of Scandinavia. It confronted the Byzantine provinces of Central Europe and
development of architectural ideas.1
Although by 1400 Gothic had become the universal style of building in
stretching from the royal domain around Paris, including Saint-Denis and
Chartres, to the region of the Champagne in the east and southward to Bourges.
imperfect refraction of Divine Light of God, Whose Temple stood on earth,
according to the text of the dedication ritual, stood for the Heavenly City of
Jerusalem.”3 The Gothic interpretation of this point of view was a cathedral so
and the plastic effects of the stonework are made to produce a visionary scale.
proportions in the parts. Such architecture did not only express the physical
of that time. Gothic was not dark, massive, and contained like the older
Romanesque style, but light, open, and aerial, and its appearance in all parts
of Europe had an enduring effect on the outlook of succeeding generations.4
change in Western Europe. In the late eleventh and twelfth centuries trade and
industry were revived, particularly in northern Italy and Flanders, and a lively
but also between far-distant regions. Politically, the twelfth century was
political and economic developments, a powerful new intellectual movement arose
contributed to these changes and was affected by them.5
The Gothic style was essentially urban. The cathedrals of course were
all situated in towns, and most monasteries, had by the twelfth century become
ceremonies, and it held the earliest dramatic performances. The abbey
traditionally comprised at least a cloister, a dormitory and a refectory for the
monks. But the cathedral also was around a complex of buildings, the bishop’s
However the cathedral dominated them all, rising high above the town like a
marker to be seen from afar.6
The architectural needs of the Church were expressed in both physical
and iconographical terms. Like its Romanesque predecessor, the Gothic cathedral
was eminently adaptable. It could be planned larger or smaller, longer or
shorter, with or without transepts and ambulatory, according to the traditions
and desires of each community. It had no predetermined proportions or number of
parts, like the Roman temple or the centrally planned church of the Renaissance.
Its social and liturgical obligations demanded a main altar at the end of a
of minor altars, and an area for processions within the building.7 There were
though the smallest Gothic cathedral could easily contain that number. The rest
who were not permitted to enter the choir or sanctuary. Still, after the middle
of the twelfth century, the choir was usually isolated by a monumental screen
that effectively prevented laymen from even seeing the service, and special
devotional books came into use to supply the congregation with suitable subjects
of meditation during mass.8
The program of the Gothic church fulfilled iconographical as well as
social requirements. The intellectual centers of the Middle Ages had long been
preserved in monastic and cathedral schools gave rise to universities such as
Paris and Oxford in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Such an
association obviously had an effect on the arts, which were still primarily
been even closer, for scholastic thinking first took shape in Paris early in the
twelfth century, at the very time that Gothic architecture came into being there.
It is possible that architects, who were “abstract” thinkers in their own right,
may occasionally have absorbed some of the habits of thought of the philosophers.
In the absence of written documents, however, it cannot be proved whether these
habits were consistently embodied in the design of the buildings.9
experienced as a representation of an ultimate reality.10 The Gothic cathedral
physical realities, of twelfth-century France. It was described as an
The essence of Gothic style was most fully developed in its conquest of space
New York: George Braziller, 1967.
Panofsky, E. Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism. Latrobe: Faber and Faber
Simson, Otto von. The Gothic Cathedral. New York: Bollingen Foundation, 1956.
Worringer, Wilhelm. Form In Gothic. New York: Alec Tiranti Limited, 1957.