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  • Gothic Art Architecture





    Gothic Art Architecture


    The architecture was the first manifestation of artistic development in Gothic art and it has a wealth of forms and accentuated ornamental variety that intensifies gradually coming to cover the external walls of these buildings with beautiful decorations. Sculptures with religious themes, vegetal and geometric motives join gargoyles, canopies and beasts like figures of fearful aspect in its pinnacles and flying buttresses. Sculptures and reliefs that are placed by thousands in the outer part of the cathedrals look more realistic, moving away from the symbolism of the Romanesque era.

    The Gothic Cathedral is the main building during this long period in the middle ages, representative of the ideals of the new bourgeoisie and its most refined tastes. This architecture is monumental, is constantly seeking to extend its structures as high as possible, thanks to new techniques to lighten the walls allowing out magnificent upward constructions carried out with voluntary labor and the contribution of craftsmen guilds.

    This search for closeness to God and his heavenly kingdom justify the unbridled search for elevation for which displayed a remarkable number of innovative construction techniques and masterful display of engineering and mathematical knowledge. Regions compete for having the highest Cathedral and this leads to a constant challenge in the search for technical solutions that make possible such audacity.

    European Ghotic Cathedrals

    New religious tendency make light a leading element, for them light represents God and the more iluminated were those enclosures more effective communication with God, therefore the spatial conception of these cathedrals focuses on the effective use of the light coming from the outside. Also pay attention to the architectural space designed to properly locate luminaries, chandeliers and any other element of lighting where daylight does not get there or during hours when it was not available.

    In the large openings at the front of Cathedral were placed an enormous amount of stained glass containing historical narrations about the martyrs of faith with colorful decorations through were plenty of natural light filled the spaces. Among these amazing decorations are beautiful circular rosettes also in glass with both religious scenes as with ornamental forms placed radial from a prominent center usually on the main façade and the arms of the transept (the transversal gathering large room that crosses the big salon in the churches).


    Gothic circular glass rosettes


    In the Gothic style the capitals lose its importance within the framework of the building instead of sum importance are the Baquetoneado a type of rounded molding that looks like a stem of a plant that is vertically row-shaped one with the other forming the support column. Although the Baquetoneado process do not reinforce the column as such properly from the structural point of view, if helps give visual unity to the space of the Gothic building and mark the lines of force that guide the displacement of the tensions of the dome to the ground. In these columns is where rest the nerves of the vaulted naves. These columns with ramrods are known also by fasciculate pillar having different decorative variations.



    Main construction elements of Gothic art:


    The pointed arch It is much more effective in the transmission of weights than the round arches used in Romanesque buildings.

    The ribbed dome or ogival whose support lies in the fasciculate pillars. They endure only vertical forces. The vaults are evolving from the quadripartite or ribbed, the sexpartitas, (six nerves) and the starry ribbed form.

    The flying buttresses: Are elements of lateral push that complement the resistance of the structural pressures allowing a lighter wall and build higher.

    The buttresses: Structural support element attached on the outside of the walls to lighten the weight of these ones.




    Topics and main motives used in buildings decoration on Gothic architecture.


    1 –Of tracery. (Ornamental decorative lines of branched that support the work in windows) Among them are:

    (a)Geometric motives.

    (b) Clovers and flamboyant designs.


    2 –The naturalist topics that include:

    (a)Designs with vegetable motifs.

    (b)Which represent animals and mythical beasts.

    (c)Representations of the human figure.



    Gothic pointed arch & ribbed dome


    In these lavish Gothic cathedrals altarpieces takes place an evolution in the front of the altar dominated mostly for decorations relating to the last supper, sacred stories to the martyrdom of Jesus on the cross and the descent from the same. It occur a widening proliferation of sculptures to decorate the architectural spaces, both indoor and outdoor. Sculptures are placed in the flying buttresses and prominent pointed structures, some looking beast like forms. Outstanding carved works in choirs have a profuse decorative style done with masterful skill and quality.


    Gothic Gargolas


    Main changes in Gothic decorative elements and the sculptures locations.

    -The eardrum in this new style is pointed and they are divided into strips or bands.

    -The archivolts are longitudinally as opposed to the previous Romanesque style in which were vertically.

