lichfield Cathedral- three masonry spires, the central being taller.
Ely Cathedral- the wooden octagon rises from an octagonal stone tower
Badia Fiorentina, Florence- tall campanile with spire

Architectural character [ edit ]

Height [ edit ]

A characteristic of Gothic church architecture is its height, both absolute and in proportion to its width, the verticality suggesting an aspiration to Heaven. A section of the main body of a Gothic church usually shows the nave as considerably taller than it is wide. In England the proportion is sometimes greater than 2:1, while the greatest proportional difference achieved is at Cologne Cathedral with a ratio of 3.6:1. The highest internal vault is at Beauvais Cathedral at 48 metres (157 ft).[12]

Externally, towers and spires are characteristic of Gothic churches both great and small, the number and positioning being one of the greatest variables in Gothic architecture. In Italy, the tower, if present, is almost always detached from the building, as at Florence Cathedral, and is often from an earlier structure. In France and Spain, two towers on the front is the norm. In England, Germany and Scandinavia this is often the arrangement, but an English cathedral may also be surmounted by an enormous tower at the crossing. Smaller churches usually have just one tower, but this may also be the case at larger buildings, such as Salisbury Cathedral or Ulm Minster, which has the tallest spire in the world,[39] slightly exceeding that of Lincoln Cathedral, the tallest which was actually completed during the medieval period, at 160 metres (520 ft).

The tallest wood and copper spires, in the world, Lubeck Cathedral, Germany. rebuilt post WWII
Lincoln Cathedral- the large central tower, carried the tallest spire in the world
The tallest spire of the C13th century, and tallest masonry spire ever built, at Salisbury Cathedral.
The openwork spire of Strasbourg Cathedral, the tallest stone spire of the Gothic era.
The tallest remaining medieval spire in Germany, at Freiburg Minster
The dome of Florence Cathedral, designed c. 1370, engineered by Brunelleschi, C15th
Westminster Abbey, nave- 31 m (102 ft)
The choir of Amiens Cathedral, 42.3 m (139 ft)
Cologne Cathedral, choir 43.35 m (142.2 ft)
Le Seu,Palma, Mallorca, nave, 44 m (144 ft)
The nave of Florence Cathedral, 45 m (148 ft)
The choir of Beauvais Cathedral, 47.5 m (156 ft)

Vertical emphasis [ edit ]

The pointed arch lends itself to a suggestion of height. This appearance is characteristically further enhanced by both the architectural features and the decoration of the building.[33]

On the exterior, the verticality is emphasised in a major way by the towers and spires and in a lesser way by strongly projecting vertical buttresses, by narrow half-columns called attached shafts which often pass through several storeys of the building, by long narrow windows, vertical mouldings around doors and figurative sculpture which emphasises the vertical and is often attenuated. The roofline, gable ends, buttresses and other parts of the building are often terminated by small pinnacles, Milan Cathedral being an extreme example in the use of this form of decoration.

On the interior of the building attached shafts often sweep unbroken from floor to ceiling and meet the ribs of the vault, like a tall tree spreading into branches. The verticals are generally repeated in the treatment of the windows and wall surfaces. In many Gothic churches, particularly in France, and in the Perpendicular period of English Gothic architecture, the treatment of vertical elements in gallery and window tracery creates a strongly unifying feature that counteracts the horizontal divisions of the interior structure.[33]

West front of Reims Cathedral
The exterior of the choir of Beauvais Cathedral
Figures around the central door of Chartres Cathedral
The Five Sister windows in the north transept at York Minster
A clustered column of the nave at Bourges Cathedral
Vertical elements in the galleries at Cologne Cathedral
The buttresses pinnacles of the choir at Cologne Cathedral

Light [ edit ]

Expansive interior light has been a feature of Gothic cathedrals since the first structure was opened. The metaphysics of light in the Middle Ages led to clerical belief in its divinity and the importance of its display in holy settings. Much of this belief was based on the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, a sixth-century mystic whose book, The Celestial Hierarchy, was popular among monks in France. Pseudo-Dionysius held that all light, even light reflected from metals or streamed through windows, was divine. To promote such faith, the abbot in charge of the Saint-Denis church on the north edge of Paris, the Abbot Suger, encouraged architects remodelling the building to make the interior as bright as possible.

Ever since the remodelled Basilica of Saint-Denis opened in 1144, Gothic architecture has featured expansive windows, such as at Sainte Chapelle, York Minster, Gloucester Cathedral. The increase in size between windows of the Romanesque and Gothic periods is related to the use of the ribbed vault, and in particular, the pointed ribbed vault which channelled the weight to a supporting shaft with less outward thrust than a semi-circular vault. Walls did not need to be so weighty.[21][33]

A further development was the flying buttress which arched externally from the springing of the vault across the roof of the aisle to a large buttress pier projecting well beyond the line of the external wall. These piers were often surmounted by a pinnacle or statue, further adding to the downward weight, and counteracting the outward thrust of the vault and buttress arch as well as stress from wind loading.

The internal columns of the arcade with their attached shafts, the ribs of the vault and the flying buttresses, with their associated vertical buttresses jutting at right-angles to the building, created a stone skeleton. Between these parts, the walls and the infill of the vaults could be of lighter construction. Between the narrow buttresses, the walls could be opened up into large windows.[12]

Through the Gothic period, thanks to the versatility of the pointed arch, the structure of Gothic windows developed from simple openings to immensely rich and decorative sculptural designs. The windows were very often filled with stained glass which added a dimension of colour to the light within the building, as well as providing a medium for figurative and narrative art.[33]

Large clerestory windows between flying buttresses at Strasbourg
Tall windows lighting the vault at Lyon Cathedral, made possible by flying buttresses
Windows in a polygonal arrangement, Lady Chapel, Wells Cathedral
Tall windows in the aisle at Rouen, with additional windows in the triforium
"Heart of Yorkshire" window at York Minster, the scale of most west windows in England.
The array of glass between thin stone mullions, Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

Evolving styles [ edit ]

The way in which the pointed arch was drafted and utilised developed throughout the Gothic period. There were fairly clear stages of development, which did not, however, progress at the same rate, or in the same way in every country. Moreover, the names used to define various periods or styles within Gothic architecture differs from country to country.

Lancet Gothic [ edit ]

See also Lancet window.

