Gothic architecture(Redirected from Gothic style)
Gothic architecture is an architectural style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages. The style evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. It originated in 12th-century France and lasted into the 16th century.
|Years active||12th-14th centuries|
Its most prominent features included the use of the rib vault and the flying buttress, which allowed the weight of the roof to be supported and counterbalanced by buttresses outside the nave, allowing greater height and more space for windows. Another important feature was the extensive use of stained glass, and the rose window, to bring light and color to the interior. Another feature was the use of realistic statuary on the exterior, particularly over the portals, to illustrate biblical stories for the largely illiterate parishioners.These technologies had all existed in Romanesque architecture, but they were used in more innovative ways and more extensively in Gothic architecture to make buildings taller, lighter and stronger.
The first notable example is generally considered to be the Abbey of Saint-Denis, near Paris, whose choir and facade were reconstructed with gothic features. The choir was completed in 1144. The style also appeared in some civic architecture in northern Europe, notably in town halls and university buildings. A Gothic revival began in mid-18th-century England, spread through 19th century Europe and continued, largely for ecclesiastical and university structures, into the 20th century.
Gothic architecture was known during the period as opus francigenum ("French/Frankish work"), The term "Gothic architecture" originated in the 16th century, and was originally very negative, suggesting barbaric. Giorgio Vasari used the term "barbarous German style" in his 1550 Lives of the Artists to describe what is now considered the Gothic style, and 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.
The Gothic style originated in the Ile-de-France region of France at the Romanesque era in the first half of the 12th century, at the Cathedral of Sens (1130–62) and Abbey of St-Denis (c. 1130–40 and 1140–44), and did not immediately supersede it. An example of this lack clean break is the blossoming of the Late Romanesque (German: Spätromanisch) in the Holy Roman Empire under the Hohenstaufens and Rhineland while the Gothic style spread into England and France in the 12th century.
Origins – Early Gothic (1130–1200)Edit
The west front at Noyon Cathedral, begun 1145, showing influence of Saint-Denis
The apse of Noyon Cathedral (1155)
Laon Cathedral, begun 1155
Facade of Notre Dame de Paris, facade begun about 1200
The Gothic style originated in the Ile-de-France region of northern France in the first half of the 12th century. A new dynasty of French Kings, the Capetians, had subdued the feudal lords, and had become the most powerful rulers in France, with their capital in Paris. They allied themselves with the bishops of the major cities of northern France, and reduced the power of the feudal abbots and monasteries. Their rise coincided with an enormous growth of the population and prosperity of the cities of northern France. The Capetian Kings and their bishops wished to build new cathedrals as monuments of their power, wealth, and religious faith.
The church which served as the primary model for the style was the Abbey of St-Denis, which underwent reconstruction by the Abbot Suger, first in the choir (c. 1130–40) and then the facade (1140–44), Suger was a close ally and biographer of the French King, Louis VII, a fervent Catholic and builder, and the founder of the University of Paris. Suger remodeled the ambulatory of the Abbey, replacing the romanesque structure with the rib vault, which was stronger and lighter, and installed more windows. Soon afterwards rebuilt the facade, with three deep portals, each with a timpanum of sculpture illustrating biblical stories. The facade was flanked by two towers. He also installed a circular rose window over the central portal. This design became the prototype for a series of new French cathedrals. The new style soon appeared in Noyon Cathedral, Laon Cathedral, and the most famous of all, Notre-Dame de Paris, where construction had begun in 1160.
The style was also copied in the Duchy of Normandy, through the rule of the Angevin dynasty, the new style was introduced to England and spread from there to Low Countries, Germany, Spain, northern Italy and Sicily. The Gothic style did not immediately replace the Romanesque everywhere in Europe. The Late Romanesque continued to flourish in the in the Holy Roman Empire under the Hohenstaufens and Rhineland.
High Gothic (1200–1270)Edit
Choir of Chartres Cathedral with the new, stronger four-part rib vault
Bourges Cathedral with flying buttresses (1195-1230)
Reims Cathedral from the northwest (1211-1345)
Facade of Amiens Cathedral (1220-1266)
Amiens Cathedral choir and altar
From the end of the 12th century until the middle of the 13th century, the gothic style spread from the Île-de-France to appear in other cities of northern France. New structures in the style included Chartres Cathedral (begun 1200); Bourges Cathedral (1195 to 1230), Reims Cathedral (1211–1275), and Amiens Cathedral (begun 1250); At Chartres, the use of the flying buttresses allowed the elimination of the tribune level, which allowed much higher arcades and nave, and larger windows. The early type of rib vault used of Saint Denis and Notre Dame, with six parts, was modified to four parts, making it simpler and stronger. Amiens and Chartres were among the first to use the flying buttress; the buttresses were strengthened by an additional arch and with a supporting arcade, allowing even higher and walls and more windows. At Reims, the buttresses were given greater weight and strength by the addition of heavy stone pinacles on top. These were often decorated with statues of angels, and became an important decorative element of the High Gothic style. Another practical and decorative element, the gargoyle, appeared; it was an ornamental rain spout which channeled the water from the roof away from the building. At Amiens, the windows of the nave were made larger, and an additional row of clear glass windows (the claire-voie) flooded the interior with light. The new structural technologies allowed the enlargement of the transepts and of the choirs at the east end of the cathedrals, creating the space for a ring of well-lit chapels. The transept of Notre-Dame was rebuilt with the new technology, and two spectacular rose windows added.
