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Gothic architecture

Style of architecture

Top 10 Gothic architecture related articles

Gothic architecture
Years active12th–17th centuries.
InfluencedGothic Revival architecture

Gothic architecture (or pointed architecture) is an architectural style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages.[1] It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. It originated in 12th-century northern France and England as a development of Norman architecture.[2] Its popularity lasted into the 16th century, before which the style was known as Latin: opus Francigenum, lit. 'French work'; the term Gothic was first applied during the later Renaissance.

The defining element of Gothic architecture is the pointed or ogival arch. It is the primary engineering innovation and the characteristic design component. The use of the pointed arch in turn led to the development of the pointed rib vault and flying buttresses, combined with elaborate tracery and stained glass windows.[3]

At the Abbey of Saint-Denis, near Paris, the choir was reconstructed between 1140 and 1144, drawing together for the first time the developing Gothic architectural features. In doing so, a new architectural style emerged that internally emphasised verticality in the structural members, and the effect created by the transmission of light through stained glass windows.[4]

Survivals of medieval Gothic architecture are most common as Christian ecclesiastical architecture, in the cathedrals, abbeys, and parish churches of Europe. It is also the architecture of many castles, palaces, town halls, guildhalls, universities and, less prominently today, private dwellings. Many of the finest examples of mediaeval Gothic architecture are listed with UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

With the development of Renaissance architecture in Italy during the mid 15th century, the Gothic style was supplanted by the new style, but in some regions, notably England, Gothic continued to flourish and develop into the 16th century. A series of Gothic revivals began in mid-18th century England, spread through 19th-century Europe and continued, largely for ecclesiastical and university structures, into the 20th century.

Tolbooth Steeple, Glasgow Cross (16th century)

Gothic architecture Intro articles: 23


Gothic architecture is also known as pointed architecture or ogival architecture.[5][6] Mediaeval contemporaries described the style as Latin: opus Francigenum, lit. 'French work' or 'Frankish work', as opus modernum, 'modern work', novum opus, 'new work', or as Italian: maniera tedesca, lit. 'German style'.[7][8]

The term "Gothic architecture" originated as a pejorative description. Giorgio Vasari used the term "barbarous German style" in his Lives of the Artists to describe what is now considered the Gothic style,[9] and in the introduction to the Lives he attributes various architectural features to the Goths, whom he held responsible for destroying the ancient buildings after they conquered Rome, and erecting new ones in this style.[10] When Vasari wrote, Italy had experienced a century of building in the Vitruvian architectural vocabulary of classical orders revived in the Renaissance and seen as evidence of a new Golden Age of learning and refinement. Vasari was echoed in the 16th century by François Rabelais, who referred to Goths and Ostrogoths (Gotz and Ostrogotz).[a][11]

The polymath architect Christopher Wren was disapproving of the name Gothic for pointed architecture. He compared it with Islamic architecture, which he called the 'Saracen style', pointing out that the pointed arch's sophistication was not owed to the Goths but to the Islamic Golden Age. He wrote:[12]

This we now call the Gothic manner of architecture (so the Italians called what was not after the Roman style) though the Goths were rather destroyers than builders; I think it should with more reason be called the Saracen style, for these people wanted neither arts nor learning: and after we in the west lost both, we borrowed again from them, out of their Arabic books, what they with great diligence had translated from the Greeks

— Christopher Wren, Report on St Paul's

According to a 19th-century correspondent in the London journal Notes and Queries, Gothic was a derisive misnomer; the pointed arcs and architecture of the later Middle Ages was quite different to the rounded arches prevalent in late antiquity and the period of the Ostrogothic Kingdom in Italy:

There can be no doubt that the term 'Gothic' as applied to pointed styles of ecclesiastical architecture was used at first contemptuously, and in derision, by those who were ambitious to imitate and revive the Grecian orders of architecture, after the revival of classical literature. But, without citing many authorities, such as Christopher Wren, and others, who lent their aid in depreciating the old mediaeval style, which they termed Gothic, as synonymous with every thing that was barbarous and rude, it may be sufficient to refer to the celebrated Treatise of Sir Henry Wotton, entitled The Elements of Architecture, ... printed in London so early as 1624. ... But it was a strange misapplication of the term to use it for the pointed style, in contradistinction to the circular, formerly called Saxon, now Norman, Romanesque, &c. These latter styles, like Lombardic, Italian, and the Byzantine, of course belong more to the Gothic period than the light and elegant structures of the pointed order which succeeded them.[13]