The simplest shape of a Gothic window is a long opening with a pointed arch known in England as the lancet. Lancet windows may be used singly, as in the nave of Lincoln Cathedral, or grouped, as in the nave of Salisbury Cathedral where they are in two in the aisles and threes in the clerestory. Because large lancet windows, such as those lighting the aisles of a cathedral, may be wide in comparison to a single light in a traceried window, they often have armatures of wood or iron to upport the glass.

The simple shape of the lancet arch may appear in Early Gothic buildings on openings of all types, doorways, niches, arcades, including galleries; and bellfry openings.

The style Lancet Gothic is known in England as Early English Gothic, with Salisbury Cathedral being the prime example. York Minster has a group of lancet windows each fifty feet high and still containing ancient glass. They are known as the Five Sisters. [12][14]

The use of lancet windows is found in the Early Gothic architecture of France, at the Abbey of St Denis, Sens and Senlis Cathedrals. At Chartres and Laon Cathedrals lancet windows are grouped beneath the rose windows. Tall narrow lancets are also found in radiating groups in the chancel apses of some cathedrals, such as Chatres.

Lancet windows are used extensively in the Gothic churches of Italy, including Florence Cathedral and in the Brick Gothic churches of Germany and Poland.

Windows in the Chapter House at York Minster show the equilateral arch with typical circular motifs in the tracery.

Equilateral arch [ edit ]

Equilateral Arch

Many Gothic openings are based upon the equilateral form. In other words, when the arch is drafted, the radius is exactly the width of the opening and the centre of each arch coincides with the point from which the opposite arch springs. This makes the arch higher in relation to its width than a semi-circular arch which is exactly half as high as it is wide.[12]

The Equilateral Arch gives a wide opening of satisfying proportion useful for doorways, decorative arcades and large windows.

The structural beauty of the Gothic arch means, however, that no set proportion had to be rigidly maintained. The Equilateral Arch was employed as a useful tool, not as a principle of design. This meant that narrower or wider arches were introduced into a building plan wherever necessity dictated. In the architecture of some Italian cities, notably Venice, semi-circular arches are interspersed with pointed ones.[26]

The Equilateral Arch lends itself to filling with tracery of simple equilateral, circular and semi-circular forms. The type of tracery that evolved to fill these spaces is known in England as Geometric Decorated Gothic and can be seen to splendid effect at many English and French Cathedrals, notably Lincoln and Notre Dame in Paris. Windows of complex design and of three or more lights or vertical sections, are often designed by overlapping two or more equilateral arches.[14]

Flamboyant arch [ edit ]

The Flamboyant Arch is one that is drafted from four points, the upper part of each main arc turning upwards into a smaller arc and meeting at a sharp, flame-like point. These arches create a rich and lively effect when used for window tracery and surface decoration. The form is structurally weak and has very rarely been used for large openings except when contained within a larger and more stable arch. It is not employed at all for vaulting.[12]

Some of the most beautiful and famous traceried windows of Europe employ this type of tracery. It can be seen at St Stephen's Vienna, Sainte Chapelle in Paris, at the Cathedrals of Limoges and Rouen in France. In England the most famous examples are the West Window of York Minster with its design based on the Sacred Heart, the extraordinarily rich nine-light East Window at Carlisle Cathedral and the exquisite East window of Selby Abbey.[14][21]

Doorways surmounted by Flamboyant mouldings are very common in both ecclesiastical and domestic architecture in France. They are much rarer in England. A notable example is the doorway to the Chapter Room at Rochester Cathedral.[12][14]

The style was much used in England for wall arcading and niches. Prime examples in are in the Lady Chapel at Ely, the Screen at Lincoln and externally on the façade of Exeter Cathedral. In German and Spanish Gothic architecture it often appears as openwork screens on the exterior of buildings. The style was used to rich and sometimes extraordinary effect in both these countries, notably on the famous pulpit in Vienna Cathedral.[13]

The depressed arch supported by fan vaulting at King's College Chapel, England.

Depressed arch [ edit ]

The depressed or four-centred arch is much wider than its height and gives the visual effect of having been flattened under pressure. Its structure is achieved by drafting two arcs which rise steeply from each springing point on a small radius and then turn into two arches with a wide radius and much lower springing point.[12]

This type of arch, when employed as a window opening, lends itself to very wide spaces, provided it is adequately supported by many narrow vertical shafts. These are often further braced by horizontal transoms. The overall effect produces a grid-like appearance of regular, delicate, rectangular forms with an emphasis on the perpendicular. It is also employed as a wall decoration in which arcade and window openings form part of the whole decorative surface.

The style, known as Perpendicular, that evolved from this treatment is specific to England, although very similar to contemporary Spanish style in particular, and was employed to great effect through the 15th century and first half of the 16th as Renaissance styles were much slower to arrive in England than in Italy and France.[12]

It can be seen notably at the East End of Gloucester Cathedral where the East Window is said to be as large as a tennis court. There are three very famous royal chapels and one chapel-like Abbey which show the style at its most elaborate: King's College Chapel, Cambridge; St George's Chapel, Windsor; Henry VII's Chapel at Westminster Abbey and Bath Abbey.[14] However very many simpler buildings, especially churches built during the wool boom in East Anglia, are fine examples of the style.

Stained glass windows [ edit ]

One of the most prominent features of Gothic architecture was the use of stained glass window, which steadily grew in height and size and filled cathedrals with light and colour. Historians including Viollet-le-Duc, Focillon, Aubert, and Max Dvořák contended that this is one of the most universal features of the Gothic style.[40]

Religious teachings in the Middle Ages, particularly the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius, a 6th-century mystic whose book, De Coelesti Hierarchia, was popular among monks in France, taught that all light was divine. When the Abbot Suger ordered the reconstruction of the Basilica of Saint Denis, he instructed that the windows in the choir admit as much light as possible.

Many earlier Romanesque churches had stained glass windows, and many had round windows, called oculi, but these windows were necessarily small, due to the thickness of the walls. The primary interior decorations of Romanesque cathedrals were painted murals. In the Gothic period, the improvements in rib vaults and flying buttresses allowed cathedral walls to be higher, thinner and stronger, and windows were consequently considerably larger, The windows of churches in the late Gothic period, such as Sainte Chapelle in Paris, filled the entire wall between the ribs of stone. Enormous windows were also an important element of York Minster and Gloucester Cathedral.[33]

The main threat to cathedral windows was the wind; frames had to be extremely strong. The early windows were fit into openings cut into the stone. The small pieces of coloured glass were joined together with pieces of lead, and then their surfaces were painted with faces and other details. and then the windows were mounted in the stone frames. Thin vertical and horizontal bars of iron, called vergettes or barlotierres, were placed inside the window to reinforce the glass.

