The Triumph of the City



Gothic Art



 Gothic Art Map
 Gothic Art
 Introduction Benedetto Antelami Taddeo Gaddi Vitale da Bologna
 Architecture in France Giovanni di Balduccio Giotto di Bondone Guariento d'Arpo
 Architecture in Germany Jacobello Dalle Masegne Pietro Lorenzetti Giusto de' Menabuoi
 Architecture in Italy Corenzo Maitani Ambrogio Lorenzetti Barnaba da Modena
 Architecture in England Andrea da Firenze Giovanni da Milano Melchior Broederlam
 Stained Glass Filippo Rusiti Gentile da Fabriano Nicolas de Bataille
 Arnolfo di Cambio Ferrer Bassa Pucelle Jean Bayeux Tapestry
 Nicola Pisano Pietro Cavallini Altichiera da Zevio Matthew Paris
 Giovanni Pisano Cimabue Tomasso da Modena Master Boucicaut
 Tino di Camaino Duccio di Buonisegna Traini Francesco Illuminated Manuscripts
 Andrea Pisano Simone Martini Giovannino de' Grassi Master Hohenfurt
 Claus Sluter Maso di Banco Roberto Oderisi Henri Belechose
 Exploration: Revelations (Art of the Apocalypse)
 Exploration: Gothic Era  (Gothic and Early Renaissance)


Architecture in France


From the middle of the 12th century, a totally new style of architecture emerged in the
great cathedrals of northern France. Incorporating improved building techniques and a
new perception of symbolic values, this style quickly spread throughout Europe where,
in many countries, it would endure for three centuries or more. This was Gothic art,
a prolonged and highly original phase in European culture.


The revolutionary new architectural styles and building techniques first used in the mid-12th century on the construction sites of the cathedrals of northern France quickly spread to England, central Europe, Italy, and Spain. In some countries this "Gothic" architecture was to rule until the beginning of the 16th century. The term "Gothic" was first coined by early Renaissance architects as a means of deriding all architecture created in a medieval style. The word itself referred to the idea of a barbaric past of the Dark Ages and, more specifically, to the "Goths" - a Germanic people who invaded Italy in the fifth century and sacked Rome. However, the term was to lose its derogatory overtones and, by the Baroque age, great architects like Borromini and, later, Guarini were quick to appreciate the technical quality and originality of form of these Gothic buildings. In the 19th century, new sensitivities to the picturesque by the English critic John Ruskin, and structural analysis by the French architect and leader of the Gothic Revival in France, Viollet-le-Duc (1814-79), led to a reappraisal of the social and religious qualities of the Middle Ages. Some 20th-century studies of Gothic art have perhaps laid too much emphasis on trends linked to the evolution of style or to geographical location. Others, like those by the art historian Erwin Panofsky and the critic Otto von Simson, have indicated links with scholastic philosophy, or with metaphysics of Neo-Platonic origin. Meanwhile, critics such as Georges Duby have upheld the importance of the role of social and religious context. In architecture, which more than the any other art category personifies Gothic culture, innovation grew out of a progressive mastery of geometry and composition. With new advances in technology, organization, and planning, building methods changed. Construction sites became efficient and economic, and the development of specialist areas, such as carving and layout, enabled work to be allocated and integrated into orderly sequences. The task of the architect became both more intellectual and more independent and names like Pierre de Montreuil (c.1200-66), Peter Parler (1333-99), and Ulrich von Esingen, came to be known. The new style, known as opus francigenum spread rapidly, as the competition between bishops to build cathedrals grew more intense, and it was consolidated by the dominance in the 13th century of the French monarchy throughout northern France. Impressed by the economical use of time and materials, the growing monastic orders - Cistercians, Franciscans, and Dominicans - adopted the Gothic style. Building plans began to circulate outside the strict confines applied by the masons, and were used by architects and patrons.

Durham Cathedral, begun 1093 view of the nave. The structure is bulky and the components are separate, but the ribs on the vaulting compartments run down the piers. For the first time a sense of structural coherence overlaid the solid mass of the supports.




Abbot Suger, a profound mystic, became abbot of Saint-Denis, Paris, in 1122. In 1140, he inaugurated the new basilica, intended as a burial chapel for the Capetian monarchs. This was the first truly Gothic building. Although he only completed the choir aisles and west entrance block, his vision of a ring of stained glass windows expanded the precious shimmer of the altar furniture into an aesthetic of mystic light. The oldest aesthetic dictate, "all that which exists is light", "was echoed in the new edifices in the He de France, with an extraordinary use of stained-glass windows adorned with figures. The glorification of the portal, which had to be rich and light as a sign of Christ and a true door to the salvation of man, was a forerunner of the great sculptures that were to appear at the entrances of Notre-Dame in Paris and Chartres Cathedral. It is really in the shadow of these great building sites that theologians like Theodore of Chartres and William of Conches found an obvious counterpart in the logicality of the Gothic structure, with its impression of everything soaring upwards, Their speculations on creative energy, anima mundi and its other aspect, ornatus mundi, is reflected in the elaboration of detail in the varied and wonderful repertory of sculpted decoration.

Detail of the Portal Royal, Chartres Cathedral, 1145-70.

View of the mid- 13th-century interior of the
basilica of Saint-Denis (1140-1281)




Proceeded by a Gallo-Roman temple to Jupiter, a Christian basilica, and a Romanesque church, construction of Notre-Dame de Paris began in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII. Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone. The idea to replace the Romanesque church occupying the site - the Cathedral of St. Etienne (founded by Childebert in 528) - was that of Bishop Maurice de Sully (who died in 1196). (Some accounts claim that there were two churches existing on the site, one to the Virgin Mary, the other to St. Stephen.) Construction was completed roughly 200 years later in about 1345. The choir was completed in 1182; the nave in 1208, and the west front and towers circa 1225-1250. A series of chapels were added to the nave during the period 1235-50, and during 1296-1330 to the apse (Pierre de Chelles and Jean Ravy). The transept crossings were build in 1250-67 by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil (also the architect of the Sainte-Chapelle). It was essentially completed according to the original plans. The reigns of Louis XIV (end of the 17th century) and Louis XV saw significant alterations including the destruction of tombs, and stained glass. At the end of the 18th century, during the Revolution, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. Only the great bells avoided being melted down, and the Cathedral was dedicated first to the cult of Reason, and to the cult of the Supreme being. The church interior was used as a warehouse for the storage of forage and food.

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258
General view
  The front facade, executed somewhat later than the nave, depicts the Last Judgment in the central portal-a common medieval subject, stories in the life of Mary in the north portal tympanum, and those in the life of her mother Anne in the south portal tympanum


Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258, (interior)


The Gothic Cathedrals


Notre-Dame Cathedral
Paris, France


Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258. Unlike most cathedrals, Notre-Dame still represents the heart of its city. After eight centuries, it remains a point of reference for French art, from its foundations built in 1163 on the site of an old temple dedicated to the Roman god Jove, to the 19th-century restoration work by Viollet-le-Duc. The portals retain some of the original sculpture. The transept was added in the 13th century The interior is dominated by the soaring vaults, the feeling of infinite space, and the austerity of the cylindrical columns in the double aisles.

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258
View of portal

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258
South tribune, from east looking, west


Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258.
Rose window; parapet with Virgin and Child flanked by angels




Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258



Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258


Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258


Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258


Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258


Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258



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