Rayonnant Gothic (1250-1370s)Edit
Windows of upper chapel of Sainte-Chapelle (1238–48)
Rose window in north transept of Notre Dame Cathedral
Exterior of south rose window of Notre Dame Cathedral (about 1250)
The next period was termed Rayonnant ("Radiant"), describing the tendency toward the use of more and more stained glass and less masonry in the design of the structure, until the walls seemed entirely made of glass. The most celebrated example was the chapel of Sainte-Chapelle, the chapel attached to the royal residence on the Palais de la Cité. An elaborate system of exterior columns and arches reduced the walls of the upper chapel to a thin framework for the enormous windows. The weight of each of the masonry gables above the archivolt of the windows also helped the walls to resist the thrust and to distribute the weight.
Another landmark of the Rayonnant Gothic are the two rose windows on the north and south of the transept of Notre Dame Cathedral. Whereas earlier rose windows, like those of Amiens Cathedral, were framed by stone and occupied only a portion of the wall, these two windows, with a delicate lace-like framework, occupied the entire space between the pillars.
Flamboyant Gothic (1350–1450)Edit
West facade, Rouen Cathedral
The west front of Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes (1370s)
The nave of Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes
The rose window Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes. The sinuous lines of the window frame gave the style the name "Flamboyant".
Choir of Mont Saint Michel Abbey (about 1448)
The Flamboyant Gothic style appeared in the second half of the 14th century. Its characteristic features were more exuberant decoration, as the nobles and wealthy citizens of mostly northern French cities competed to build more and more elaborate churches and cathedrals. It took its name from the sinous, flame-like designs which ornamented windows. Other new features included the arc en accolade, a window decorated with an arch, stone pinnacles and floral sculpture. It also featured an increase in the number of nervures, or ribs, that supported and decorated each vault of the ceiling, both for greater support and decorative effect. Notable examples of Flamboyant Gothic include the western facade of Rouen Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes in Paris, both built in the 1370s; and the Choir of Mont Saint Michel Abbey (about 1448).
Elements of Gothic styleEdit
The plan of the Gothic cathedral was based on the model of the ancient Roman basilica, which was a combined public market and courthouse; which was also the basis of the plan of the Romanesque cathedral. The cathedral is in the form of a Latin cross. The entrance is traditionally on the west end, has three portals decorated with sculpture, usually a rose window, and is flanked by two towers. The long nave, where the congregation worshiped, occupies the west end. This is usually divided from the nave by rows of pillars, which support the roof, flanked by one or two aisles, called collaérals. There are usually small chapels on the two sides, placed between the buttresses, which provide additional support to the walls.
The cathedral usually has a transept, a crossing, roughly in the middle, which sometimes projects outwards some distance, and in other cases, such as Notre-Dame, is minimal. The croisée or crossing of the transept, is the center of the church, and is surrounded by particularly massive pillars, which sometimes support a lantern tower, which brings light into the center of the cathedral. The north and south facades of the transept often feature rose windows, as at Notre Dame de Paris.
To the east of the transept is the choir, where the altar is located, where ceremonies take place, and where only the clergy was allowed. This space grew greatly in the 12th century, as ceremonies became more elaborate. Behind the choir is single or double a walkway called the ambulatory. At the eastern end of the church is the apse usually in the form of a half-circle, and the chevet. There is usually a chapel here dedicated to the Virgin Mary, which can be very large. Around chevet there are usually several other smaller chapels.
The earlier Gothic cathedrals had four levels, from the floor to the roof. On the ground floor there were two rows grand arcades with large pillars, which received the weight of the vaults of the ceiling. Above these were the tribunes, a section of arched openings, giving more support. Above these was the triforium, a section of small arches. On the top level, just below the vaults, were the upper windows, the main source of light for the Cathedral.The lower walls were supported by massive contreforts or buttresses placed directly up against them, with pinnacles on top which provided additional weight.
Later, with the development of the flying buttress, the supports moved further away from the walls, and the walls were built much higher. Gradually the tribunes and the triforium disappeared, and the walls above the arcades were occupied almost entirely with stained glass.
The eastern arm shows considerable diversity. In England it is generally long and may have two distinct sections, both choir and presbytery. It is often square ended or has a projecting Lady Chapel, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In France the eastern end is often polygonal and surrounded by a walkway called an ambulatory and sometimes a ring of chapels called a "chevet". While German churches are often similar to those of France, in Italy, the eastern projection beyond the transept is usually just a shallow apsidal chapel containing the sanctuary, as at Florence Cathedral.
Another characteristic feature of the Gothic style, domestic and ecclesiastical alike, is the division of interior space into individual cells according to the building's ribbing and vaults, regardless of whether or not the structure actually has a vaulted ceiling. This system of cells of varying size and shape juxtaposed in various patterns was again totally unique to antiquity and the Early Middle Ages and scholars, Frankl included, have emphasised the mathematical and geometric nature of this design. Frankl in particular thought of this layout as "creation by division" rather than the Romanesque's "creation by addition." Others, namely Viollet-le-Duc, Wilhelm Pinder, and August Schmarsow, instead proposed the term "articulated architecture." The opposite theory as suggested by Henri Focillon and Jean Bony is of "spacial unification", or of the creation of an interior that is made for sensory overload via the interaction of many elements and perspectives. Interior and exterior partitions, often extensively studied, have been found to at times contain features, such as thoroughfares at window height, that make the illusion of thickness. Additionally, the piers separating the isles eventually stopped being part of the walls but rather independent objects that jut out from the actual aisle wall itself.
The pointed arch and the rib vaultEdit
Early six-part rib vaults at Notre-Dame de Paris (1182-1190)
Six-part rib vaults of choir of Canterbury Cathedral (about 1180)
Stronger four-part rib vaults at Rouen Cathedral (13th c.)