Gothic architecture Name articles: 21


The Gothic style of architecture was strongly influenced by the Romanesque architecture which preceded it; by the growing population and wealth of European cities, and by the desire to express local and national grandeur.[14] It was also influenced by theological doctrines which called for more light[15] and by technical improvements in vaults and buttresses that allowed much greater height and larger windows. It was also influenced by the necessity of many churches, such as Chartres Cathedral and Canterbury Cathedral, to accommodate growing numbers of pilgrims.[16] It also adapted features from earlier styles, such as Islamic architecture.

Gothic architecture Influences articles: 2


Architecture "became a leading form of artistic expression during the late Middle Ages".[2] Gothic architecture began in the earlier 12th century in northwest France and England and spread throughout Latin Europe in the 13th century; by 1300, a first "international style" of Gothic had developed, with common design features and formal language. A second "international style" emerged by 1400, alongside innovations in England and central Europe that produced both the perpendicular and flamboyant varieties. Typically, these typologies are identified as:[2]

  • c.1130–c.1240 Early to High Gothic and Early English
  • c.1240–c.1350 Rayonnant and Decorated Style
  • c.1350–c.1500 Late Gothic: flamboyant and perpendicular


Early Gothic triple elevation
Sens Cathedral (1135-1164)
Early English choir, Canterbury Cathedral (1175-1180)

Early Gothic

Norman architecture on either side of the English Channel developed in parallel towards Early Gothic.[2] Gothic features, such as the rib vault, had appeared in England and Normandy in the 11th century.[2] Rib-vaults were employed in the cathedral at Durham (1093–)[2] and in Lessay Abbey in Normandy (1098).[17] However, the first buildings to be considered fully Gothic are the royal funerary abbey of the French kings, the Abbey of Saint-Denis (1134–44), and the archiepiscopal cathedral at Sens (1143–63) They were the first buildings to systematically combine rib vaulting, buttresses, and pointed arches.[2] Most of the characteristics of later Early English were already present in the lower chevet of Saint-Denis.[1]

The Duchy of Normandy, part of the Angevin Empire until the 13th century, developed its own version of Gothic. One of these was the Norman chevet, a small apse or chapel attached to the choir at the east end of the church, which typically had a half-dome. The lantern tower was another common feature in Norman Gothic.[17] One example of early Norman Gothic is Bayeux Cathedral (1060–70) where the Romanesque cathedral nave and choir were rebuilt into the Gothic style. Lisieux Cathedral was begun in 1170.[18] Rouen Cathedral (begun 1185) was rebuilt from Romanesque to Gothic with distinct Norman features, including a lantern tower, deeply moulded decoration, and high pointed arcades.[19] Coutances Cathedral was remade into Gothic beginning about 1220. Its most distinctive feature is the octagonal lantern on the crossing of the transept, decorated with ornamental ribs, and surrounded by sixteen bays and sixteen lancet windows.[18]

Saint-Denis was the work of the Abbot Suger, a close adviser of Kings Louis VI and Louis VII. Suger reconstructed portions of the old Romanesque church with the rib vault in order to remove walls and to make more space for windows. He described the new ambulatory as "a circular ring of chapels, by virtue of which the whole church would shine with the wonderful and uninterrupted light of most luminous windows, pervading the interior beauty."[20] To support the vaults He also introduced columns with capitals of carved vegetal designs, modelled upon the classical columns he had seen in Rome. In addition, he installed a circular rose window over the portal on the facade.[20] These also became a common feature of Gothic cathedrals.[20][21]

