Medieval Cathedrals in the Gothic Style

First, lets talk about what the Gothic style replaced; the Romanesque Style. As cathedrals began to be built all around the Medieval world, builders moved away from wood as a building material due to the fear of fire, and decided to instead use stone. Unfortunately, stone is very heavy, and to use it for roofing meant that the walls had to be extremely thick in order to support the weight. This meant that windows were also to be kept at the minimum, seeing that that would weaken the walls and possibly make the structure collapse.

A Cathedral of the Romanesque Style. Note the absence of windows and the massive construction.

However, there was a whole new style of thought that began to enter into the Medieval World, largely due to the Scholastic thinkers of their day. The Scholastics began to look at mathematics as being the closest way to get to God and the way he thinks and operates, due to the fact that literally everything you looked at in the Creation, such as flowers and other plants, animals, people, and such random looking things as trees were filled with mathematical patterns. Symmetry being directly related to God being a God of order, these Scholastics began to study Geometry in order to more fully grasp the orderliness of God. Builders of their era too began to pick up this theme, and in came the Gothic Cathedrals.

This Gothic Cathedral is able to have many more windows than a Cathedral of the Romanesque Style due to its flying buttresses.

These structures, though built of stone and other heavy materials, had thin walls and many windows, thanks to the flying buttress. The flying buttress (pictured on the right) took the weight of the heavy roof and took it to structures outside the building. This means that less building material is needed, and many more windows, many of them stained glass, can be added. Inside the cathedrals the supporting columns were placed at exact intervals with perfect symmetry. A Gothic Cathedral’s shape resembles a cross, and the top part of the cross always faces to the East. This was an Early Church practice, due to the Scriptures telling us that he will return facing West.

So, Gothic Cathedrals have a few basic improvements on the older Romanesque Style. First, its symmetry, which reflects the orderliness of God. Second, the Gothic Style incorporated as much light into the structure as possible. Third, and to make the second improvement possible, the flying buttress, which enabled the weight of the structure to be taken off the main walls of the Cathedral and placed onto outside structures. Fourth, all Gothic Cathedrals are shaped in a cross, and the top of that cross is facing East, in remembrance of the Lord’s return. These and some other features were a main feature of the Medieval Ages, and continue to impress tourists to this day.


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