1100-1450: Gothic Architecture

Architecture History Photo Guide: Gothic Architecture

Early in the 12th century, new ways of building meant that cathedrals and other large buildings could reach soaring heights.
Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France is a masterpiece of Gothic ArchitectureBuilt in the thirteenth century, Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France is a masterpiece of Gothic Architecture

Photo © Paolo Negri / Getty Images

How Gothic Architecture Began
Gothic architecture began mainly in France where builders began to adapt the earlier Romanesque style. Builders were also influenced by the pointed arches and elaborate stonework of Moorish architecture in Spain. One of the earliest Gothic buildings was the ambulatory of the abbey of St. Denisin France, built between 1140 and 1144.

Originally, Gothic architecture was known as the French Style. During the Renaissance, after the French Style had fallen out of fashion, artisans mocked it. They coined the word Gothic to suggest that French Style buildings were the crude work of German (Goth) barbarians. Although the label wasn’t accurate, the name Gothic remained.

Gothic architecture has many of these features:

  • Pointed Arches. Gothic builders found that pointed arches could support more weight than perpendicular walls. With pointed arches supporting the roof, walls could be thinner.
  • Ribbed Vaulting. Instead of solid walls, builders used a series of columns that branched up into arches. With fewer solid walls, buildings appeared lighter and more delicate.
  • Flying Buttresses. Free-standing brick and stone arches helped support exterior walls, allowing them to reach greater heights.
  • Stained Glass Windows. Since the walls were no longer the only supports, Gothic buildings could include large areas of glass.
  • Elaborate Sculptures. Gargoyles and other sculptures had both practical and decorative functions.

Gothic Buildings:

Photo Tours:

Art During the Gothic Period:
While builders were creating the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe, painters and sculptors in northern Italy were breaking away from rigid medieval styles and laying the foundation for the Renaissance. Art historians call the period between 1200 to 1400 AD the Early Renaissance or the Proto-Renaissance. Learn more about the Proto-Renaissance. Gothic Revival and Neo-Gothic Architecture:
Fascination for medieval Gothic architecture was reawakened in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Architects in Europe and the United States designed great buildings and private homes that imitated the cathedrals of medieval Europe.

850 BC-476 AD: Architecture of Classical egypt

The Classical architecture of ancient Greece and Rome has shaped the way we build today.
The Parthenon sets on top of the Acropolis in Athens, GreeceThe Parthenon sets on top of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation

How Classical Architecture Began
From the rise of ancient Greece until the fall of the Roman empire, great buildings were constructed according to precise rules. The Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius, who lived during first century BC, believed that builders should use mathematical principles when constructing temples. “For without symmetry and proportion no temple can have a regular plan,” Vitruvius wrote in his famous treatise De Architectura, or Ten Books on Architecture(compare prices).The Classical Orders
In his writings, Marcus Vitruvius introduced the Classical orders, which defined column styles and entablature designs used in Classical architecture. The earliest Classical orders were Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.

Classical Periods
700 BC-323 BC: Greek. The Doric column was first developed in Greece and it was used for great temples, including the famous Parthenon in Athens. Simple Ionic columns were used for smaller temples and building interiors.

323 BC-146 BC: Hellenistic. When Greece was at the height of its power in Europe and Asia, the empire built elaborate temples and secular buildings with Ionic and Corinthian columns. The Hellenistic period ended with conquests by the Roman Empire.

44 BC-476 AD: Roman. The Romans borrowed heavily from the earlier Greek and Hellenistic styles, but their buildings were more highly ornamented. They used Corinthian and composite style columns along with decorative brackets. The invention of concrete allowed the Romans to build arches, vaults, and domes. A famous example of Roman architecture is the Roman Colosseum. To learn more about architecture in Ancient Rome, see: Architecture of the Ancient Roman Empire. To view 3D images of Rome as it looked in 320 AD, download the free Google Earth.

From Classical to Neoclassical
More than 1,500 years after the Roman architect Vitruvius wrote his important book, the Renaissance architect Giacomo da Vignola outlined Vitruvius’s ideas in a treatise titled The Five Orders of Architecture (compare prices). Published in 1563, The Five Orders of Architecture became a guide for builders throughout western Europe.

In 1570, another Renaissance architect, Andrea Palladio, used the new technology of movable type to publish I Quattro Libri dell’ Architettura, or The Four Books of Architecture (compare prices). In this book, Palladio showed how Classical rules could be used not just for grand temples but also for private villas. Palladio’s ideas spread across Europe and into the New World, giving rise to a variety of Neoclassical styles.

3,050 BC-900 BC: Architecture of Ancient Egypt

The pyramid form was a marvel of engineering that allowed ancient Egyptians to build enormous structures.
Pyramids of Giza, EgyptThe most famous pyramids in Egypt are the Pyramids of Giza, built more than 2,000 years B.C. to shelter and safeguard the souls of Egyptian pharaohs.

Press photo © 2000-2006 NewOpenWorld Foundation

Construction in Ancient Egypt
Wood was not widely available in the arid Egyptian landscape. Houses in ancient Egypt were made with blocks of sun-baked mud. Flooding of the Nile River and the ravages of time destroyed most of these ancient homes.Much of what we know about ancient Egypt is based on great temples and tombs, which were made with granite and limestone and decorated with hieroglyphics, carvings, and brightly colored frescoes. The ancient Egyptians didn’t use mortar, so the stones were carefully cut to fit together.

Pyramids in Egypt
The development of the pyramid form allowed Egyptians to build enormous tombs for their kings. The sloping walls could reach great heights because their weight was supported by the wide pyramid base. An innovative Egyptian named Imhotep is said to have designed one of the earliest of the massive stone monuments, the Step Pyramid of Djoser (2,667 BC – 2,648 BC).

Columns in Egypt
Builders in ancient Egypt didn’t use load-bearing arches. Instead, columns were placed close together to support the heavy stone entablature above. Brightly painted and elaborately carved, the columns often mimicked palms, papyrus plants, and other plant forms. Over the centuries, at least thirty distinct column styles evolved. Learn more: Egyptian Column Styles

Influences of Egyptian Architecture
Archaeological discoveries in Egypt reawakened an interest in the ancient temples and monuments. Egyptian Revival architecture became fashionable during the 1800s. In the early 1900s, the discovery of King Tut’s tomb stirred a fascination for Egyptian artifacts and the rise of Art Deco architecture.

Wonders of Ancient Egypt

2,575 BC – 2,134 BC: Old Kingdom

  • Abu Ghurab
  • Dahshur
  • Ras Budran
  • Step Pyramid of Djoser
  • The Giza Pyramids
  • The Sphinx

2,040 BC – 1,640 BC: Middle Kingdom

  • Abydos
  • Karnak
  • Thebes
  • Luxor Temple
  • Temples of Karnak
  • Serabit el-Khadem
  • Tell el Dab’a

1,550 BC -1,070 BC: New Kingdom

  • Tombos
  • Piramesses
  • Abu Simbel
  • Amarna
  • Deir el Bahri
  • Kush Kingdom
  • Deir el Medina
  • Tutankhamun’s Tomb (Tomb of “King Tut”)