Gothic Style (12th-16th Century)

The Gothic Style is one of the world’s most important architectural movements. Its impact is evident in some of Europe’s unique buildings.

Facade of Orvieto Cathedral: A large, ornate grey stone structure with various arches and triangular points.
Facade of Orvieto Cathedral- 14th century

Image source: by Prof. Mortel

The Origins

Gothic architecture, or opus francigenum, was initially seen negatively, something for built for barbarians. But in the 19th century, a revaluation of Gothic architecture occurred. Scholars agree that Gothic art is not related to Goths, but still is a standard in art history. This style derives from the Romanesque style and was heavily utilized all over Europe, in the Middle Ages.

Salisbury Cathedral shown from the front. A large stone structure with various arched windows, and arched decorations. Moreover, there are three points along the front of the building.
Salisbury Cathedral

Image source: by stevecadman

East end of a cathedral in Salisbury, England. The wall is covered in ornate arched windows separated into 3 distinct rows. Moreover, arches can be seen on either side of the windows throughout the cathedral.
East end of the Cathedral, Salisbury.

Image source: by szeke

Main Features

Important features to the Gothic style include rib vaults and flying buttress outside the building, to support the roof. These features gave the structure height and offered space for windows. It also featured stained-glass, and rose windows, to bring light and color into the space. Realistic statuary on the exterior was made to illustrate biblical stories. Romanesque architecture may have influenced this new style characterized by increased light and height.

A graphic depicting the four common types of vault: groin, fan, barrel, and rib.
Four common types of vault: A barrel vault, a groin (or cross) vault, a rib (or ribbed) vault and a fan vault.

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The first important gothic church is the Basilica of Saint-Denis.

Photo of the Saint Denis Cathedral in Paris, which is a large light-stone structure with dark, arched windows throughout the front of the building.
Saint Denis, Paris

Image source: by Ninara

Photo of the stained-glass portraits of the saints in the Saint-Denis Cathedral.
Gothic choir of Saint-Denis

Image source: by Ninara

Early Gothic

The Early Gothic style was born in 1120. A coherent style of architecture spread first in the Ile-de-France whose rich citizens wanted to build cathedrals that now epitomize Gothic architecture. Cathedrals similar to Saint-Denis soon appeared: Notre-Dame de Paris and Laon Cathedral. Buildings built in this era resemble the features first tested in Saint-Denis as in the Cathedral of Sens.

Basilique of Saint-Denis, the ambulatory of Abbot Suger's choir, 1140-1144.
The ambulatory at the Abbey of Saint Denis, 1140-1144- France.

Image source: by seier+seier

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris in France. There are sharp, stone decorations that surround the structure.
Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris, France

Image source: by jimg944

High Gothic

Notre Dame is an important marker for the transition to the Gothic classic in the thirteenth century. This phase saw the application of elaborate geometrical decoration to the forms that had been used before. After 1250, gothic architects became interested in visual effects through decoration. This decoration took many forms as pinnacles, moldings, window tracery, and, most importantly, the great circular rose.

A photo of Rose Windows, or spiral stained-glass windows in the Reims Cathedral in France.
West rose window in Reims cathedral, France.     

Image source: by a200/a77Wells

Late Gothic

A new style of Gothic design emerged in 1280. It was named Flamboyant Gothic architecture that featured flame-like shaped curves in stone windows. Historical examples of this are the Palace of the Parliament of Rouen, the Sainte-Chapelle of the Ch√Ęteau de Vincennes, and the Church Saint- Maclou of Rouen.

The Church of St. Ouen, Rouen, Normandy- France. It is a large tan-colored cathedral with sharp points and decorations pointing towards the sky.
The Church of St. Ouen, Rouen, Normandy- France.

Image source: by Jim Linwood

Central nave of the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen, which is a large domed structure with stained-glass windows lining the to of the wall and large columns supporting the roof.
Central nave of the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen (33m high)

Image source: by Jorge Lascar

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