Gothic Arch

Topics: Gothic architecture, Romanesque architecture, Flying buttress Pages: 14 (4998 words) Published: August 13, 2013
Tom Bender * March 26, 1964
Top Award Winner – 1964 National Architectural History Student Competition

A building is more than an assemblage of materials to provide a shelter for man. It is an expression of the society that created it, its forms shaped by the outlook, values, orientation and maturity of the society, and reflecting the nature, strengths and weaknesses of the various aspects of the society. It in turn shapes and directs the society in its role as a container for its activities and as a physical expression of its culture. The impact of a building often lasts far beyond the ideas expressed in and by it, as the architecture of Imperial Rome has even today an effect upon the Italian people by recalling to them the achievements of the past and allowing them to share vicariously in its grandeur and achievements rather than to use their own efforts to develop an architecture and culture relevant to their own time. As our society becomes more urban, buildings form an ever increasing percentage of our physical environment. Their role as a physical container of our activities, forming a constant concrete referent to our actions and thoughts, increases the need for a stronger understanding of their effect upon the society, and an ability to express well in them the philosophy, outlook, and feelings of our society. A clear understanding of the role of buildings in history can help us greatly toward a better understanding of the problem. Our knowledge of the architecture of the past must often be reinterpreted as our understanding of it grows, and as we gain historical perspective and escape many of the biases of previous periods. Our understanding of the Gothic period has changed from an outright rejection during the Renaissance, of the emotionality expressed in it, to a structuralistic explanation concurrent with the development of structural theory and the technological age. Today, because of the subsequent development and expansion of the social sciences, we are able to reinterpret the development of this architecture on a broader basis and, with a greater knowledge of the range and importance of the many factors that contributed to its development, obtain a fuller and more accurate understanding of it. The development of the Gothic spirit in the late Romanesque period was a result of the change and development of European society from the eighth through the eleventh century, and of the final renaissance and reconstitution of the culture following the ending of Roman influence in Europe and the assimilation of eastern invaders into the society. The establishment of the kingdom of France by Hugh Capet in 987 A.D. initiated a process of checking the power of the feudal barons over the people. Combined with the growth of independent cities, this caused a change in the structure of society which added impetus to the development and crystallization of its institutions and conceptual patterns. The development of Christianity continued and great strides were made in the relation of its theology and practice to the society of its time. The harmony of its philosophy with the life of the people reached a level unequalled in the history of European society. Its process of educating men to the ethos "not based on might or right, but on conviction and the communality of moral attitude"1 had largely been accomplished by the eleventh century and all of Europe moved on the basis of Christian morals. There were, of course, men whose actions were diametrically opposed to this doctrine, but few dared to profess openly a doctrine differing from that of the church.


By the eleventh century feudalism had become general, with order and stability established over much of Europe, while the growth of the power of kings acted as a control upon the power of the barons. Society was organized upon the basis of sovereignty and personal loyalty and obligations, based upon the Christian ethic. Secular...

Bibliography: Baum, Julius - Romanesque Architecture in France. Boyd, Andrew - Chinese Architecture and Town Planning. Clemen, Paul. Gothic Cathedrals. 1938. Cram, Ralph A. - The Substance of Gothic. 1917; The Gothic Quest, 1918. DeWulf , Maurice - Philosophy and Civilization in the Middle Ages. Fitchen, John - The Construction of Gothic Cathedrals. 1961. Frankl, Paul - Gothic Architecture. (Pelican History of Art and Architecture...most definitive.) Harvey, John - The Gothic World, 1100-1630. 1950. Lasteyrie, du Saillant , Robert Charles - L 'architecture religieuse en France a l 'epoque gothique. 1962. Moore, Charles - Development and Character of Gothic Architecture. Porter, Arthur - Construction of Lombard and Gothic Vaults. Pugin, Augustus - The Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture. Simson, Otto - The Gothic Cathedral. 1962. Worringer, W. - Form in Gothic. 1957.
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