The stories told in the glass were usually episodes from the Bible, but they also sometimes illustrated the professions of the guilds which had funded the windows, such as the drapers, stonemasons or the barrel-makers.[41]

Much of the stained glass in Gothic cathedrals today dates from later restorations, but a few cathedrals, notably Chartres Cathedral and Bourges Cathedral, still have many of their original windows.[41]

Portals and the tympanum [ edit ]

Early Gothic Cathedrals traditionally have their main entrance at the western end of the church, opposite the choir. Based on the model of the Basilica of Saint Denis and Notre-Dame de Paris, there are usually three doorways with pointed arches, richly filled with sculpture. The tympanum, or arch, over each doorway is filled with realistic statues illustrating biblical stories, and the columns between the doors are often also crowded with statuary. Following the example of Amiens, the tympanum over the central portal traditionally depicted the Last Judgement, the right portal showed the coronation of the Virgin Mary, and the left portal showed the lives of saints who were important in the diocese.[42]

The iconography of the sculptural decoration on the facade was not left to the artists. An edict of the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 had set the rules: "The composition of religious images is not to be left to the inspiration of artists; it is derived from the principles put in place by the Catholic Church and religious tradition. Only the art belongs to the artist; the composition belongs to the Fathers."[43]

The portals and interiors were much more colourful than they are today. Each sculpture on the tympanum and in the interior was painted by the peintre imagier, or image painter, following a system of colours codified in the 12th century; yellow, called gold, symbolized intelligence, grandeur and virtue; white, called argent, symbolized purity, wisdom, and correctness; black, or sable, meant sadness, but also will; green, or sinople, represented hope, liberty and joy; red or gueules (see gules) meant charity or victory; blue or azure symbolized the sky, faithfulness and perseverance; and violet, or pourpre, was the colour of royalty and sovereignty.[44]

Sculpture and decoration [ edit ]

The exteriors and interiors of Gothic cathedrals, particularly in France, were lavishly ornamented with sculpture and decoration on religious themes, designed for the great majority of parishioners who could not read. They were described as "Books for the poor." To add to the effect, all of the sculpture on the facades was originally painted and gilded.[45]

Each feature of the Cathedral had a symbolic meaning. The main portals at Notre-Dame de Paris, for instance, represented the entrance to paradise, with the Last Judgement depicted on the tympanum over the doors, showing Christ surrounded by the apostles, and by the signs of the zodiac, representing the movements of the heavens. The columns below the tympanum are in the form of statues of saints, literally reprinting them as "the pillars of the church."[46] Each Saint had his own symbol: a winged lion stood for Saint Mark, an eagle with four wings meant Saint John the Apostle, and a winged bull symbolized Saint Luke. Sculpted angels had specific functions, sometimes as heralds, blowing trumpets, or holding up columns, as guardian angels; or holding crowns of thorns or crosses, as symbols of the crucifixion of Christ, or waving a container with incense, to illustrate their function at the throne of God. Floral and vegetal decoration was also very common, representing the Garden of Eden; grapes represented the wines of Eucharist.[46]

The tympanum over the central portal on the west facade of Notre-Dame de Paris vividly illustrates the Last Judgement, with figures of sinners being led off to hell, and good Christians taken to heaven. The sculpture of the right portal shows the coronation of the Virgin Mary, and the left portal shows the lives of saints who were important to Parisians, particularly Saint Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary.[42]

The exteriors of cathedrals and other Gothic churches were also decorated with sculptures of a variety of fabulous and frightening grotesques or monsters. These included the chimera, a mythical hybrid creature which usually had the body of a lion and the head of a goat, and the strix or stryge, a creature resembling an owl or bat, which was said to eat human flesh. The strix appeared in classical Roman literature; it was described by the Roman poet Ovid, who was widely read in the Middle Ages, as a large-headed bird with transfixed eyes, rapacious beak, and greyish white wings.[47] They were part of the visual message for the illiterate worshippers, symbols of the evil and danger that threatened those who did not follow the teachings of the church.[48]

The gargoyles, which were added to Notre-Dame in about 1240, had a more practical purpose. They were the rain spouts of the cathedral, designed to divide the torrent of water which poured from the roof after rain, and to project it outwards as far as possible from the buttresses and the walls and windows so that it would not erode the mortar binding the stone. To produce many thin streams rather than a torrent of water, a large number of gargoyles were used, so they were also designed to be a decorative element of the architecture. The rainwater ran from the roof into lead gutters, then down channels on the flying buttresses, then along a channel cut in the back of the gargoyle and out of the mouth away from the cathedral.[45]

Many of the statues, particularly the grotesques, were removed from the facade in the 17th and 18th century, or were destroyed during the French Revolution. They were replaced with figures in the Gothic style, designed by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc during the 19th-century restoration. Similar figures appear on the other Gothic cathedrals of France.

Another common feature of Gothic cathedrals in France was a labyrinth or maze on the floor of the nave near the choir, which symbolized the difficult and often complicated journey of a Christian life before attaining paradise. Most labyrinths were removed by the 18th century, but a few, like the one at Amiens Cathedral, have been reconstructed, and the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral still exists essentially in its original form.[49]

French Gothic [ edit ]

From the 12th century onwards, the Gothic style spread from Northern France to other regions of France and gradually to the rest of the Europe. It was often carried by the highly skilled craftsmen who had trained in the Ile-de-France and then carried their crafts to other cities. The style was adapted to local styles and materials.

In Normandy, the new naves were usually very long, sometimes more than one hundred meters, and, from the long Romanesque tradition, the walls were thicker than in northern France, and had shorter buttresses. The interiors were narrower than in the north, and were given a strong sense of verticality by long and narrow bays and lancet arches. Rose windows were rare, replaced on the exterior by a large bay in tiers point. The facades had less sculptural decoration; decoration in the interior was largely in geometric forms. Norman Gothic also usually featured a profusion of towers, lanterns and spires; spires and spirelets sometimes were seventy meters high. Bayeux Cathedral, Rouen Cathedral, and Coutances Cathedral are notable examples of Norman Gothic.[50]

In Burgundy, which had a long Romanesque style tradition, a lantern tower was often included, and cathedrals often had a narrow passage the length of the cathedral at the level of the stained glass windows. as in Auxerre Cathedral.

