Submitted To Bruce Sparks Submitted By Stephanie McCarron Due Date November 7 2007 Gothic Cathedral Gothic style f by oae20205


									       Submitted To: Bruce Sparks
       Submitted By: Stephanie McCarron
       Due Date: November 7, 2007

                                        Gothic Cathedral

       Gothic style first appeared in Northern France in 1140 CE, by the 13th this

particular architectural style flourished to Paris and Western Europe. The Gothic period

was one of great change not only in architectural style but society was undergoing major

change aswell. There are certain characteristics that classify a building as being Gothic.

The importance of the Gothic cathedral was more than an immense architectural building,

it was a very spiritual place, and that bridged the gap between God and human beings.

The Gothic period had influences great influence not only structurally but spiritually also.

       By the 13th century the Gothic architectural movement had made its way to Paris

and other parts of Western Europe, this new design pattern was characterized as being

very modern and advanced (Text). Although this new style was internationally acclaimed

it did not move to eastern or southern Europe due to the popular architectural styles left

by the Islam’s and Byzantines (Text).

       There were many changes during the Gothic period that added to the severity of

the times. During this period the hundred year’s war between France and England

occurred. The Black Death plague raged throughout Europe in the late 1300’s that killed

more the 20 million people in Europe alone (Wikipedia). The Great Schism also occurred

that separated the church between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism

(Wikipedia). Not only did European society undergo drastic change, the day-to-day life

of Catholic priests changed. There was a shift from secluded monasteries in the country
side to great Cathedrals in the centre of urban areas, acting as city centres (Text).

Cathedrals were thought of as the house of God. They managed to close the gap between

mortals and the almighty God. Humans were able to be physically and spiritually come

closer to God in in a way that never was thought possible through the segregate of

Cathedrals. The middle ages were a time when the supernatural was imposed on every

aspect of human existence, thus making cathedrals and churches the centre of everyday

days. (Simson, Xviii)

       Through my research I came across two major influences for the Gothic period;

the first being Abbot Suger, who helped build the first prototype Gothic cathedral, and

the second influence were the Platonism of Charters. The Abbot Suger thought to revive

the Benedictine Abby church of Saint Denis, which at the time was a dilapidating

structure that was poorly kept (Text 360). Suger believed that the church’s structure did

not reflect its importance. The Abby held the tomb of Saint Dionysius, the apostle that

brought Christianity to Gaul, a region in Western Europe; it also contained the military

banner of the great leader Charlemagne. (Text 360) Suger begun rebuilding the church in

1135 but did not live to see its completion. Though he did not see his work finished,

Abbot Suger is recognized as being the greatest influence in the construction of the Abby.

The second influence of the Gothic period was the Platonism of Charters, which were a

group of men who met during the 12 century, who discussed theological and

cosmological questions, which in their minds could be solved by Platonic and Christian

ideas (Simson, 26). The masters of the Charters were obsessed with mathematical

equations, and considered mathematics the link between God and the human world

(Simson, 27) They believed that mathematics was a tool that could unlock the secrets of
both worlds (Simson, 27). One of their beliefs was that the cosmos were a work of

architecture and God was the master architect. In their teachings they dramatized the

image or the importance of architect for the sole purpose of its link to God (Church Icon,

197). The unique feature of this period was the way architects could design elaborate

buildings conceptually (Church Icon, 197). I believe that through the inspiration of God

and spirituality it helped architects think outside the box, they were able to think beyond

the means of traditional church structures.

       Gothic Cathedrals are identifiable by certain characteristics. Here are the major

elements of Gothic Cathedrals (Text, 368):

               1. Pinnacle – Sharply pointed ornaments capping piers or flying


               2. Flying Buttresses - Stonework struts that transfer the thrust of the nave

                   of vaults across the roofs of the side aisle and ambulatory to a tall pier

                   rising above the churches exterior wall. (Introduced by the famous

                   Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, 1180)

               3. Vaulting Walls – Stonework of blocks that fill the area between ribs of

                   groin vault.

               4. Diagonal Rib – Ribs form an X of a groin vault.

               5. Transverse Rib – A rib that crosses the nave or aisle at a 90 degree


One feature that is prominent in Gothic Cathedrals is their stained glass. Rich in both

colour and story telling, stained glass changed the tone of Catholic churches from dark

and menacing during the Romanesque period, changed to a more dramatic and
meaningful tone. Most stained glass mosaics were meant to take up the majority space of

walls. Which was in fact was the purpose of the architect; stained glass was meant to

replace walls entirely, which allowed light in almost all areas of the building. With deep

reds and blazing blues as the prominent colours for stained glass windows, gothic

architects told intricate biblical stories. Perfect examples of the richness of the stained

glass period are The Virgin and Child and angles, located at Notre-Dame de la Belle

Verriere. The Abby St. Denis offers another spectacular example of light filtering into the

Abby and changing the dark and dreary tone to light and more spiritual. During the

Romanesque or Byzantine periods the pieces that made the structure of the building was

usually hidden behind painted impressions or stucco ornaments; which was not the case

during the Gothic period. The Building itself was considered art, and was put on display

so that all could see. There was an art to designing the vault ribs or the supporting shafts.

From the examples from our text the detail in each and every Gothic cathedral was

immense; detail was a very important factor in the construction process. The Milan

Cathedral, which was built in the 14th century and was not completed till the 19th century

is a very good example of how detail was an important factor of the Gothic period. On

each pinnacle the craftsmanship is evident.

        A feature of cathedral churches that I would never have known was that

cathedrals were a combination of smaller structures put together. Usually cathedral

consisted of small chapels/towers/piers/chantries/ shrines/choir stalls/ windows and

arches all combined together to create a large, immense and at times overwhelming

       The Gothic period was a complicated and turmoil time, but through the all the

hardships of society, large, intricate, and beautiful structures were created. They were not

only a symbol of Gods creation but a symbol of the great architectural minds of the time

that pushed the boundaries in their particular craft.


      Simson, Otto Georg Von. The Gothic Cathedral: Origins of Gothic and the

       Medieval Concept of Order. Princeton: Princeton Press, 1988.

      Cram, Adams Ralph. The Substance of Gothic. Boston: Marshal Jones Company,


      Addison, Agnes. Romanticism and the Gothic Revival. New York: Gordian Press

       Inc., 1967.

      Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopaedia. Last time site was up dated, October 10,

       2007. Date accessed November 4, 2007.


      The Met Museum. October 2002. Date accessed November 3, 2007.

      There is one reference (Church Icon) I did not write down its information before I

       put the book back and couldn’t find the book again. Which is a factor as to why

       this paper is late.

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