Gothic Style (12th – 16th Century)

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

Facade of Orvieto Cathedral
Facade of Orvieto Cathedral

Image source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cattedrali_e_basiliche_gotiche_italiane

The origins

Gothic architecture or opus francigenum was seen in a negative way, 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.

East end of the Cathedral, Salisbury
East end of the Cathedral, Salisbury.

Image source: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/medieval-world/gothic-art/beginners-guide-gothic-art/a/gothic-architecture-an-introduction

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 exteriorwere 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.

Image source: https://www.britannica.com/technology/rib-vault

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.

Gothic choir of Saint-Denis
Gothic choir of Saint-Denis

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_of_Saint-Denis

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 buliding 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.

The ambulatory at the Abbey of Saint Denis, France.
The ambulatory at the Abbey of Saint Denis, France.

Image source: https://www.sah.org/publications-and-research/sah-blog/sah-blog/2017/06/27/saint-denis-the-bishop-the-basilica-the-builder

Notre-Dame de Paris, France.

Image source: https://www.giglionews.it/2019/04/21/notre-dame-de-paris-un-augurio-dal-giglio/

High Gothic

Notre Dame is important for 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.

West rose window in Reims cathedral, France.
West rose window in Reims cathedral, France.     

Image source: https://www.britannica.com/art/Gothic-art

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 curve 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.

West façade of the church of Saint-Maclou, Rouen, France, begun 1437
West facade of the church of Saint-Maclou, Rouen, France, begun 1437

Image source: https://www.vam.ac.uk/collections/gothic

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/art/Gothic-architecture