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Gothic Cathedrals Essay

1801 words - 8 pages

Between the years 117 and 1144, a new cathedral style arose that proved important to the Medieval World Gothic. The creator of this new style, Abbot Suger, achieved both spiritual and political goals through his work. The unique style of the Gothic cathedral grew popular and spread throughout Medieval Europe. However, most importantly, the Gothic cathedrals made concrete the religious philosophy that the spiritual ruled a material world.

Abbot Suger became the originator of the Gothic design for cathedrals. Suger lived as one of the leading figures in France in the 1th century. When he was about eight or nine, he befriended Louis VI in their upbringing at the abbey of St.-Denis. He worked ...view middle of the document...

The Counts of Champagne also dominated the king, for they held more lands and had more wealth than him. However, Suger, along with Louis VI consolidated the royal power, thus allowing him to reclaim monastic lands.

St.-Denis proved important not only to Suger, but to France, also. Suger desired the abbey to become, “a pilgrimage church to outshine the splendor of all the others, the focal point of religious as well as patriotic emotion.” St-Denis stood as a symbol of royal power and the glory of both the monarchy and France. The abbey honored and existed as the shrine to the missionary, St. Denis, who first brought Christianity to France.# St.-Denis served as the site of the coronations of Charlemagne and his father Pepin, and served as the burial place of Charles Martel, Pepin, and Charles the Bald. St.-Denis showed importance, for kings sent their children there for education for many generations. Also the unique Gothic design, used first at St.-Denis, set the guide for a whole series of cathedrals, thus making Suger the creator of Gothic.

Gothic cathedrals expressed a unique fusion of form and space. Gothic Cathedrals contained architectural elements that collectively defined the style including vaults, pointed arches, and flying buttresses. The Romanesque style of cathedrals that proceeded the

Gothic, relied on the use of semicircular arches as structural elements and to create ceiling vaults. The design approach of the semicircular arches limited the height of the bay, for it required the height to be equal to the width. This property thus required the building of heavy support columns and the cascading of a series of arches to span large areas. This tended to limit the height of the exterior walls and resulted in a building with a squat, heavy effect. Abbott Suger and his architects chose to use the pointed arch which enabled them to increase the height of the vaults to new and inspiring heights. These heights became possible by the property of the pointed arch, for it could spring to any height and span any distance along as the two sides of the arch balanced in size and pitch. The flexibility also made it possible to build vaults with even crowns with no loss of strength. More importantly the pointed arch made it possible to build cathedrals with oblong or rectangular shaped naives. Additionally the architects discovered they could build even higher walls than before, if supported externally by the use of a half pointed arch which became known as the flying buttress. The resulting unique Gothic design joined these elements producing a rectangular nave with externally supported high thin walls topped with lofty pointed vaults. The effect accentuated the vertical over the horizontal, echoing the religious theme of the triumph of the spiritual over the material.

The Gothic passion for light had a profound theological significance. Plato argued that light was also the means by which the intellect perceived truth. Light...

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