The elements of Gothic style appeared very early in England. Durham Cathedral was the first cathedral to employ a rib vault, built between 1093 and 1104.[22] The monk-historian William of Malmesbury wrote of the Norman style at the beginning of the 12th century, "you can see everywhere, in the churches in the cities and the monasteries in the villages and towns, being built a new type of construction and flourishing in a new modern style."[23]

The first cathedral in France built entirely in the new style was Sens Cathedral, begun between 1135 and 1140 and consecrated in 1160.[24][25] Sens Cathedral features a Gothic choir, and six-part rib vaults over the nave and collateral aisles, alternating pillars and doubled columns to support the vaults, and buttresses to offset the outward thrust from the vaults. One of the builders who is believed to have worked on Sens Cathedral, William of Sens, later travelled to England and became the architect who, between 1175 and 1180, reconstructed the choir of Canterbury Cathedral in the new Gothic style.[24]

Sens Cathedral was influential in its strongly vertical appearance and in its three-part elevation, typical of subsequent Gothic buildings, with a clerestory at the top supported by a triforium, all carried on high arcades of pointed arches.[26] In the following decades flying buttresses began to be used, allowing the construction of lighter, higher walls.[26] French Gothic churches were heavily influenced both by the ambulatory and side-chapels around the choir at Saint-Denis, and by the paired towers and triple doors on the western façade.[26]

Sens was quickly followed by Senlis Cathedral (begun 1160), and Notre-Dame de Paris (begun 1160). Their builders abandoned the traditional plans and introduced the new Gothic elements from Saint-Denis. The builders of Notre-Dame went further by introducing the flying buttress, heavy columns of support outside the walls connected by arches to the upper walls. The vaults received and counterbalanced the outward thrust from the rib vaults of the roof. This allowed the builders to construct higher walls and larger windows.[27]

High Gothic flying buttresses
Metz Cathedral (1220–)
High Gothic west front, Reims Cathedral (1211–)

Early English and High Gothic

Following the destruction by fire of the choir of Canterbury Cathedral in 1174, a group of master builders was invited to propose plans for the reconstruction. The master-builder William of Sens, who had worked on Sens Cathedral, won the competition.[26] Work began that same year, but in 1178 William was badly injured by fall from the scaffolding, and returned to France, where he died.[28][29] His work was continued by William the Englishman who replaced his French namesake in 1178. The resulting structure of the choir of Canterbury Cathedral is considered the first work Early English Gothic.[26] The cathedral churches of Worcester (1175–), Wells (c.1180–), Lincoln (1192–), and Salisbury (1220–) are all, with Canterbury, major examples.[26] Tiercerons – decorative vaulting ribs – seem first to be have been used in vaulting at Lincoln Cathedral, installed c.1200.[26] Instead of a triforium, Early English churches usually retained a gallery.[26]

High Gothic (c. 1194–1250) was a brief but very productive period, which produced some of the great landmarks of Gothic art. The first building in the High Gothic (French: Classique) was Chartres Cathedral, an important pilgrimage church south of Paris. The Romanesque cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1194, but was swiftly rebuilt in the new style, with contributions from King Philip II of France, Pope Celestine III local gentry, merchants and craftsmen and Richard the Lionheart, king of England. The builders simplified the elevation used at Notre Dame, eliminated the tribune galleries, and used flying buttresses to support the upper walls. The walls were filled with stained glass, mainly depicting the story of the Virgin Mary but also, in a small corner of each window, illustrating the crafts of the guilds who donated those windows.[16]

The model of Chartres was followed by a series of new cathedrals of unprecedented height and size. These were Reims Cathedral (begun 1211), where coronations of the kings of France took place; Amiens Cathedral (1220–1226); Bourges Cathedral (1195–1230) (which, unlike the others, continued to use six-part rib vaults); and Beauvais Cathedral(1225–).[26][30]

In central Europe, the High Gothic style appeared in the Holy Roman Empire, first at Toul (1220–), whose Romanesque cathedral was rebuilt in the style of Reims Cathedral; then Trier's Liebfrauenkirche parish church (1228–), and then throughout the Reich, beginning with the Elisabethkirche at Marburg (1235–) and the cathedral at Metz (c.1235–).[26]