Nave of Cologne Cathedral (1248-1322)
Vaulted nave of Strasbourg Cathedral (1277-1318)
Flamboyant rib vaults with ornamental ribs at Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral (begun 1321)
Fan-shaped rib vaults at Peterborough Cathedral (1496-1508)
Both the pointed arch and the rib vault had been used in romanesque architecture, but Gothic builders refined them and used them to much greater effect. They made the structures lighter and stronger, and thus allowed the great heights and expanses of stained glass found in Gothic cathedrals.
In Romanesque architecture, the rounded arches of the barrel vaults that supported the roof 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. The pointed or broken arch, introduced during the Romanesque period, was stronger, lighter, and carried the thrust outwards, rather than directly downwards.
The rib vault took advantage of the strength of the pointed arch. The vault was supported by thin ribs or arches of stone, which reached downwards and outwards to cluster around supporting pillars along the inside of the walls. The earlier rib vaults, used at Notre Dame, Noyon, and Laon, were divided by the ribs into six compartments, and could only cross a limited space. In later cathedral construction, the design was improved, 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 vault was used at Amiens, Reims, and the other later cathedrals, and eventually at cathedrals across Europe.
In the later period of the Gothic style, the rib vaults lost their elegant simplicity, and were loaded with additional ribs, sculptural designs, and sometimes pendants and other purely decorative elements.
At Notre-Dame de Paris, the massive buttresses counter the outward thrust from the rib vaults of the nave.
Flying buttresses of Amiens Cathedral(1220-1270)
The flying buttresses at Amiens combined carefully-balanced weight with decoration (drawing by Eugene Viollet-le-Duc)
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 rain water off the roof; it was expelled from the mouths of stone gargoyles placed in rows on the buttresses.
In the late Gothic periods the buttresses became extremely ornate, with a large amount of non-functional decoration in the form of pinnacles, curving arches, counter-curves, statuary and ornamental pendants.
Elevation of Nave at Chartres Cathedral (1220). The tribune has disappeared and windows have gotten higher.
Beauvais Cathedral, completed 1272. It had the tallest interior in Europe, but only the Choir was finished.
The choir of Beauvais Cathedral 48.5 m (159 ft) high
An important characteristic of Gothic church architecture is its height, both absolute and in proportion to its width, the verticality suggesting an aspiration to Heaven. The increasing height of cathedrals over the Gothic period was accompanied by an increasing proportion of the wall devoted to windows, until, by the late Gothic, the interiors became like cages of glass. This was made possible by the development of the flying buttress, which transferred the thrust of the weight of the roof to the supports outside the walls. As a result, the walls gradually became thinner and higher, and masonry was replaced with glass. The four-part elevation of the naves of early Cathedrals such as Notre-Dame (arcade, tribune, triforium, claire-voie) was reduced to just two levels, the arcade and the windows. The rows of columns that received the ribs of the vaults above grew taller and taller, until they reached up to the roof itself.
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).
Stained glass windowsEdit
South transept rose window of Chartres Cathedral (1221-1230)
Detail of the Apolcalypse window, Bourges Cathedral, early 13th century
Stained glass windows was an important feature of Gothic architecture. Romanesque churches sometimes had stained glass windows, and sometimes 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. The improvements in flying buttresses allowed Cathedral walls which were thinner, higher and stronger, and windows were consequently considerably larger, filling the churches with light. The windows of churches in the late Gothic period, such as Sainte Chapelle in Paris, filled the entire wall between the ribs with glass.
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 colored glass were joined together with pieces of lead, and then their surfaces were painted with faces and other details. Thin vertical and horizontal bars of iron, called vergettes or barlotierres, were placed inside the window to reinforce the glass, and then the windows were mounted in the stone frames. 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.
Portals and the tympanumEdit
Portals and tympanum of Strasbourg Cathedral (Begun 1176)
Westminster Abbey north portal (begun 1245)
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.
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."
The portals and interiors were much more colorful 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 colors 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 sinopole, represented hope, liberty and joy; red or guelues meant charity or victory; blue, or azure symbolized the sky, faithfulness and perseverance; and violet, or pourpre, was the color of royalty and sovereignty.
Towers and spiresEdit
Laon Cathedral, with five towers (1160-1230)
The Abbey of Saint-Étienne, Caen rebuilt from Romanesque to Gothic, has nine towers (13th century)
Towers of Rouen Cathedral (15th and 16th centuries)
Tower of Salisbury Cathedral, the tallest in Britain (1220-1258)
The plan for the Basilica of Saint-Denis called for two towers of equal height on the west facade, and this general plan was copied at Notre-Dame and most of the early cathedrals. The towers of Notre-Dame de Paris, 69 meters (226 ft) tall, were intended to be seen throughout the city; they were the tallest towers in Paris until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in 1889. An informal but vigorous competition began in northern France for the tallest Cathedral towers.
To make the churches taller and more prominent, and visible from a distance, heir builders often added a flèche, a spire usually made of wood and covered with lead, to the top of each tower, or, as in Notre-Dame de Paris, in the center of the transept. Later in the Gothic period, more massive towers were constructed over the transept, rivaling or exceeding in height the towers of the facade.
