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Gothic Architecture C. 1140-1450. Height and Light. Architecture Terms. Nave-the central Aisle Transcept-the cross arm of the church Clerestory-row of windows on the upper part of the Nave wall

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Gothic Architecture C. 1140-1450

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Gothic Architecture

C. 1140-1450

Height and Light


Architecture Terms

  • Nave-the central Aisle
  • Transcept-the cross arm of the church
  • Clerestory-row of windows on the upper part of the Nave wall
  • Arcade-series of arches supported by piers and columns, called a blind arcade when attached to a wall
  • Choir-square area between the apse and the trancept
  • Apse-a semicircular niche at the end of one or both ends of the nave, usually at the east end
  • Ambulatory-Walkway around the apse
  • Flying buttresses-a projecting support built against an external wall to counteract the lateral thrust of a vault or arch
  • Pier-upright, rectangular support, sometimes with capitals and bases
  • Bay-a subdivision of the interior space of a church, usually in a series supported by architectural supports
  • Crypt-a vaulted space beneath the Choir which causes the Choir to have a raised floor
  • Transverse Section-an architectural drawing presenting a building as if cut across the vertical plane at a right angle to the vertical plane
  • Aisle-a passageway running parallel to the Nave separating it from the colonnades
  • Façade-The principal face or the front of a building
  • Elevation-an architectural drawing presenting a building as if projected on a vertical plane parallel to one of its sides

St. Denis- rebuilding commissioned by Abbot Suger, chief advisor to Louis IV

  • Championed “spiritual politics”-the relationship between church and state in order to rally the nation behind the king
  • Denis was the shrine of the apostle of France and the memorial of the Carolingian dynasty
  • Wanted to make it the spiritual center of France
  • Architectural forms seem weightless
  • Windows fill entire wall because of heavy buttresses that bear the weight

Interior, St. Denis, 1140-44


Plan, St. Denis

  • Buttresses jut out between the chapels in the ambulatory
  • Similar to Romanesque- pilgrimage choir, but more integrated and ribbed vaulting is everywhere (in Romanesque, only ambulatory)
  • New kind of geometric order to the plan- continuous, open space

Suger brought in artisans from many different regions for his projects

  • Strove for strict geometry and harmony among all the parts
  • Harmony was spiritual, like the light that came in through the stained glass windows- symbolism of light and of proportion came from early Christian thought
  • Suger’s new style spread throughout Europe
  • What came first- Suger’s theological architecture or the innovations that made it possible? Some say Suger was an architect
  • New thrust to raise the roof to the heavens-maximum space with the minimum of material- possible because of the use of the pointed arch in groined vaults which could be raised to any desired height regardless of its width

Future of Gothic architecture lay in towns rather than monasteries.

  • Revival of urban life
  • Bishops and town clergy rose to power
  • Cathedral schools and universities took the place of monasteries as centers of learning
  • “Our Lady the Virgin Mary” in Paris
  • Plan focuses on longitudinal axis
  • Compact and unified
  • Transcept is stubby, double ambulatory of choir continues into aisles
  • But still reminiscent of Romanesque-square bays under nave vaults and galleries above inner aisles

Plan, Notre Dame 1163-1250


Notre Dame, 1163-1250

  • Large clerestory windows, lightness and slenderness of form
  • Verticalism of the interior space- the effort isn’t seen like in Romanesque

Flying Buttresses, Notre Dame

  • Seen from the outside, the buttresses are arched bridges that reach to the critical spots between the clerestory windows where the outward thrust of the nave walls is concentrated

Façade is original except for damage to its sculpture during the Revolution

  • Derived from St. Denis and Romanesque Westwork
  • Same three-part façade, three-story arrangement, portals
  • More balances and coherent than Romansesque facades
  • Sculpture is given a very structured role
  • Very lace-like rather than cubic- more like a screen than a wall

West Façade, Notre Dame


1145-Bishop of Chartres (friend of Suger) rebuilt his cathedral in the new style

  • 50 years later, all but west façade was destroyed by fire and rebuilt- second rebuilding in 1194
  • The rest was finished in only 26 years
  • Because of this, the basic design is extremely unified- but was constructed in several stages by several builders so the design is evolutionary
  • North spire built in the early 16th c.
  • Built on the highest point of the town
  • 1st Cathedral of the mature Gothic style

West Façade, Chartes, 1145-1220


Plan, Chartres

  • Very few walls- uninterrupted space
  • Pilgrimage Church- massive amounts of people came to see relic- remnants of the robe of the Virgin Mary (which survived the fire)
  • Wide aisle runs the length of the nave
  • Still has most of stained glass- changes the quality of everyday light

Shows Clerestory

And Gallery



Amiens Cathedral-

The Gothic style at its climax

-height is the aesthetic and technical aim

-entire area above the nave is a clerestory

Amiens Cathedral, Choir Vault, 1220


Amiens, Nave

Amiens, Transverse Section


Reims Cathedral, 1225-99

Notre Dame, 1163-1250


Salisbury Cathedral, 1220-70

  • Gothic style spread to England- although England had its own style-mainly used to add to Romanesque churches that hadn’t been finished- called Early English style
  • Instead of tall and compact, Salisbury is sprawling, flying buttresses only for show, west façade is wider than the church itself

Nave is different too-

  • Stresses horizontal bands rather than
  • Verticality
  • Very steep curve to the nave vaults-also seen at Durham but now its for style rather than necessity
  • More conservative style than French Gothic

Salisbury Nave and Choir


Built as a monumental landmark to civic pride-towering over entire city

  • Designed by Arnolfo di Cambio,
  • Most famous for octagonal dome (based on a Roman design) built by Brunelleschi done in the 15th C.
  • Nothing Gothic about the exterior
  • West façade was not as important in Italy-some not finished until the Renaissance

Florence Cathedral 1296