In the Southwest of France, the walls were thicker, with narrow openings, and doubled with arches. The flying buttress was rarely used, replaced by heavy abutments with chapels between.[50]

The south of France had its own distinct variation of the Gothic style: the Southern French Gothic. The Gothic cathedrals were often built with brick and tile rather than stone. They generally had thick walls and narrow windows, and were braced by heavy abutments rather than flying buttresses. The form of the tower of the basilica of Saint-Sernin was copied by several cathedrals in the south, while the old nave of Toulouse Cathedral (1210–1220) gave the model of the single nave which was generally used in Southern French Gothic architecture (although some churches had two or three naves of equal height). Some Gothic cathedrals in the Midi took unusual form; the Cathedral of Albi (1282–1480) was originally built as fortress, then converted to a cathedral. Albi Cathedral has another very distinctive feature; a colourful interior and painted ceiling.[50] In the Jacobins church of Toulouse, the grafting of a single apse of polygonal plan on a church with two vessels gave birth to a starry vault whose complex organization anticipated more than a century on the Flamboyant Gothic. Tradition refers to this masterpiece as "palm tree", because the veins gush out of the smooth shaft of the column-like palm trees.[51]

The facade of Toulouse Cathedral is unusual; it is the combination of two unfinished cathedral buildings, begun in the 13th century and finally put together. Toulouse Cathedral has no flying buttresses; it is supported by massive contreforts the height of the building, with chapels between.

English Gothic [ edit ]

The Gothic style was imported very early into England, in part due to the close connection with the Duchy of Normandy, which until 1204 was still ruled by the Kings of England. The first period is generally called early English Gothic, and was dominant from about 1180 to 1275. The first part of major English cathedral to feature the new style was the choir of Canterbury Cathedral, begun about 1175. It was created by a French master builder, William of Sens. He added several original touches, including coloured marble pavement, double columns in the arcades, and engaged slender colonettes which reached up to the vaults, borrowed from the design of Laon Cathedral.[52] Westminster Abbey was rebuilt from 1245 to 1517. Salisbury Cathedral (1220–1320) is also a good example of early Gothic, with the exception of its tower and spire, which were added in 1320.[53]

The second period of English Gothic is known as Decorated Gothic. It is customarily divided into two the "Geometric" style (1250–90) and the "Curvilinear" style (1290–1350), and it is similar to the French Rayonnant style, with an emphasis on curvilinear forms, particularly in the windows. This period saw detailed stone carving reach its peak, with elaborately carved windows and capitals, often with floral patterns, or with an accolade, a carved arch over a window decorated with pinnacles and a fleuron, or carved floral element.[53]

The rib vaults of the Decorated Gothic became extremely ornate, with a profusion of ribs that were purely ornamental. The vaults were often decorated with hanging stone pendants. The columns also became more ornamental, as at Peterborough Cathedral, with ribs spreading upward.[53]

The Perpendicular Gothic (c. 1380–1520) was the final phase of English Gothic, lasting into the 16th century. As the name suggests, its emphasis was on clear horizontal and vertical lines, meeting at right angles. Columns extended upwards all the way to the roof, giving the interior the appearance of a cage of glass and stone, as in the nave of Gloucester Cathedral. The Tudor arch appeared, wider and lower and often framed by mouldings, which was used to create larger windows and to balance the strong vertical elements. The design of the rib vaults became even more complex, including the fan vault with pendants used in the Henry VII chapel at Westminster Abbey (1503–07).[53][12][14]

A distinctive characteristic of English cathedrals is their extreme length, and their internal emphasis upon the horizontal, which may be emphasised visually as much or more than the vertical lines. Each English cathedral (with the exception of Salisbury) has an extraordinary degree of stylistic diversity, when compared with most French, German and Italian cathedrals. It is not unusual for every part of the building to have been built in a different century and in a different style, with no attempt at creating a stylistic unity. Unlike French cathedrals, English cathedrals sprawl across their sites, with double transepts projecting strongly and Lady chapels tacked on at a later date, such as at Westminster Abbey. In the west front, the doors are not as significant as in France, the usual congregational entrance being through a side porch. The West window is very large and never a rose, which are reserved for the transept gables. The west front may have two towers like a French cathedral, or none. There is nearly always a tower at the crossing and it may be very large and surmounted by a spire. The distinctive English east end is square, but it may take a completely different form. Both internally and externally, the stonework is often richly decorated with carvings, particularly the capitals.[12][14]

Northern European Gothic [ edit ]

Between the 13th and 16th centuries, Gothic cathedrals were constructed in most of the major cities of northern Europe. For the most part, they followed the French model, but with variations depending upon local traditions and the materials available. The first Gothic churches in Germany were built from about 1230. They included Liebfrauenkirche ( ca. 1233–1283) in Trier, claimed to be the oldest Gothic church in Germany,[54] and Freiburg Cathedral, which was built in three stages, the first beginning in 1120, though only the foundations of the original cathedral still exist. It is noted for its 116-metre tower, the only Gothic church tower in Germany that was completed in the Middle Ages (1330).

Prague, in the region of Bohemia within the Holy Roman Empire, was another flourishing centre for Gothic architecture. Charles IV of Bohemia was both King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor, and he had monumental tastes. He began construction of Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral in the Gothic style in 1344, as well as a Gothic palace, Karlstein Castle in Central Bohemia, and Gothic buildings for the new University of Prague. The nave of Prague Cathedral featured the filet vault, a decorative type of vault in which the ribs criss-crossed in a mesh pattern, similar to the vaults of Bristol Cathedral and other English churches. His other Gothic projects included the lavishly decorated Chapel of the Holy Cross inside Karlstein Castle (1357–1367), and the choir of Aachen Cathedral begun in 1355, which was built on the model of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.[55] Gothic architecture in Germany and the kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire generally followed the French formula, but the towers were much taller and, if completed, were often surmounted by enormous openwork spires. The distinctive character of the interior of German Gothic cathedrals is their breadth and openness. German and Czech cathedrals, like the French, tend not to have strongly projecting transepts. There are also many hall churches (Hallenkirchen) without clerestory windows.[12][33] Cologne Cathedral is after Milan Cathedral the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Construction began in 1248 and took, with interruptions, until 1880 to complete – a period of over 600 years. It is 144.5 metres long, 86.5 m wide and its two towers are 157 m tall.[56]

Brick Gothic (German: Backsteingotik, Polish: Gotyk ceglany) is a specific style common in Northern Europe, especially in Northern Germany, Poland and in the regions around the Baltic Sea without natural rock resources. Prime examples of brick gothic include St. Mary's Church, Gdańsk (1379–1502),[57] St. Mary's Basilica, Kraków (1290–1365) and Malbork Castle (13th century).