The towers were usually the last part of the Cathedral to be constructed. They were often built many years or decades after the rest of the building. construction, Sometimes, by the time the towers were built, the plans had changed, or the money had run out. As a result, some Gothic cathedrals had just one tower, or two towers of different heights or styles. On the other hand, Laon Cathedral, begun just before Notre-Dame, boasted five towers; two on the facade, two on the transept, and a central lantern. An additional two were planned but not built. The Abbey of Saint-Étienne, Caen originally built in the Romanesque style, was rebuilt with nine Gothic towers in the 13th century.
The informal competition for the tallest church in Europe went on throughout the Gothic period, sometimes with disastrous results. Beauvais Cathedral had the tallest tower (153 meters or 502 feet), completed in 1569, for a brief time, until its tower collapsed in the wind in 1573. Lincoln Cathedral (159.7 meters or 524 feet) also had the record from 1311 until 1549 until its tower also collapsed. Today the tallest cathedral tower in France is Rouen Cathedral, and Cologne Cathedral (151.0 meters or 495 feet) is the tallest cathedral in Europe.
The Gothic Old St Paul's Cathedral (1087–1314) had been the tallest cathedral in England until it was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666. Today the tallest combined Gothic tower and spire in the UK belongs to Salisbury Cathedral, (123 meters or 404 feet), built 1220–1258.
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 in Ulm, Germany, completed in 1890 and possessing the tallest spire in the world, slightly exceeding that of Lincoln Cathedral, the tallest spire that was actually completed during the medieval period, at 160 metres (520 ft).
Sculpture and decorationEdit
Statues of Saints are literally "pillars of the church", supporting the portal of Chartres Cathedral.
Gargoyle on Siena Cathedral (13th century)
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.
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." 
Each Saint had his own symbol; a winged lion stood for Saint Mark; an eagle with four wings meant Saint John, and winged bull symbolized Saint Luke. Sculpted angels had specific functions, sometimes as heralds, blowing trumpete, 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 theirfunction at the throne of God. Floral and vegetal decoration was also very common, representing the Garden of Eden; grapes represented the wines of Eucharist. 
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.
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. They were part of the visual message for the illiterate worshipers, symbols of the evil and danger that threatened those who did not follow the teachings of the church.
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.
Many of the statues, particularly the grotesques, were removed from 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.
Coutances Cathedral in Normandy (1210-1274)
Bayeux Cathedral in Normandy (1180-1350)
Interior of Auxerre Cathedral in Burgundy (1215-1233)
Albi Cathedral, originally begun as a fortress, in Southwest France (1282-1480)
Polychrome interior of Albi Cathedral (1282-1480)
Toulouse Cathedral (13th century)
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 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 spires sometimes were seventy meters high. Bayeux Cathedral, Rouen Cathedral, and Coutances Cathedral are notable examples of Norman Gothic. 
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 were rarely used, replaced by heavy abutments with chapels between.
In the South of France, 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 Toulouse Cathedral was copied by several cathedrals in the south. They generally had a single nave or two or three 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 colorful interior and painted ceiling.
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.
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. Early examples of existing churches rebuilt into English Gothic included the choir of Canterbury Cathedral, rebuilt beginning 1174, and Westminster Abbey, rebuilt in (1245–1517). 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.
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.
The rib vaults of the Decorated Gothic became extremely ornate, with a profusion of ribs which 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.
The Perpendicular Gothic (c. 1380–1520) was 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 moldings, 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 IV chapel at Westminster Abbey (1503–07).
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.
Northern European GothicEdit
Cologne Cathedral (1248-1473)
Nave of Cologne Cathedral (1248-1473)
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague (begun 1344)
St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna (1339-1365)
Looking up from the nave into the tower of Freiburg Munster (completed 1330)
Brabantine Gothic Church of Our Blessed Lady of the Sablon in Brussels (15th century)
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, 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 in Germany that was completed in the Middle Ages (1330).
Romanesque architecture in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic (earlier called Bohemia) is characterised by its massive and modular nature. This characteristic is also expressed in the Gothic architecture of Central Europe in the huge size of the towers and spires, often projected, but not always completed.[a] Gothic design in Germany and Czech lands, generally follows the French formula, but the towers are much taller and, if complete, are surmounted by enormous openwork spires that are a regional feature. Because of the size of the towers, the section of the façade between them may appear narrow and compressed. The distinctive character of the interior of German Gothic cathedrals is their breadth and openness. This is the case even when, as at Cologne, they have been modelled upon a French cathedral. German and Czech cathedrals, like the French, tend not to have strongly projecting transepts. There are also many hall churches (Hallenkirchen) without clerestory windows. In contrast to the Gothic designs found in western German and Czech areas, which followed the French patterns, Brick Gothic was particularly prevalent in Poland and northern Germany. Polish Gothic architecture is characterised by its utilitarian nature, with very limited use of sculpture and heavy exterior design.
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.
Brick Gothic (German: Backsteingotik) is a specific style common in Northern Europe, especially in Northern Germany and Poland in the regions around the Baltic Sea without natural rock resources. A prime example is St. Mary's Church, Gdańsk (1379–1502).
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-colored 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 GothicEdit
Spain and PortugalEdit
León Cathedral (1205-1472)
Toledo Cathedral (1227-1493)
Burgos Cathedral (1221-1260)
Valencia Cathedral (13th-15 c.)
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.
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.
Florence Cathedral (1296-1436)
Interior of Siena Cathedral (1196-1348)
Milan Cathedral (1386-1510)
Orvieto Cathedral (1290-1591)
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.
The distinctive characteristic of Italian Gothic is the use of polychrome decoration, both externally as marble veneer on the brick façade and also internally where the arches are often made of alternating black and white segments, and where the columns may be painted red, the walls decorated with frescoes and the apse with mosaic. The 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. Colours and moldings define the architectural units rather than blending them. Italian cathedral façades are often polychrome and may include mosaics in the lunettes over the doors. The façades have projecting open porches and occular 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 baptistry. 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.