In High Gothic, the whole surface of the clerestory was given over to windows. At Chartres Cathedral, plate tracery was used for the rose window, but at Reims the bar-tracery was free-standing.[26] Lancet windows were supplanted by multiple lights separated by geometrical bar-tracery.[5] Tracery of this kind distinguishes Middle Pointed style from the simpler First Pointed.[5] Inside, the nave was divided into by regular bays, each covered by a quadripartite rib vaults.[26]

Other characteristics of the High Gothic were the development of rose windows of greater size, using bar-tracery, higher and longer flying buttresses, which could reach up to the highest windows, and walls of sculpture illustrating biblical stories filling the facade and the fronts of the transept. Reims Cathedral had two thousand three hundred statues on the front and back side of the facade.[30]

The new High Gothic churches competed to be the tallest, with increasingly ambitious structures lifting the vault yet higher. Chartres Cathedral's height of 38 m (125 ft) was exceeded by Beauvais Cathedral's 48 m (157 ft), but on account of the latter's collapse in 1248, no further attempt was made to build higher.[26] Attention turned from achieving greater height to creating more awe-inspiring decoration.[30]

Rayonnant Gothic west front
Strasbourg Cathedral (1276–)

Rayonnant Gothic and Decorated Style

Rayonnant Gothic maximised the coverage of stained glass windows such that the walls are effectively entirely glazed; notable examples are the nave of Saint-Denis (1231–) and the royal chapel of Louis IX of France on the Île de la Cité in the Seine – the Sainte-Chapelle (c.1241–8).[26] The high and thin walls of French Rayonnant Gothic allowed by the flying buttresses enabled increasingly ambitious expanses of glass and decorated tracery, reinforced with ironwork.[26] Shortly after Saint-Denis, in the 1250s, Louis IX commissioned the rebuilt transepts and enormous rose windows of Notre-Dame de Paris (1250s for the north transept, 1258 for the beginning of south transept).[31] This first 'international style' was also used in the clerestory of Metz Cathedral (c.1245–), then in the choir of Cologne's cathedral (c.1250–), and again in the nave of the cathedral at Strasbourg (c.1250–).[26] Masons elaborated a series of tracery patterns for windows – from the basic geometrical to the reticulated and the curvilinear – which had superseded the lancet window.[5] Bar-tracery of the curvilinear, flowing, and reticulated types distinguish Second Pointed style.[5]

Decorated Gothic similarly sought to emphasise the windows, but excelled in the ornamentation of their tracery. Churches with features of this style include Westminster Abbey (1245–), the cathedrals at Lichfield (after 1257–) and Exeter (1275–), Bath Abbey (1298–), and the retro choir at Wells Cathedral (c.1320–).[26]

The Rayonnant developed its second 'international style' with increasingly autonomous and sharp-edged tracery mouldings apparent in the cathedral at Clermont-Ferrand (1248–), the papal collegiate church at Troyes, Saint-Urbain (1262–), and the west façade of Strasbourg Cathedral (1276–).[26] By 1300, there were examples influenced by Strasbourg in the cathedrals of Limoges (1273–), Regensburg (c.1275–), and in the cathedral nave at York (1292–).[26]

Flamboyant Gothic east end,
Prague Cathedral (1344–)
Perpendicular Gothic east end, Henry VII Chapel (c. 1503–12)

Late Gothic: flamboyant and perpendicular

Central Europe began to lead the emergence of a new, international flamboyant style with the construction of a new cathedral at Prague (1344–) under the direction of Peter Parler.[26] This model of rich and variegated tracery and intricate reticulated rib-vaulting was definitive in the Late Gothic of continental Europe, emulated not only by the collegiate churches and cathedrals, but by urban parish churches which rivalled them in size and magnificence.[26] The minster at Ulm and other parish churches like the Heilig-Kreuz-Münster at Schwäbisch Gmünd (c.1320–), St Barbara's Church at Kutná Hora (1389–), and the Heilig-Geist-Kirche (1407–) and St Martin's Church (c.1385–) in Landshut are typical.[26] Use of ogees was especially common.[5]

