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Gothic

Origins --- Belief System --- Political Situation --- Gothic Architecture

Gothic Arches --- Lancet Arches, Rib Vaults and Flying Buttresses--- Terminology

Gothic in France -- St. Denis---- Chartres Cathedral--- St. Gatien ---- Notre Dame---Chateaux---- Residences---deHonnecourt

Gothic in Britain--- Salisbury--- Wells-- Lincoln -Kings College--Tintern Abbey -Residential---
Four Periods of Gothic in Britain
--- Norman--- Early English-- Decorated -Perpendicular--

-- Gothic in Italy----- Milan----- Palazzo Pubblico Siena----- San Gregorio ----- Venetian Gothic-----

Gothic in Spain and Portugal----- Leon Cathedral --- Seville Cathedral ----- Castle

Gothic in the North------ Colognel----------- Geneva

Castles----- Seville Cathedral ----- Tower of London ----- Lincoln Cathedral and Castle

Origins

In architecture, as in any of the arts, it is rare to find one person, one building, one moment that heralds the beginning of a new style. With the Gothic period both one person and one building can be seen to do exactly that. Rib vaults had been used in Durham cathedral and in Worms. Pointed arches could be found in many areas of Europe, but the mixture of the ribbed vault, the pointed arch and the external buttressing to support the roof allowed the thick stone walls of the Romanesque to be transformed into walls made almost entirely of glass. This was the vision of Abbot Suger.

Belief System

The Romanesque mind was obsessed with sin, guilt and death. Tympanums and narrative capitals from this period portray stories from the bible about the prospects of souls who stray from the path and face their demons in hell. By 1150, the beginning of the Gothic period, some of the weight of the earlier period was starting to lift. While most people were Christian, at least on the surface, there were many Jews and some Muslims throughout Europe. The pagan beliefs were still very strong, particularly in rural areas, and these intermingled with the Christian beliefs.

Churches were built to honor the Christian God and Saints, but there were still many pagan rituals performed both inside and outside the church. May Day rituals, the Summer Solstice, the Spring Equinox, the harvest festival, and many other pagan feast days were incorporated into the calendar. Most Christian festival dates were originally pagan and were adapted by the Christians as a compromising gesture.

By the 12th century, the more lighthearted approach to Christian beliefs can be found on carvings and manuscript illumination throughout Christendom. Carving on buildings started to concentrate as much on foliage and floral subjects as demons and devils. Mouldings began to show medallions with figures, signs of the zodiac and marvelous beasts and birds, both from Christian and pagan sources.

Political Situation

By the early years of the Gothic period the boundaries of modern Europe were very far from being set. France and England had been immersed in conflicts since the Norman invasion of 1066. Questions of ruling power increased according to the inefficiency of the rulers. The resulting turmoil lead to the Hundred Years War 1337.

 

Central Europe saw the growth of a series of nation states. The successive rise and fall of royal dynasties, all warring with the Lombards of North Italy, the French to the east and the Mongol invaders and Turks from the east kept fortified towns a necessity. Within the nation was a constant rivalry between the church and the ruling parties.

The 13th and 14th centuries were the time of the great Mongol Empire, the Muslim ruling power that extended from Turkey up to Russia. The Mongols were a continuing threat to Europe until the time of the Black Death and the beginning of the Ottoman Empire.

Gothic Architecture

From the Roman times with Titus and Hadrian to the Byzantine structures commissioned by Justinian, there was a central governing agency that acted as patron and taxed the people in order to provide them with a place to worship. In contrast, Gothic Cathedrals were built by the people of the town who would often help with the construction on a volunteer basis. There was a fair bit of competition between towns as to whose was the nicest cathedral, and people, both rich and poor, donated their time and goods. The representation of nature; birds, animals, leaves and flowers, found on the churches was translated onto residential and civic buildings of the period in tracery, mouldings and stained glass.

"The dull mind rises to truth through that which is material"

With these words, written in his Consecration of the Church of St. Denis, Abbé Suger, the abbot of St. Denis, a Romanesque church on the outskirts of Paris, effectively created the milestone church that witnessed the transformation from the Romanesque to the Gothic style.

Suger was the first to embrace the more illuminating side of Christianity. The architecture was meant to provide the faithful with an experience of heaven on earth within the church walls. The church was meant to embody the holy spirit, the guiding light, and for this the walls had to open up and allow the entry of that golden light. His church, built in the early 10th century, became a model for much of the later European Gothic.

Gothic architecture is based on the pointed or lancet arch.

