Special Topics In Western Art #2: The Gothic Cathedral

671 words - 3 pages

1. Where and when did the word “Gothic” come from? Who coined it and why?
In the 1500’s an Italian named Giorgio Vasari coined the term as an insult to the French for their new way of building churches. The Germanic tribes in France had developed some new ideas on building churches so the Italians teased them for not using the traditional Greek architecture, which was ironic because part of the Goths “new” ideas was a return to realism and naturalism that the Romanesque style had abandoned.

2. Define opus modernum.
Opus modernum is Latin for modern work and is known for their innovative arches and sculpture and retuning to realism and naturalism.

3. Briefly describe your initial impressions of Gothic architecture and how it differs from Romanesque?
Often you can tell if the building is Gothic from the outside because they are often asymmetrical, have finials and crockets, elegant stained glass windows, and are taller than ...view middle of the document...

6. Define finials and crockets.
Finials and crockets are decorative exterior features of a gothic cathedral. Finials are knob shaped toppers that are added to towers and spirals, Crockets are leaf shaped decorations that hang from arches and look like hooks which represent the shepherds cane. These features are strictly for aesthetic value, and are probably part of the reason Vasari teased them so much.
7. What is rib vaulting? How is this different from barrel vaulting?
Gothic churches used ribbed vaulting to get higher celling’s, Romanesque churches use barrel vaults. Barrel vaults direct the pressure in a straight line, which is to say the weight comes from the roof straight to a column and down to the ground. Ribbed Vaulting on the other hand redirects the pressure through ribs. If you start at the ground and follow the column it splits into a couple different ribs crossing at the top creating a pointed arch channeling the weight of the celling into the ground.

8. What is the advantage of the pointed arch instead of the round arch?
On a structural level, the pointed arches allow the celling to reach greater heights, thinner walls, and more windows. On an aesthetic level it seems to pull our eyes upward to heaven, adds an illusionary depth, and more windows means more light and also made way for stained glass.

9. What was your favorite Gothic church? Why?
I haven’t quite seen them all yet so I can’t say for sure. The most attractive to me that we covered in class is the Chartes (situated south west of Paris). The main thing that caught my eye is the presence of a labyrinth. This labyrinth is more of a guided path to symbolize the pilgrimages then a maze. Other impressive features include 175 stained glass panels with over 4000 figures. The Rose window (which represents the virgin Mary) is 42 feet in diameter and contains the French royal coat of arms.

10. What is the function of Stained Glass?
While stained glass was invinted centuries before hand in Egypt, they weren’t really capitalized on until Gothic Cathedrals featured stained glass as a didactic tool to teach Bible stories to illiterate people. They could not read the Bible but they could understand the pictures telling the stories.

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