Sunday, May 3, 2009

Role of light in Gothic Architecture

According to our book, in the mid-16th century, Giorgio Vasari , the “father of art history”, used “Gothic” as a term of ridicule to describe late medieval art and architecture. For him gothic art was” monstrous and barbarous”, although in the 13th and 14th centuries in most of Europe, gothic art and architecture was modern and beautiful. The style originated in France around 1140, and then spread throughout Europe by the 13th century, this created regional styles like the Romanesque era.
People considered these new gothic cathedrals as images of the City of God. Between the Romanesque era and the Gothic period, massive masonry and stone walls with small openings were replaced by a style that emphasized light. Certain new architectural elements, such as flying buttresses, ribbed vaults, and pointed ribbed vaults made it possible for heavy masonry and stone walls with small windows to be replaced by vast windows, many containing stained glass.
The Amiens Cathedral in France has nave vaults that rise 144 feet above the floor and about half-way up, columns divide stained glass lancet windows that rise until they reach rose windows. The verticality and light of gothic cathedrals causes one, when inside to look upward or in the direction of heaven.
In the Christian tradition, God’s presence is symbolized by light in particular ways, commonly rays of light shining down. Gothic cathedrals brought this to life and added art into the architecture with the stained glass windows, while all the light symbolized God’s presence.

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