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Gothic in medieval Western Europe

The origin of the term “Gothic”

The word comes from Italian. “unusual, barbaric, the barbarians” (the historical Goths, this style has nothing to do), and was initially used as a profanity. For the first time the notion in the modern sense used by Giorgio Vasari in order to separate the Renaissance from the middle Ages. Gothic completed the development of European medieval art, which arose on the basis of the achievements of Roman culture and the Renaissance (Renaissance) art of the middle ages was considered “barbaric”. Gothic art was a cult on purpose and Religious topics. It appealed to higher forces of the divine, of eternity, of the Christian worldview.

Gothic in its development is divided into Early Gothic, the heyday of Late Gothic

The system of flying buttresses and buttresses

In the Romanesque cathedrals and churches normally used the barrel vault, which relied on massive thick walls, which, being small from the inside, from the outside they seemed massive. With the advent of the cross vault, columns, flying buttresses, flying buttresses, cathedrals got kind of huge fantastic openwork structures.

The basic principle of design is that the arch is no longer leans against the wall (as in Romanesque buildings), now the pressure of the cross vault and is passed the arch ribs on columns (pillars), and bocaviruses perceived by the flying buttresses and buttresses. This innovation allowed much easier to design due to redistribution of loads, and the walls turned into a simple lightweight “shell”, the thickness did not affect overall carrying capacity of the building, which allowed to do a lot of Windows and wall paintings, for lack of walls, lost the art of stained glass and sculpture.


The Gothic style mainly manifested in the architecture of temples, cathedrals, churches, monasteries. For the typical Gothic arch with a pointed top, a narrow and high towers and columns, the richly decorated facade with carved details (winery, tympanum, archivolt) and multicolor stained glass Lancet Windows. All the style elements that emphasize the vertical.

The first Gothic Cathedral – the monastery of Saint-Denis, designed by Abbot Suger in France. From Ile-de-France (France) Gothic architectural style spread in Western, Central, and southern Europe — in Germany, England, etc. In Italy he ruled briefly as a “barbaric style” quickly gave way to the Renaissance; and since he came here from Germany, it is still called “stile tedesco” — German style.

With the arrival in the early sixteenth century Renaissance North and West of the Alps, the Gothic style lost its importance.

Almost all the architecture of Gothic cathedrals is due to one major invention of the time — a system of flying buttresses and buttresses.


The most famous Gothic cathedrals in France, Saint-Denis, Chartres, Amiens, Rouen, Reims and, of course, Notre Dame de Paris.

The Church of the monastery of Saint-Denis, designed by Abbot Suger, is considered the first Gothic architectural structure. In its construction were removed many pillars and interior walls, and the Church has become more graceful look compared to Romanesque “fortress of God”.

Reims Cathedral (above left) was founded in the early XIII century On the site of the burnt remains, the Romanesque, which served for centuries as a place of coronation of French kings. Faced completely covered with reliefs, stained-glass Windows provide a lasting impression on witnesses.

Notre Dame Cathedral – this is the card of Gothic architecture, “Frozen music” as Goethe said. It’s incredible in its beauty of structure, like a castle of Mirage towering above the shore of the Seine, surrounded by fragrant rose gardens, won the heart of not one genius.


In XIII Century. The Gothic style borrowed from the French architects of other countries, including Germany. Interestingly, copying the French cathedrals German architects so well acquired a style that for a long time critics thought Germany is the birthplace of the Gothic.

The most striking, spectacular example of German Gothic architecture – Cologne Cathedral, founded in the XV century and completed only in the XIX century, were built the choir part of the nave and South tower. Everything built in 1842-1880 in accordance with the original project, discovered in 1841. The building is a five-naval Basilica, in the form of a Latin cross, with a gallery deambulatory (bypass chorus) and seven radiating chapels (the chapels of the crown). Double flying buttresses to support the arches of the main nave, which is raised to a height of 46 m above the floor level. The Cathedral is 144 m long, 54 m wide with a total area 6160 sq. m. the Towers of the Western façade with a height of 157 m topped by openwork spires of wrought iron (pure German feature). In spite of the extraordinary duration of construction and immense size, is distinguished by a rare unity of purpose. During the Second world war the Cathedral was badly damaged during the bombing, in 1948, was opened immediately after the completion of the immediate repair work.


