Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Role of Light in Gothic Art and Architecture

The role of light in Gothic art and architecture is something that helped define that period. Previously churches and monasteries had been built with heavy thick walls which required a large amount of reinforcement and this left very little room for windows to allow much light to come in leaving the buildings dark. In the Gothic period new innovations in architecture allowed architects to build Cathedrals that towered over towns and cities. These innovations also did not require the amount of supports that were required for the Romanesque monasteries. This left room for decorative style and instead of painting the walls with biblical scenes, they were able to replace the walls with stained glass windows. These windows became a defining theme of the Gothic period. These windows allowed light to filter through creating the feeling of another world. The high vaulted ceilings and windows allowing the light to flow in changed the feeling of a cathedral from a massive stone structure to a place that was mystical and spiritual. Inspired by the stain glass windows were the fine book makers of this time. The illustrations use colors that imitate the deep colors of stain glass. Saint Louis’s Psalter is a good example of using light in illustration. Obviously inspired by stain glass the illustrations have a transparency and lightness in them that is reminiscent of royal buildings at this time period. The architectural innovations allowing for walls to be turned in to stain glass windows showed what a dramatic effect light can produce. Just by adding colored windows the entire atmosphere was changed inside cathedrals.

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