This Article shall be concerned with discussion Gothic architecture in Europe-namely England, France, Germany, and Italy starting from 12th to the 16th Centuries. Architecture was the most original and lasting form of art during the Gothic Period, which lasted for four centuries starting from the mid 12th century. The impetus for this architecture was the Roman Catholic Church, which sought to portray their houses of worship as something which transcended the realm of mankind.
It is interesting to note that many of the Northern European areas were predominately pagan, and only recently brought into the Church. The imagery provided by Gothic structural design was something these peoples could more readily understand, as they used symbols in their pagan worship on a regular basis. These cathedrals were meant to inspire awe and reverence to those that entered them, and for the average person from the Gothic Period-these structures produced an intense experience.
Evolved from Romanesque, Gothic was a more eclectic application of architecture. The decline and eventual fall of the Roman Empire had left a void in Western Europe, and for the first 500 years after the fall, there was anarchy and chaos. This period is most often referred to as the “Dark Ages” as indeed they were. Around 1100 AD, the Catholic Church began to spread in Western Europe. A Roman Empire remnant, the Catholic Church wove itself into almost every aspect of Western European Society. At its apex, the Pope’s authority super-ceded the monarchies and the Church began to align power in order to manage Western European Civilization using religion as its codex.
The Church established the university system as well as apprenticeships (Athena Review, 2006). Most schools were associated with the Catholic Church and while this propagated knowledge, it also propagated ideology. This is important to note, as science as we know it had not begun to emerge yet, at least not in this culture, and many of their beliefs about the world around them was predicated on religion and superstition. In this respect, the Persians were vastly superior in scientific knowledge when compared to the Western European civilizations. The crusades were beneficial since it was one way of importing knowledge from Persia notably, Mathematics. Mathematics would play a very critical role in architecture in the centuries to come. Algebra and Geometry are two vital methods that prove to be precious to architecture and indeed made gothic design possible.
The Catholic Church began using these new mathematical principles to build their cathedrals. The cathedrals were a challenge to the capabilities of the civilization at that time and inspired competition between the Dioceses to see who could build the most outstanding cathedral. This inspired an explosion in art and technology, and was responsible for creating art in the form of structure. The Cathedrals were also status symbols. Towns and cities would build them to show how successful they were. The more elaborate the Cathedral, the more successful the town or city. This gave rise to the Gothic architectural style, which developed simultaneously across England, France, Germany, and Italy. The countries developed their own distinctive technique of Gothic design,
Gothic architecture has left an indelible mark on mankind; it was equivalent to the great pyramids to Western Europe. It showed that man could take basic elements such as stone and turn it into something truly inspiring. The architecture inspires today and will continue to for hundreds of years into the future. Gothic architecture was the impetus and inspiration for Western European civilization to have the courage to move forward after centuries of war and disease.
Gothic architecture has enjoyed several revivals over the centuries, proving its endurance in spite of the changing world. Gothic architecture transcended national boundaries and created organized labor. The Gothic Period in Western European history was indicative of their dominance of world culture in the centuries to come. Gothic architecture showed Western Europeans that they were capable of great feats of engineering and art. This was at a time when the region had emerged from the “Dark Ages”. The Gothic style was a symbol of a civilization coming to live and rising above its infirmities.
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Discover France. (2010).”French Art & Architecture.” Discover France. 20 May 2010
Ross, David. “Gothic Architecture in England.” 2010. Britain Express. 20 May 2010
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