The flamboyant style was characterised by the multiplication of the ribs of the vaults, with new purely decorative ribs, called tiercons and liernes, and additional diagonal ribs. One common ornament of flamboyant in France is the arc-en-accolade, an arch over a window topped by a pinnacle, which was itself topped with fleuron, and flanked by other pinnacles. Notable examples of French flamboyant building include the west façade of Rouen Cathedral, and especially the façades of Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes (1370s) and choir Mont-Saint-Michel's abbey church (1448).[27]

In England, ornamental rib-vaulting and tracery of Decorated Gothic co-existed with, and then gave way to, the perpendicular style from the 1320s, with straightened, orthogonal tracery topped with fan-vaulting.[5][26] Perpendicular Gothic was unknown in continental Europe and unlike earlier styles had no equivalent in Scotland or Ireland.[5][32] It first appeared in the cloisters and chapter-house (c. 1332) of Old St Paul's Cathedral in London by William de Ramsey.[32] The chancel of Gloucester Cathedral (c. 1337–57) and its latter 14th century cloisters are early examples.[32] Four-centred arches were often used, and lierne vaults seen in early buildings were developed into fan vaults, first at the latter 14th century chapter-house of Hereford Cathedral (demolished 1769) and cloisters at Gloucester, and then at Reginald Ely's King's College Chapel, Cambridge (1446–1461) and the brothers William and Robert Vertue's Henry VII Chapel (c. 1503–12) at Westminster Abbey.[32][33][34] Perpendicular is sometimes called Third Pointed and was employed over three centuries; the fan-vaulted staircase at Christ Church, Oxford built around 1640.[5][32]

Lacey patterns of tracery continued to characterise continental Gothic building, with very elaborate and articulated vaulting, as at St Barbara's, Kutná Hora (1512).[5] In certain areas, Gothic architecture continued to be employed until the 17th and 18th centuries, especially in provincial and ecclesiastical contexts, notably at Oxford.[5]

Decline and transition

Beginning in the mid-15th century, the Gothic style gradually lost its dominance in Europe. It had never been popular in Italy, and in the mid-15th century the Italians, drawing upon ancient Roman ruins, returned to classical models. The dome of Florence Cathedral (1420-1436) by Filippo Brunelleschi, inspired by the Pantheon, was one of the first Renaissance landmarks, but it also employed Gothic technology; the outer skin of the dome was supported by a framework of twenty-four ribs.[35]

The Kings of France had first-hand knowledge of the new Italian style, because of the military campaign of Charles VIII to Naples and Milan (1494), and especially the campaigns of Louis XII and Francois I (1500-1505) to restore French control over Milan and Genoa.[36] They brought back Italian paintings, sculpture and building plans, and, more important, Italian craftsmen and artists. The Cardinal Georges d'Amboise, chief minister of Louis XII, built the Chateau of Gaillon near Rouen (1502-10) with the assistance of Italian craftsmen. The Chateau de Blois (1515-24) introduced the Renaissance loggia and open stairway. King Francois I installed Leonardo DaVinci at his Chateau of Chambord in 1516, and introduced a Renaissance Long Gallery at the Palace of Fontainebleau in 1528-1540. In 1546 Francois I began building the first example of French classicism, the square courtyard of the Louvre Palace designed by Pierre Lescot. [37]

In Germany, some Italian elements were introduced at the Fugger Chapel of St. Anne's Church, Augsburg,(1510-1512) combined with Gothic vaults; and others appeared in the Church of St. Michael in Munich, but in Germany Renaissance elements were used primarily for decoration.[37] Some Renaissance elements also appeared in Spain, in a new Palace begun by Emperor Charles V in Granada, within the Alhambra Palace (1485-1550), inspired by Bramante and Raphael, but it was never completed. [38] The first major Renaissance work in Spain was the Escorial Monastery-Palace built by Philip II of Spain. [39]

