Gothic cathedrals


From the XII century Romanesque style gradually became replaced with a new style – Gothic.

This period in the development of medieval art in the territories of Central, Western and Eastern (part) of Europe occurred in the XII-XVI centuries. Initially the term “Gothic” refers to architecture, but he gradually embraced almost all forms of art.

The history of the style

Gothic began their March across Europe from the middle of the XII century with France. From XIII century it had already spread to the territory of modern England, Austria, Germany, Spain, Czech Republic.

Gothic Cathedral in Coutances (France)

To Italy the Gothic style came somewhat modified, it is called: “Italian Gothic”. And Eastern Europe adopted this style later and said goodbye to him later – in the XVI century.

While talking about the farewell to the Gothic, perhaps, be wrong: in the middle of the XIX century (this period was called the period of eclecticism – a mixture of styles) architecture often has to resort to the elements of the Gothic, and later started talking about the neo-Gothic style. The Gothic revival (the”new Gothic”) emerged in England in the 40-ies of the XVIII century – it was the revival of the forms and design features of the medieval Gothic.

In the early nineteenth century coined the term “Gothic novel”, which meant the literary genre of the romantic era (literature of mystery and horror, the action in such works often took place in Gothic castles or monasteries).

In the 1980s the term “Gothic” began to denote a musical genre (“Gothic rock”). Around him then formed the “Gothic subculture”.

So with some confidence we can say that the Gothic is alive rather than dead or outdated.

The meaning of the term

The word “Gothic” comes from Italian. gotico (unusual, barbaric) and was initially used as a profanity. Giorgio Vasari (the founder of modern art history, Italian painter, architect and writer) first used this term to distinguish the Renaissance from the middle Ages. In the Renaissance (Renaissance) art of the middle Ages was considered “barbaric”.

Gothic art was iconic for its intended purpose, and by subject – religious. It appealed to higher forces of the divine, of eternity, of the Christian worldview. Art historians distinguish early, Mature and late Gothic.

Gothic architecture

Since the Gothic style began to take shape in architecture, we begin our story. So, Is France.

The upper chapel Sainte-Chapelle

Why France?

The fact that a distinctive feature of Royal power in France was a sacred character: it was believed that the kings power is given by God alone when performing the rite of anointing. Confirmation has become a major ceremony in the coronation of all French kings starting with Charles the Bald in 869, the events of the French revolution. This peculiarity of Royal power and became the driving force, which was formed by a new style of architecture, which will imitate in all areas of modern France and much of Europe during the high and late middle Ages.

A typical scheme of a Gothic Cathedral: the lower tier, consisting of three portals, a middle tier with the skylight, and top tier – two tower. This scheme would later become classical for large cathedrals in France. For the typical Gothic arch with a pointed top, a narrow and high towers and columns, the richly decorated facade with carved details and multi-colored stained-glass Lancet Windows. All the style elements that emphasize the vertical. Almost all the architecture of Gothic cathedrals is due to one major invention of the time – new skeleton design, which makes these easily recognizable cathedrals.

Scheme of a Gothic Cathedral

With the advent of the cross vault of the cathedrals got kind of huge fantastic openwork structures. The basic principle of design: dome rests on the walls (as in Romanesque buildings), now the pressure of the cross vault and is passed the arch rib (rib – Bay rib skeleton Gothic cross vault) on columns (pillars). This innovation allowed easier design through redistribution of loads, and the walls turned into a simple lightweight “shell”, the thickness no longer affect the total bearing capacity of the building, which allowed to do a lot of Windows, and wall painting, for lack of walls, lost the art of stained glass and sculpture.

The most famous architectural monuments in the Gothic style in France: Notre Dame de Paris . Reims Cathedral . Chartres Cathedral . Gothic cloisters at the monastery of Mont-Saint-Michel .

The hunchback of Notre Dame (Notre Dame de Paris)

The Catholic Cathedral in Central Paris, geographical and spiritual centre of the French capital. Was built from 1163 on, 1345 height of 35 m, length – 130 m, width – 48 m, height of bell – 69 m, weight of the bells Emmanuel in the South tower – 13 tons.

The architecture of the Cathedral there are echoes of the Romanesque style of Normandy, but used innovative architectural achievements of Gothic style, which gives the building a lightness and give the impression of simplicity, vertical design.

The main facade of the Cathedral has three portals. Above the three Lancet portals are sculptured panels with scenes from the gospel.

Central and two lateral portal of the Cathedral of the Parisian Mother of God

Above the main entrance is a depiction of the last judgment. Seven statues support the arch of the entrance. In the centre Christ the judge.

On the lower lintel shows the dead, risen from their graves. They were awakened by two angels with trumpets. Among the dead — one king, one Pope, soldiers and women (symbolizes presence on the day of judgment of all mankind). On the upper tympanum is Christ and two angels on both sides.

The door is decorated with reliefs.

The upper part of the Cathedral is decorated with images of gargoyles (protruding ends of beams decorated with heads of fantastic creatures) and chimeras (separate statues of fantastic creatures).

The chimeras put restorer – the architector Viollet-Le-Duc.

Oak, with lead covered spire of the Cathedral is also added by the restorer is dismantled in 1786, Its height is 96 m. the base of the spire surrounded by four groups of bronze statues of the apostles. Before each group of animal, the symbol of the Evangelist: the lion symbol of Mark, ox – Luke, eagle – John and the angel – Matthew.

Most of the stained glass Windows made in the mid-nineteenth century the Main stained glass window (rose) above the entrance to the Cathedral is partly preserved from the middle ages (9.6 meters in diameter). At its center the mother of God. The big bell and the smaller bell have each their name.

The first large organ was installed in the Cathedral in 1402


In creating the image of a Gothic Cathedral played the important role sculpture. In France she designed mostly its exterior walls. Tens of thousands of sculptures inhabit the Mature Gothic Cathedral.

In the Gothic period actively developing monumental round plastic. But Gothic sculpture is an integral part of the ensemble of the Cathedral, because together with the architectural elements expresses the movement of the building upward. It animates, inspires architectural mass.

Sculpture in the Cathedral of Magdeburg (Germany)


One of the main directions of Gothic painting was a stained glass that gradually supplanted fresco painting. The color palette of the Gothic stained glass became richer and more colorful. In stained glass began to be used not only in color, but clear glass.

Stained glass window of St. Joseph in the parish Church of St. Trinity in Revise (Croatia)

In the Gothic period was the heyday of portrait miniatures: illustrated manuscript, created a richly illustrated book of hours and Psalter for home use. Outstanding representatives of the Gothic miniatures are brothers Limburg, the court miniaturists of the Duke de berry, who created the famous “Magnificent book of hours of Duke de Berry” (CA. 1411-1416).

Developing the genre of portraiture. Begins to return the chief, who laid the foundations for the development of the Renaissance.

Jean, Duke of Berry, a fragment of a miniature from his Magnificent book of hours of work brothers Limburgo

Gothic in Russia

In the middle ages Russia was under the influence of the Byzantine civilization, the Gothic here was virtually unknown. Although a certain resemblance to European Gothic can be seen in the architecture of the walls and towers of the Moscow Kremlin.

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