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna (1339–1365) has the distinctive feature of a polychrome roof. Another regional variation is the Brabantine Gothic a style found in Belgium and the Netherlands. It is characterized by using light-coloured sandstone or limestone, which allowed rich detailing but was prone to erosion. Features included columns with sculpted cabbage-like foliage, arched windows whose points came right up into the vaults. and, sometimes, a wooden ceiling. Examples include Grote Kerk, Haarlem, in Haarlem, the Netherlands, originally built as a Catholic cathedral, now a Protestant church, and the Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon in Brussels (15th century).

Southern European Gothic [ edit ]

Spain and Portugal [ edit ]

Strikingly different variations of the Gothic style appeared in southern Europe, particularly in Spain and Portugal. Important examples of Spanish Gothic include Toledo Cathedral, León Cathedral, and Burgos Cathedral. The distinctive characteristic of Gothic cathedrals of the Iberian Peninsula is their spatial complexity, with many areas of different shapes leading from each other. They are comparatively wide, and often have very tall arcades surmounted by low clerestories, giving a similar spacious appearance to the Hallenkirche of Germany, as at the Church of the Batalha Monastery in Portugal. Many of the cathedrals are completely surrounded by chapels. Like English cathedrals, each is often stylistically diverse. This expresses itself both in the addition of chapels and in the application of decorative details drawn from different sources. Among the influences on both decoration and form are Islamic architecture and, towards the end of the period, Renaissance details combined with the Gothic in a distinctive manner. The West front, as at Leon Cathedral, typically resembles a French west front, but wider in proportion to height and often with greater diversity of detail and a combination of intricate ornament with broad plain surfaces. At Burgos Cathedral there are spires of German style. The roofline often has pierced parapets with comparatively few pinnacles. There are often towers and domes of a great variety of shapes and structural invention rising above the roof.[12] Church of San Pablo in Valladolid is an outstanding example of construction that combines the Isabelline Gothic style (a local adaptation of the Gothic style) with the Renaissance architecture.

In the territories under the Crown of Aragon (Aragon, Catalonia, Roussillon in France, the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Community, among others in the Italian islands), the Gothic style suppressed the transept and made the side-aisles almost as high as the main nave, creating wider spaces, and with few ornaments. There are two different Gothic styles in the Aragonese lands: Catalan Gothic and Valencian Gothic, which are different from those in the Kingdom of Castile and France.

The most important samples of Catalan Gothic style are the cathedrals of Girona, Barcelona, Perpignan and Palma (in Mallorca), the basilica of Santa Maria del Mar (in Barcelona), the Basílica del Pi (in Barcelona), and the church of Santa Maria de l'Alba in Manresa.

The most important examples of Valencian Gothic style in the old Kingdom of Valencia are the Valencia Cathedral, Llotja de la Seda (Unesco World Heritage site), Torres de Serranos, Torres de Quart, Monastery of Sant Jeroni de Cotalba, in Alfauir, Palace of the Borgias in Gandia, Monastery of Santa María de la Valldigna, Basilica of Santa Maria, in Alicante, Orihuela Cathedral, Castelló Cathedral and El Fadrí, Segorbe Cathedral, etc.

Italy [ edit ]

Italian Gothic architecture went its own particular way, departing from the French model. It was influenced by other styles, notably the Byzantine style introduced in Ravenna. Major examples include Milan Cathedral, the Orvieto Cathedral, and particularly Florence Cathedral, before the addition of the Duomo in the Renaissance.[53]

The Italian style was influenced by the materials available in the different regions; marble was available in great quantities in Tuscany, and was lavishly used in churches; it was scarce in Lombardy, and brick was used instead. But many of the architectural elements were used apparently mainly to be different from the French style.[58]

The Cistercian monastic order introduced some of the first Gothic churches into Italy, in Fossanova Abbey (consecrated 1208) and the Casamari Abbey (1203–1217). They followed the basic plan of the Gothic Cistercian churches of Burgundy, particularly Cîteaux Abbey.[59]

The Italian plan is usually regular and symmetrical, Italian cathedrals have few and widely spaced columns. The proportions are generally mathematically equilibrated, based on the square and the concept of "armonìa", and except in Venice where they loved flamboyant arches, the arches are almost always equilateral. Italian Gothic cathedrals often retained Romanesque features; the nave of Orvieto Cathedral had Romanesque arches and vaults.

Italian cathedrals also offered a variety of plans; Florence Cathedral (begun 1246) had a rectangular choir, based on the Cistercian model, but was designed to have three wings with polygonal chapels. Italian Gothic cathedrals were generally not as tall as those in France; they rarely used flying buttresses, and generally had only two levels, an arcade and a claire-voie with small windows; but Bologna Cathedral (begun in 1388), rivalled Bourges Cathedral in France in height. The smallest notable Italian Gothic church is Santa Maria della Spina in Pisa (about 1330), which resembles a Gothic jewel box.[59]

A distinctive characteristic of Italian Gothic is the use of polychrome decoration, both externally as marble veneer on the brick façade and internally where the arches are often made of alternating black and white segments. The columns were sometimes painted red, and the walls were decorated with frescoes and the apse with mosaic. Italian cathedral façades are often polychrome and may include mosaics in the lunettes over the doors. The façades have projecting open porches and ocular or wheel windows rather than roses, and do not usually have a tower. The crossing is usually surmounted by a dome. There is often a free-standing tower and baptistery. The eastern end usually has an apse of comparatively low projection. The windows are not as large as in northern Europe and, although stained glass windows are often found, the favourite narrative medium for the interior is the fresco.[12] The facade of Orvieto Cathedral, begun in 1310, is a striking example of mosaic decoration. Another innovation of Italian Gothic is the bronze doorway covered with sculpture; the most famous examples are the doors of the Florence Baptistery by Andrea Pisano (1330–1336).[60]

Italian Gothic cathedrals did not have the elaborate sculptural tympanums over the entrances of French cathedrals, but they had abundant realistic sculptural decoration. Some of the finest work was done by Nicola Pisano at the Pisa Baptistery (1259–60) and in Siena Cathedral, and by his son Giovanni Pisano on the west facade of Pisa Cathedral (1284–85).[61]

Gothic in the Colonial Americas [ edit ]

