The word "Gothic" frequently conjures up images of eerie houses or a contemporary group of people who enjoy dark aesthetics, yet the historical contributions of the gothic architectural style to the built world could not have been more dissimilar. Gothic architecture was actually developed to increase natural light in buildings, especially churches, and it inspired the creation of some of the most famous structures in history.
Between the middle of the 12th century and the 16th century, Europe was dominated by Gothic architecture and art, which had its beginnings in the Middle Ages. Its architecture was highly elaborate and conceptual, with tall buildings, detailed design, elongated rooms, and wide walls. Despite having its origins in French architecture, it is widespread throughout Europe and even on other continents. The Roman Catholic Church, in particular, made great use of the "French Work" (Opus Francigenum) style, which was originally known by that name.
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The Goths, a nomadic Germanic group that battled against Roman power in the late 300s and early 400s, inspired the name Gothic for the style of architecture. It is generally accepted that their ascendancy signaled the start of the medieval era throughout Europe. From the fifth to the eighth century, the Goths were in charge following the fall of the Roman Empire and the establishment of the new Holy Roman Empire. The term "Gothic" was used to describe the style of churches that developed approximately 1,000 years after this group, despite the fact that they were not well renowned for their architectural achievements. The style was initially developed in France as a departure from the Romanesque style, which was characterized by its substantial walls, during a time when cultural progress was accelerating and architects and masons had the chance to experiment with more intricate structural features. Politically, this was a time of peace and prosperity. As a result, buildings were meticulously planned and took up to a century to create.
Gothic architecture's distinctive aesthetics would be defined by the novel structural components that would support these enormous cathedrals. First, the use of pointed arches, which were adapted from Islamic architecture created in Spain about the same time, gave these constructions their lightness. The arch relieved pressure on other structural components, allowing the columns that support the arch to grow taller and more thin until they reached the roof and became a part of the vault. The ribbed vaulting evolved into intricate sculptural webs by crossing them with lierne ribs, also known as tieceron cross ribs.
Romanesque architecture, which included numerous arches, vaulted ceilings, and smaller stained glass windows, evolved into Gothic architecture. These characteristics were taken and made more prominent by the Gothic style, which also increased the size of the windows and the scale of the arches. To help the architects create constructions that appeared to be closer to the heavens, the walls of the buildings thinned out and were supported by flying buttresses.
Engineering developments in the 12th and 13th centuries allowed architects to create and finish ever-larger structures. In order to sustain extremely tall buildings and let in as much natural light as possible, features like the flying buttress and rib vaulted pointed arch, often known as the Gothic arch, were used. Large interiors might be illuminated with color thanks to stained glass windows.
The Basilica Church of Saint-Denis, which represents the development of the style away from Romanesque, is recognized as the first completely Gothic structure. The huge clerestory windows were supported by flying buttresses, a pointed arch, and a vault with ribs.
These enormous Gothic cathedrals were for a very long time the symbol of their town or city, and in the days before contemporary skyscrapers, they virtually invariably had the tallest spire. Typically, the Gothic cathedrals and churches had high towers. The design for Notre-Dame de Paris was based on the Basilica of Saint-Denis, which had two towers of similar height on its west front. In Italy, church towers frequently stood apart from the main structure. Bible-themed sculptures and ornaments were used to significantly adorn the exterior façade.
Churches are the structures with the most remaining Gothic architecture. ranging from little chapels to enormous cathedrals.
Of course, Gothic architecture has a variety of distinct expressions given that it was a style that was popular for such a long period of time in history. It does have a few distinctive qualities. Large stained glass windows, ribbed vaults, flying buttresses, elaborate decorations, and pointed arches are some of these features.
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Stained glass windows have always been a feature of religious buildings, but they are especially prevalent in Gothic cathedrals since they are larger there than in most other churches and allow in a ton of coloured light. In their ornate scenes, these windows frequently told stories from the Bible. High windows that allowed natural light to penetrate were a key element of the architecture. This was strongly related to the idea that illumination was significant in sacred spaces and associated with divinity.
In building construction, a rib vault, also known as a ribbed vault, is a framework of arches or ribs on which brickwork can be built to create a ceiling or roof. In medieval structures, rib vaults were often used, most notably in Gothic cathedrals. Rib vaults are built from two, occasionally three, crossing vaults that can have varied widths but must all have the same height, just as groin vaults. The pointed arches utilized by the medieval mason were presumably inspired by the Islamic architecture in Spain. As opposed to the round arches used in Romanesque churches, pointed arches could be erected equally high over both a short and long span. The vaults' joints have arches that support the weight of the ceiling.
