Friday, May 7, 2010

Light in Gothic Architecture

Gothic architecture was developed from a Christian perspective. New concepts showed that God encompassed many things such as light. People wanted taller churches with more windows. The French Abbott Suger theorized God as the supernatural light transforming everything material and mortal into immateriality. Clerics wanted to create a new setting that was drawn toward light and purity that could be an image of heaven.

A cathedral nave flooded with light would have a dramatic effect on the faithful. Vast window space became a characteristic of the Gothic style and responded to one of the goals of a growing religion in the medieval era. The cloudy days and less intense summer heat of Western Europe allowed designers to develop a style that attempted to maximize interior light and uninterrupted interior heights. They developed a style that would provide larger windows to illuminate the interior of the building.

Another characteristic of the Gothic style was the use of light and the relationship between structure and appearance. Ribbed vaults were used to allow lighter materials to be placed between stone ribs to reduce weight. The weight of the walls and roof were supported by external flying buttresses. They used pointed arches and slender columns to lift the ceiling and to create overwhelming height.

Enormous stained glass windows allowed more light into the structures which added a sense of warmth and color. Not only did the stained glass illuminate the cathedral with bright-toned and colorful light but also fulfilled a narrative and illustrative purpose by representing Biblical events and the lives of saints.

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