Gothic Arches - the Lancet

Gothic Arch Flying Buttress Finial Gargoyle Abuttment or Buttress Boss Rib Clerestory Clerestory Nave Arcade Lancet Arch Column

The key to Gothic architecture is the pointed arch. From the 11th century onwards, builders were experimenting with pointed arches and, as a result, buildings were getting higher and higher. The principle was clear; a pointed arch could carry much more weight than a rounded arch.

The first pointed arches were lancet arches, tall, thin pointed arches like the medieval lances. During the Early English period these were found paired or in triplets, often with the central arch taller. To protect the lead and glass of the window, a hoodmould was developed.

A hoodmould is a projecting peice of stone that follows the upper curve of the window opening deflecting the rain and snow. The space at the top of the paired windows between the hoodmould and the arches was then cut out to provide more light. It was soon filled with a foliated circle(see trefoil, quatrefoil or multifoil). These stone shapes supporting the glass were the first plate tracery.

As Europe became more prosperous and more safe, decoration flourished. Windows became thinner and taller and the tracery became more abundant. In England this Decorated period flourished under the three King Edwards.

Gothic Arches - the Later Styles

Gothic Arch Flying Buttress Finial Gargoyle Abuttment or Buttress Boss Rib Clerestory Clerestory Nave Arcade Lancet Arch Column

The Roman arch is a one centered arch. The two -centered arch, such as the lancet arch, has many variations, as seen above in the equilateral and cinquefoil arches. The pointed arch in a roof structure, as opposed to the semicircular of the Romanesque period, allowed a freedom in the plan to escape the constraints of the barrel vault.

Having a semicircular vault ceiling dictated a continuous bearing along a solid wall which limited both the width of the vault and the height of the ceiling. The weight of the continuous bearing allowed only small openings in the walls for windows or entranceways and limited plan possibilities.

With the introduction of flying buttresses (below), windows started to dominate the wall space and pointed arches were replaced by arches that allowed more light in ata the top.

The first ogee curves started to appear in the late 13th century in Europe. These can be found on doorways and windows, particularly in manor houses and residences. The four-centered arch, generally thought to be a Tudor style, is found in many Perpendicular buildings, among them King's College Cambridge.

Rib Vaults and Flying Buttresses

Gothic Arch

The rib vault transferred the weight not to a wall but to a series of columns thus opening the wall and freeing the plan. In addition, the center points on the two-sided arch could be moved to allow variation in the distance between the bearing points. The rib vault concentrated the vertical and horizontal vectors of force onto a single bearing point. The vertical thrust went down the column, the lateral was transferred to a flying buttress that accepted the roof weight and transferred it to a detached pier outside the building. These elements can be found prior to the Gothic period in Durham, Autun, and Worms Cathedral, amongst others, but St. Denis was the first instance when they were used in conjunction for a predetermined effect.

With the pointed arch and all that it implied, the architect no longer looked at the structure as a series of cubed shapes assembled in relation to a series of semicircular arches.

Instead the structure of the building was slowly pared down to reveal a basic skeletal form that was filled in with windows instead of stone blocks.

The pointed arch made possible higher vaults with many varied forms which allowed for a wider range of designs. The flying buttresses removed the weight from the exterior walls making the exterior walls into glass curtains that provided an interior that was a lantern in glass. Stained glass filled up the wall spaces with stories from the testaments, while sculpture and tracery in the portals provided symbolic figures and icons.

The Gothic church preserved the cruciform plan of the Romanesque churches, but it did away with the large masonry masses that characterize the older structures.

Other Gothic structures used the rib vaults, but flying buttresses are only found on churches.

Gothic Terminology

The vocabulary of Gothic cathedrals is important in the modern world because much of it is still being used in larger buildings, and many of the ornaments, once made in stone, have been translated into wood in the North American residential buildings, and are found on Gothic Revival buildings.

Not only the vocabulary but also the building methods of the Gothic masons have come down over the centuries and are cherished by those who appreciate good buildings. Lancet arches, finials, bosses, and aisle decorations can all be found on 19th and 20th century structures.

 

Gothic Vocabulary

Gothic Vocabulary

 

Gothic in France 1150 - 1550

The church of St. Denis was the final resting place for most of the French monarchy starting with Dagobert I (628 - 632). Consequently, the consecration of St. Denis in 1144 was attended by the French monarch of the time, Louis VII and his queen, plus a wide variety of archbishops and bishops from all over France and England. Being impressed with the soaring luminous interior that Suger had created, these dignitaries returned to their own diocese and took the first opportunity to create their own luminous Gothic cathedrals.

While Gothic is largely perceived as a style for cathedrals and churches, there are many other types of Gothic structures including city halls, law courts, town houses and castles, known in France as Chateaux. Chateaux were not only the residence of the local ruling family, but often also the seat of local government.

