Gothic was first used as a term of contempt during the late renaissance. The Goth's were barbarians- which leads to many theories as to why "Goth" was the chosen title for a style that required extreme engineering as well as technical and artistic know how. Since then vast efforts have been made to rename the style with a term that better encompasses the idea of gothic style.
The Gothic style was an over exaggerated, awe-inspiring attempt to become closer to God. The worshipper was not only drawn to the altar, but experienced an ascent to heaven at the same time.1 These artistic gems are a grand testament to historical technology and the imaginative approach and vision of skilled craftsmen. The gothic style is one of the most extraordinary achievements in European history, typically characterized by slender, vertical piers, counterbalancing buttresses, vaulting, pointed arches and stained glass.
The strength of a gothic building is made to reside in a finely organized framework rather than in its walls. This framework, which consists of perfectly placed piers, arches and buttresses, frees up any unessential impediment of walls and presents a light feeling. The stability of the building depends only on inert massiveness in its outermost parts, whose opposing forces counteract each other in a perfect stability of thrust and counterthrust. Gothic architecture is an artistic, strategic system of engineering, schemes for building were followed for elevations, termed quadratum (four sided) and triangulorum (three sided). 2 This system allowed them to raise their ideal structures according to symbolic measure and numbers reflecting the geometry of the New Jerusalem and its prototype, the Temple of Solomon. (Figure 1.1)
France is typically referred to as the birthplace of the gothic style, at St. Denis Abbey, just north of Paris. (Figure 1.2) Abbot Suger, head of St. Denis Abbey, believed that St. Denis should be the spiritual center of France. He also felt that St. Denis should be the pilgrimage church to outshine all others as well as provide a focal point for all religious and patriotic emotion for the French people. 3 He had grand visions for his church, which were carried out by an anonymous master builder.
Through the use of sketching techniques (the ability to create fast, understandable views of objects with only a pencil and a piece of paper- still used by engineers, designers, architects, builders, and craftsmen, today), the French had developed greater animation in their gothic decoration than their followers. They emphasized soaring heights and light qualities that were later adopted across Europe.
The French flying buttresses became so elaborate that they had the appearance of being purely ornamental, which led to this period being coined flamboyant. Although many areas of Europe had accepted and adopted the style, the French buildings were generally vaster and more commanding in scale. (Figure 1.3) Outside...