1200-1350| Gothic Europe

Traders of Italia gained great success in Mediterranean and because of this success the culture exchange and possible commercial of the rest Europe spirited up. In France Gothic style was encouraged by both monarchy and clergy as both a cultural and a natural enterprise. In contrast to heavy barrel vaults of Romanesque churches, the Gothic cathedrals had pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses to achieve glamorous heights and mysterious luminosity.

The City Returns: Market Towns and New Towns

The birth of Gothic architecture coincided with the groundswell of medieval European urbanism. City walls expended because of the new prosperity of the cities and this formation encouraged the gigantic cathedrals and impressive civic buildings such as town halls, covered markets and hospitals. Most towns built on orthogonal plans that revived the idea of public space.

The counts of Champagne and the bishop of Troyes settled their palaces in the old town. They encouraged the traders and the growing economy of Troyes helped the reconstruction of the cathedral, the founding of the new church of St. Urbain, and the foundation of a new hospital.


St. Urbain Facade

The hospital of Troyes had similar approach with the hospital of Notre-Dame de Fontenilles at Tonnerre. Both structures had a hall which was covered with a wooden barrel vault.

The canal system of the Troyes also improved and several civic monuments such as the Belfry, the Cloth Hall and the Waterhalle also constructed in the city. The Belfry’s courtyard resembled the fonduk type in Cairo without the traders’ apartment above and it became the model for European stock exchange building. The Waterhalle was also constructed the same year with the Belfry and it had an immense covered hall, fifteen bays long which straddled the canal. The pitch of the roof at each end are designed with stepped gables by designer.

The Zahringer counts started the concept of the new town as an establishment. They sponsored a lot of market towns and each of them structured on a broad central street. One of the most successful one was Freiburg-im-Breisgau and Berne. They latterly, created a second street, cross-axial to the first. The Zahringer planners didn’t leave specific sites for cathedrals and town street. But after construction the citizens found secondary positions for religious and institutional buildings.

The Gothic Cathedral: The Grown of the City

Gothic style in church building gave distinct details to classical style of the Romans. It was nurtured by the building explosion in European. The designers started to experiment with slender structural members to achieve verticality. They suggested to eliminate the mass of walls and create heavenly interior light. In order to achieve this idea, they used 3 structural expedients: pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses. Those systems were not an invention but by bringing them together they served the symbolic potential of light.

Barrel Vault, Flying Buttress, Pointed Arch

Gothic architecture began with Abbot Suger who was a Benedictine monk. He wrote down his ideas about reconstruction of the abbey church of St. Denis. The interior of the church was thought as glass window to achieve the light. He started to design the facade of the church. He kept the imperial Carolingian westworks and insert between two towers an oculus. This motif became a repetitive pattern for all successive Gothic churches’ facade. 

St. Denis Facade and rose glasses

Reconstruction of the St. Denis by Abbot Suger gave inspiration to other churches construction. By the end of the 12th century more than a dozen large cathedrals was underway in Gothic style.

The designers of the Notre Dame at Laon improved Suger’s concepts to a comprehensive architectonic system. The cathedral finished in 1215 and it provided a symbol of cohesion for once-divided city. The church was seeing in plan like the apse squared off without the typical chevet, while the choir extends beyond the transept almost isomorphic with the nave. Ribbed vaults extended both areas but they leaved syncopated rhythm in the slender supports that sprang from regular, stout ground-floor columns. The ribbed vaults supported by external flying buttresses, settle between large voided areas for tall windows that brought daylight to interior.

The cathedral at Chartres began as a small church and rebuilt after a fire. While this reconstruction they expanded the church and increase the cathedral’s strong attraction for pilgrims. The new church seemed as overscale for a city of fewer than 10000 residents. The church was working on a vertical axis with the help of the spires and buttresses.


Chartres Cathedral

Verticality became a theological necessity for Gothic cathedral builders. The ribbed vaults of the Chartres reached almost 38 m.  The flying buttresses on the exterior of the Chartres worked as a light proceeded. Exterior flying buttresses received the thrusts of the vaults as exoskeletal flyers. The lower flyers sprouted rows of stout columns like the spokes of a wheel.

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