When you go to any city in Europe, the first thing that catches your eye is the glowing buildings. It would not be wrong to say that most of these historical and iconic structures bear traces of Gothic architecture that emerged in the Middle Ages. Gothic, one of the most famous architectural movements in the world, emerged in France in the 12th century. Ornate tracery, rose windows, high ceilings, and pointed arches are characteristic features of this architectural style, which was adopted not only in France but also in many European cities. Let’s examine what Gothic architecture is in more detail. Then let’s look at the best examples of this architectural style in France and other European countries.
What is Gothic architecture?
gothic architecture; It is a Eurocentric architectural style that values height and is characterized by ornate and luxurious decoration. Although it originated in France, it is possible to find traces of Gothic architecture in cathedrals, churches, and other similar structures throughout Europe.
Large stained glass windows, flying buttresses, and pointed arches were frequently used in Gothic architecture, which appeared in the 12th century and gradually declined at the end of the 16th century. In addition, ornate carvings, carvings, rose windows, and high ceilings are some of the most distinctive features of this architectural style.
The first example of Gothic architecture is the Basilica of Saint Denis, designed by the French historian and architect Abbot Suger in 1122. Influenced by the pointed arches and detailed ornamentation he saw on his eastern journey, Suger reflected his inspiration in the design of the church and laid the foundation for Gothic architecture.
5 classic elements of Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture typically features five basic elements, although these may vary according to age, location, and type of building. these:
Large stained glass windows
Stained glass windows were widely used in cathedrals built in the Gothic style. These huge windows, which were planned as tall, arched or rounded, also allowed more daylight into the interior.
Architects working in the Gothic style adapted the tall, thin, pointed arches often used in Islamic architecture to Gothic architecture. This silhouette also symbolically points to the sky.
Architects who adopt the Gothic style favor rib vaults, also called rib vaults, instead of traditional barrel vaults to create higher ceilings and larger windows. These vaults helped to better support the building in addition to its aesthetic appearance.
Flying trusses, which were developed in addition to new vaulting techniques, provided the building to be stronger by distributing the weight of the roof over the lower levels, in addition to its aesthetic appearance.
The hallmark of Gothic architecture is undoubtedly the ornate decorations. Ornate columns, carved lintels, statues of saints, pointed turrets, and whimsical shapes were often favored in Gothic-style buildings.
The most important buildings built in the Gothic style in France
It is possible to see examples of Gothic architecture in many European countries, especially in France. Buildings that would serve as the finest examples of Gothic architecture in France:
Saint Denis Church
Saint Denis Church is recognized as the first building with Gothic architecture. Because in the building, which was rebuilt under the direction of Abbot Suger in the twelfth century, vertical buttresses, arches of large windows and sculptural decorations identified with Gothic architecture were used in abundance. The use of these different elements meant a significant departure from Romanesque, the most important architectural movement of the period, and in fact laid the foundations for Gothic architecture.
Notre Dame – Paris
When most people think of Gothic architecture, Notre-Dome comes to mind. The cathedral contains almost all the features of Gothic architecture, from the enormous rose windows to the flying buttresses. Notre Dame, whose construction began in 1163 and took 1,260 years to complete, is one of the most visited buildings in Paris today. The church, which has been restored many times throughout its history, was severely damaged by a fire in 2019. Restoration work is still going on on Notre Dame Cathedral, whose tower and roof were damaged by the fire.
Chartres Cathedral is actually an interesting mix of early and late Gothic architecture, due to the fires that destroyed the building. For example, the right pointed tower on the north facade contrasts sharply with the left one. Because one reflects the simple Gothic style of the early period, while the other has a flamboyant appearance of the late period. Chartres Cathedral, which is generally an ornate building, is also surrounded by hundreds of statues depicting biblical narratives.
Reims Cathedral, one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture, was originally built after the early Gothic style cathedral built before it was destroyed by fire. Above the central portal is a large finely carved rose window. On the upper floor of this place is an outdoor deck consisting of 56 sculptures.
Although Reims Cathedral was largely preserved during the French Revolution, it was damaged after World War I after German forces used it to house their wounded soldiers. After a very costly renovation, the cathedral was restored to its former glory and assumed its present form.
Amiens Cathedral, which was built in 50 years, is a great example of the High Gothic style, which was built in a very short time and taking into account the conditions of that period. While Amiens represents the pinnacle of trying to reach heaven, it is also the largest cathedral in France. To illustrate with a small example, two Notre Dames could fit inside Amiens Cathedral.
Construction of Amiens Cathedral began in 1220 after a fire destroyed the Romanesque cathedral. This building, which receives millions of tourists every year, is famous for the quality of the carvings on its facade.
European examples of Gothic architecture
The Gothic style was not limited to France. Apart from France, this illustrious architectural trend also found its place in England, Germany, Spain and Italy. Although each country added its own touch to Gothic architecture, the basic elements of Gothic architecture were preserved in almost all buildings built. Here are important structures from other European countries that can be viewed as examples of Gothic architecture…
Construction of Milan Cathedral began in 1386 and ended in 1965. Known for its façade with 135 spiers and 3,400 statues, the cathedral is also a great example of how Gothic architecture was transforming outside of France.
An iconic building in London, Westminster Abbey took its present form during the reign of Henry III. Home to English royalty since 1066, the church contains nearly all the hallmarks of Gothic architecture, from flying buttresses to rose windows, and pointed arches to rib vaults.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Located in Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a wonderful blend of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The cathedral, which has an impressive spire dominating the skyline, is famous for its colorful roof. Covered with 230,000 tiles, this ceiling has herringbone patterns and double-headed eagle mosaics. The cathedral also has 22 bells, 18 altars and a huge stone pulpit.
Seville Cathedral in Spain is the largest cathedral in the world. This Gothic-style building was completed in the early 16th century. Known for its enormous size and ornate and carved stonework, Seville Cathedral also uses an old mosque minaret as a bell tower.
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