Top-Rated Free Essay

Gothic Architecture

Better Essays
Whitney Adams
Professor Rodgers
ARTF 110
9 December, 2013

Development of Gothic Architecture

The 11th to 15th centuries observed a great increase in the presence of the Christian Church within Europe. The Crusades were a strong cause for this surge in the Christian religion. The growing population of the Church increased the demand for a Christian presence in architectural monuments during the Romanesque and Gothic periods, which lead to a great cathedral construction boom across Europe. The Gothic architectural styles were distinctive in not only the large windows and use of stain glass but they were known for their use of flying buttresses and they were built to be more vertical as if they were reaching out to the heavens. It is also known for the introduction of art within the Cathedrals including the stained glass, the use of gargoyles, and column figures just to name a few. Although the Romanesque period led way for the innovation and creativity of the Gothic periods, architectural breakthroughs allowed for the Gothic period to change and stand out from the Romanesque period. Through analysis of the Abbey Church of St. Denis and the Cathedral of Notre Dame at Chartres, we will discuss the innovations that made these designs possible as well as the styling, and formal elements used.

As the name implies, Romanesque architecture has a certain affinity with Roman architecture, there most distinctive feature used is the semi-circle or Roman arch. Romanesque buildings are also quite immense as opposed to the much more thin and vertical monuments of the Gothic era. An important structural development during the Romanesque period was the origin of the rib vault. The rib vault was originally designed as a substitute to wooden roofs which were more susceptible to fire, they soon became a key architectural feature in all cathedrals. Another advancement made during the Romanesque period was the cruciform structure of the church, the church plans actually form a crucifix. This element is usually thought to be associated with the later Gothic styles but it did originate in the Romanesque period. The increasing significance of the Catholic Church at this time led to an equally increasing demand for architectural monuments that would reflect the power and influence of the Catholic Church. This was also the time of the Crusades throughout Europe which were wars against “paganism” or any non-Christian believer, during this time the Christian community was encouraged to unite and these structures gave them that ability. The Gothic period saw the expansion of Cathedrals and the power of the Catholic Church, this period stimulated technical and artistic innovation. During the end of the 12th century, numerous new and innovative art forms began to emerge. While early Gothic styles replicated several of the Romanesque features, some differences include the use of rounded arches in Romanesque structures while Gothic architects adopted pointed arches, the Gothic period also saw the introduction of flying buttresses which allowed for a thinner walls and larger windows while Romanesque structures are known for their very thick walls. Other distinct features of Gothic art and architecture showed the strong influence of the Catholic Church on architectural design. As we discussed, many of the Gothic cathedrals as well as Romanesque cathedrals were built in the design of a crucifix. The Rose window which progressed from the Romanesque style round windows, they also used very intricate glass art that portrayed religious images. Gargoyles are especially distinct in concerns to Gothic architecture, the term itself originates from the French word for throat, gargouille, which refers to the sound which water makes as it passes through the gullet (2013. Howe). The drains at the top of cathedrals were molded into the forms of creatures or beasts known as gargoyles. When it rains, the gargoyles appear as though they are spitting water from their mouths. The plans of the gothic cathedrals revealed the several different functions that were intended by the Church, they believed that the floor plan would increase the dedication of any person which entered. The main features of the plan consisted of a cruciform plan with a five-aisled nave with a central vessel and two aisles on each side. (Simson) These aisles allow for the person to circle the entire church without entering the central vessel. In addition to the central portion of the Church, radiating chapels allowed for personal reflection. The flexibility of the pointed arch allowed irregular areas to be vaulted while maintaining a common ceiling height. Elements of the church plans could be combined into a unified ordered composition, thanks to the geometric freedom offered by the combination of rib vaults and pointed arches. With the external reinforcement that the flying buttresses provided, entire walls could be dedicated to windows. As the gothic style developed one can see the desire to reduce solid building mass and to enhance the quality of space and light.