Smaller commercial and residential structures were either stone or half-timber, a construction method used in England and Germany as well.

St. Denis - Paris

St. Denis is the patron saint of France and was the first Bishop of Paris. When he died (250), north of Paris, a shrine was erected. Many years later, in 637, the first Abbey of St. Denis was built. It became a Benedictine Monastery.

The Basilica of St. Denis was started in the Romanesque period as can be seen in this Western Portal. After a fire in the apse, the manager left in charge of the church, Abbé Suger, decided to build a structure that would let in heavenly light. On the strength of what he had heard and read about the Hagia Sophia, he redesigned the east end of the church. In doing so he created the Gothic style.

As a loyal friend of Kings Louis VI (who married Eleanor of Aquitaine) and Louis VII, he was the manager of the church as it was erected while they were busy with Crusades.

Romanesque Front of St. Denis

East End and Choir of St. Denis - Paris ___1137 - 44__

Abbe Suger's design for the Benedictine Chapel of St Denis was the first to incorporate intersecting stone pointed arched ribs to bear the weight of the structure so that thin walls could be filled with glass.

St. Denis was named after Dionysius the Areopagite whose work Celestial Hierarchy outlines his view that the creative source in the universe is light. God is absolute light and thus the source of all beauty. Suger translated this theology into a solid physical form.

Nave

St. Denis - Paris 1122

Gothic architecture is characterized by pointed arches or windows, cross vaulting, flying buttresses, and twin towers on the facade. None of this is new, but all were exploited differently than they had been to best offer the "essential light". Because the arches could vary in height and in width, this opened endless possibilities for both the nave and the transepts so that light could flood in from the apse. Walls were not thought of so much as main support systems but as panels that could supply light, the support coming from the buttresses and vaults.

The West facade of the church is Romanesque, but the east is entirely Gothic and filled with light.

Transept tracery lancet arch Triforium

Chartres Cathedral

1194 - 1260

Chartres Cathedral was originally a Romanesque Cathedral, used in pilgrimages to the Vierge Noire. It burnt down in the 12th century, and the current cathedral takes its place. The south tower (1145 - 1170) is of the original design. The north tower (1507 - 1514 ) makes a striking contrast to the earlier with its intricate tracery and detailing.

Originally there were nine major towers planned, but only two got built.

Cartres Cathedral Rose Window Tower Parapet Portal

Chartres Cathedral

North Transept Triple Porch

The triple porches on the north and south transepts are famous in church architecture. It is largely because of the carving on these porches that Chartres Cathedral has become a UNESCO world heritage site.


 

Doors of Chartres cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

Porch detail

In contrast to the heroic figures found on the Parthenon friezes and pediment, these sculptures are of biblical kings, queens and saints who stand benignly on tiny platforms projecting from tall, thin pillars. Their bodies are elongated, this being emphasized by the pleats of their full-length robes. The faces are realistic and each figure carries a symbol of his reign or purpose.

Here on the south porch we see Paul, John, James Major, James Minor, Bartholomew. Saint Paul is shown carrying his sword, Saint John Domascene is shown carrying his hymn on an Arabic scroll. The figures reflect an ethereal calm which is the general style of Gothic architectural sculpture.

Chartres Cathedral

St. Gatien Cathedral Tours

St. Gatien was one of the six bishops who accompanied St. Denis (of Paris) to Rome where they were assigned as missionaries to Gaul in the third century. He was responsible for bringing Christianity to Tours and the Loire valley. The cathedral took three centuries to build, from the late 12th to the 16th centuries.

Notice how the towers of St. Gatien are not exactly the same, although they are more similar than those of Chartres.

St. Gatiens

Notre Dame 1163 - 1250

Notre Dame sits on the Isle de France and is possibly the best known French Cathedral, being close to the bustling west bank of Paris.

Notice how the transept - here the south - is much smaller than in English cathedrals. The transept also sports a huge rose window.

The most remarkable feature of this cathedral are the flying buttresses.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame 1163 - 1250

Notice how the flying buttresses are exposed.

This is the last European Gothic church to have galleries above the aisles. The open roof space over the gallery into the nave has circular openings underneath. Also there are pointed arched clerestory windows. There are single round columns for the main arcade.

Notre Dame

Tympanum Notre Dame

This illustrates the French interest in integrating sculpture into an exterior. Figures of saints, vices and virtues, and biblical stories are shown on either side of the doors. Usually above the doorways in the tympanum were angels and saints.

Tympanum

Château d'Amboise 1434

The chateau is originally Gothic but has many Renaissance additions.

Amboise

Chateau de Blois

With the porcupine of Louis XII on the lintel. Note the double gablets with ogee curves over the mounted figure.

