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Gothic Architecture

Medieval life and Times

Gothic Architecture
What is Gothic Architecture? Definition: Gothic Architecture is a style of architecture developed between the Romanesque and the Renaissance styles of architecture. Gothic architecture is characterized by stained-glass windows, gargoyles, flying buttresses, tall spires and pointed arches. Gothic Architecture is the term used to describe the style of architecture which were used between 1200 AD to 1500 AD. 

The different types of English Gothic Architecture styles are divided into three distinct phases:

  • Early English Gothic Style ( also called Lancet) - 1200 to 1300

  • Decorated Gothic Style - 1300 to 1400
  • Perpendicular Gothic Style - 1400 to 1500

History of Gothic Architecture
The phased Gothic Architecture terminology was devised by the English architect Thomas Rickman and used in his book 'An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation' which was published in 1817. Each of the three phases of Gothic Architecture has a unique characteristic. Understanding the Characteristics provide the full answer to "What is Gothic Architecture?"

Characteristics of Early English Gothic Architecture - aka Lancet Architecture
The style of Gothic Architecture described as Early English, or Lancet, used during the period of 1200 - 1300 is characterised by the following elements:

  • Early English Gothic Style ( also called Lancet) - 1200 to 1300

  • The large blocks of stone used by the Normans in Romanesque architecture, were replaced by shaped stone
  • The stone of Medieval Gothic architecture was cut with precision
  • The Romanesque hollow walls were replaced with solid walls and pillars - allowing them to hold far greater weights - Gothic Architecture provided much bigger buildings
  • Early English Gothic architecture emphasized height and used the pointed arch
  • The pointed arch could support greater weight, allowing walls to be thinner with wider window openings
  • The introduction of flying buttresses, which distributed the weight of roofs and walls right down to the ground
  • Gothic architecture and design allowed architects to spread the weight to different points of the building
  • Towers were often surmounted with very slender towers, or spires
  • Use of the chisel, as opposed to axes, led to more decorative designs
  • Sculptures of Stone Gargoyles were introduced as waterspouts in Gothic architecture protecting the foundations from rain

Characteristics of the Decorated Gothic Architecture
The style of Gothic Architecture, described as Decorated Gothic Architecture, used during the period of 1300 - 1400 is characterised by the following elements:

  • The Decorated Gothic style was characterised by wider windows

  • The wider windows were decorated with tracery (a system of window decoration) and ornamentation
  • Gothic Rose Windows are associated with great Gothic Churches and Cathedrals however some small Rose Windows were featured in the Chapels of Gothic Castles
  • Rose Windows were a decorative by-product of the development of stained glass
  • The innovative use of vaults and buttresses in weight support allowed for the elaborate Rose Windows to be featured in the building as a major entry of light

Characteristics of Perpendicular Gothic Architecture
The style of Gothic Architecture described as Perpendicular, used during the period of 1400 - 1500, is characterised by the following elements:

  • Perpendicular Gothic Style - 1400 to 1500
  • Fan vaulting
  • Hammerbeam roofs
  • Towers were often surmounted with very slender towers or spires
  • Use of the chisel, as opposed to axes, led to more decorative designs in perpendicular Gothic architecture
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