Gothic architectureGothic architecture is any of the styles of architecture, particularly associated with cathedrals and other churches, in use throughout Europe during the high and late medieval period, from the 12th century onwards. It was succeeded by Renaissance architecture, a revival of Roman formulas, at varying times in Europe, beginning in Florence in the 15th century.
Gothic architecture has nothing to do with the historical Goths. It was a pejorative term that came to be used as early as the 1530s to describe culture that was considered rude and barbaric. Francois Rabelais imagines an inscription over the door of his Utopian Abbey of Theleme, "Here enter no hypocrites, bigots..." slipping in a slighting reference to 'Gotz' (rendered as 'Huns' in Thomas Urquhart's English translation) and 'Ostrogotz.' In English 17th century usage, 'Goth' was an equivalent of 'vandal,' a savage despoiler, with a sense of 'Germanic' and so came to be applied to the architectural styles of northern Europe before the revival of antiquity, thus 'Gothic' architecture.
The historical style itself originated at the [[Saint Denis Basilica|abbey church of Saint-Denis]] in Saint-Denis, near Paris, where it exemplified the vision of Abbot Suger. The first truly Gothic construction was the choir of the church, consecrated in 1144. The style was adopted first in northern France and by the English, and spread throughout France, the Low Countries and parts of Germany and also to Spain and northern Italy.
The style emphasizes verticality and features almost skeletal stone structures with great expanses of glass, sharply pointed spires, cluster columns, flying buttresses, ribbed vaults, pointed arches and inventive sculptural detail. These features are all the consequence of a focus on large stained glass windows. This allowed more light to enter than was possible with older styles, however it required tall ceilings and flying buttresses.
Gothic cathedrals were highly decorated with statues on the outside and painting on the inside. Both usually told Biblical stories, emphasizing Old Testament prophecy and the New Testament (see Christian theology).
In Gothic architecture new technology stands behind the new building style. The Gothic cathedral was supposed to be a microcosm representing the world, and each architectual concept, mainly the loftiness and huge dimensions of the structure, were intended to pass a theological message: the great glory of God versus the smallness and insignificence of the mortal being.
Starting in England in the mid-18th century, the Gothic style was revived, first as a decorative, whimsical alternative to Rococo that is still conventionally termed 'Gothick', then, especially after the 1830s, more seriously in a series of Gothic revivals (sometimes termed Victorian Gothic or Neo-Gothic). The Houses of Parliament in London are an example of this Gothic revival style, designed by a major exponent of the early Gothic Revival, Augustus Pugin. Another example is the main building of the University of Glasgow designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott. Neo-Gothic continued to be considered appropriate for college buildings (such as at Chicago, Yale, or Princeton) well into the 20th century, and was used, perhaps less appropriately for early skyscrapers, such as the Woolworth Building, New York.
Some famous Gothic structures