Gothic style in the architecture

Sunday, January 17, 2021

A short explanations about the differences between the Romanesque and Gothic style in the architecture and the first church of Gothic style as a result of the rebuilding of the Abbey church of Saint Denis by Abbot Suger in XII.


Reims. Cathedral



Gothic Architecture Style Characteristics & History



Rouen Cathedral


Birth of the Gothic: Abbot Suger and the ambulatory at St. Denis


In 1137 Abbot Suger has started rebuilding of the Abbey church of Saint Denis. His new church should be

  • striving toward Heaven,
  • flooded with miraculous light.

Suger (1081 – 13.01.1151) was a French abbot, statesman, and historian. He was one of the earliest patrons of Gothic architecture. During the Second Crusade served as one of the regents of the kingdom (1147–1149). Suger served as the friend and counsellor both of Louis VI and Louis VII. He urged the king to destroy the feudal bandits, was responsible for the royal tactics in dealing with the communal movements, and endeavoured to regularize the administration of justice.

A Romanesque church was short, dark and big and a Gothic church was tall, bright and elegant.

Abbot Suger called this new style MODERN. His critics called it Gothic (Goths were German barbarians who have destroyed Western Roman Empire).

Before this church of Saint Denis Europe just copied the Roman style. The basic of the Roman style was the Roman basilica. Roman churches were also constructed with thick walls like fortresses what was not anymore necessary in the XII century.

There are three main points making the Gothic architecture different from a Romanesque style:

1. Pointed Arch (Spitzbogen, Стрельчатые арки) instead of the traditional Roman Arch (semicircular arch, voller Gewölbebogen, полукруглая арка) with horizontal Stress lines - lateral forces (Hauptspannungslinie, Линии напряжения). So the weight in a Romanesque church was distributed to the walls. This is the reason for thick walls and small windows of the Romanesque churches.

The stress lines of the Pointed arch are much more vertical. Romanesque semi circular arches (Burrel vaults) were exchanged by the Pointed arches which had more vertical stress lines.

2. Ribbed vaults (Kreuzrippengewölbe,  Нервюрный или ребристый свод) Groin Vaults (крестовый свод, Kreuzgewölbe, voûte croisée), Pointed valting (Spitz(bogen)gewölbe)

Крестовый свод - свод, образованный пересечением двух взаимно перпендикулярных цилиндрических сводов с одинаковой стрелой подъёма и опирающийся в четырёх самых нижних точках, расположенных в углах квадрата

A pointed arch or Gothic arch is an arch with a pointed crown, whose two curving sides meet at a relatively sharp angle at the top of the arch.

A rib vault or ribbed vault is an architectural feature for covering a wide space, such as a church nave, composed of a framework of crossed or diagonal arched ribs.

3. Flying Buttress (арочный контрфорс, аркбутан) support the piers (Pfeiler, Pilier, опора, контрфорс) of Gothic cathedral. So it was possible to lead the stress lines not to the whole wall but to a certain parts of the wall which were reinforced, to so called Flying Buttress and vertical Piers standing outside of the church building like ribs.

Flying-buttress systems are composed of two parts:

  • a massive pier, a vertical block of masonry situated away from the building wall, and
  • an arch that bridges the span between the pier and the wall — either a segmental arch or a quadrant arch — the flyer of the flying buttress.

The flying buttress (arc-boutant, arch buttress) is a specific form of buttress composed of an arch that extends from the upper portion of a wall to a pier of great mass, in order to convey to the ground the lateral forces that push a wall outwards, which are forces that arise from vaulted ceilings of stone and from wind-loading on roofs.

4. Stained-glass windows (vitrage, витражи, Fenster mit Glasmalerei) were the result of the using of the Flying Buttress which allowed to build thin walls with Stained-glass windows. The term stained glassrefers to coloured glass as a material and to works created from it. Throughout its thousand-year history, the term has been applied almost exclusively to the windows of churches. Most people were illiterate so they could get the explanations about the Bible watching the stained grasses.