Under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, England was largely isolated from architectural developments on the continent. The first classical building in England was the old Somerset House in London (1547-1552) (since demolished), built by Lord Protector Somerset, who was regent for Edward VI until the young King came of age in 1547. Somerset's successor, the Duke of Northumberland, sent the architectural scholar John Shute to Italy to study the new style. Shute published the first book in English on the new architecture in 1570. The first English houses in the new style were Burghley House (1550s-1580s) and Longleat, built by associates of Somerset.[40] With those buildings, a new age of architecture began in England.[41]

Gothic architecture survived the early modern period and flourished again in a revival from the late 18th century and throughout the 19th.[5] Perpendicular was the first Gothic style revived in the 18th century.[32]

Gothic architecture History articles: 122

Structural elements

Pointed arches

One of the common characteristics the Gothic style is the pointed arch, which was widely used both in structure and decoration. The pointed arch did not originate in Gothic architecture; they had been employed for centuries in the Near East in pre-Islamic as well as Islamic architecture for arches, arcades, and ribbed vaults.[42] In Gothic architecture, particularly in the later Gothic styles, they became the most visible and characteristic element, giving a sensation of verticality and pointing upward, like the spires. Gothic rib vaults covered the nave, and pointed arches were commonly used for the arcades, windows, doorways, in the tracery, and especially in the later Gothic styles decorating the façades.[43] They were also sometimes used for more practical purposes, such as to bring transverse vaults to the same height as diagonal vaults, as in the nave and aisles of Durham Cathedral, built in 1093.[44]

The earliest Gothic pointed arches were lancet lights or lancet windows, narrow windows terminating in a lancet arch, an arch with a radius longer than their breadth and resembling the blade of a lancet.[45][46] In the 12th century First Pointed phase of Gothic architecture, also called the Lancet style and before the introduction of tracery in the windows in later styles, lancet windows predominated Gothic building.[47]

The Flamboyant Gothic style was particularly known for such lavish pointed details as the arc-en-accolade, where the pointed arch over a doorway was topped by a pointed sculptural ornament called a fleuron and by pointed pinnacles on either side. the arches of the doorway were further decorated with small cabbage-shaped sculptures called "chou-frisés".[48]

Rib vaults

The Gothic rib vault was one of the essential elements that made possible the great height and large windows of the Gothic style.[49] Unlike the semi-circular barrel vault vault of Roman and Romanesque buildings, where the weight pressed directly downward, and required thick walls and small windows, the Gothic rib vault was made of diagonal crossing arched ribs. These ribs directed the thrust outwards to the corners of the vault, and downwards via slender colonettes and bundled columns, to the pillars and columns below. The space between the ribs was filled with thin panels of small pieces of stone, which were much lighter than earlier groin vaults. The outward thrust against the walls was countered by the weight of buttresses and later flying buttresses. As a result, the massive thick walls of Romanesque buildings were no longer needed; Since the vaults were supported by the columns and piers, the walls could be thinner and higher, and filled with windows.[50][24][51]

The earlier Gothic rib vaults, used at Sens Cathedral (begun between 1135–40) and Notre-Dame de Paris (begun 1163), were divided by the ribs into six compartments. They were very difficult to build, and could only cross a limited space. Since each vault covered two bays, they needed support on the ground floor from alternating columns and piers. In later construction, the design was simplified, and the rib vaults had only four compartments. The alternating rows of alternating columns and piers receiving the weight of the vaults was replaced by simple pillars, each receiving the same weight. A single vault could cross the nave. This method was used at Chartres Cathedral (1194–1220), Amiens Cathedral (begun 1220), and Reims Cathedral.[52] The four-part vaults made it possible for the building to be even higher. Notre-Dame de Paris, begun in 1163 with six-part vaults, reached a height of 35 m (115 ft). Amiens Cathedral, begun in 1220 with the newer four-part ribs, reached the height of 42.3 m (139 ft) at the transept.[50][53]

Later vaults (13th-15th century)

In France, the four-part rib vault, with a two diagonals crossing at the centre of the traverse, was the type used almost exclusively until the end of the Gothic period. However, in England, several imaginative new vaults were invented which had more elaborate decorative features. They became a signature of the later English Gothic styles.[54]