Gothic rib vaults of the hall of men at arms of the Conciergerie (1302)
Brussels Town Hall (15th C.)
Venetian Gothic. The Doge's Palace in Venice (1340-1442)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Chapel of King's College, Cambridge (1446-1544)
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 University of 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.
Donjon of the Château de Vincennes, begun 1337
Restored outer walls of the medieval city of Carcasonne (13th-14th century)
Alcazar of Segovia (12th-13th centuries)
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 center, 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 (Crénaux) 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 Bretéches, 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 Meurtriéres, 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.
Castles were surrounded by 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.
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.
The term "Gothic architecture" originated 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, and in the introduction to the Lives he attributes 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. Vasari was not alone among 15th and 16th Italian writers, as Filarete and Giannozzo Manetti had also written scathing criticisms of the Gothic style, calling it a "barbaric prelude to the Renaissance." Vasari and company were writing at a time when many aspects and vocabulary pertaining to Classical architecture had been reasserted with the Renaissance in the late 15th and 16th centuries, and they had the perspective that the maniera tedesca or maniera dei Goti was the antithesis of this resurgent style leading to the continuation of this negative connotation in the 17th century. François Rabelais, also of the 16th century, imagines an inscription over the door of his utopian Abbey of Thélème, "Here enter no hypocrites, bigots...", slipping in a slighting reference to "Gotz" and "Ostrogotz."[b] Molière also made this note of the Gothic style in the 1669 poem La Gloire:
(in French): "...fade goût des ornements gothiques, Ces monstres odieux de siècles ignorants, Que de la barbarie ont produit les torrents"
("...the insipid taste of Gothic ornamentation, these odious monstrosities of an ignorant age, produced by the torrents of barbarism...")— Molière, La Gloire
In English 17th-century usage, "Goth" was an equivalent of "vandal," a savage despoiler with a Germanic heritage, and so came to be applied to the architectural styles of northern Europe from before the revival of classical types of architecture. 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.
The first movements that reevaluated medieval art took place in the 18th century, even when the Académie Royale d'Architecture met in Paris on 21 July 1710 and, amongst other subjects, discussed the new fashions of bowed and cusped arches on chimneypieces being employed to "finish the top of their openings. The Academy disapproved of several of these new manners, which are defective and which belong for the most part to the Gothic." Despite resistance in the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the writings of Wilhelm Worringer, critics like Père Laugier, William Gilpin, August Wilhelm Schlegel and other critics began to give the term a more positive meaning. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe called Gothic the "deutsche Architektur" and the "embodiment of German genius," while some French writers like Camille Enlart instead nationalised it for France, dubbing it "architecture française". This second group made some of their claims using the chronicle of Burchard von Halle that tells of the Church of Bad Wimpfen's construction opere francigeno ("in the French/Frankish style"). Today, the term is defined with spatial observations and historical and ideological information.
The roots of the Gothic style lie in those towns that, since the 11th century, had been enjoying increased prosperity and growth, began to experience more and more freedom from traditional feudal authority. 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, Liechtenstein, 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 under the system of Feudalism. 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.[c] 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. Gothic art is sometimes viewed as the art of the era of feudalism but also as being connected to change in medieval social structure, as the Gothic style of architecture seemed to parallel the beginning of the decline of feudalism. Nevertheless, the influence of the established feudal elite can be seen in the Chateaux of French lords and in those churches sponsored by feudal lords.
Throughout Europe at this time there was a rapid growth in trade and an associated growth in towns, and they would come to be predominate in Europe by the end of the 13th century. Germany and the Low Countries 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. Viollet-le-Duc contended that the blossoming of the Gothic style came about as a result of growing freedoms in construction professions.
The primary use of the Gothic style is in religious structures, naturally leading it to an association with the Church and it is considered to be one of the most formal and coordinated forms of the physical church, thought of as being the physical residence of God on Earth. According to Hans Sedlmayr, it was "even the considered the temporal image of Paradise, of the New Jerusalem." The horizontal and vertical scope of the Gothic church, filled with the light thought of as a symbol of the grace of God admitted into the structure via the style's iconic windows are among the very best examples of Christian architecture. Grodecki's Gothic Architecture also notes that the glass pieces of various colors that make up those windows have been compared to "precious stones encrusting the walls of the New Jerusalem," and that "the numerous towers and pinnacles evoke similar structures that appear in the visions of Saint John." Another idea, held by Georg Dehio and Erwin Panofsky, is that the designs of Gothic followed the current theological scholastic thought. The PBS show NOVA explored the influence of the Bible in the dimensions and design of some cathedrals.
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 and Croatia, and 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 did not define divisions of style. 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. Many different factors like geographical/geological, economic, social, or political situations caused the regional differences in the great abbey churches and cathedrals of the Romanesque period that would often become even more apparent in the Gothic. For example, studies of the population statistics reveals disparities such as the multitude of churches, abbeys, and cathedrals in northern France while in more urbanised regions construction activity of a similar scale was reserved to a few important cities. Such an example comes from Roberto López, wherein the French city of Amiens was able to fund its architectural projects whereas Cologne could not because of the economic inequality of the two. This wealth, concentrated in rich monasteries and noble families, would eventually spread certain Italian, Catalan, and Hanseatic bankers. This would be amended when the economic hardships of the 13th century were no longer felt, allowing Normandy, Tuscany, Flanders, and the southern Rhineland to enter into competition with France.
