Level 16 - Colossus
The term itself, "Gothic," derives from a term given to the style by Renaissance scholar, Giorgi Vasari, who incorrectly attributed the form to the Goths, Germanic invaders who helped lead to the downfall of the Holy Roman Empire and its classic ideals. In it's own time; Gothic architecture was referred to as "modern" or "French" architecture. The basic concepts and standards of Gothic form are colored, darkened and diffused light. A vertical rush to the sky, a synthesis of naturalistic and rational forms with mysticism and faith, the Cult of the Virgin, flying buttresses and other architectural advances that allowed a heightened sense of airiness and space. The Gothic era lasted primarily from 1150 AD to the 1400s, with more than 80 cathedrals and 500 large churches built in the Gothic style. Cathedrals functioned as town centers of not only religion, but also of local government and social gatherings. The massive effort that was required into the construction of the cathedrals helped foster a strong community spirit and pride, and sometimes formed a strong competitive edge with neighboring cathedrals and towns. Gothic Cathedrals were built primarily to contain holy relics and serve as pilgrimage destinations for the faithful, which would help lead into increased traffic and feed into the community's economy and culture.
Early Gothic was the first, primary core of what was to later evolve and develop into a more sophisticated idealized Gothic structure, and was a stage of much experimentation of what did and didn't work. (However, Gothic builders continued to experiment throughout later styles and as a result, numerous cathedrals collapsed and had to be rebuilt).
Another aspect of Early Gothic architecture was the development of barrel vaulting into arched ribbed vaulting. Unlike the barrel vaults of Romanesque churches, Early Gothic pointed the crowns of the arches into points, allowing them to 1. Support better, 2. Open up wider expanses of space. The idea of opening up space for light and the creation of one, unified space became an important element of Gothic, especially into the High Gothic. Side elevations for Early Gothic was primarily quadripartite elevation, with four stories of windows and levels, labeled the nave arcade, gallery, triforium, and clerestory. Ceiling vaulting, in addition to being ribbed arched vaulting. Early Gothic also started to deal with the notion of unity and the breaking up of wall mass (interior and exterior) by usage of numerous and ornate sculptures in order to lesson the bulk and weight of the stone and create an airier, lighter feel.
High Gothic started with the construction of Chartres cathedral, which was the first cathedral to include the flying buttresses from the first original plan of the building. High Gothic started to change the layout of the floor of the cathedral by evolving the early square schematics of Romanesque and early Gothic into the rectangular bay system, again, opening up spaces and dissolving previous walls and partitions. This style also focused on developing an organic, united feel of space and light, and further simplified the wall elevation style intotripartite elevation, getting rid of the gallery and lengthening the clerestory. An excellent example of this is St. Chapel, where the clerestory was lengthened to such an extreme as to form the majority of the wall. Another attempt at simplifying and unifying the spaces inside the cathedrals was the simplification of the vault sections from sexpartite intoquadripartite vaulting.
Gothic also appeared in other countries, notable England and Germany, and although not very popular, somewhat in Italy. The styles in each country differed slightly from the traditional French Gothic structures, although Germany stayed quite close to the High French style with one of it's better known Gothic structures, Cologne Cathedral. Italian Gothic never quite won enough popularity, with Italian architects who never fully accepted into the Northern Gothic style. Italian structures that could be chronologically categorized as Gothic, but not entirely stylistically, are Florence Cathedral, Orvieto Cathedral, and Milan Cathedral.
Gothic architecture has continued to influence modern day architects and builders, and the style and connotation of the Gothic is definitely one that continues to appeal to the modern day populace. The 18th century experienced a revival of Gothic with the Neo-Gothic movement. The beautiful, spiritual, historical and awesome intention with the Gothic architecture and style is one that is timeless and will continue to capture the imaginations and respect of all peoples.