There are late-Gothic architecture from the era in some of the oldest Christian churches built in the Americas. Few examples can be mentioned as the Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor in Santo Domingo built between 1514–1541, the building is mainly Gothic[63][62] and is the oldest cathedral in the Americas;[62] and the Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, started to built in 1573,[71] which retains Gothic elements as the two vaults of the sacristy and the vaults covering the chapter house;[64] Other example is the San Gabriel Franciscan Convent in Cholula, Metropolitan area of Puebla, Mexico, the exterior and interior are partially Gothic[67][68] although the tower is Baroque, was built between 1540s–1550s. In the field of the Civil Gothic architecture, a notable example is the Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca, Mexico, built between 1523-1528,[65] is the oldest conserved Colonial-era civil structure in the continental Americas, the palace has a style that blends Gothic and Mudéjar.[66]

There is also much late-Gothic Plateresque architecture throughout Mexican territory. Also, there are several churches of the World Heritage Site by UNESCO with the name Earliest 16th-century monasteries on the slopes of Popocatépetl that are Plateresque Gothic.[70]

Abbeys and monasteries [ edit ]

While cathedrals were the most prominent structures in the Gothic style, Gothic features were also built for many monasteries across Europe. Prominent examples were built by the Benedictines in England, France, and Normandy. They were the builders of the Abbey of St Denis, and Abbey of Saint-Remi in France. Later Benedictine projects (constructions and renovations) include Rouen's Abbey of Saint-Ouen, the Abbey La Chaise-Dieu, and the choir of Mont Saint-Michel in France.

English examples are Westminster Abbey, originally built as a Benedictine order monastic church; and the reconstruction of the Benedictine church at Canterbury. The Cistercians spread the style as far east and south as Poland and Hungary.[72] Smaller orders such as the Carthusians and Premonstratensians also built some 200 churches, usually near cities.[73] The Franciscans and Dominicans also carried out a transition to Gothic in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Teutonic Order, a military order, spread Gothic art into Pomerania, East Prussia, and the Baltic region.[74]

The earliest example of Gothic architecture in Germany is Maulbronn Monastery, a Romanesque Cistercian abbey in southwest Germany whose narthex was built in the early 12th century by an anonymous architect.[75]

Batalha Monastery (1386–1517) is a Dominican monastery in Batalha, Portugal. The monastery was built in the Flamboyant Gothic style to thank the Virgin Mary for the Portuguese victory over the Kingdom of Castile in the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385.

Civic architecture [ edit ]

The Gothic style appeared in palaces in France, including the Papal Palace in Avignon and the Palais de la Cité in Paris, close to Notre-Dame de Paris, begun in 1119, which was the principal residence of the French Kings until 1417. Most of the Palais de la Cité is gone, but two of the original towers along the Seine, of the towers, the vaulted ceilings of the Hall of the Men-at-Arms (1302), (now in the Conciergerie; and the original chapel, Sainte-Chapelle, can still be seen.[76]

The largest civic building built in the Gothic style in France was the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) constructed between 1252 and 1364, when the Popes fled the political chaos and wars enveloping Rome. Given the complicated political situation, it combined the functions of a church, a seat of government and a fortress. The Rouen Courthouse in Normandy is representative of Flamboyant Gothic in France.

In the 15th century, following the late Gothic or flamboyant period, elements of Gothic decoration borrowed from cathedrals began to appear in the town halls of northern France, in Flanders and in the Netherlands. The Hôtel de Ville of Compiègne has an imposing gothic bell tower, featuring a spire surrounded by smaller towers, and its windows are decorated with ornate accolades or ornamental arches. Similarly flamboyant town halls were found in Arras, Douai, and Saint-Quentin, Aisne, and in modern Belgium, in Brussels and Ghent and Bruges.[77]

Notable Gothic civil architecture in Spain includes the Silk Exchange in Valencia, Spain (1482–1548), a major marketplace, which features a main hall with twisting columns beneath its vaulted ceiling. Another Spanish Gothic landmark is the Palace of the Kings of Navarre in Olite (1269–1512), which combining the features of a palace and a fortress.

University Gothic [ edit ]

The first universities in Europe were closely associated with the Catholic church, and in the late 15th century they adapted variations of the Gothic style for their architecture. The Gothic style was adapted from English monasteries for use in the first colleges of Oxford University, including Magdalen College. It was also used at the University of Salamanca in Spain. The use of the late Gothic style at Oxford and Cambridge University inspired the picturesque Gothic architecture in U.S. colleges in the 19th and 20th century.

By the late Middle Ages university towns had grown in wealth and importance as well, and this was reflected in the buildings of some of Europe's ancient universities. Particularly remarkable examples still standing nowadays include the Collegio di Spagna in the University of Bologna, built during the 14th and 15th centuries; the Collegium Carolinum of the Charles University in Prague in Bohemia; the Escuelas mayores of the University of Salamanca in Spain; the chapel of King's College, Cambridge; or the Collegium Maius of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland.

Military architecture [ edit ]

In the 13th century, the design of the chateau fort, or castle, was modified, based on the Byzantine and Moslem castles the French knights had seen during the Crusades. The new kind of fortification was called Phillipienne, after Philippe Auguste, who had taken part in the Crusades. The new fortifications were more geometric, usually square, with a high main donjon or tower, in the centre, which could be defended even if the walls of the castle were captured. The Donjon of the Chateau de Vincennes, begun by Philip VI of France, was a good example. It was 52 meters high, the tallest military tower in Europe.

In the Phillipienne castle other towers, usually round were placed at the corners and along the walls, close enough together to support each other. The walls had two levels of walkways on the inside, an upper parapet with openings (créneaux) from which soldiers could watch or fire arrows on besiegers below; narrow openings (merlons) through which they could be sheltered as they fired arrows; and floor openings (mâchicoulis), from which they could drop rocks, burning oil or other objects on the besiegers. The upper walls also had protected protruding balconies, échauguettes and bretèches, from which soldiers could see what was happening at the corners or on the ground below. In addition, the towers and walls were pierced with narrow vertical slits, called meurtrières, through which archers could fire arrows. In later castles the slits took the form of crosses, so that archers could fire arbalètes, or crossbows, in different directions.[78]

Castles were surrounded by a deep moat, spanned by a single drawbridge. The entrance was also protected by a grill of iron which could be opened and closed. The walls at the bottom were often sloping, and protected with earthen barriers. One good surviving example is the Château de Dourdan in the Seine-et-Marne department, near Nemours.[79]

After the end of the Hundred Years War (1337–1453), with improvements in artillery, the castles lost most of their military importance. They remained as symbols of the rank of their noble occupants; the narrowing openings in the walls were often widened into the windows of bedchambers and ceremonial halls. The tower of the Chateau of Vincennes became a royal residence.[80]