    -The jambs are also sculptures with canopies of Gothic tracery.

    -In the transept are located sculptures under the canopy.

    -The Gables (a triangular ornamental wall, built on an arch with very acute form) underlined the verticality of the set.

    The plant and the uprising of the Gothic buildings:

    -The plants of Latin cross are maintained on these monumental cathedrals with three or five Naves with the transept highlighted.

    -They have ambulatory with to hall and radial chapels.




    -In the uprising are made present galleries and clerestories placing on them the clerestory (which is the level where the large windows are). This is the top point on the side walls and gradually occupying more and more space over time as they are becoming higher buildings.

    -The facades have capitals that are large towers topped with needles. (These capitals resemble lace due to the draught that is abundant in stone decoration). They emphasize the height of the building on the outside.




    In the Gothic period sculptures are gradually released from its architectural framework and changes occur in the gestural treatment and in the representation of the characters that are symbolized. In the eardrums of the facades are reliefs and sculptures with the theme of Christ risen and triumphant, the Marian theme and scenes from the old and New Testament.

    During the stage of the so-called Gothic Classic, through the Court of Fernando III French influence is reflected in the cathedrals of Burgos, Toledo and Leon. But it should be noted that the Spanish cathedrals were not parochial copies of the French models, and in them can be perceived architectural and decorative features of the Hispanic culture, as they were Muslin elements from the time of Arab domination.

    In the 14th century the greatest architectural progress occurred in Catalonia and Levant, with examples like the cathedrals of Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca and Gerona. In this area it is adapted to the propositions and foundations of the South of France, by what has been called Mediterranean Gothic.

    The unique features of English style include structures with extreme length and height that incorporated very elaborate desings but really beautiful . Additionally, those buildings moved away from large, bulky structures to more elegant, thin and refined works. Ornamentation and decoration both internally and externally utilized carvings and detailed capitals. The “Perpendicular Style” is unique to England and cannot be found in other European countries. It developed after the “Decorated Style” and marked the last era of Gothic Architecture in England. All this elements are very important because they made possible the way to Renaissance style in the 16th and 17th century.

    In German Cathedrals the moldings used were simple and basic no so elaborated like they were made for example in England. The most internal distinctive feature of German Gothic design was the great height of the triforium, a shallow gallery of arches within the thickness of inner wall, which stands above the nave. Although buildings in Germany possess many structures pretty much standars or specific to Gothic Architecture, quite amount of then possess a distinct national character that is not found in other European countries.
    German designers experimented with geometrical figures and lines, which mostly translated into elaborate tracery for windows and paneling.


    cologne cathedral


    Civilian Buildings in Gothic architecture


    Although preeminent the religious architecture; civilian buildings have also become important in Gothic period as for example private residences and the palatial type. Improvements in the quality of life are introduced in these buildings which although not characterized by the pursuit of height as in cathedrals, if stand by the richness, comfort and abundant decoration on the outside in many of them. Corridors with sequence of ogival arches between the thin columns and decorated capitals are placed both outside and inside the buildings.


    Gothic civil architecture


    These edifices of a civil nature and the one dedicated to the Administration and political centers reflect plant and Freehand designs typical of the architecture in the Gothic art but also respond to local regions specifications where they were built so; a great architectural variety it is observed across Europe. As example are those carried out for housing of the bourgeoisie and the upper class as well as major universities where now is studying also the culture and art outside of the churches.

    In Italy they acquire huge practical importance as a meeting place congregation and business centre, adapting to urban conditions and away from the militarization of medieval castles. Among these buildings in Italy are the communal Palace of Siena and the Vecchio palace of the Signoria in Florence. Highly for its beauty and local adaptability the ones located in Venice are very important as well.

    In Spain the civil buildings during the greater part of the Gothic and the high Gothic remain faithful to the French models but develop decorative elements of Arab influence, (Mudéjar) which led to the formation of local stylistic variants . Significantly in Valencia are The Silk Exchange, the Palace of Generalitat in Valencia and the Palace of the Borja family. The Civil Gothic building in Catalonia shows its splendor in the Palace Mayor Real of Barcelona, the Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia and the Santa Cruz of Barcelona Hospital.