The rib vault evolved as a result of medieval masons' attempts to find a solution to the problems posed by supporting massive masonry ceiling vaults across large spans. The issue was that the typical arched barrel vault and groin vault's heavy stonework put enormous downward and outward strain on the walls that supported the vault, which may cause them to collapse. Thus, in order to restrict the outward thrust of the barrel vault, the vertical supporting walls of a building had to be designed exceptionally thick and heavy. As a result, Romanesque churches had little or no windows, and their interiors were heavy and dark. About 1120, medieval masons found a solution to the issue with a variety of clever inventions, chief among them the rib vault. A vaulted ceiling surface made of only thin stone panels is supported by the arcing and intersecting stone ribs. This significantly decreased the weight of the ceiling vault (and consequently its outward thrust), and since the weight of the vault was now carried at discrete points (the ribs) rather than along a continuous wall edge, separate vertical piers spaced a great distance apart could be used to support the ribs in place of the continuous thick walls. The barrel vault's original round arches were changed to pointed (Gothic) arches, which dispersed thrust in more downward directions from the highest point of the arch.
Years of research led to the development of vaulting, which is now light, sturdy, open, adaptable, and usable everywhere. Rib vaults, when combined with other inventions like flying buttresses, allowed Gothic buildings to grow steadily wider and taller. If one contrasts, for example, the robust 11th-century Durham Cathedral in England with the towering and airy 13th-century Reims Cathedral in France, it is simple to understand how their outward look altered.
The Gothic architectural style was prevalent in Europe from the 12th century to the 16th century, and it was preceded by the Romanesque style and followed by Renaissance architecture. By using flying buttresses and ribbed vaulting to reduce the building's outward thrust and enable the construction of thinner and taller walls, Gothic architecture did away with the heavy, thick walls and rounded arches typical of Romanesque architecture. Gothic churches were able to soar to new heights because of their grace and lightness, which are frequently lacking in the robust Romanesque architecture. The Gothic form has a number of important architectural features, including pointed arches, flying buttresses, tri-portal west façades, rib vaults, and, of course, rose windows.
The pointed arch, which was commonly used in both structure and ornamentation, is what distinguishes the Gothic style. The pointed arch was not unique to Gothic architecture; it had been used for centuries in the Near East for arches, arcades, and ribbed vaults in both pre-Islamic and Islamic construction. They became the most obvious and distinctive feature of Gothic architecture, especially in the later Gothic styles, providing the impression of verticality and pointing skyward, like the spires. The nave was covered with Gothic rib vaults, and pointed arches were frequently utilized for arcades, windows, and doors as well as in the tracery, particularly in the later Gothic styles employed to decorate the façades. In the nave and aisles of Durham Cathedral, which was constructed in 1093, they were also occasionally used for more practical reasons, such as raising transverse vaults to the same height as diagonal vaults.
The first pointed Gothic arches were lancet lights or lancet windows, which were small windows that ended in an arch with a radius that was longer than its breadth and looked like the blade of a lancet. Before the use of tracery in the windows of succeeding styles, lancet windows dominated Gothic architecture during the First Pointed period of the 12th century, commonly known as the Lancet style.
The extravagant pointed elements of the Flamboyant Gothic style were especially well-known, such as the arc-en-accolade, where the pointed arch over a gateway was topped with a fleuron, a pointed sculptural adornment, and by pointed pinnacles on either side. Small sculptures in the form of cabbages called "chou-frisés" were added to the doorway's arches as further decoration.
The buttresses of Gothic cathedrals are external, in contrast to Romanesque structures, which utilised internal buttresses to sustain weight. As a result of the roof's weight being distributed away from the walls and onto an exterior load-bearing framework, churches could be erected much taller thanks to these so-called flying buttresses. Flying buttresses allowed the Gothic cathedral's lofty heights and tall central naves by pushing back against the walls' outward thrust.
Stained Glass Windows
Stained glass windows are common in many places of worship, but Gothic cathedrals have the most of them. These kaleidoscopic windows, which are often either tall and arched "lancet" windows or round "rose" windows, are larger than those found in other styles of churches and are made of painstakingly cut colorful glass. They were able to let in more brilliant light as a result.
The west façade, also referred to as the church's front, is another distinctive aspect of Gothic cathedrals. It typically consists of two towers, a central rose window, and three entrances. For instance, throngs gather on the Notre-Dame's west façade in Paris to admire the ornate carvings that adorn the structure. Each doorway's elaborate art in the tympanum tells a tale that a predominantly illiterate medieval populace could comprehend. The left portal at Notre Dame is called the Portal of the Virgin, the right portal is called the Portal of Saint Anne, and the central portal is called the Portal of the Last Judgement.
Impressive is the West Facade of Rouen's Notre-Dame Cathedral. It has an airy splendor and is framed by two great towers. The three gateways are topped with lovely Gothic ornamentation, including turrets, statues, rose windows, gables, and open screens with the most exquisite tracery.
The West Front Façade was covered in scaffolding for many years, and the stonework was stained by air pollution. The inhabitants of Rouen, who had never seen their cathedral so really majestically constructed, were stunned to discover the spectacular display of Gothic architecture following the recent restoration of the façade and removal of all scaffolds.