Blois

Chateau Langeais

This is one of the earlier chateaux. Each bed chamber had a fireplace with a huge mantle. The four posters on the bed were to support heavy curtains used both for privacy and to keep out the cold.

Blois

Half Timbered Buildings - Tours

Half-timbered structures were prevalent during the middle ages. Posts, rails and struts were assembled in a frame, then the spaces were filled with plaster, wattle and daub, or other materials, then sometimes faced with a more durable material like brick.

Half Timber

Medieval Doorway Tours

This half-timbered building has carvings along the door posts and an ogee curve over the door.

half timber

Villard de Honnecourt Drawings

The medieval method of drawing buildings and ornament can be seen in the travel album of Villard de Honnecourt, one of the leading architects of his time. His notebooks show a clear concern for the geometry that governed the period, largely Euclidian and very simple compared to the complex system set out a few years later by Alberti.

The ornament shown here is quite clearly set within two circles as opposed to being created on a larger Pythagorean based grid.

Mathematics had been studied throughout the middle ages by scholars and monks who were concerned with the Golden Section or Golden Ratio, both created by use of the compass.

half timber Ogee Curve Molding Animal Molding

Structure of Flying Buttresses

Villard de Honnecourt also provided a drawing of Flying Buttresses that shows the emphasis of the vertical weight of the finials as necessary to support the thrust of the buttressed arches coming from the main structure. The design of the buttress is set up exclusively as a support, and is not in any way laid out on a musical or geometric grid as the Classical and Renaissance masters prepared. The buttress links squarely from one to another and both are thrusting onto a final pillar that has ample weight on top to support it.

Most of Gothic structural engineering was designed through trial and error, as was the structural work done by the Greeks. Over time the diameters of the columns and pillars became smaller as the height was increased until the proportions could be dictated by taste rather than necessity.

half timber Ogee Curve Molding Animal Molding

 

English Gothic

England was the first nation state. By the year 1000, it was ordered, united and rich. It had representative institutions and the people felt some autonomy. Under royal patronage, English art, literature and architecture flourished.

The king and the church worked hand in hand to try to provide a stable environment. Large gifts of land were given by the kings to monasteries, often at the expense of earls and noblemen who forfeited the land either for disloyalty or some other disfavor. These monasteries became centers of a self-consciously English culture.

The Anglo Saxon Chronicle, written by King Alfred the Great in 890, is the text of the formal written agreement between the king and his people. Successive kings were not as influential as Alfred, but by 1050 England had a high degree of political sophistication. The church was part of this.

English Gothic began in Durham Cathedral. The pointed arches of the vaulting opened up the nave and crossing in a way that had never been seen in England before. The rounded arch was used for some time after this in side aisles and doorways, but the pointed arch was always used for vaulting.

English Gothic differs from continental Gothic in that it is usually only the spire which is very tall. The west end may have towers, but these are not exaggerated as they are in the French models. The English church is surrounded by green space and is enclosed by a wall. The French cathedral is found in the middle of town with relatively little green space.

Much less emphasis is given to calculations, ratios and fractions, and more emphasis is given to an organic growth of the design based on harmony of forms. The idea of the buildings shown is to provide a framework for the light entering the building.

There is an emphasis in all designs on verticality.

Boxley Parish Church 1300s

Boxley Church is situated on an old Roman road that extends from Rochester to Thurnham. The church was part of a large abbey that housed a wooden statue of Christ that was so perfectly crafted that the eyes could blink, the limbs could move, and the face could smile or frown. Monks hiding behind the scenes made good use of these movements to help separate pilgrims from their money, Once discovered, these deceptions gave Henry VIII justification to destroy the abbey, along with many others, in the 1530s.

The Early English Gothic style is evident in the minimal decoration and overall heaviness of the design. The window on the west facade is later than the body of the church.

Boxley

Avebury 1100 - 1900

Like many rural churches in Britain, Saint James in Avebury was started in the Anglo-Saxon/pre- Norman period around 1000 AD.

The Normans made the largest addition to the building with the tower and the south doorway with its beautifully carved arch.

Over the next 700 years, many additions were made according to fashion of the time but all in the Gothic style.

Avebury

Salisbury 1220 - 1380

When Salisbury Cathedral was built, England was still a double country, both Saxon and French, and it was governed by the Normans. England was largely feudal until the 1500's.

Unlike abbeys that are constructed with basically one abbott and a few patrons, cathedrals were built by the people of the town. There was a fair bit of competition between towns as to whose was the nicest cathedral, and people, both rich and poor, would help with the construction on a volunteer basis.

