Of course Gothic buildings are dark and spooky at night; there is no sun. However, during the day when the sunlight catches those stained-glass windows, they are absolutely beautiful. It’s definitely edgier (literally) than the architecture we’ve studied previously, but the precision and perfected repetition and patterns give it an incredible appearance. After Saint-Denis was beheaded, the old church which housed his shrine rebuilt the structure to befit him which founded Gothic architecture. From this point on, chapels were built with large widows, pointed arches, flying buttresses, and ribbed vaults to form the Gothic characteristics. Compared to Romanesque architecture, the chapels in the Gothic Era were more open which made it easier to view the choir without having huge pillars blocking the way.
What’s amazing to me, is that buildings today can go up in just a few months (best-case scenario), but gothic architectures spent generations on their buildings. It makes sense though, with all of the intricate carvings and designs. An unimaginable amount of patience was poured into these cathedrals and chapels, I’m sure. Not only did it take a large amount of time, but also a large amount of money. On the positive side, it created a lot of jobs for masons, carpenters, sculptors, stonecutters, and other craftsmen, which impacted the community and brought them closer. The cathedrals also brought space for activities, both secular and religious which “generated an enormous sense of civic pride among the townspeople” (Adams, 201).
How did the builders keep up with their motivation for these amazing structures and cathedrals? Faith. First of all, they were building them to function as a place of faith and secondly, their efforts show the beauty that a human’s mind and hands can create with all glory given to God. An article that I found said that a cathedral could take up to 133 years to build (Baines). Also, one of the reasons why the ceilings are so detailed is because the architect wanted to guide the eyes upward, to God. There are many other spiritual intentions built into the Gothic cathedrals, but the main reason that kept the builders building was their devotion to their faith and appreciation to God for giving them the hands and minds to make such beautiful creations.
I’ve always found stained-glass mesmerizing. The colorful fragments of glass cause a room to be filled with color when the sun hits them. There’s a long window of stained-glass at my church here in Grants Pass, and I often find myself gazing at it during the service.. A little bit of history about stained-glass: it got its name from the silver stain that was once applied to the outside surface of a window which turned yellow when it was fired (Khan Academy). Painters liked how the light would shine though their paintings on glass, creating a colorful atmosphere. Stained glass was once created by painting different colors on glass and then firing it in a kiln, but in the Gothic Era, architects used fragments of colored glass which they fused together to create a scene or figure. It was easier to paint facial expressions on faces than it was to carve them out of glass, so we see more close-up faces with the painting on glass than the fragmenting technique.
Abbot Suger was the founder of this eye-pleasing window idea and he was the first to diffuse light and color throughout the interior of the cathedrals. Translucent colored glass is cut and fused together with molten glass to form a window design. We all know how fragile and brittle glass is, so imagine cutting precise figures and shapes with the constant fear of cracking the glass. Amazing. The glass is then fired or baked in a kiln to harden and fuse it all together before joining them by strips of lead (Adams 200). Finally, they are framed by an iron armature and secured in the tracery. The predominant colors of Gothic stained glass are blue and red, but many other colors are used as well. As time went on into the later developments of Gothic style, stained-glass windows became even more detailed with smaller pieces of glass and busier patterns. These later windows remind me of a kaleidoscope.
Adams, L. S. (2001). A History of Western Art (3rd Edition ed.). New York , New York: McGraw Hill.
Bains, W. (2017). “The achitecture of faith”. beliefnet. Retrieved: July 17, 2018. www.beliefnet.com/faiths/christianity/the-architecture-of-faith?p=2
Spanswick, V. “Gothic architecture: an introduction”. Khan Academy. Retrieved: July 17, 2018. www.khanacademy.org/humanities/medieval-world/gothic1/a/gothic-architecture-an-introduction
“Stained glass: history and technique”. Khan Academy. 2014. Retrieved: July 17, 2018. www.khanacademy.org/humanities/medieval-world/gothic1/a/stained-glass-history-and-technique