Decline [ edit ]

Beginning in the 16th century, as Renaissance architecture from Italy began to appear in France and other countries in Europe, the dominance of Gothic architecture began to wane. Nonetheless, new Gothic buildings, particularly churches, continued to be built; new Gothic churches built in Paris in this period included Saint-Merri (1520–1552); and Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois; The first signs of classicism in Paris churches, at St-Gervais-et-St-Protais, did not appear until 1540. The largest new church, Saint-Eustache (1532–1560), rivalled Notre-Dame in size, 105 meters long, 44 meters wide, and 35 meters high. As construction of this church continued, elements of Renaissance decoration, including the system of classical orders of columns, were added to the design, making it an early Gothic-Renaissance hybrid.[81]

The Gothic style began to be described as outdated, ugly and even barbaric. The term "Gothic" was first used as a pejorative description. Giorgio Vasari used the term "barbarous German style" in his 1550 Lives of the Artists to describe what is now considered the Gothic style.[82] In the introduction to the Lives he attributed various architectural features to "the Goths" whom he held responsible for destroying the ancient buildings after they conquered Rome, and erecting new ones in this style.[83] In the 17th century, Molière also mocked the Gothic style in the 1669 poem La Gloire: "...the insipid taste of Gothic ornamentation, these odious monstrosities of an ignorant age, produced by the torrents of barbarism..."[84] The dominant styles in Europe became in turn Italian Renaissance architecture, Baroque architecture, and the grand classicism of the Louis XIV style.

Nonetheless, Gothic architecture, usually churches or university buildings, continued to be built. Ireland was an island of Gothic architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries, with the construction of Derry Cathedral (completed 1633), Sligo Cathedral (c. 1730), and Down Cathedral (1790–1818) are other notable examples.[85] In the 17th and 18th century several important Gothic buildings were constructed at Oxford University and Cambridge University, including Tom Tower at Christ Church, Oxford, by Christopher Wren (1681–82) It also appeared, in a whimsical fashion, in Horace Walpole's Twickenham villa, Strawberry Hill (1749–1776) The two western towers of Westminster Abbey were constructed between 1722 and 1745 by Nicholas Hawksmoor, opening a new period of Gothic Revival.

Survival, rediscovery and revival [ edit ]

In England, partly in response to a philosophy propounded by the Oxford Movement and others associated with the emerging revival of 'high church' or Anglo-Catholic ideas during the second quarter of the 19th century, neo-Gothic began to become promoted by influential establishment figures as the preferred style for ecclesiastical, civic and institutional architecture. The appeal of this Gothic revival (which after 1837, in Britain, is sometimes termed Victorian Gothic), gradually widened to encompass "low church" as well as "high church" clients. This period of more universal appeal, spanning 1855–1885, is known in Britain as High Victorian Gothic.

The Houses of Parliament in London by Sir Charles Barry with interiors by a major exponent of the early Gothic Revival, Augustus Welby Pugin, is an example of the Gothic revival style from its earlier period in the second quarter of the 19th century. Examples from the High Victorian Gothic period include George Gilbert Scott's design for the Albert Memorial in London, and William Butterfield's chapel at Keble College, Oxford. From the second half of the 19th century onwards, it became more common in Britain for neo-Gothic to be used in the design of non-ecclesiastical and non-governmental buildings types. Gothic details even began to appear in working-class housing schemes subsidised by philanthropy, though given the expense, less frequently than in the design of upper and middle-class housing.

The middle of the 19th century was a period marked by the restoration, and in some cases modification, of ancient monuments and the construction of neo-Gothic edifices such as the nave of Cologne Cathedral and the Sainte-Clotilde of Paris as speculation of medieval architecture turned to technical consideration. London's Palace of Westminster, St. Pancras railway station, New York's Trinity Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral are also famous examples of Gothic Revival buildings.[86] Such style also reached the Far East in the period, for instance, the Anglican St. John's Cathedral which was located at the centre of Victoria City in Central, Hong Kong.

See also [ edit ]

Medieval Gothic
Gothic architecture

Notes [ edit ]

Footnotes [ edit ]

Citations [ edit ]