 

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury 1220 - 1380

In the doorway at Salisbury you can see that the pointed arch has become thinner and has a bit of decoration. The Early English style is known for strong moulding around the doors. Here at Salisbury, carved heads direct rain water away from the building. Above the door is a quatrefoil, a circle with four leaves, surmounted by a cross.

English cathedrals are generally found slightly outside town and on a "green". The market would have been outside the Cathedral on market days, but the rest of the week would have been for "common grazing".

Spouts and gargoyles can be found around the building for deflecting water.

Salisbury

Salisbury 1220 - 1380

The spire for Salisbury cathedral - 123m or 404 feet - was added in the 14th century, almost 100 years after the rest of the structure was finished. The basic height of the building is about 120'. The west front of the building is relatively flat compared to French cathedrals, and the building itself is relatively low and horizontal in nature compared to the taller French cathedrals.

Salisbury West End

Salisbury 1220 - 1380

Salisbury is indicative of the Early English Gothic period.

There is very little tracery, the length and delightful simplicity of the design are evident. In the interior, black marble is used to good effect next to light stone piers. Here, the aisles beside the cloister show the simplicity of design.

The rib vault is unadorned and the aisle has a blind arch arcade surmounted by foliated roundels.

Salisbury Cathedral

Wells Cathedral

Again this is the Early English Gothic style. 150' wide frontage is covered with 400 statues. In the middle ages all of these would have been painted in bright colours. The front of the cathedral looks as if it had been carved from wood.

 

The plans for these buildings were done by master masons.

wells

Wells Cathedral

The interior has an astonishing scissor bracing in the nave. The buildings differ from the Romanesque as a result of the ribbed vault. In the Romanesque, everything was assembled over the top of a series of cube-shaped units. In the Gothic, the weight swung down through a series of arches and braces none so elegant as these. While the French kept their flying buttresses largely exterior, the English hid them in the triforium or incorporated them into the interior of the structure. The roofs were higher and the space more elongated.

 

 

Wells bracing

Wells Cathedral

The roof of Wells is important because it illustrates the difference in proportions between the Romanesque - which would have been squared vaulting - and the Gothic which is clearly elongated.

Until Benjamin Franklin invented the lightening conductor in the eighteenth century, tall buildings were prone to lightning. This is the inner stone roof. The outer roof was made of wood, and burn as a result of lightning, but the interior would be protected by the stone.

Wells

Lincoln Cathedral

Much of the front facade of Lincoln Cathedral is Romanesque. The spires, gablets, lancet arches and buttressing indicative of the Gothic period were added on top of the existing cathedral.

 

This view of the south side shows the buttresses and spires.

 

 

Lincoln South

Lincoln Cathedral

Many of the openings on the Gothic portion of Lincoln have the two lancet arches with a quatrefoil opening as shown here.

While there is a lot going on with this stone, it is still essentially mullions and arches. In the later Perpendicular style, the tracery becomes more varied.

 

 

Lincoln

Lincoln Cathedral

The screen at Lincoln contains many Christian symbols as well as many traditional Celtic and pagan symbols such as The Green Man.

Note the ogee arches.

 

 

WLincoln Screen

King's College Cambridge 1446 - 1515

This is at the very end of the Gothic period and you can see the contrast with the early English Gothic simplicity in the Perpendicular style chapel. This is one of the finest examples of late British Gothic. The north and south walls are almost exclusively glass, the buttresses and heavy finials bear the weight of the walls.

While the twin towers on the front of the chapel are rounded as in the Romanesque designs, they are ribbed from top to bottom and covered with crockets and tracery at the top.

Cambridge

King's College Cambridge

The windows are constructed from mullions and delicate tracery, with windows containing multiple muntin bars.

Fan vaults are the chief beauty of this chapel. The designs have a definite root in ship and marine design. The hulls have a structural design much similar to the interior vaulting. The window tracery is also reminiscent of inverted ship hulls.

Kings College Cambrige

King's College Cambridge


Gothic Architecture was characterized by pointed arches or windows, cross vaulting, flying buttresses, and twin towers on the facade. None of this is new, but all were exploited differently than they had been to best offer the "essential light". Because the arches could vary in height and in width, this opened endless possibilities for both the nave and the transepts so that light could flood in from the apse. Walls were not thought of so much as main support systems but as panels that could supply light, the support coming from the buttresses and vaults.

Cambridge

Tintern Abbey

Christian churches provide the main stylistic elements of the Gothic period, but these alone would not have been sufficient either stylistically or culturally to have inspired the great revival of the style in the 19th century.

As Ernest Dimnet has pointed out, "Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul".