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. 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 – called Gotyk ceglany in Poland and Backsteingotik in Germany and Scandinavia – is also associated with the Hanseatic League. In Italy, stone was used for fortifications, so 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. The availability of timber also influenced the style of architecture, with timber buildings prevailing in Scandinavia. Availability of timber affected methods of roof construction across Europe. It is thought that the magnificent hammerbeam 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.
Possible Eastern influenceEdit
The pointed arch, one of the defining attributes of Gothic, was earlier incorporated into Islamic architecture following the Islamic conquests of Roman Syria and the Sassanid Empire in the 7th century. The pointed arch and its precursors had been employed in Late Roman and Sassanian architecture; within the Roman context, evidenced in early church building in Syria and occasional secular structures, like the Roman Karamagara Bridge; in Sassanid architecture, in the parabolic and pointed arches employed in palace and sacred construction. Use of the pointed arch seems to have taken off dramatically after its incorporation into Islamic architecture. It begins to appear throughout the Islamic world in close succession after its adoption in the late Umayyad or early Abbasid period. Some examples are the Al-Ukhaidir Palace (775 AD), the Abbasid reconstruction of the Al-Aqsa mosque in 780 AD, the Ramlah Cisterns (789 AD), the Great Mosque of Samarra (851 AD), and the Mosque of Ibn Tulun (879 AD) in Cairo. It also appears in one of the early reconstructions of the Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia, and the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba in 987 AD. David Talbot Rice points out that, "The pointed arch had already been used in Syria, but in the mosque of Ibn Tulun we have one of the earliest examples of its use on an extensive scale, some centuries before it was exploited in the West by the Gothic architects."
Increasing military and cultural contacts with the Muslim world, including the Norman conquest of Islamic Sicily in 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. 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, for example in Monreale and Cefalù Cathedrals, the Alcázar of Seville, and Teruel Cathedral.
A number of scholars have cited the Armenian Cathedral of Ani, completed 1001 or 1010, as a possible influence on the Gothic, especially due to its use of pointed arches and cluster piers. However, other scholars such as Sirarpie Der Nersessian, who rejected this notion as she argued that the pointed arches did not serve the same function of supporting the vault. Lucy Der Manuelian contends that some Armenians (historically documented as being in Western Europe in the Middle Ages) could have brought the knowledge and technique employed at Ani to the west.
The view held by the majority of scholars however is that the pointed arch evolved naturally in Western Europe as a structural solution to a technical problem, with evidence for this being its use as a stylistic feature in Romanesque French and English churches.
Transition and diffusionEdit
By the 12th century, Romanesque architecture, termed Norman Gothic in England, was established throughout Europe and provided the basic architectural forms and units that were to remain in evolution throughout the Medieval period. The important categories of building: the cathedral, parish church, monastery, castle, palace, great hall, gatehouse, and civic building had been established in the Romanesque period.
Many architectural features that are associated with Gothic architecture had been developed and used by the architects of Romanesque buildings, but not fully exploited. These include ribbed vaults, buttresses, clustered columns, ambulatories, wheel windows, spires, stained glass windows, and richly carved door tympana. These features, namely the rib vault and the pointed arch, had been used since the late 11th century in Southern Italy, Durham, and Picardy.
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. The technological change permitted a 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.
Transition from Romanesque to Gothic architectureEdit
Gothic architecture did not emerge from a dying Romanesque tradition, but from a Romanesque style at the height of its popularity, and it would supplant it for many years. This shift in style beginning in the mid-12th century came about in an environment of much intellectual and political development as the Catholic Church began to grow into a very powerful political entity. Another transition made by Gothic was the move from the rural monasteries of the Romanesque into urban environments with new Gothic churches built in wealthy cities by secular clergy knowing full well the growing unity and power of the Church. The characteristic forms that were to define Gothic architecture grew out of Romanesque architecture and developed at several different geographic locations, as the result of different influences and structural requirements. While barrel vaults and groin vaults are typical of Romanesque architecture, ribbed vaults were used in many later Romanesque churches. The first examples of the ribbed vault, atop the thick walls of the Romanesque church, appeared at the same time in Sicily, Normandy and England at Durham Cathedral (from 1093-before 1110), Winchester, Peterborough and Gloucester, the choir and transept of Lessay Abbey, Duclair and Church of Saint Paul in Rouen. The geometric ornamentation borne by the moldings of some of these vaults attests to the want for more decoration, and this would be answered later by architects working in Ile-de-France, Valois, and Vexin.
Later French projects from 1125 to 1135 show the lightening up of vaults contoured in a single or double convex profile and thinner walls. The Abbey of Notre Dame de Morienval in Valois is one such example, with vaulting covering trapezoidal around an ambulatory, lightened supports and vaulting that would be copied at Sens Cathedral and Suger's Basilica of Saint-Denis. While Norman architects would also participate in this development, the Romanesque in the Holy Roman Empire and Lombardy would remain the same with only little experimentation with vaulting. Two more features of Norman Romanesque, the wall buttress and the thick "double shell" wall at window height, were to later play a role in the birth of Gothic architecture. This double wall, a convenient way to reach the windows, hosted a passageway of recycled space that first appeared in the transepts of Bernay and Jumièges Abbey around 1040–50. This window-level passageway gave an illusion of weightlessness, inspired Noyon Cathedral, and would affect the entirety of the Gothic form of art.
Other characteristics of early Gothic architecture, such as vertical shafts, clustered columns, compound piers, plate tracery and groups of narrow openings had evolved during the Romanesque period. The west front of Ely Cathedral exemplifies this development. Internally the three tiered arrangement of arcade, gallery and clerestory was established. Interiors had become lighter with the insertion of more and larger windows.
