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French Gothic Architecture - Essay Example

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France is generally recognized as the main center for Gothic architecture, especially in the early period, but other areas soon began to adopt these innovations and adapt them to their own local needs…
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French Gothic architecture with its accompanying art forms. France is generally recognized as the main center for Gothic architecture, especially inthe early period, but other areas soon began to adopt these innovations and adapt them to their own local needs. France is blessed with plenty of limestone which is well suited to Cathedral building, but Southern England, with its red and brown sandstone, had to adapt some building techniques to suit this softer stone. York Minster, in the north of England, is made of a white colored type of limestone, and in Aberdeen there is a Cathedral made of granite. Apart from these geographical variations, there are stylistic features that differ from country to country. In Italy, for example, the towers traditionally are quite separately from the main body of the building. England took to the Gothic style more keenly than many other countries, and it was employed widely in universities and civic buildings as well as in churches and cathedrals. The windows and arches in the English style are even more elongated than in the French style, creating a more austere impression, which befits the different sensibilities of English culture. The proportions of window breadth and height are thus changed, and the use of some very hard English marble for pillars allows an extension of verticality without any loss of weight bearing capacity. Some innovations were made in the design of the vault by English builders, as for example at Lincoln in the mid thirteenth century when the star vault was first invented. A long series of star vaults draws the eye horizontally, so that the bays merge into each other giving the ceiling space in cathedrals such as Lincoln, and also Ely, a horizontal feel which came to be recognized as typically English (Frankl and Crossley, 2000, p. 146). Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey with their strong royal connections became showpieces of English Gothic, sparing no expense to add ornate sculpture in every corner. The stained glass styles and colors are somewhat different from the French examples, reflecting the local preference for the deep blue and violet which were associated with the royal court. Wells Cathedral, built in the first half of the thirteenth century, has no less than three hundred sculptures placed on the west front. In terms of the overall plan of the building, English Gothic tends to sacrifice some height in favor of length. Salisbury Cathedral, for example, has very little in the way of obvious external buttressing, and the support function is carried by arches in the roof rather than flying buttresses outside the walls. In many smaller scale buildings, such as King’s College Chapel built in the 15th-16th centuries the design of the vaults became ever more elaborate, taking the principles of Gothic style to a decorative extreme. Even private houses and castles owned by English lords were adorned with Gothic touches and this fashion extended well into the seventeenth century. In keeping with the rise of Protestantism in England in the later period, there were fewer statues or images of the saints. Similar stained glass images of trades were to be found, often using imported workmen from Europe who possessed the ability to work with the very intricate techniques required for constructing the huge rose windows in Church buildings. English embellishments were often taken from the natural world and this was a very great change from the earlier Norman architecture which was extremely plain. One critic notes “the long trails of dog-tooth ornament lurking in the dark furrow of the channelled recesses, the foliaged capitals and bosses intruding their luxuriance upon the mouldings and hollows, and the knots of pierced and hanging leaves, extending like some petrified garland or bower of filigree work round the arch, almost impart life and vegetation to the very stones of these door and window openings” (Fletcher and Fletcher, 2012). Another feature of the English Gothic style in architecture is that it lasted longer than in Europe, and it developed in multiple different directions, with the result that Gothic buildings in England often have quirky additions here and there which do not map onto a consistent style. Some English Cathedrals have been works in progress almost from the first day of construction until the present day, with modifications to the main floor plan being added on through each passing century. References Fletcher, Banister and Fletcher, Banister F. “Early English Gothic Architecture” (2012). Available online at: Frankl, Paul and Crossley, Paul. Gothic architecture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. Scott, Robert A. The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011. Read More
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