During the 13th and 14th centuries, monasteries grew in size and importance until they were very powerful forces within the society wielding immense fortunes and huge tracts of land. By 1530, Tinturn Abbey in Wales had 20,000 sheep and over 1 million acres of land.

Thatched Cottage

Tintern Abbey

Of the 650 monasteries in England and Wales, a third have gone completely, another third were transformed into churches, and the final third were left in ruins. Those responsible for dissolving the individual churches were happy to do so. They helped ‘redistribute' the steel, glass and wood to make their own barns and homes. The square blocks disappeared like popcorn. Within twenty miles of all of these monasteries are gorgeous old homes with very sturdy foundations. The designs made for a particular spot, however, the arches, capitals, and pinnacles, would be a dead giveaway if found in a house, and would remind the occupants that a holy site had been desecrated. Many of these were consequently left standing.

It is these ruins, scattered across the country, that left a lasting impression on the followers of the Romantic movement. Tintern Abbey alone inspired countless paintings, poems and stories by Romantics as celebrated as Turner, Wordsworth and Tennyson. In his poem Tears, Idle Tears (right), Tennyson said he was inspired by bygone memories.

The Romantic Soul was defenseless against such lyrics. Gothic arches popped up everywhere.

Art Moderne Lobby

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
The earliest pipe of half-awaken'd birds
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more.

Winchester England

Half timber housing in Winchester.

Thatched Cottage

Outside Winchester, England

The thatched cottage either in stucco or brick was a main feature of British rural architecture. The roof would probably have been too flammable for city dwellers after 1666.

 

 

Art Moderne Lobby

The Four Periods of English Gothic

Gothic architecture in England is generally divided into four periods; Norman in the eleventh and twelfth centuries as seen in Durham Cathedral, Early English in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as seen in the Salisbury Cathedral, Decorated from 1290-1340 as seen in Lincoln Cathedral, and Perpendicular 1340 - 1530 as seen in King's College Cambridge. Northern Europe had equivalent periods with slightly different names.

The architecture of what is now Great Britain and Northern Europe was largely Gothic until the classical styles came in. If you understand the four basic Gothic periods, you understand most of the first half of architectural history over the past 1000 year, as well as a lot of the second half because the Gothic was revived by the Romantics and Victorians from about 1700 until 1950. If a 'Gothic style' building was built before 1600, it was in one of these four styles. If it was built after 1700, it is some form of Gothic Revival.

A comparison of cloisters from these periods illustrates the difference in style and decoration.

Cloisters were the place where monks and members of the church could indulge in quite study. A person (with adequate resources) who wanted to escape from daily life for a period of time headed to a monastery or a cloister for peace and recovery. Monasteries were among the only buildings that habitually channeled fresh water into the area and sewage away. It was only when Greek and Arab medical texts began to be brought back from the East, that medieval people began to see the value of sanitation and hygiene. Cloisters provided a retreat that would reknew the life forces.

When King Henry VIII demolished the monastery system in Britain in the early 16th century the common people of Britain revolted in unprecedented numbers.

 

Norman - Durham

The Norman period is really late medieval.

Most of the arches are round headed, the traditional Roman arch, but there are a few pointed arches sprinkled about, enough to make it not really a Roman or Romanesque style.

The silhouette of the arch opening up onto the Durham cloister pretty much says it all; no decoration and a mix of rounded and pointed arches.

It is no surprise that universities were the first to revive the Gothic style for large structures outside the church system. The first medieval universities were actually monasteries or cloisters. Here is where you would send a child who was gifted in reading, writing or science. True, the child would need to commit to the cloth, shave his head, remain celibate, wear a monk's habit, and spend a good deal of his day praying or singing, not to mention the fasting, but it was probably preferable to the hard life in the fields. Monasteries were also the first to perfect the production of brandy and wine, so it wasn't all bad.

 

Durham Cathedral Cloister

Durham Cloister

Durham Cathedral is the first cathedral in Britain to have Gothic elements. You can see from the cloisters that it is still largely Romanesque.

The arches on the main building are round-headed, but the arches that open onto the cloister are starting to be pointed and there is the beginning of decoration; the top of the arch has an interlaced lancet pattern.

 

Durham Cloister

Salisbury 1220 - 1380

The difference between the very stark cloister of Durham cathedral and the more stylized Early English cloister at Salisbury is striking.

The arch opening onto the cloister is topped by a large foliated circle. Two pairs of lancet arches supported by colonnettes are also topped by quatrefoils contained within another pointed arch.

The opening is wide but very much more ornate than the Durham example.