  1. ^ Bannister Fletcher, 17th edition, p.367, p.524
  2. ^ Moffett, Fazio and Wodehouse, p.230
  3. ^ Mignon 2015, pp. 8–9.
  4. ^ Jones 1999, p. 90: "The style was widely referred to as opus francigenum - "Franks' work"."
  5. ^ Bannister Fletcher, p.524
  6. ^ Vasari, G. The Lives of the Artists. Translated with an introduction and notes by J.C. and P. Bondanella. Oxford: Oxford University Press (Oxford World’s Classics), 1991, pp. 117 & 527. ISBN 9780199537198
  7. ^ Vasari, Giorgio. (1907) Vasari on technique: being the introduction to the three arts of design, architecture, sculpture and painting, prefixed to the Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects. G. Baldwin Brown Ed. Louisa S. Maclehose Trans. London: Dent, pp. b & 83.
  8. ^ "Gotz" is rendered as "Huns" in Thomas Urquhart's English translation.
  9. ^ Notes and Queries, No. 9. 29 December 1849
  10. ^ Christopher Wren, 17th-century architect of St. Paul's Cathedral.
  11. ^ a b "L'art Gothique", section: "L'architecture Gothique en Angleterre" by Ute Engel: L'Angleterre fut l'une des premieres régions à adopter, dans la deuxième moitié du XIIeme siècle, la nouvelle architecture gothique née en France. Les relations historiques entre les deux pays jouèrent un rôle prépondérant: en 1154, Henri II (1154–1189), de la dynastie Française des Plantagenêt, accéda au thrône d'Angleterre." (England was one of the first regions to adopt, during the first half of the 12th century, the new Gothic architecture born in France. Historic relationships between the two countries played a determining role: in 1154, Henry II (1154–1189) became the first of the Anjou Plantagenet kings to ascend to the throne of England).
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Banister Fletcher, A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g John Harvey, The Gothic World
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Alec Clifton-Taylor, The Cathedrals of England
  15. ^ Warren, John (1991). "Creswell's Use of the Theory of Dating by the Acuteness of the Pointed Arches in Early Muslim Architecture". Muqarnas. BRILL. 8: 59–65 (61–63). doi:10.2307/1523154. JSTOR 1523154.
  16. ^ Petersen, Andrew (2002-03-11). Dictionary of Islamic Architecture at pp. 295-296. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-203-20387-3. Retrieved 2013-03-16.
  17. ^ Scott, Robert A.: The Gothic enterprise: a guide to understanding the Medieval cathedral, Berkeley 2003, University of California Press, p. 113 ISBN 0-520-23177-5
  18. ^ Cf. Bony (1983), especially p.17
  19. ^ Le genie architectural des Normands a su s’adapter aux lieux en prenant ce qu’il y a de meilleur dans le savoir-faire des batisseurs arabes et byzantins”, Les Normands en Sicile, pp.14, 53-57.
  20. ^ Harvey, L. P. (1992). "Islamic Spain, 1250 to 1500". Chicago : University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-31960-1; Boswell, John (1978). Royal Treasure: Muslim Communities Under the Crown of Aragon in the Fourteenth Century. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-02090-2.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Nikolaus Pevsner, An Outline of European Architecture.
  22. ^ Cannon, J. 2007. Cathedral: The Great English Cathedrals and the World that Made Them
  23. ^ Erwin Panofsky argued that Suger was inspired to create a physical representation of the Heavenly Jerusalem, although the extent to which Suger had any aims higher than aesthetic pleasure has been called into doubt by more recent art historians on the basis of Suger's own writings.
  24. ^ *Warren, John (1991). "Creswell's Use of the Theory of Dating by the Acuteness of the Pointed Arches in Early Muslim Architecture". Muqarnas. BRILL. 8: 59–65. doi:10.2307/1523154. JSTOR 1523154.
  25. ^ "Architectural Importance". Durham World Heritage Site. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  26. ^ a b This does not happen in French or English Gothic and so to the British or French eye, to be a strange disregard for style.
  27. ^ a b c d Ducher 1988, p. 46.
  28. ^ a b Mignon 2015, pp. 10-11.
  29. ^ Bechmann 2017, pp. 188–190.
  30. ^ a b Bechmann 2017, pp. 183–185.
  31. ^ Mignon 2015, pp. 18-28.
  32. ^ Ducher 1988, pp. 50–51.
  33. ^ a b c d e f g h i Wim Swaan, The Gothic Cathedral
  34. ^ While the engineering and construction of the dome of Florence Cathedral by Brunelleschi is often cited as one of the first works of the Renaissance, the octagonal plan, ribs and pointed silhouette were already determined in the 14th century.
  35. ^ The Gothic south tower is surmounted by a Baroque spire.
  36. ^ Grodecki 1977, pp. 14, 17.
  37. ^ Wenzler 2018, pp. 95–98.
  38. ^ Julian Flannery, Fifty English Steeples: The Finest Medieval Parish Church Towers and Spires in England, T&H, 2016, 10-0500343144
  39. ^ The open-work spire was completed in 1890 to the original design.
  40. ^ Grodecki 1977, p. 20.
  41. ^ a b Wenzler 2018, p. 28.
  42. ^ a b Renault & Lazé 2006, p. 35.
  43. ^ Wenzler 2018, p. 79.
  44. ^ Wenzler 2018, p. 54.
  45. ^ a b Viollet-le-Duc, Eugéne, Dictionnaire Raisonné de l'architecture Française du XIe au XVI siecle, Volume 6. (Project Gutenburg).
  46. ^ a b McNamara 2017, pp. 158–59.
  47. ^ Frazer, James George (1933) ed., Ovid, Fasti VI. 131–,Riley (1851), p. 216 , tr.
  48. ^ Wenzler 2018, pp. 97–99.
  49. ^ Wenzler 2018, pp. 99–100.
  50. ^ a b c Wenzler 2018, pp. 39–41.
  51. ^ "Episcopal City of Albi".
  52. ^ Martindale 1993, pp. 34–35.
  53. ^ a b c d e Ducher 1988, p. 62.
  54. ^ UNESCO. "UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites; Liebfrukirche, Trier".
  55. ^ Martindale 1993, pp. 221–230.
  56. ^ "Kölner Dom". Archived from the original on 17 April 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  57. ^ "Historia Bazyliki Mariackiej w Gdańsku". (in Polish). Archived from the original on 31 October 2010. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
  58. ^ Martindale 1993, p. 147.
  59. ^ a b Martindale 1993, p. 148.
  60. ^ Martindale 1993, pp. 161–175.
  61. ^ Martindale 1993, pp. 152–176.
  62. ^ a b c "Colonial City of Santo Domingo". UNESCO World Heritage Centre website.
  63. ^ a b "Basilica Cathedral of Santa María la Menor". 15 August 2018.
  64. ^ a b "2.13.1 El Arte Gótico". Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral Official website (in Spanish).
  65. ^ a b John Jeffries Martin (2007). The Renaissance World. New York: Routledge. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-415-33259-0.
  66. ^ a b Elizabeth Zach (6 April 2018). "Cuernavaca: A side trip into opulence, only an hour away from Mexico's capital". The Washington Post.
  67. ^ a b "Templo de San Gabriel. Church in Cholula". Lonely Planet.
  68. ^ a b "Puebla-San Pedro Cholula". Municipal Enciclopedia de los Municipios de México (in Spanish). Mexico: National Institute for federalism and development of Mexico. 2009.
  69. ^ "Ex Convento Agustino". (in Spanish). 5 October 2016.
  70. ^ a b "Earliest 16th-Century Monasteries on the Slopes of Popocatepetl". World Heritage Centre website.
  71. ^ "1.2.3 El Comienzo de la Obra1". Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral Official website (in Spanish).
  72. ^ Grodecki 1977, p. 28.
  73. ^ Grodecki 1977, pp. 29–30.
  74. ^ Grodecki 1977, p. 30.
  75. ^ Burton & Kerr 2011, p. 79.
  76. ^ Texier 2012, p. 12.
  77. ^ Ducher 1988, p. 64.
  78. ^ Ducher 1988, pp. 66–67.
  79. ^ Renault and Lazé (2006), pg. 38
  80. ^ Renault & Lazé 2006, p. 38.
  81. ^ Texier 2012, pp. 24–26.
  82. ^ Vasari 1991, pp. 117, 527.
  83. ^ Vasari, Brown & Maclehose 1907, p. 83.
  84. ^ Grodecki 1977, p. 9.
  85. ^ Hunter, Bob (18 September 2014). "Londonderry Cathedtral". Wars & Conflict: The Plantation of Ulster. BBC.
  86. ^ "Gothic Architecture and Churches | Architectural Digest". Architectural Digest. Retrieved 18 July 2017.

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