The Gothic style originated in northern France, in a region around Paris. This area had very little Romanesque buildings and this was perhaps why it was open to other developments. This area was also the home to abbot Suger, the abbot of St. Denis. Suger’s parents had sent him to St. Denis at the age of three where he entered the monastery school to become a monk. When Suger became abbot in 1122 the existing building was overcrowded and somewhat run down, it was a Carolingian basilica that Suger wanted to rebuild and restore the Church for Gods glory and for France. Suger developed images of what he wanted the new church to be, he studied biblical descriptions of the Temple of Solomon, “a design specified by God” (Knight). He also studied descriptions of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, which at the time was regarded as the most beautiful church in Christendom, which Suger was determined to exceed. In order to expand the church he constructed a new west front and narthex forward of the existing structure. Three doorways had carved tympana and jamb statues, while the articulation of windows, including a rose window. Went beyond the linear façade compositions of Normandy. On the interior, rib vaults in the narthex sprang from grouped piers. This exploited the potential for continuity of line throughout the floor plan. The response was very enthusiastic towards these changes and construction started almost immediately on the east end. A new choir was built which clearly shows Sugers love for colored light. Each of the seven radiating chapels of the choir contain two large stained-glass windows. The irregular bays of this very complex plan are consistently covered by rib vaults that allow for a uniform height while slim buttresses reinforce the upper walls. This combination creates an airy, luminous, rich interior that glows like jewels, precisely the effect desired by Suger. Unfortunately Suger did not live to see the completion of his masterpiece, but the wondrous quality of light and space created by the new choir was not lost. Within two decades Gothic churches were under construction at several different sites in the area.

The first monument of the High Gothic was the cathedral of Notre Dame at Chartres. Flying buttresses were planned from the start, so that the galleries were unnecessary. This simplified the interior elevations to three divisions; the nave arcade, the triforium passage, and the clerestory windows. The size of the clerestory windows increased largely in size and vaulting shifted from over two bays to over one bay. The site had long been sacred to the Virgin Mary, and the cathedral treasure contained, among other valuables, a tunic believed to have been worn by Mary. Chartres had been the site of pilgrimage and a Romanesque basilica with three deep radiating chapels was constructed to replace an earlier church destroyed by fire. They began work on the church in much the same manner as the St. Denis Cathedral, they wanted to build a new west front and narthex. Sculptors from the workshops of St. Denis came to Chartres to carve the three portals of the west façade, and the three lancet windows overhead were filled with stained glass depicting themes pioneered Suger’s church; the infancy of Christ, the Passion story, and the Tree of Jesus. Unfortunately for again struck the church and this time destroyed the wooden roof, although the new west façade was unharmed. The townspeople felt that it was a sign that Mary desired a larger church. The Gothic cathedral at Chartres was built in the span of twenty six years. However the north tower on the west front wasn’t completed until 1513 finally giving the west front a balance asymmetry of form and style. The completed cathedral is said to glow inside with wonderful luminosity, in the shift from early to high Gothic work the proportion of window to wall were increased significantly. At Chartres, visible structural elements including, vaulting ribs and wall shafts in particular, are slender and deeply undercut so that they appear to float free of the surfaces to which they are connected. Even the buttresses, especially the fliers have a sense of lightness to them, and Chartres has managed to preserve about two-thirds of the original stained-glass. While the Abbey Church of St. Denis influenced all other Gothic architecture, Chartres included, I believe what Suger was trying to create was completed more successfully at Chartres Notre Dame. The model of Chartres was used at many sites from thereafter, but the original inspiration was provided by St. Denis and Suger’s ideas. The innovation that Suger was able to inspire through his vision was quite spectacular and visible throughout the Gothic period.

In conclusion, Gothic architects used a very modern structure and innovative processes to do something that had seldom been sought in architecture before. The innovators wanted to let architecture contribute to the setting rather than just providing shelter. The awe that was once felt by the people of the Middle Ages can still be felt today when visiting these wonderful architectural monuments. Like a museum, this is a place that can be visited many times, and each visit can bring new enjoyment and discovery.

Abbey Church of St. Denis

Notre Dame Cathedral at Chartres

Bibliography
Howe, J.. N.p.. Web. 10 Dec 2013. http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/arch/gothic_arch.html

Knight, K. .

N.p. Web. 10 Dec 2013. .
Simson, Otto Georg von . The Gothic Cathedral, Origins Of Gothic Architecture And The Medieval Concept Of Order. Bollingen Foundation, print.

