Gothic Style (12th – 16th Century)

The Gothic style is one of the world’s most important architectural movements. The style survived  as evident in some of Europe’s unique buildings.

Facade of Orvieto Cathedral, 14th century (1)
Facade of Orvieto Cathedral- 14th century

Image source: by Prof. Mortel

The origins

Gothic architecture or opus francigenum was seen negatively, something for barbars. But in the 19th century, a revaluation of Gothic took place.  The scholars have understood that Gothic art is not related to Goths, but still is a standard in art history. Gothic architecture is important all over Europe in the Middle Ages. It is important to say that this style derives from Romanesque.

Salisbury Cathedral
Salisbury Cathedral

Image source: by stevecadman

Salisbury, England
East end of the Cathedral, Salisbury.

Image source: by szeke

Main Features

This style gives importance to rib vaults and flying buttress outside the building, to support the roof. This gave height to the structure and space for windows. It also featured stained glasses, and rose windows, to bring light and color. Realistic statuary on the exterior was made to illustrate biblical stories. Romanesque architecture may have influenced this new style characterized by way more light and height.

Four common types of vault.
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 considered to be the Basilica of Saint-Denis, near Paris, whose choir was rebuilt with Gothic rib vaults and huge stained glass windows.

Saint Denis, Paris 4Y1A6692
Saint Denis, Paris

Image source: by Ninara

4Y1A6709 Saint-Denis, France
Gothic choir of Saint-Denis

Image source: by Ninara

Early Gothic

This first style was born in 1120. A coherent style of architecture spread first in the Ile-de-France whose rich citizens wanted the building of 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 are based on projects tested in Saint-Denis as in the Cathedral of Sens.

basilique 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

DSC02287, Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris, France
Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris, France

Image source: by jimg944

High Gothic

Notre Dame is important for the transition to the Gothic classic in the thirteenth century. This phase has seen 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 of all, the great circular rose.

Rose Windows, West End
West rose window in Reims cathedral, France.     

Image source: by a200/a77Wells

Late Gothic

A new style of Gothic design can be distinguished from 1280 on. 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 Château de Vincennes, and the Church Saint- Maclou of Rouen.

The Church of St. Ouen, Rouen, Normandy- France.
The Church of St. Ouen, Rouen, Normandy- France.

Image source: by Jim Linwood

Central nave of the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen (33m high)
Central nave of the Abbatiale Saint-Ouen (33m high)

Image source: by Jorge Lascar

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