Gothic architecture


The Gothic architecture is an art form for which the concept was formed Gothic art , which includes style romantic and renaissance of art. This type of art developed in Western Europe.


What is gothic architecture?

It is an architectural style which was developed in the twelfth to fifteenth centuries , which emphasized lighting and structural lightness of the buildings. The term Gothic was invented by Renaissance scholars with which they despised and considered bestial or inferior to this style of art.


What does it consist of

It consists of an artistic style that is between Romanesque and Renaissance, since its development is centered in Western  Europe from the end of the 12th century to the middle of the 15th century.


Characteristics of Gothic architecture

The main characteristics of Gothic architecture are based on notorious and constant elements within its structure, which are:

  • Height: this has allowed new techniques and new architects to spread a weight on the walls in order to make them larger , taking as reference plans from the beginning of this art.
  • Arch innovation: this was a key to Gothic architecture, as it has a merely decorative and ostentatious meaning.
  • Vaulted ceilings: these were very irregular since with the technology of the pointed arch, they became little used, in this way it was possible to separate the weight of the upper floors

Origin and history

Its origin dates back to northern France in the mid-12th century. Initially it is known that the first records of it were during the restoration of Abbot Suger. Beyond the first dates of the beginning of this art, its technique has been perfected at the end of the 11th century, when the construction of Durham Cathedral had begun, which consisted of a ribbed vault and Gothic structure.

According to historians, it remains in a consecutive state of evolution until the 16th century. In order to have a chronological order of its evolution and history, we are going to see some of his most representative works:

  • Saint Denis Abbey: This was one of the first cathedrals where the Gothic style in its architecture could be appreciated in a relevant way , where not only its buildings should have a medieval style, but also reflect the new concept of cathedrals. Within this architecture, the pointed vault and pointed arch were incorporated, which in combination with the main columns, redistributed the weight from the ceiling to the floor.
  • Sens Cathedral: This cathedral, located 115 kilometers southeast of Paris, is considered the oldest cathedral in the world, and construction began at the same time as the Abbey of Sant Denis . It was in this cathedral where the experimentation and evolution of Gothic architecture. In this cathedral we can see how the builders sought to raise the central nave and establish a vertical division focusing on its arches, clerestory and clerestory.
  • Chartres Cathedral : In the town of Chartres Gothic art was perfected, which would later become the main model of classical Gothic . In this structure we can see how its horizontal pillars formed part of the key to opening the opening and filling in the Gothic stained glass windows.
  • Chapel of Saint Chapelle: This was one of the definitive architectures of Gothic architecture . Considered a glass box and named by experts as one of the best examples of the Gothic architecture model.


The elements that are part of Gothic art were innovative and in a very constructive way they helped to raise different buildings with a slender appearance with very simple means and materials.

Among its main elements we can find:

  • Plant: It initially responds to two types:
    • Romanesque tradition.
    • Living room.
  • Pointed arch: it is a technical element within Gothic architecture, it stands out for being slender and light, at the same time transmitting less lateral tension and raising the structure of the building.
  • Rib vault: it is made up of pointed arches, which resemble a skeleton. It is lighter and reflects a three-dimensional skeleton.

Materials of Gothic architecture

The most important materials used in this architecture are usually of natural origin such as wood or stone, which were chosen for their resistance and permanence. Likewise , imprisoned earth or mud was used which was dried in the sun and remained compact and resistant. Over time the materials evolved, but in the beginning, the only thing that was sought was that the structure would resist and look stylized.


The plant is in the arrangement of a basilica , which has three or five naves in large buildings. The headboard has a large ambulatory that can be double or single which opens into a polygonal chapel.


It is one of the most versatile elements , since its form and use have been implemented in most of the Gothic structures in the world. It is used with the intention of containing the pressure that the construction itself has. Likewise, this type of structure looks aesthetic and elegant , as well as giving the structure height.

Gothic architecture by country


This architecture has a different evolution from the rest of the continent since at the end of the 12th century the reigning Norman style began to be replaced , which is a denomination that receives the Romanesque style in this country and little by little over time it was prolonged more than a century after the Renaissance style was introduced in Florence, which began to follow the  beginning of the 16th century.


Italian architecture showed during the Gothic period characteristics which were found to be very typical, since they are separated in an essential way from the rest found in Western Europe.

The intensity of the classical tradition was little by little contributing to receive with suspicion a barbarian style whose stylistic roots began to break in architecture with the legacies of classical civilizations.


Gothic architecture began in Spain , through the monasteries of the Cistercian Order , and thus reached a wide diffusion throughout the country. The style of transition from the Romanesque is reflected in the cathedrals of Tarragona, Lérida and Ávila.

The purest manifestations of this style were built in Spain in the 12th century, at the peak of the Gothic period: the cathedrals of Burgos, León and Toledo . Two influences are present on the Meseta : Burgundian, in the Kingdom of León due to the origin of the Leon dynasty; and the English, in the Kingdom of Castile , arrived through the marriage alliance of the Castilian kings with the House of Lancaster.


This style comes from France since it will coexist in a time with the German Romanesque forms which began to resist the new style , such as the pointed arches which they built until the first years of the 12th century.


It is important since it is taken as an influence in modern times and because of the great legacy it left in society, such as the buildings built and which last until these dates today because they are a base of art and culture.


The main representatives of Gothic architecture are:

  • Jan van Eyck
  • Simone martini
  • Roger van der weyden

Gothic architecture books

  • Gothic Architecture Paul Frankl (1962).
  • A Mediterranean Gothic Architecture Arturo Zaragoza Catalán (2003).
  • The Gothic Cathedral: The Origins of Gothic Architecture and the Medieval Concept of Order Otto Von Simson (1956).

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