Gothic Architecture and Cathedrals

Subject: Design
Pages: 5
Words: 1116
Reading time:
4 min
Study level: College

Many Cathedrals that were built during the 12th to 17th century used Gothic Architecture. Gothic architecture is one of the oldest, conspicuous, and unique styles of building cathedrals, private monuments, palaces, and citadels. This type of architecture is made up of numerous distinctive characteristics. As said earlier, several churches were built using the Gothic kind of architecture in the European Continent. Most of the churches and cathedrals are found in France, but these churches can be found in Britain, Italy, and Germany. When the continent of Europe was separated into a whole host of nations like the Netherlands, Austria, and Luxembourg, this architectural style dominated through the continent spreading through Belgium and Scotland. Most importantly, this style that originated from the medieval era was emphasized in cathedrals and numerous civil citadels. This was meant to evoke aesthetic emotions that are appealing. In fact, a few of the surviving cathedrals are now World Heritage Sites due to their priceless architectural designs.

The cathedrals are very colorful and can be noted from a distance from their unique style. This is because most of these cathedrals made from the Gothic style have wide and very expansive spaces like that of the Egyptian Pyramids. These wide spaces are filled with light from the awesome architectural design that leaves space and allows light to thrush through. These cathedrals are made with high-vaulted ceilings that are combined with a buttress that allows strong support to the walls and the whole building. Cathedral walls have meticulously stained glasses with clever mosaic and collage techniques commemorating salient happenings in life through art.

One of the distinctive styles of Gothic architecture is the apt choice of materials for construction. The most preferred material that was used in France was Limestone. Red sandstones were used in Britain which were appropriately mixed in respective rations with limestone. Germany used classic bricks that were satisfactorily baked in kilns. These and more materials made structures that depicted ribbed vaults that had buttresses which made the buildings hold up trapezoidal shapes. Wheel windows were colored with clever mosaic and ceramics. There are clustered columns and spires that merged well with pointed arches that gave the flexibility and beauty of the structure. A closer look at these buildings shows the solid masonry in the vents within metaphorical door tympanums that were made extraordinarily strong and high above.

Gothic architecture can be traced back to Romanesque architecture. This term is used to denote the structures that were made during the 12th century. This style originated from France and spread across Europe like bush fire. This style was also called the “French Style” that was highly used between the 12th and 16th centuries (Scott 113). This architectural style thrived during the middle and late periods of the medieval epoch. The predecessor of this style was renaissance fashion. Gothic Architectural style was responsible for making many churches, king’s palaces, and numerous town halls, education facilities like universities, and guild halls that were either private or public. However, this style was then remodeled and revived during the 18th century in England and spread up to the 21st century.

Gothic architecture does not have a direct allusion to the known historical Goths. This term was merely an uncomplimentary kind of description. Well, the term “Goth” has a German origin. The term is used to define certain things that are barbaric, hooligan in nature, and vandal-like. The term “Gothic” was essentially used by Giorgio Vasari to describe a society with a rude and hooligan culture that lacked civilization that was evident in the renaissance period. However, the term “Gothic” is used to describe styles of masonry and architecture that assumed the religious nature of the medieval era.

In the plan of these structures, there are different architectural terms that were used. For example, there is a long transverse arm that architectures call “transept” with an extrapolated extension at rear ends of the plan called “choir”. The nerve differs in different layouts, that is, some are double and others are single.

One example of a cathedral built in France is the Chartres Cathedral. This cathedral is about 49 miles from the capital of France, Paris. It is located in the town of Chartres and it is full name is Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Chartres. This cathedral is widely praised because of its cycle portal that is always firm and strong. This quality makes Chartres Cathedral convey the original design, evoke religious emotions to nonreligious individuals only because it is uniquely preserved Gothic Style of architect (Schutz 91).

This Cathedral is believed to be the home of a tunic belonging to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sancta Camisia. Chartres Cathedral has survived various instances of fire and was rebuilt in 1220 when its nave was reconstructed and retained its original Gothic architectural design. Neither was Chartres Cathedral destroyed nor looted during the French Revolution. Chartres Cathedral seems to hang above Chartres town. The architectural design from the exterior borrows from Italian masonry in which three aisles and a very short transept that is coalesced with five semicircles chapels make the Cathedral. The nave is propped up by a twofold buttress. It has been anchored high above by abutments and colonnettes that have numerous overwhelming sculptures that create symmetry. The interior is awe-inspiring since the elegance of the spacious nave has the luxurious space ever imagined. There are ambulatories that are wrapped around the choir that is symmetrically structured with several sculptures which are religious. The labyrinth of Chartres is about 130 feet in circumference. The windows of the cathedral are stained with vivid colors from expensive jewels that were constantly engraved over time.

Another amazing Cathedral from France is the Rouen Cathedral, Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen. Rouen Cathedral was reconstructed in 1250 after the fire burnt it down in the year 1200. The Gothic architecture that was used was heavily borrowed from Paris. There was a massive restructuring of the upper facades and towers. The celebrated artist, Claude Monet immortalized the Cathedral. During the Second World War, Rouen Cathedral was partially destroyed when bombs hit and demolished pillars, vaults, and choir buttresses (Minne-Seve 352). The general exterior of the cathedral has three high flying towers made of iron and bronze. The interior has naves that contain aisles that are elevated thus giving ample space. The choirs have colorful sculptures. Windows are stained with great artistic reverence of medieval arts to the renaissance epoch.

In conclusion, the above description of the salient characteristics of Gothic architecture has been manifested in the examples of Cathedrals discussed in this paper. Thus, the outstanding and priceless architectural designs of the Cathedrals are widely being studied, hence making the cathedrals to be dubbed World Heritage Sites.


Minne-Seve, Viviane and Herve, Kergall. Romanesque and Gothic France: Art and Architecture. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2000. Print.

Schutz, Bernhard, Great Cathedrals. London: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print. Scott, Robert. The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral. California, CA: University of California Press, 2003. Print.