    In the Gothic period not all the cathedrals made in this style were decorated with rich elements  because this factor of monumental construction seeking high was not present in order consagrated to poverty. Therefore are differences in the level of decorative elements among the cathedrals of the order of Cluny and the Cistercian monasteries since the latter reflected an austere art corresponding to the ideals that advocates the Cistercian Order for instance:

    The CISTERCIAN Orders simplifies some elements

    1. Only have two floors
    2. The stained glass windows are not colored.
    3. They have no triforium.
    4. The capitals are cubic and without decoration.
    5. The transept and the apse are not deep.
    6. the utilitarian dependencies are separated from the main building.


    Ghotic Monasterie Santes Creus. Cistercian order. Auster Art that correspond with the idea of poverty of the order.





    Gothic art



    Gothic European art

     The Gothic art derived from Romanesque art and introduces new ideas, techniques and above all a new way of Christian thought which drive would give the necessary introductory step to the Renaissance. The increase of commercial activities occurring in the period corresponding to the late Middle Ages, coupled with the growth and development of cities, the gradual emergence of the bourgeoisie and a large number of new religious orders, conducive conditions to make it possible as artistic style.

    The Gothic art was initially developed as a different style of architecture in the North of France to the year 1140 and continued evolving and spreading to the rest of Europe after incorporating other means of artistic expression such as sculpture, stained glass, fresco and illuminated manuscripts. The realization of painting on wooden boards or panels is not incorporated to the new style until approximately the year 1200 (around 50 years after this phenomenon came about in architecture and sculpture).

    The solidification of important elements for their creation won nevertheless against the initial rejection faced and the critics by the Renaissance authors further in time who stigmatized the new style as a threat and artistic debacle of the traditions and values of classicism as they perceived in their rigid eyes and believes. Furthermore the Gothic term was used pejoratively by their opposite’s as a synonym for barbarians as they usually referred to the Goths. Although of course this art nothing has to do with the art of the Goths. The artist and Italian writer Giorgio Vasari popularized the term; and use it as early as the year 1530. This style was severely criticized until it was finally recognized as an art form.




    As we mentioned its beginnings dating back to when the choir of the Abbey of Saint Denis was constructed, work in which already are highlighted elements of the Gothic although their promoters do not called with that name. They also highlight these new elements in the reconstruction works of the Cathedral of Chartres after the fire, carrying out for a long period of time the reconstruction work using the Gothic style. It is an interesting example of how was introduced it, in this case on the basis of a cathedral which was originally Romanesque.

    There are distinctive elements in the realization of the works done in this style in every country in Europe, even local variations within them were adopted, but nevertheless can be perceive unifying elements with maintain the essential traits that represent it at the general level especially in religious art.

    Gothic architecture  art is magnificently expressed in all kinds of civil, military or religious building, private houses and palaces where luxury and proliferates decoration predominate above the intention to achieve height like the cathedrals did and is granted special attention to the construction of public buildings, castles, bridges, fortresses and churches.


    civil architect


    In reality, the highest value of these centuries work was the Cathedral, which possess in the Gothic period urban character in contrast to the Romanesque churches that were made mainly in rural areas. Only can one imagine the amazement of villagers whose majority lived in huts; shock by the glittering decorations and sculptures made in white and polished stone, the feeling of humility that must have they experienced front monumental height and daunting appearance of these buildings.


    Gothic architec


    The constructive elements essential in Gothic architecture are:

    -The pointed arch.

    -The Gothic ribbed Vault.

    – Flying Buttress.

    This extraordinary architecture never ceases to astonish those who contemplate it for being dynamic balanced and dominate in the vertical line, which produces an impression of upward propulsion, accentuated by the acute forms of the arches and the abundance of sharp elements. These buildings reach heights of vertigo in its search for approaching God. The Gothic towers ending in pointed conic geometric bodies; like if they were elaborate lace in stone seems to defy the laws of physics in some regions.