Norman Sicily is an example of social-cultural interaction between Western, Islamic and Byzantine cultures on the island which gave rise to new concepts of space, structure and decoration. The new Norman rulers started to build various constructions in what is called the Arab-Norman style. They incorporated the best practices of Arab and Byzantine architecture into their own art. In this period there are strong relations between Roger II of Sicily and Abbot Suger in France.
All modern historians agree that Suger's St.-Denis and Henri Sanglier's Sens Cathedral exemplify the development of Norman Romanesque architectural features into the Gothic through a new ordering of interior space, accented by support from supports freestanding and otherwise, and the shift of emphasis from sheer size to admittance of light. Later additions or remodeling prevent the observation of either structure in the time of their construction, the original plan was nonetheless recreated the plans of each and, as Francis Salet points out, Sens (the older of the two) still uses a Romanesque plan with an ambulatory and no transept and echoes with its supports the old Norman alternations. Its three-story high pointed arcade, openings above the vaulting, and windows are not derived from Burgundy, but rather from the triple division present in Normandy and England. Even the sexpartite vaulting of Sens's nave is likely of Norman origin, though the presence of wall ribbing belies Burgundian influence in design. Sens would, in spite of its archaic Norman features, exert much influence. From Sens spread the shrinking or omitting of the transept, the sexpartite vault, alternating interior, and the three-story elevation of future churches.
Even as the role of the monastic orders seemed to diminish in the dawn of the Gothic era, the orders still had their own parts to play in the spread of the Gothic style, also disproving the common evaluation of Romanesque as the rural monastic style and Gothic as the urban ecclesiastical style. Chief among early promoters of this style were the Benedictines in England, France, and Normandy. Gothic churches that can be associated with them include Durham Cathedral in England, the Abbey of St Denis, Vézelay Abbey, and Abbey of Saint-Remi in France. Later Benedictine projects (constructions and renovations), made possible by the continued prominence of the Benedictine order throughout the Middle Ages, include Reims's Abbey of Saint-Nicaise, Rouen's Abbey of Saint-Ouen, Abbey of St. Robert at La Chaise-Dieu, and the choir of Mont Saint-Michel in France; English examples are Westminster Abbey, and the reconstruction of the Benedictine church at Canterbury. The Cistercians also had a hand in the spread of the Gothic style, first utilizing the Romanesque style for their monasteries since their inception as a reflection of their poverty, they became the total disseminators of the Gothic style as far east and south as Poland and Hungary. Smaller orders, the Carthusians and Premonstratensians, also built some 200 churches (usually near cities), but it was the mendicant orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans, who would most affect the change of art from the Romanesque to the Gothic in the 13th and 14th centuries. Of the military orders, the Knights Templar did not much contribute while the Teutonic Order spread Gothic art into Pomerania, East Prussia, and the Baltic region.
Light and windowsEdit
One of the most ubiquitous elements of Gothic architecture is the shrinking of the walls and inserting of large windows. Notables such as Viollet-le-Duc, Focillon, Aubert, and Max Dvořák contended that this is one of the most universal features of the Gothic style. Yet another departure from the Romanesque style, windows grew in size as the Gothic style evolved, eventually almost eliminating all the wall-space as in Paris's Sainte-Chapelle, admitting immense amounts of light into the church. This expansive interior light has been a feature of Gothic cathedrals since their inception, and this is because of the function of space in a Gothic cathedral as a function of light that is very widely referred to in contemporary text. 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 6th-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 remodeling the building to make the interior as bright as possible.
Ever since the remodeled 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 channeled the weight to a supporting shaft with less outward thrust than a semicircular vault. Walls did not need to be so weighty.
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.
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.
Gothic survival and revivalEdit
In 1663 at the Archbishop of Canterbury's residence, Lambeth Palace, a Gothic hammerbeam roof was built to replace that destroyed when the building was sacked during the English Civil War. Also in the late 17th century, some discrete Gothic details appeared on new construction at Oxford University and Cambridge University, notably on Tom Tower at Christ Church, Oxford, by Christopher Wren. It is not easy to decide whether these instances were Gothic survival or early appearances of Gothic revival.
Ireland was a focus for Gothic architecture in the 17th and 18th centuries. Derry Cathedral (completed 1633), Sligo Cathedral (c. 1730), and Down Cathedral (1790–1818) are notable examples. The term "Planter's Gothic" has been applied to the most typical of these.
In England in the mid-18th century, the Gothic style was more widely revived, first as a decorative, whimsical alternative to Rococo that is still conventionally termed 'Gothick', of which Horace Walpole's Twickenham villa, Strawberry Hill, is the familiar example.
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. 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.
While some credit for this new ideation can reasonably be assigned to German and English writers, namely Johannes Vetter, Franz Mertens, and Robert Willis respectively, this emerging style's champion was Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, whose lead was taken by archaeologists, historians, and architects like Jules Quicherat, Auguste Choisy, and Marcel Aubert. In the last years of the 19th century, a trend among study in art history emerged in Germany that a building, as defined by Henri Focillon was an interpretation of space. When applied to Gothic cathedrals, historians and architects used to the dimensions of 17th and 18th Baroque or Neoclassical structures, were astounded by the height and extreme length of the cathedrals compared to its proportionally modest width. Goethe, in the preceding century, was mesmerised by the space within a Gothic church and succeeding historians like Georg Dehio, Walter Ueberwasser, Paul Frankl, and Maria Velte sought to rediscover the methodology used in their construction by making measurements and drawings of the buildings, and reading and making conjectures from documents and treaties pertaining to their construction.
