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Gothic Cathedral in 12th-15th Centuries in Western Europe - Essay Example

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Gothic Cathedral in 12th-15th Centuries in Western Europe

91). There is speculation that the new style may have borrowed from Eastern styles which were used in Islamic architecture, but the main reason for the shift from rounded, rather solid and blunt shapes, to more elongated and graceful shapes is that builders acquired new techniques which gave them more freedom to try daring designs. These new building techniques shifted the weight bearing points so that walls could be both higher and lighter, thanks to the support from additional flying buttresses outside the main areas. Towns and cities embarked upon a kind of competition to outdo the efforts of neighboring places in producing the biggest, highest and most ornate Cathedral buildings possible. This meant that the Cathedral became more than the religious focal point of a city, since it began to represent the pride and ambition of the people of each city. The architectural principles of maximum height is important in the Gothic period, and this reflects the growing confidence of the Church, allied with the town authorities, in in its mission of bringing salvation to mankind “ Gothic forms symbolize the disappearance of the boundary between Man and God” (Frankl and Crossley, 2000, p. 277). The huge spires as in the Cathedrals of Cologne and Strasbourg, draw the eye to the heavens, and signify the aspirations of the people to praise God. The arches over doors and windows aquire a point as if to indicate once again the divine dimensions of life, and new materials from the quarries of Europe are used to beautify the external facades of rather plain buildings. Because of their extreme height, these Cathedrals became beacons and navigation points, serving to draw merchants and travellers into the cities. The floor plan of Gothic cathedrals was based on the figure of the cross, with the altar at the top, and areas for the choir or choirs at the sides. Rows of pointed arches created an impression of space within the main body of the Cathedral, and the invention of large scale stained glass windows added also considerable light. Smaller chapels and crypts were added around the main area of worship, allowing areas of intimacy as well as huge performance spaces for all kinds of pageant and ceremony. Long aisles were designed to provide space for processions and huge spaces catered for the burgeoning populations. All of this extra space allowed also the placement of sculptures inside the building as points for reflection and prayer, and on the facades outside as decoration. In Chartres Cathedral there are sculptures and images of Saint Peter at various points, reflecting the French Church’s loyalty to the Papal authority in Rome, and a particular veneration for this saint. Sculptures are important also as a focal point for pilgrims, and as teaching aids for congregations who were largely illiterate. In the Strasbourg Cathedral, for example, there is an ornate pillar of angels, constructed around 1230, which bears sculptures of the four evangelists, Christ the Judge, and angels with trumpets. This style of building is decorative as well as functional, and every corner provides an opportunity for symbolic adornment. The subject matter ...Show more


The Gothic cathedral in the 12th – 15th centuries in Western Europe. The great cities of medieval Europe built Gothic cathedrals that exceeded the scale of any other buildings ever known by people of that time. Their magnificent towers, with or without pointed spires, their extensive buttresses and elaborate portals and pillars towered above the rest of each city’s buildings, proclaiming the greatness of God and the devotion his people to their faith…
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Gothic Cathedral in 12th-15th Centuries in Western Europe essay example
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