Gothic ’s 3 key attributes | Architecture

Gothic architecture is one of the most widely-recognized architectural styles in the world. Beginning in France around 1140 CE and spreading throughout Europe over the next four centuries, it’s practically synonymous with the European Middle Ages.

By Alexandra Kiely | Online course Gothic Arhitecture.

Gothic is closely associated with churches, like Notre Dame in Paris, Canterbury Cathedral in England, and Cologne Cathedral in Germany. In fact, nearly all the great medieval cathedrals were built in the Gothic style, and it’s still common for churches all over the world even today.

The word “Gothic” often calls to mind steep spires, soaring vaults, beautiful stained glass, and mysterious gargoyles.

Characteristics of Gothic

Characteristics of Gothic















The choir of Saint Denis



The new choir that Suger had built for Saint Denis was the first Gothic structure.

As you can see in the picture above, is different in many ways from the Romanesque churches. It is light, airy, and filled with large windows. Instead of thick walls and massive columns, only thin piers support the soaring vault Gothic Architecture bannerabove.

It’s a great example of Gothic’s three key attributes.


  • Verticality

In Gothic, everything emphasizes verticality. Long, spender columns and elongated arches draw the eyes up to the soaring vaults. The vaults are higher, but the architecture is also designed to make you look up, and that emphasizes their height even more. By contrast, Romanesque’s wide arches and broad columns emphasize horizontal features.


  • Lightness

Gothic churches have large and plentiful windows of beautiful stained glass. Stained glass doesn’t let in tons of light, but it does fill the church with brilliant colors.


  • Weightlessness

Unlike the solid and earthbound Romanesque, Gothic architecture seems to be light as a feather. The vaults almost appear to stay up by magic, with only stained glass and thin columns below. In some Gothic buildings, it seems as though that there’s more glass than stone.


But how was this possible?

Get to know this and so much more through our course Gothic Architecture.

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