Salisbury Cloister

Salisbury 1220 - 1380

The arches are more pointed and more decorative. In the doorway at Salisbury you can see that the pointed arch has become thinner and has a bit of decoration. The Early English style is known for strong moulding around the doors. Here at Salisbury, carved heads direct rain water away from the building. Above the door is a quatrefoil, a circle with four leaves, surmounted by a cross.

Salisbury Cathedral

Lincoln Cathedral

By 1300 and the Decorated period shown in Lincoln Cathedral, carving is popping out everywhere.

The lancet arch became taller and thinner, and then started to grow mullions, vertical stone supports, within the window making pairs of lancets within other pairs of lancets, with foliage and carving along every line. The basic shape of the arch in the cloister of Lincoln Cathedral is the same as that of Salisbury, but every surface is covered with ornament.

wells

Lincoln Cathedral

The arcade of the cloister is also very similar, but, again, there are fiddley details, mouldings and leafy patterns everywhere. The mullions are also much more pronounced.

 

 

Wells bracing

King's College Cathedral

By 1340, the Decorated period had given way to the Perpendicular. This was the final phase of Gothic stone decoration. The lancet arch of earlier periods was replaced by a wide selection of curved, multiple-radiused arches that wound around the window panes like so much lace.

 

Wells

King's College Cambridge


Over 200 years, engineering types had been experimenting with the strength of stone and had found that by placing supporting buttresses outside the structure, flying out from it and thus called flying buttresses, the actual wall became thinner and thinner, more glass could then be used to let in light. Durham Cathedral's walls are about 10 percent glass. King's College Cambridge is about 70 percent. The difference between walking through Durham Cathedral on a sunny day and walking through King's College is literally like night and day.

Cambridge

Gothic in Italy

Because of the strong presence of Roman architecture throughout Italy, the Gothic style never penetrated too deeply. The conspicuous verticality of the Gothic style is tempered by horizontal stripes of marble, cornices, and string courses. Sculpture continued to be refined and more lifelike than the northern Gothic sculptures were, and not so prevalent on exterior surfaces.

A particular variation on the Gothic is found in Venice. The Venetian Gothic

 

 

Milan Cathedral

1387 - 1450

This cathedral was begun in the 14th century as a basilica. The Gothic style arrived in Milan during the construction, and while the main body of the church is a basilica style, the tracery and ornament are distinctly Gothic. Milan was conquered by the French in 1500, and the design took on a northern flavour. In 1527, archbishop Carlo Borromeo commissioned Pellegrino dei Pellegrini to continue work. Since Pellegrini had worked in Rome during the High Renaissance, his work could be nothing but Renaissance.

Milan cathedral

Milan Cathedral

Judging by this detail, the cathedral is clearly Gothic. The quatrefoil is found on the stairway atop the roof which leads to the famous "Madunina", the small statue of the virgin, is the most venerated figure of Milan's images.

"O mia bèla Madunina, che te brilet de luntan
tüta dòra e piscinina, Ti te dòminet Milan
sòta Ti se viiv la vita, se sta mai cuj man in man. "

Quatrefoil

Quatrefoil

Milan Cathedral

The stairway on the roof is edged with gothic designs. The doorway on the top has a trefoil opening, and is capped with an ornate canopy found surrounding the upper story. Again we see a mixture of western and eastern imagery: the canopies are western, the door openings are more eastern.

Milan Staircase

Milan Cathedral

 

Gargoyle - Milan

Milan Cathedral

 

 

Finial - Milan

Milan Cathedral

 

 

 

Finial - Milan

Palazzo Publicco - Siena

The Palazzo Publicco (public palace) or City Hall in Sienna was built during the 14th century. It is a traditional palazzo design with historygothic/gothic influences. The tower has machicolations and crenellation.

This palazzo, like that in Florence and other Italian cities, is a testament to municipal life and business enterprise. Like the others, it opens up onto a large bustling central square where the city's commercial life unfolds. This type of building was unthinkable in the early middle ages. There was simply not enough of a middle class to warrant its existence.

Palazzo Publico

Palazzo Publico - Siena

The center of the palazzo is the contained inner courtyard.

Palazzo Publico

Cappella della Piazza - Siena

The Cappella della Piazza is the doorway into the palazzo. After the Black death in 1340, two thirds of Sienna's population had died. The third that were left built this portal onto the existing building to commemorate their dead.

Like most Italian medieval buildings, this building is a mixture of Gothic and Classical influences.

The Cappella della Piazza is built in the Renaissance style, even though it is a 14th century structure. It is built in the loggia style. It is crowned with a very large cornice and a frieze of griffins, both Classical. The pillars have niches with statues of saints. The niche design is the only element here that is Gothic in nature.

Palazzo Publico

San Gregorio - Venice

Here is an illustration of the Venetian style of Gothic architecture. See also Venetian Gothic.

