February 23, 2018

Gothic Architecture of Europe

Last month I explained some of the attributes of Romanesque architecture.  Today I will delve into the world of Gothic architecture in Europe.

When you here the word “Gothic” what do you think of?  Dark. Eerie.  Scary.  Grotesque.  Let’s see if this is correct.

Gothic style architecture originated in France during the mid-12th century and it was during this time that many cathedrals were designed in this new and innovative manner.  But it wasn’t only cathedrals that using these Gothic characteristics.  Town halls, castles, bridges and other fortresses were all designed using this architectural style.

Cathédrale d'Amiens by OliBac, on Flickr

Cathédrale d'Amiens by OliBac, on Flickr

What were these new architectural innovations?  The most prominent distinguishing feature of Gothic architecture is the use of pointed arches instead of the rounded Romanesque version.  The pointed arches are able to support more weight allowing thinner walls, more windows, and the addition of elegant elements such as columns and moldings.

Other innovations included the flying buttresses and ribbed vaults.  Flying buttresses were used to connect free standing supports to the walls enhancing the stability of the structure.

Notre Dame de Paris by pixie_bebe, on Flickr

Notre Dame de Paris by pixie_bebe, on Flickr

Ribbed vaults added elements of beauty to Gothic structures and were supported by columns.

Royaumont Abbey

Royaumont Abbey

Since the designers of this era had introduced new building techniques, the bulky thick walls seen in the Romanesque style were not needed.  This allowed Gothic architecture to create openness by including grand windows which let in natural light.  These can be seen in the many stained glass windows displayed in the cathedrals of this time.

Interior Reims Cathedral France

Interior Reims Cathedral

We have all seen Gargoyles on Gothic buildings.  Did you know these were first used as waterspouts?  True and at one point in history they were removed for being improper but were later returned to their positions where they seem to be guards of the building serving as their homes.

Gargoyle 2 Notre Dame Cathedral Paris France

Gargoyle Notre Dame Paris

Gargoyle Notre Dame Paris France

Gargoyle Notre Dame Paris France











Gothic architecture is not eerie or grotesques. In fact, as we’ve seen it is a style that is actually known for its elegance.


What is your favorite example of Gothic architecture?




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  5. Jenna says:

    Nice article. I too love Medieval history and Gothic architecture. The cathedrals in England are amazing to see up close (Salisbury, etc.).
    A really interesting but not well-known example of Gothic architecture is in Kutna Hora, Czech Republic. It is an example of the rare “tent” roof and has a really beautiful Gothic ceiling inside. You can see some pics here: http://wp.me/pyyEX-nT
    I have never been to Chartres, but it’s one of my travel dreams– I will definitely get there one day!
    Jenna recently posted..This is Brazil

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Oh yes, I have seen a few of the cathedrals in England but not Salisbury. I have wanted to go there ever since I read the books London and Sarum by Rutherford. Fantastic historical fiction novels about the history of this area. Kutna Hora is on my list too! I enjoy wandering Europe to see all the great examples of architecture.

  6. Magnficent!! I too, love all architecture especially partial to Gothic and Renaissance!!

    Thanks for sharing a wonder post!!

    Jeff Titelius recently posted..La Sainte Chapelle – the Holy Chapel – a crowning jewel on Île de la Cité in Paris- France

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Hey Jeff, Thanks for stopping by. I enjoy both Gothic and Renaissance styles of architecture too. There are so many magnificent examples of beautiful architecture in Europe. I could spend a life time exploring them all!

  7. Jeremy B says:

    I am not a big fan of Gothic architecture but Notre Dame is beautiful. Isn’t Saint Chapelle Gothic as well?
    Jeremy B recently posted..National Parks Week – Thank you John Muir

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Hi Jeremy, Yes Saint Chapelle is also done in the Gothic style. What type of architecture do you like?

  8. sheril says:

    Really this is a Great post n they are famous for the tall churches built in those day i wonder how they constructed in 12 th century interesting !! .Loved while reading it !! Thx for this info fri
    sheril recently posted..Maharaja Express

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Sheril, I too am in amazement when you look at some of the structures built before they had modern tools. Truly awe inspiring! Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Laurel says:

    Great photos. I especially love the gothic cathedrals that you can find all over Europe, but I find all gothic architecture really interesting. Interesting to find out more about it.
    Laurel recently posted..Finding Home When Traveling the World

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Thanks Laurel. I love Gothic architecture too but then I like medieval history. I find the Gothic style to be the most interesting to me.

  10. Arti says:

    Gothic architecture has always fascinated me though i have never got a chance to see it through my eyes!
    Many Thanks for taking me into a world very different from mine 🙂
    Arti recently posted..Bhaironghati – Bhairon Devta Temple and Asias Highest Bridge

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Hi Arti,
      Glad to have you stop by. I have always loved Gothic architecture too and find it to be the most interesting style. In fact, I am fascinated by the whole medieval time period. Great history!

  11. Andrea says:

    I love this style and especially gargoyles, they are so interesting!
    Andrea recently posted..Patagonia’s Gauchos- The Cowboy Way Photo Essay

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      I agree. I think this style is the most interesting and detailed. Gargoyles are very interesting especially since they come with so much mystery.

  12. Roy says:

    Thanks for the explanation of Gothic architecture. I think my favorite is St Vitus cathederal in Prague.
    Roy recently posted..Hot &amp Sweaty In Huatulco

    • Debbie Beardsley says:

      Glad you enjoyed learning a bit more about Gothic architecture. I have been learning quite a bit too. St Vitus is a beautiful example.

      Thanks for stopping by.


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