The Gothic style was extremely popular in England, the best proof is the fact that later on, in XVIII-XIX centuries. many architects began to copy him, calling this new style of neo-Gothic.

in Westminster Abbey is the main national sacred place of England located in Westminster. The Abbey was built under king Edgar in the 10th century on the place where previously stood a few old churches. Edward the Confessor enlarged the Abbey and rebuilt it in Norman style; it was consecrated in 1065. English kings enlarged and adorned the Abbey. Modern dimensions and the appearance of Westminster Abbey obtained around the middle of the XVIII century

The interior dates from the heyday of Gothic architecture. It is filled with tombs and monuments of many kings, writers, generals and other people who deserved this high honor. Almost all kings of England after William the Conqueror was crowned in Westminster Abbey, there have been numerous events related to the life of the state and the Royal family.


To Italy the Gothic style came much later, only in XV century and have not received the same strong development in France and Germany.

Milan Cathedral (left), 1386-gg. Was originally conceived of such a huge size (it can seat up to 40 thousand people), which with great difficulty was able to be partially completed by the end of the XVI century the Construction began in 1386, and 1390, it was announced the collection of funds and possible assistance among the Milanese to accelerate the construction of the Cathedral. The initial plan assumed the brickwork that can be seen today in North sakristii of the Cathedral, but in 1387 the Duke Visconti, who wanted to see the Cathedral, a great symbol of his power, invited Lombard, German and French architects and insisted on use of marble. V, the Cathedral was consecrated by Pope Martin V, but remained unfinished until the Nineteenth century. while under Napoleon was not completed facade. More than five centuries they built this Cathedral and, as a result, have combined many features of architectural styles, from Baroque to neo-Gothic.


The Gothic movement in art developed after several decades after the appearance of style elements in architecture and sculpture. One of the main directions of Gothic painting was a stained glass that gradually supplanted fresco painting. The technique of stained glass has remained the same as in the previous epoch, but the color palette is much richer and more colorful, and the subjects more complicated — along with images of religious subjects appeared stained. In addition to the stained glass Windows were used not only in color, but clear glass.

For the period of a thumbnail. With the advent of secular literature (jousting tournaments, etc.) expanded range of illuminated manuscripts, was also created lavishly illustrated books of hours and Psalter for home use. Artists began to strive for more accurate and detailed reproduction of nature. Outstanding representatives of the Gothic miniatures are brothers Limburg, the court miniaturists of the Duke de berry, who created the famous “the Richest book of hours of Duke de Berry” (Fig. left) around 1411-1416.


Sculpture played a huge role in creating the image of a Gothic Cathedral. In France she designed mostly its exterior walls. Tens of thousands of sculptures, from the socle to the pinnacles that populate the Mature Gothic Cathedral.

The relationship between sculpture and architecture in Gothic otherwise than in Romanesque art – Gothic sculpture is much more independent. It is not subject to the same extent the plane of the wall and framed, as it was in the Romanesque period. In Gothic is actively developing a monumental round plastic. But Gothic sculpture is an integral part of the ensemble of the Cathedral, is a piece of architectural forms, because together with the architectural elements expresses the movement of the building upward, its tectonic meaning.

The sculpture of the Late Gothic was strongly influenced by Italian art. Approximately 1400 Klaus Sluter has created a number of significant sculptural works for Philip of Burgundy, such as the Madonna of the facade of the Church of the burial of Philip, Kartause in Champmol near Dijon, 1385 Figurationen wall or shape of the fountain Mose (1395-1404). In Germany well known work Rimensnyder of Tilman (Tilman Riemenschneider), white Stosa (Veit Stoß) and Adam Kraft (Adam Kraft).

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