    Chief Architect in whose charge was the synchronization of all the constructive aspects straitened to maximize the possibilities of new techniques that put into action what it was a formidable feat of engineering ability. He coordinated the work of craftsmen; that already then had settled in cities and perfected the trades. Their professional knowledge was passed from families to their descendants’ for generations, putting their skills to the service of these construction works for which were highly appreciated; even sometimes exempt from taxes while they were working in the buildings.

    The narratives stained glass huge and plentiful that replaced the decoration made in frescoes at the extensive walls in Romanesque churches, now take a leading role thanks to the possibilities to disseminate the message of faith more effectively from the light which penetrates through them. The stained-glass windows produce an hypnotic feeling in the filigrees, the light gives the mystical atmosphere sought to achieve by artists, instructed by the clergy; who was the one to commissioned those stained glass windows that become an impressive homage to the light; the real essential protagonist through which they tried to approach God.


    Stained glass Cologne


    This is one of the most notable features of the Gothic and the one for which is credited and difference. In the realization of them collaborated financially rich and poor, each Guild felt honored to be represented in these Church stained glass windows been represented all the trades; Masons, carpenters, blacksmiths, bakers, weavers, merchants, glassmakers and even the prostitutes.

    Among the best examples of stained glass windows are those that are performed in the Cathedral of Chartres, the Cathedral of Notre – Dame de Amiens, Notre-Dame de Paris, Saint Denis and the stained glass windows of the chapel of Sainte-Chapelle; made to decorate the place where was placed the Crown of thorns; one of the relics more idolatrize in an age whose religion reveres and represents in their works of art the martyrdom of Jesus and the descent from the cross as a highly of the Christian sacrifice. The English cathedrals with their over the top and abundant elaborate designs are not left behind. But also the Germans produced exquisite and very particular works that leave the audience stunned to such a construction achievement.

    Painting on board in Gothic period appears from the fourteenth century, consisting of small portable altars and altarpieces, formed by one or several panels. They try religious themes, with great finesse of detail in the human figure, but no intension of depth. The painters strive to reproduce the naturalness of movements and gestures with accuracy; a bit exaggerated to the dramatic side though, looking to show piety, humility, stoicism as well as other gestures and postures that help promote the religious message. It was not important the spatial proportions sense, neither is the perspective entirely realistic as long as it was understood. The most beautiful of these Gothic tables is their colorful look, glowing with intensity. The figures clearly established categories among the characters represented by the size in which they are drawn.


    painting on board


    Gothic sculpturemaintains the character of propaganda of the faith as they did in the Romanesque period. Craftsmen and artists represent though progressively virgins, Saints and angels with more expressivity, dynamism and volume noticeably differentiating them from the Romanesque predecessor sculptors.


    Gothic sculptures


    There are also represented Kings, prophets and allegorical figures that fill the interior and exterior of the building, topped by pinnacles, covering the friezes and the archivolts, tympana and all possible spaces to which the figures were added in perfect harmony with the space they occupy. To give idea of the magnitude that reached the sculptural decoration, just know that the decoration of the Cathedral of Chartres in France has more than 8,000 figures.




    The illuminated manuscripts in Gothic period reached a master and Supreme beauty, many of them despite representing numerous elements at a time in the scenes throughout; manage to reflect the message with ingenious simplicity based on the use of color and the detail of the figures so that it can be understood by those who are aimed; many of them couldn’t read since only a privileged few learned.


    Gothic Manuscript


    Although initially the manuscripts were only made by monks, artists and people who dominated the technique join the artistic realization latter and were paid by completing these types of works, among them were women. To these paintings in manuscripts are added gold pigments that make them shine, that’s why the name of “enlightened”. Frequently letters or texts were combined with drawings to best contribute to its understanding and differ from the Romanesque manuscripts in the better management of the detail of the figures showing that these artists had knowledge about the anatomy of animals and men that was lacked by their predecessor.

    The Gothic European art that included a vast period is established and develops over four centuries, come into being important to the civil architecture and free the other art manifestations of their subordination to the architecture. Gothic artists use the “Transfigured light” of stained glass as a key element, which virtually dissolve the building material elements, getting the viewer in to experience mystical feelings of elevation and weightlessness. This style gave way with his novel perspective of creation and technical skills to the Renaissance period.


    Coming soon will be addressed in other articles more detail concerning the architecture, painting and sculpture.