Palace of Knossus

San Gregorio

A drawing of the above.

Palace of Knossus

Venetian Gothic

Venice only became part of Italy in the 19th century. Prior to that, Venice was an independant city-state along the rade route from the West to the East. Politically and economically it was a powerful force on the Meditteranean.

Venetian Gothic is a variation of Gothic that was originally unique to vencie, then later moved to other parts of Italy. It can now be found in Naples Florida as well

Palace of Knossus

Gothic in Spain and Portugal

The church of St. Denis was the final resting place for most of the French monarchy starting with Dagobert I (628 - 632). Consequently, the consecration of St. Denis in 1144 was attended by the French monarch of the time, Louis VII and his queen, plus a wide variety of archbishops and bishops from all over France and England. Being impressed with the soaring luminous interior that Suger had created, these dignitaries returned to their own diocese and took the first opportunity to create their own luminous Gothic cathedrals.

While Gothic is largely perceived as a style for cathedrals and churches, there are many other types of Gothic structures including city halls, law courts, town houses and castles.

Leon Cathedral

1320 - 1570

The emphasis on Judgment Day was still apparent in the Gothic in Spain.

 

dedicated to Santa María de la Regla

Leon Cathedral

Leon Cathedral

1320 - 1570

The emphasis on Judgment Day was still apparent in the Gothic in Spain.

 

dedicated to Santa María de la Regla

Leon Cathedral

Leon Cathedral

1320 - 1570

The emphasis on Judgment Day was still apparent in the Gothic in Spain.

 

dedicated to Santa María de la Regla

Leon Cathedral

Leon Cathedral

1320 - 1570

Here is another illustration of angels measuring the sins of souls. Those found wanting are thrown into boiling water by devils. (on the right).


 

Leon Cathedral

Leon University
Rib

In the courtyard of the university they have reconstructed a gothic Rib vault with bosses, tiercerons, and pointed arhces.

Palace of Knossus

 

Gothic in the North

During the 10th to the 14th centuries, Europe was divided into a series of city-states that were run by kings and feudal lords ostensibly under the authority of the Holy Roman Empire, but often answering only to themselves.

 

Cologne

The Cologne cathedral is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it was spared during the bombings of the Second World War while most of the Romanesque churches were more or less demolished.

Architecturally it is interesting because while it follows the basic rules of Gothic construction: the flying buttresses, crockets, trefoils, quatrefoil, finials, etc, but it took 600 years to finish.

Begun in 1248, the nave and aisles were completed within 100 years, then money and enthusiasm ran out. Spurts of work continued over the next 200 years, but it wasn't until the Romantic movement of the 19th century. The consecration of the building was not until 1880.

Mycenae

Cologne - South Transept

The transept of the cathedral is more indicative of 15th century Gothic architecture than the west front seen above. The great expanses of glass are from a later time period than the doors.

Mycenae

Geneva

The Cologne cathedral is remarkable for many reasons, not the least of which is that it was spared during the bombings of the Second World War while most of the Romanesque churches were more or less demolished.

Architecturally it is interesting because while it follows the basic rules of Gothic construction: the flying buttresses, crockets, trefoils, quatrefoil, finials, etc, but it took 600 years to finish.

Begun in 1248, the nave and aisles were completed within 100 years, then money and enthusiasm ran out. Spurts of work continued over the next 200 years, but it wasn't until the Romantic movement of the 19th century. The consecration of the building was not until 1880.

Mycenae

Cologne - South Transept

The transept of the cathedral is more indicative of 15th century Gothic architecture than the west front seen above. The great expanses of glass are from a later time period than the doors.

Mycenae

Cologne

The Cologne Cathedral is an important part of the pilgrimage route because of three skulls acquired by Cologne in the 12th century. These relics are gold-crowned skulls believed to have belonged to the Three Magi.

 

Mycenae

AR173

Gothic Extra Reading and Films

Books

Fletcher, Sir Bannister, A History of Architecture, London: Athlone Press, University of London, 1896

Follett, Ken, Pillars of the Earth, William Morrow, New York 1989.

Rutherford, Edward, Sarum, The Novel of England, New York, Ivy Books, 1987

 

 

Films

Braveheart (1995) - Mell Gibson

First Knight (1995) - Sean Connery

Henry V (1989) - Kenneth Branagh

Lionheart (1987) - Gabriel Byrne

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Prospero's Books (1991)

Robin Hood (1991)

Saint Patrick: The Irish Legend (2000)

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

The Lion in Winter (1968)

The Lion in Winter (2003)

The Name of the Rose (1986)

Tristan and Isolde (2006)

Willow (1988)

 

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