World's Most Beautiful and Spectacular Buildings: The Rise of Europe - Gothic Cathedrals
World’s Most Beautiful and Spectacular Buildings: The Rise of Europe - Gothic Cathedrals
Wealthy European cities of the twelfth century built great cathedrals as residences for God and a place where citizens could gather in God’s presence. High glass walls covered with stained-glass picture surrounded worshippers in these buildings. Their builders thought of God as the light that showed them the way through life, just as the light of the sun revealed the holy teachings pictured in the colorful windows. Stonemasons built tall frames with thin stone supports to hold the glass walls. Stone ceilings of lightweight arched vaults often rose more than 37m (120 ft) above the ground. Flying buttresses and other parts of a cathedral, which at first look like decoration, are actually part of the framework that supports it. Carved images of people, animals and plants decorate the frame. These new cathedrals pioneered a new architectural style called Gothic.
Gothic stone ceilings are made of arches and vaults that push, or thrust outwards. A buttress is necessary to keep the stones of the vault pressed together. These buttresses stand outside Gothic buildings and press against the vault inside by means of arches called flying buttresses.
Cathedral of Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s reflection can be seen in the Seine River in Paris, France where it was built on an island. Carvings of saints and angels surround the doors, which sit deep in the wall beneath tall towers. The cathedral was begun in 1163 and took about 150 years to build.
Gargoyles: The frog and mythical winged beast are called gargoyles. They are actually pipes that throw the rainwater away from the roof of the cathedral.
Flying buttresses: These flying buttresses make it possible to build the buttresses for the vaults outside the cathedral. Whithout these, the cathedral's stone ceiling would collapse to the floor.
Pinnacle: A carved pinnacle at one end also buttresses the vault.
England developed its own version of the Gothic style and the first Gothic vaults were built there. One example of English Gothic is Salisbury Cathedral in Wiltshire, which is topped by a tall spire.
The arches that cross like the letter x at the front of this church in Somerset, England were added to brace the supports at their sides, which threatened to break under the load of the tower above the roof.
Making Stained Glass
These round windows made up of thousands of pieces of colored glass are called roses because their stone frames (tracery) outline the glass like the petals of a flower. Each piece of glass is framed with a strip of lead and mounted with others into a large iron frame. The iron frames are then placed between the openings of the tracery. One small glass picture usually identifies the donor of the piece. A bread-baking scene means that the piece was paid for by the baker’s guild.
Did You Know?
Everyone in a city helped to build the cathedral, which was large enough to hold all the citizens. One the way to the city, pilgrims also stopped at the quarry to help carry stone to the building site.