The first of these new vaults had an additional rib, called a tierceron, which ran down the median of the vault.[55] It first appeared in the vaults of the choir of Lincoln Cathedral at the end of the 12th century, and the at Worcester Cathedral in 1224, then the south transept of Lichfield Cathedral.[54]

The 14th century brought the invention of several new types of vaults which were more and more decorative.[56] These vaults often copied the forms form of the elaborate tracery of the Late Gothic styles.[55] These included the stellar vault, where a group of additional ribs between the principal ribs forms a star design. The oldest vaults of this kind were found in the crypt of Saint Stephen at Westminster Palace, built about 1320. A second type was called a reticulated vault, which had an network of additional decorative ribs, in triangles and other geometric forms, placed between or over the traverse ribs. These were first used in the choir of Bristol Cathedral in about 1311. Another late Gothic form, the fan vault, with ribs spreading upwards and outwards, appeared later in the 14th century. A notable example in the cloister of Gloucester Cathedral (c. 1370).[54]

Another new form was the skeleton vault, which appeared in the English Decorated style. It has an additional network of ribs, like the ribs of an umbrella, which criss-cross the vault but are only directly attached to it at certain points. It appeared in a chapel of Lincoln Cathedral in 1300.[54] and then several other English churches. This style of vault was adopted in the 14th century in particular by German architects, particularly Peter Parler, and in other parts of central Europe. Another exists in the south porch of Prague Cathedral[54]

Exotic vaults also appeared in civic architecture. A notable example is the ceiling of the grand hall of Vladimir in Prague Castle in Bohemia. designed by The Prague city hall, and built by Benedikt Ried in 1493. The ribs twist and intertwine in fantasy patterns, which later critics called "Rocoro Gothic".[57]

Columns and piers

In Early French Gothic architecture, the capitals of the columns were modeled after Roman columns of the Corinthian order, with finely-sculpted leaves. They were used in the ambulatory of the Abbey church of Saint-Denis. According to its builder, the Abbot Suger, they were inspired by the columns he had seen in the ancient baths in Rome.[20] They were used later at Sens, at Notre-Dame de Paris and at Canterbury in England.

In early Gothic churches with six-part rib vaults, the columns in the nave alternated with more massive piers to provide support for the vaults. With the introduction of the four-part rib vault, all of the piers or columns in the nave could have the same design. In the High Gothic period, a new form was introduced, composed of a central core surrounded several attached slender columns, or colonettes, going up to the vaults.[58] These clustered columns were used at Chartres, Amiens, Reims and Bourges, Westminster Abbey and Salisbury Cathedral.[59] Another variation was a quadrilobe column, shaped like a clover, formed of four attached columns.[59] In England, the clustered columns were often ornamented with stone rings, as well as columns with carved leaves.[58]

Later styles added further variations. Sometimes the piers were rectangular and fluted, as at Seville Cathedral, In England, parts of columns sometimes had contrasting colours, using combining white stone with dark Purbeck marble. In place of the Corinthian capital, some columns used a stiff-leaf design. In later Gothic, the piers became much taller, reaching up more than half of the nave. Another variation, particularly popular in eastern France, was a column without a capital, which continued upward without capitals or other interruption, all the way to the vaults, giving a dramatic display of verticality.[59]

Flying buttresses

An important feature of Gothic architecture was the flying buttress, a half-arch outside the building which carried the thrust of weight of the roof or vaults inside over a roof or an aisle to a heavy stone column. The buttresses were placed in rows on either side of the building, and were often topped by heavy stone pinnacles, both to give extra weight and for additional decoration.[60]

Buttresses had existed since Roman times, usually set directly against the building, but the Gothic vaults were more sophisticated. In later structures, the buttresses often had several arches, each reaching in to a different level of the structure. The buttresses permitted the buildings to be both taller, and to have thinner walls, with greater space for windows.[60]

Over time, the buttresses and pinnacles became more elaborate supporting statues and other decoration, as at Beauvais Cathedral and Rheims Cathedral. The arches had an additional practical purpose; they contained lead channels which carried rainwater off the roof; it was expelled from the mouths of stone gargoyles placed in rows on the buttresses.[61]

Flying buttresses were used less frequently in England, where the emphasis was more on length than height. One notable example of English buttresses was Canterbury Cathedral, whose choir and buttresses were rebuilt in Gothic style by William of Sens and William the Englishman.[29] However, they were very popular in Germany: in Cologne Cathedral the buttresses were lavishly decorated with statuary and other ornament, and were a prominent feature of the exterior.