Bibliography: Howe, J.. N.p.. Web. 10 Dec 2013. http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/arch/gothic_arch.html Knight, K. . N.p. Web. 10 Dec 2013. . Simson, Otto Georg von . The Gothic Cathedral, Origins Of Gothic Architecture And The Medieval Concept Of Order. Bollingen Foundation, print.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Gothic Architecture

    • 323 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Gothic Architecture Gothic architecture was brought about by Romanesque architecture. This unique style of architecture flourished and thrived around the high and late medieval period, but was succeeded by the Renaissance architecture. The Gothic style of architecture may not have been here for very long but it was still an inspirational piece of work for most groups and nations to come to build up from. Gothic architecture was known as “French work” during this period of time, having originated…

    • 323 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Gothic Architecture

    • 2977 Words
    • 12 Pages

    Characteristics of Gothic churches and cathedrals In Gothic architecture, a unique combination of existing technologies established the emergence of a new building style. Those technologies were the ogival or pointed arch, the ribbed vault, and the flying buttress. The Gothic style, when applied to an ecclesiastical building, emphasizes verticality and light. This appearance was achieved by the development of certain architectural features, which together provided an engineering solution. The structural…

    • 2977 Words
    • 12 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Better Essays

    Gothic Architecture

    • 2691 Words
    • 11 Pages

    GOTHIC ARCHITECTURE Basilica churchearly Christian churchRomanesquegothic - Religion grew more population - complete opposite of classical architecture - called "barbaric"; gothic age is considered one of Europe's outstanding artistic eras Features of gothic architecture: 1. Plans- arranged for convenience rather than for symmetry (utilitarian) 2. Walls- rubble masonry not laid in horizontal courses -materials were in small pieces -walls were no longer load-bearing which contributed…

    • 2691 Words
    • 11 Pages
    Better Essays
  • Good Essays

    Gothic Architecture

    • 490 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Gothic Architecture Gothic Architecture is a very interesting topic that I chose because of its unique style. It was originated in the 12th century France to the 16th century, and it was also known as Frankish work. Gothic Architecture came from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. This style was mostly used by cathedrals builders. This type of architecture is commonly seen in Europe mostly in cathedrals, abbeys and churches. It is also common for castles, palaces…

    • 490 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Powerful Essays

    Gothic Architecture

    • 2081 Words
    • 9 Pages

    Europe leading up to the Middle Ages (has) have had a lasting effect on architecture and design today. The enduring values of medieval art and architecture can be split up into five major styles, early Christian, Byzantine, Islamic, Romanesque and Gothic. The most influential period was the Gothic, which is known for its significant change from classical architecture; this change from classical architecture aided in the Gothic era’s transformation to its own identity. The Medieval period is known…

    • 2081 Words
    • 9 Pages
    Powerful Essays
  • Good Essays

    Romanesque and Gothic Architecture Larry Crawley Sanford Brown College Online HUMN302-1502B-01 Unit-5 Date: May 10, 2015 Professor Andrea Kough Romanesque and Gothic Architecture The Romanesque Culture (c.a.10th-12th centuries) began with the rise of France and England, after the period known as “The Dark Ages”. This rise would also be credited to the rise Romanesque church achitecture and sculpture. Romanesque churches were escalated in scale and based on the earlier Roman basilicas plans, which…

    • 1125 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Gothic Architecture Essay

    • 490 Words
    • 2 Pages

    In the medieval period of Germany, a new form of architecture developed. Today it’s known as Gothic, although this was a name given after the fact when the style was considered barbaric. In the modern world it’s recognized for its beauty. Gothic architecture made cathedrals huge, open, and bright, during a period where taller buildings had to be small and dark to support their ceilings. Gothic architecture is partially characterized by clever support structures that allowed the skyline to grow…

    • 490 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Classical and Gothic Architecture � � The cultures of the ancient Greeks and medieval Europeans were significantly influenced by religion. Greek Classicism brought about some of the most beautiful artwork and architecture that still exists today. The style strives to exemplify a culture of harmony, order, reason, intellect, objectivity, and formal discipline (Sporre, 2010). Classicism is best exemplified in the ancient temples that are found throughout the region of Greece and Italy. Gothic style art…

    • 815 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Third, in Gothic architecture was had some animals on the walls. The animals are call Gargoyles. The Gargoyles were also one of the important characteristic of Gothic architecture. The Gargoyles usually on the top of the roof of buildings. The Gargoyles not only the decorative, but also deterrence evil not to come close this place. In fact the purpose of the Gargoyles were drain off the rainwater from the roof. This design on the roof not only the functional, but also had another meaning behind.…

    • 124 Words
    • 1 Page
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Better Essays

    Tabitha Crosby Dr. Maineville Hum1020 10/07 /2012 Romanesque Architecture and Gothic Architecture Throughout history it’s simple to understand how so many were inspired to create masterpieces we see and love today. Many years ago beauty was shaped in almost every feature, sculpture, and building. One of the most memorable of these iconic creations can be seen in Romanesque and Gothic architecture; however even though they are both similar they also have many differences. These themes were…

    • 1120 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Better Essays