Sunshine filtered through circular, stained windows, painting murals inside old churches… pointed arches that welcomes you… vaults that carve beautiful cozy spaces inside tall monumental spaces…arch-like structures that jut out of the huge walls…small monsters that guard the corners of the roof…these are just some of the defining features of Gothic architecture. It was developed in the mid-12th century in Northern France, to counter the building design in the medieval age. Later, this style of architecture spread all across Europe. They can be mainly seen in the design of churches and castles.
What is meant by Gothic Architecture?
The word Gothic means non-classical. It is different from the classical Greek and roman styles of architecture that existed during and before the medieval ages. Until then, building design was based on utility and lacked much-needed aesthetics. The buildings used to be dark, damp, and had limitations in height. This was because due to lack of lateral support, the walls tend to break down after a certain height.
Then came Gothic architecture. With its large buttresses which provided the essential lateral support that could sustain a taller wall. These buttresses were called flying buttresses because these were not directly connected to the wall, but was attached to it by an arc-shaped member. This enabled the buildings of gothic architecture to be substantially taller than those of the architectural styles that existed till then. This became one of the main features of gothic architecture.
Features of Gothic Architecture
Pointed arches was one of the prominent characteristics of gothic architecture. They are also known as ogival arches. They are distinguished by the sharp angle made at the crown by the joining of the arcs from both sides. It served both structural and aesthetic purposes.
As mentioned earlier, flying buttress were a very important factor in the verticality of the buildings. Although these were mainly structural elements, they were decorated very ornately. They consist of two parts- namely the tall masonry block that acts as the support from the ground and the arch that connects it to the main masonry wall.
Ribbed vaulted ceiling is another feature of gothic architecture. It was developed from the pointed arches. They create a feeling of grandeur and elegance. Their main purpose was to transfer the load from the upper floors.
Stained circular windows were very popular in the buildings of this style. The inside of the buildings used to be moist and dark due to lack of sunlight. But with the introduction of large windows often stained and ornate, the interiors became more well-lit.
Small statues, usually in the form of small open-mouthed monsters, on the corners of towers and spires were a common feature in gothic architecture. These are called gargoyles. They perpetuated the belief of monsters and the need for protection from evil. But the gargoyles served a more important purpose. They redirected the rain water falling through the roofs of these buildings. When raining, it would look like the monsters are spurting water through their mouths.
Gothic Architecture Examples
Notre dame de Paris Cathedral, France
One of the most popular examples of gothic architecture is the cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris, located in Paris, France. The structure is supported by flying buttress and ribbed vaults. There are three rose windows around the cathedral. The one on the west side was installed first. It is the smallest among the three. Then there are one each on the north and south sides.
Westminster Abbey, London, England
The Westminster Abbey is located in London, near River Thames. It is located to the west of the British Houses of Parliament. The abbey is known for its highly ornate fan vaults. Other features of gothic architecture in this cathedral includes flying buttresses, stained windows and pointed arches.
Gothic Architecture Examples in India
Pointed arches already existed in India as part of Islamic architecture. But gothic architecture was introduced in India, by the British. They constructed various cathedrals and churches in India in gothic style of architecture.
St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica, Chennai
This is one of the best examples of gothic architecture in India. It is located in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It is also called San Thome Basilica and was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The British renovated this cathedral in 1893 in the gothic architectural style. The cathedral now stands tall with high spires and has stained glass windows. It is one of the three churches in the world that is built on top of the tomb of one of the twelve apostles of Jesus.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, Kolkata
The construction of this church began in 1839 and was completed in 1847. It is located in close proximity to the Victoria Memorial, in Kolkata, West Bengal. It is another timeless example of gothic architecture in India. The cathedral has a central spire that is designed in gothic style and various elaborate stained-glass decorations.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
Though not an authentic example of the original Gothic architecture in India, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, Maharashtra definitely deserves a mention. It is a classic example of Victorian Gothic Revival Architecture combined with Indian Traditional Palace architecture. The dome, turrets, and the ground plan are all derived from the latter. It is also an example of how gothic style was used in something other than castles and churches. It also set the bar for railway architecture in India. This structure gave a new identity to the city of Bombay- ‘GOTHIC CITY’!!!
Gothic architecture redefined the building style of an era. It gave a new dimension to the existing design styles prevalent in the medieval period. It paved the way for future architecture styles, where the members were not only structurally significant, but also ornate and stunning.