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Gothic Architecture

Gothic Architecture, © Agnesa Thaçi

Gothic Architecture as we know it today began in Western Europe (mainly in France) in the 12th century, lasting till the 16th century and it was originally known as “French-style”, which during the period of Renaissance fell out of fashion, so many artists marked it as “Gothic” to suggest it was the crude work of German barbarians (Goths).[1]

Buildings of this period, which were mainly religious ones, had these key features: verticality, lightness and weightlessness.

Such features were possible to achieve through the revolutionary inventions during this period, like the “flying buttress” systems, rib vaults, pointed arches and stained glass windows.

The unique and innovative “Flying buttress” systems were a freestanding brick or stone supports attached to the exterior walls by an arch or a half-arch, which allowed them to include larger areas of glass to create the effect of lightness and space.[2]

Meanwhile, the typical floor plan of a gothic church, influenced by Romanesque architecture, was in the form of a cross; the arm of the cross is called the transept and the center aisle is called the nave, which was a symbolic way that through architecture to embrace the expression of ‘the age of faith’, of God’s light illuminating man and the world.[3]

The period of Gothic architecture is divided into these phases:[4]

-early gothic (c. 1140-1190): a transitioning phase from Romanesque to Gothic;

-high gothic (c. 1190-1230): a phase of constructing elements like flying buttresses;

-rayonnant (c. 1230-1350): a phase of added decorative elements, which became more plentiful and elaborate. It’s the radiating (rayonner in French), wheel-like tracery in Rayonnant rose windows that gives the style its name.

-flamboyant gothic (c. 1350-1500s): gets its name from its curving and flame-like (flamme in French) tracery and it is characterized by its more elaborated decorations.

In the continuum of innovation, many Gothic cathedrals, in addition to religious figures, were ornamented with strange, leering creatures, called gargoyles, a grotesque that also acts as drain-spout.

However, during that time the term grotesque was used specifically to describe the peculiar sculptures found on churches, cathedrals, and other Catholic institutions.[5]

Even though both were intended to scare and protect, gargoyles and grotesques differ in function. Thus, intimidating animals, exotic hybrids (called chimera), mythical creatures, and even unsettling humans are popular subjects across both types of sculpture—though some are more humorous than hair-raising.[6]

Some examples of Gothic architecture are:

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, Westminster Abbey in London, Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, Cologne Cathedral in Cologne, Duomo di Milano in Milano, etc.

Gothic has received the most returning among the other styles, starting from Romanticism in the mid-18th century focusing on the architecture of churches, monuments, and aristocratic tombs, stained glass, and Gothic illustrated manuscripts.[7] In the different periods of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, one can see the random and sometimes stable tendencies of the Gothic style, which in the following years are known as gothic architecture revival.[8]

To sum up all that has been stated above, “Gothic” was a period during which there was a big development of not only architecture, but other arts too, like sculpture, painting, miniature, glass painting, etc., in this way leaving a strong footprint in the history of the art.




Agnesa is a 26 years old Architect from Kosova and is currently working in an Architectural Office, based in Kaçanik (hometown). she likes to read and learn new things regarding the topic of Architecture and how it affects peoples’ everyday life. During her free time she loves reading, watching movies, listening to the music and cooking.


Reference: [1]Binumol, Tom. “Gothic Architecture”.Slideshare. Sep 04, 2012. [2]McFadden, Christopher. “The 39 Greatest Constructions of Gothic Architecture in the World”. Interesting Engineering. April 01, 2018. [3]Cresswell, Peter. “Today’s reprise - Architecture is the scientific art of making structure express ideas”. Solo. 2006. [4]Binumol, Tom. “Gothic Architecture”.Slideshare. Sep 04, 2012. [5]Butler, Anne. “Gargoyles in Gothic Architecture”. Study. Access Feb 04, 2021. [6]Richman-Abdou, Kelly. “Exploring the Fantastic History of Gargoyles in Gothic Architecture”. My Modern Met. April 08, 2018. [7]Binumol, Tom. “Gothic Architecture”.Slideshare. Sep 04, 2012. [8]McFadden, Christopher. “The 39 Greatest Constructions of Gothic Architecture in the World”. Interesting Engineering. April 01, 2018.

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