Rouen Cathedral from the south west – façade towers 12th–15th century, the flamboyant tower to 15th century, spire rebuilt in 16th century

Towers and spires

Towers, spires and fleches were an important feature of Gothic churches. They presented a dramatic spectacle of great height, helped make their churches the tallest and most visible buildings in their city, and symbolised the aspirations of their builders toward heaven.[62] They also had a practical purpose; they often served as bell towers supporting belfries, whose bells told the time by announcing religious services, warned of fire or enemy attack, and celebrated special occasions like military victories and coronations. Sometimes the bell tower is built separate from a church; the best-known example of this is the Leaning Tower of Pisa.[62]

The towers of cathedrals were usually the last part of the structure to be built. Since cathedral construction usually took many years,and was extremely expensive, by the time the tower were to be built public enthusiasm waned, and tastes changed. Many projected towers were never built, or were built in different styles than other parts of the cathedral, or with different styles on each level of the tower.[63] At Chartres Cathedral, the south tower was built in the 12th century, in the simpler Early Gothic, while the north tower is the more highly decorated Flamboyant style. Chartres would have been even more exuberant if the second plan had been followed; it called for seven towers around the transept and sanctuary.[64]

In the Ile-de-France, cathedral towers followed the Romanesque tradition of two identical towers, one on either side of the portals. The west front of the Saint-Denis, became the model for the early Gothic cathedrals and High Gothic cathedrals in northern France, including Notre-Dame de Paris, Reims Cathedral, and Amiens Cathedral.[65]

The early and High Gothic Laon Cathedral has a square lantern tower over the crossing of the transept; two towers on the western front; and two towers on the ends of the transepts. Laon's towers, with the exception of the central tower, are built with two stacked vaulted chambers pierced by lancet openings. The two western towers contain life-size stone statues of sixteen oxen in their upper arcades, said to honour the animals who hauled the stone during the cathedral's construction.[66]

In Normandy, Cathedrals and major churches often had multiple towers, built over the centuries; the Abbaye aux Hommes (begun 1066), Caen has nine towers and spires, placed on the facade, the transepts, and the centre. A lantern tower was often placed the centre of the nave, at the meeting point with the transept, to give light to the church below.

In later periods of Gothic, pointed needle-like spires were often added to the towers, giving them much greater height. A variation of the spire was the fleche, a slender, spear=like spire, which was usually placed on the transept where it crossed the nave. They were often made of wood covered with lead or other metal. They sometimes had open frames, and were decorated with sculpture. Amiens Cathedral has a notable flèche. The most famous example was that of Notre-Dame de Paris. The original flèche of Notre-Dame was built on the crossing of the transept in the middle of the 13th century, and housed five bells. It was removed in 1786 during a program to modernise the cathedral, but was put back in a new form designed by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. The new flèche, of wood covered with lead, was decorated with statues of the Apostles; the figure of St Thomas resembled Viollet-le-Duc.[67] The flèche was destroyed in the 2019 fire, but is being restored in the same design.

In English Gothic, the major tower was often placed at the crossing of the transept and nave, and was much higher than the other. The most famous example is the tower of Salisbury Cathedral, completed in 1320 by William of Farleigh. It was a remarkable feat of construction, since it was built upon the pillars of the much earlier church.[68] A crossing tower was constructed at Canterbury Cathedral in 1493-1501 by John Wastell, who had previously worked on King's College at Cambridge. It was finished by Henry Yevele, who also built the present nave of Canterbury.[69] The new central tower at Wells Cathedral caused a problem; it was too heavy for the original structure. An unusual double arch had to be constructed in the centre of the crossing to give the tower the extra support it needed.[68]

England's Gothic parish churches and collegiate churches generally have a single western tower. A number of the finest churches have masonry spires, with those of