The Gothic, characteristics, architecture, art and sculpture

The Gothic, characteristics, architecture, art and sculpture

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Introduction to Gothic

Before mentioning the main characteristics of Gothic, we must introduce ourselves in one of the styles that even today, continue to impact us.

The word "Gothic”Is a term given by the barbarians, which led to it not being accepted by the general population in the beginning.

The main country that developed this type of style was France and from there, after acquiring great popularity, it spread throughout Europe.

Gothic Characteristics

Gothic architecture

The architects brought more creativity

We know that until the beginning of the Gothic period, the style used by architects only focused on developing constructions that gave the building greater durability.

But nevertheless, with the Gothic they tried to be more spontaneous and creative, trying to give their buildings higher altitude to be "closer to God", something they were able to do thanks to the use of buttresses and flying buttresses, as we will see later.

This point is something that can be seen today in the Gothic churches or cathedrals that have survived to this day.

Cathedrals with greater illumination

Formerly, churches used to be darkSince in the case of low constructions and with much more wall to contain the total weight of the building, it was much more complex to be able to provide them with luminosity.

But, in this new style, the architects had many more possibilities and freedoms; with what, in addition to making the buildings taller and larger, they made high-rise windows.

In this way they gave rise to the "stained glass" or "stained glass", which took into account the prevailing religion at the time, creating in them drawings of religious events recounted in the Bible.

They are really interesting and majestic, because the large number of colors used for these creations are a tremendous spectacle.

It was not to everyone's liking

We can deduce this from the name itself, since being considered a barbarian style, was not accepted by the majority in the beginning.

However, as time passed and for its spectacularity, began to gain the appreciation of the general public, even acquiring great popularity in France, where this style began, later expanding to England, Spain, Germany and Italy.

Use of buttresses and flying buttress

The buttresses and flying buttresses are a typical feature of the structure of Gothic buildings, being exterior structural elements with the shape of a half arch, which collects the pressure at the beginning of the vault and transmits it to a buttress, or abutment, attached to the wall of a lateral nave.

As an external discharge arc, it is usually in an inclined position, thus being a rampant arc or an arc for tranquility as the starts are at different heights.

The flying buttress is part of the Gothic structure, but it can only be seen from the outside.

On the other hand, the lower part rests on a stirrup, buttress, or botarel; and the upper part serves as a support, generally, to a ribbed vault.

A pinnacle (called a needle when it is very high) crowns the stirrup, decorating it and helping with its weight to stabilize the structure.

In animated movies like the "Hunchback of Notre Dame”We can visualize them in some scenes.

Let's remember that some they had connections to gargoyles, which were used to remove rainwater, so that it does not accumulate in buildings.

Taking these two great uses, we can see that they were very useful, in addition to being very attractive in the eyes of others.

Evolution of architecture in the Gothic

For this style to achieve perfection, it went through different phases:

  • The early phase: in this phase the "rib vault" will appear as the main invention, which we find in almost all cathedrals as a kind of dome, but divided into 4 sections by a cross.
  • Classical phase: here the churches will have a greater height, becoming "closer to heaven and its creator". The height had a lot to do with the windows, which, as I mentioned earlier, give more light to dark places.
  • Radiant phase: the final stage and the one that most stands out for a cathedral, characterized by the creation of huge "rosettes"Which tend to be spherical in shape and with different and impressive designs.

Gothic art


In painting, a style that can be called “Gothic” did not appear until about 1200, almost 50 years after the origins of Gothic architecture and sculpture.

The transition from Romanesque to Gothic is very imprecise and not a clear break, and Gothic ornamental details are often introduced before many changes in the style of figures or compositions are seen.

Later, the figures become more animated in pose and facial expression, while also tending to be smaller relative to the background.

On the other hand, the scenes and are organized more freely in the pictorial space

This transition occurs first in England and France around 1200, in Germany around 1220, and Italy around 1300.

Painting during the Gothic period developed into four main mediums: frescoes, panel paintings, manuscripts, and stained glass.


