Editing Internet Texts/Gothic Architecture in France, England, and Italy/Gothic Architecture in France

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Early Gothic[edit]

Gothic architecture in France begins with the rebuild of the Basilica of St Denis ordered by Abbot Suger that started around 1137. The rebuild introduced such elements as flying buttresses, pointed arches and ribbed vaulting.

French Early Gothic cathedrals are in general of a greater height than English ones. Each architect strives to design loftier buildings than his predecessors 236. French cathedrals, as opposed to English ones, usually have double aisles. Its eastern end has a semicircular apse surrounded by an ambulatory. There are usually three portals at the western end. They are larger and more richly decorated with sculpture than English Early Gothic doorways. There is a rose window over the central doorway. Cathedrals usually have two towers that are sometimes terminated by spires.

Most cathedrals have three levels, but some have four: ground level called arcade, gallery, triforium (a shallow passage above the nave) and windowed level called clerestory.

Laon Cathedral
Arcade
Arcade
Gallery
Gallery
Triforium
Triforium
Clerestory
Clerestory
Laon Cathedral

Architects start to incorporate lancet windows into their designs. In France they are usually either singular or double under the same arch. The top is often adorned with bar tracery. Windows are most often glazed with stained glass. The west façade of Notre-Dame de Paris with its rose window has become a model for many Gothic cathedrals.

Notre-Dame de Paris

Notre-Dame de Paris, west façade.
Note: three portals framed by four buttresses and decorated with tympanons and archivoltas, two towers
Plan.
Note: cruciform plan, the nave flanked on each side by two aisles, transept does not project from the nave, semicircular apse, double ambulatory crowned with three chevettes
View of the nave looking east.
Note: sexpartite vaulting, cyllindrical columns, three levels: ground, gallery and clerestory
Notre-Dame de Paris, west facade, close up at a rose window

When it comes to ornaments, architects most often use crockets or foliage.


High Gothic "Rayonnant"[edit]

The focus shifts from the structural to decorative. The architects no longer aim at designing the highest buildings, focusing on enhancing the beauty of their cathedrals instead. Four levels are reduced to three: ground, triforium and clerestory level.

Reims Cathedral
Arcade
Arcade
Triforium
Triforium
Clerestory
Clerestory
Reims Cathedral

There is a poorer variety of the patterns of traceries. Pinnacles, traceries and moldings become more popular. Quadripartite vaults become more popular. Cylindrical columns are replaced with clustered columns (cylindrical columns with smaller columns attached).

Traceries were first used in Reims Cathedral (1211-1311

Amiens Cathedral is often said to be the Gothic ideal: "what nobody will deny to the cathedral of Amiens, is that it is the monument in which Gothic art has displayed the plenitude of its system and its resources, where it has most closely approached its ideal, where decisive solutions have been found, and where in a word we have the type of Gothic construction" (Durand qtd. in Jackson 124). [1]


Amiens Cathedral

Amiens Cathedral, west façade. Note: rose window, three portals framed by four buttresses and decorated with tympanons and archivoltas, two towers, rich ornamentation
Plan. Note: cruciform plan, the nave flanked on each side by a single aisle, a transept with two aisles on each side, a choir with double aisles, semicircular apse encircled by an ambulatory, chevettes
View of the nave looking west. Note: quadripartite vaulting, clustered columns, three levels: ground, triforium and clerestory
Star vault at the crossing of the nave and the transept
Clustered columns

Late Gothic "Flamboyant"[edit]

The name Flamboyant derives from the flamelike curve that dominates tracery patterns. No structural innovations are introduced in this period. Cathedral plans also remain unchanged. The nave is only slightly higher than the aisles. The number of levels is reduced to two as triforia are no longer used. Instead, the architects design enormous clerestory windows and arcades. Walls are dominated with windows rather than stone.

Changes visible only in ornamentation. New pattern of tracery is introduced: fish bladder. It is first used in St John Chapel of Amiens Cathedral.

Many chapels are built, Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes being one of the finest examples. It was based on Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, though the one at Vicennes has only one level.

References[edit]

  1. Jackson, Thomas Graham (1915). Gothic Architecture in France, England, and Italy. Cambridge: University Press. p. 124.