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.
In France, simultaneously, the towering figure of the Gothic Revival was Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who outdid historical Gothic constructions to create a Gothic as it ought to have been, notably at the fortified city of Carcassonne in the south of France and in some richly fortified keeps for industrial magnates. Viollet-le-Duc compiled and coordinated an Encyclopédie médiévale that was a rich repertory his contemporaries mined for architectural details. He effected vigorous restoration of crumbling detail of French cathedrals, including the Abbey of Saint-Denis and famously at Notre Dame de Paris, where many of whose most "Gothic" gargoyles are Viollet-le-Duc's. He taught a generation of reform-Gothic designers and showed how to apply Gothic style to modern structural materials, especially cast iron.
In Germany, the great cathedral of Cologne and the Ulm Minster, left unfinished for 600 years, were brought to completion, while in Italy, Florence Cathedral finally received its polychrome Gothic façade. New churches in the Gothic style were created all over the world, including Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Thailand, India, Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and South Africa.
As in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand utilised neo-Gothic for the building of universities, a fine example being the University of Sydney by Edmund Blacket. In Canada, the Canadian Parliament Buildings in Ottawa designed by Thomas Fuller and Chilion Jones with its huge centrally placed tower is influenced by Flemish Gothic buildings.
Although falling out of favour for domestic and civic use, Gothic for churches and universities continued into the 20th century with buildings such as Liverpool Cathedral, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, New York and São Paulo Cathedral, Brazil. The Gothic style was also applied to iron-framed city skyscrapers such as Cass Gilbert's Woolworth Building and Raymond Hood's Tribune Tower.
Post-Modernism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has seen some revival of Gothic forms in individual buildings, such as the Gare do Oriente in Lisbon, Portugal and a finishing of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico.
- Catenary arch
- Czech Gothic architecture
- English Gothic architecture
- French Gothic architecture
- Italian Gothic architecture
- List of Gothic architecture
- Medieval architecture
- Middle Ages in history
- Polish Gothic architecture
- Portuguese Gothic architecture
- Renaissance of the 12th century
- Spanish Gothic architecture
- Gothic secular and domestic architecture
- Freiburg, Regensburg, Strasbourg, Vienna, Ulm, Cologne, Antwerp, Gdansk, Wroclaw.
- "Gotz" is rendered as "Huns" in Thomas Urquhart's English translation.
- Section from "L'art Gothique," translated into English: "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."
- Ducher 1988, p. 46.
- Jones, Colin (28 May 1999). The Cambridge Illustrated History of France. Cambridge Univeristy Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0-521-66992-4.
The style was widely referred to as opus francigenum - "Franks' work".
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- Nikolaus Pevsner, An Outline of European Architecture.
- Wim Swaan, The Gothic Cathedral
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- Alec Clifton-Taylor, The Cathedrals of England
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- Notes and Queries, No. 9. 29 December 1849
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- John Harvey, The Gothic World
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- Grodecki 1977, p. 25-26.
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- Lang 1980, p. 223: "With this experience behind him, it is not surprising that Trdat's creation of the Cathedral at Ani turned out to be a masterpiece. Even without its dome, the cathedral amazes the onlooker. Technically, it is far ahead of the contemporary Anglo-Saxon and Norman architecture of Europe. Already, pointed arches and clustered piers, whose appearance together is considered one of the hallmarks of mature Gothic architecture, are found in this remote corner of the Christian East."
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To Near Eastern scholars the Armenian cathedral at Ani (989–1001), designed by Trdat (972–1036), seemed to anticipate Gothic.
- Stewart 1959, p. 80: "The most important examples of Armenian architecture are to be found at Ani, the capital, and the most important of these is the cathedral. [...] The most interesting features of this building are its pointed arches and vaults and the clustering or coupling of the columns in the Gothic manner."
- Rice 1972, p. 179: "The interior of Ani cathedral, a longitudinal stone building with pointed vaults and a central dome, built about 1001, is astonishingly Gothic in every detail, and numerous other equally close parallels could be cited."
- Garsoïan 2015, p. 300.
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- ”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, p.14
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- Stewart, Cecil (1959). History of Architectural Development: Early Christian, Byzantine and Romanesque Architecture. Longman.
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- Vasari, Giorgio (1991). The Lives of the Artists. Translated with an introduction and notes by J.C. and P. Bondanella. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199537198.
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- Fletcher, Banister; Cruickshank, Dan, Sir Banister Fletcher's a History of Architecture, Architectural Press, 20th edition, 1996 (first published 1896). ISBN 0-7506-2267-9. Cf. Part Two, Chapter 14.
- Bumpus, T. Francis (1928). The Cathedrals and Churches of Belgium. T. Werner Laurie. ISBN 9781313401852.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gothic architecture.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Gothic architecture.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Gothic.|
- Mapping Gothic France, a project by Columbia University and Vassar College with a database of images, 360° panoramas, texts, charts and historical maps
- Gothic Architecture Encyclopædia Britannica
- Holbeche Bloxam, Matthew (1841). Gothic Ecclesiastical Architecture, Elucidated by Question and Answer. Gutenberg.org, from Project Gutenberg
- Brandon, Raphael; Brandon, Arthur (1849). An analysis of Gothick architecture: illustrated by a series of upwards of seven hundred examples of doorways, windows, etc., and accompanied with remarks on the several details of an ecclesiastical edifice. Archive.org, from Internet Archive