Frescoes continued to be used as the main pictorial narrative art on the church walls in southern Europe. as a continuation of early Christian and Romanesque traditions.

In countries like Denmark and Sweden where we find the largest surviving groups of wall paintings in the style of the "Pauperum Bible", because almost all of them were covered with lime after the Reformation (Protestantism), what has preserved them

Manuscripts and engravings

The illuminated manuscripts represent the most complete record of Gothic painting, providing a record of styles in places where monumental works have not survived.

The first complete manuscripts with gothic illustrations French dating from the mid-thirteenth century, many of these illuminated manuscripts being Real bibles.

TO late 13th century, the monks began creating prayer books for the laity, known as "books of hours" because of their use at prescribed times of the day.

The first known example It seems to have been written for an unknown lay woman who lived in a small town near Oxford around 1240.

The nobility frequently bought such texts, paying handsomely for your decorative artwork.

The elements of french gothic present in such works, include the use of decorative frames that recall the architecture of the time with elongated and detailed figures.

The use of spatial indicators as building elements and natural features such as trees and clouds, also denotes the French Gothic style of lighting.

TO late 14th century, books printed with illustrations, primarily on religious subjects, were rapidly becoming accessible to the affluent middle class, as were high-quality prints from engravers like Israhel van Meckenem.

In the fifteenth century and thanks to the development of the printing press by GutenbergThe introduction of cheap prints, mainly woodcut, even made it possible for peasants to have devotional images at home.

These images, small and destined for the poorest market and frequently decorated in raw colors, they were sold by the thousands, although today they are considered extremely rare pieces.

Altarpieces and panel painting

Oil painting on canvas did not become popular until the 15th and 16th centuries and was a hallmark of Renaissance art.

In Northern Europe, the important and innovative early Dutch school of painting has an essentially Gothic style, but can also be considered part of the Northern Renaissanceas there was a long delay before the Italian revival of interest in classicism had a major impact in the north.

Painters like Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck They used the technique of oil painting to create painstakingly detailed works that were correct in perspective, where apparent realism was combined with a rich and complex symbolism that arose precisely from the realistic detail that they could now include, even in small works.

In the dutch painting Early, from the richest cities of Northern Europe, a painstaking new realism in oil painting was combined with subtle and complex theological allusions, expressed precisely through the highly detailed settings of religious scenes, as we can find in works of the epoch.

Gothic sculpture

Like it more or less, the Gothic sculptures are magnificent, because each of these figures are really impressive showing an infinity of representations of religious figures each with different feelings.

The level of detail is the most outstanding characteristic of Gothic sculpture, with an impressive level of precision.


Small carvings or miniatures, intended primarily for a primarily secular and often female market, became a considerable industry in Paris and other urban centers.

A consequence derived from this expansion is the rise of the guilds, where the different trades were agglomerated.

Among the main reasons we find small devotional polyptychs, individual figures (especially of the Virgin), mirror cases, combs and elaborate coffins with scenes of romances.

On the other hand, gothic sculptures independent of architectural ornament, they were created primarily as devotional objects for the home or as donations to local churches, although small reliefs in ivory, bone and wood covering religious and secular themes were for both religious and domestic use.

Such sculptures were the work of urban artisansThe most typical theme of the small three-dimensional statues being the Virgin Mary alone or with a child.

In the Gothic, Paris was the main center of ivory workshops and from where it was exported to most of northern Europe, although Italy also had a considerable production.

In the works from the 14th and 16th centuries, we notice a remarkable evolution from a rigid and elongated earlier style, still partially Romanesque, towards a spatial and naturalistic feel.

On the other hand, images of troubadour poetry they were particularly popular with mirror box and small box artisans, presumably for use by women.

Also begin to proliferate memories (souvenirs) of pilgrimages to the sanctuaries, such as plates of clay or lead, and medals stamped with images.

Image Notre Dame: Stock Photos, by Gurgen Bakhshetyan / Shutterstock.

Video: 5. Gothic Cathedrals


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