Gothic Architecture after The Middle Ages

The Gothic style of architecture has become intimately associated with the Middle Ages.

From the 12th to 16th centuries this was the dominant mode of construction in Europe, and its soaring buildings have left a lasting mark on countless cities.

During the 1400s, however, a new fashion began to develop in Italy.

Architects and artists started looking back to ancient Rome for inspiration and condemned the contemporary style as barbaric and uncivilized.

What had once been known as “Opus Francigenum”, or “French work”, therefore came to be called Gothic Architecture by them.

Throughout the 1500s, the Roman-inspired style of building, that is to say, Renaissance Architecture, spread from Italy, and slowly replaced Gothic in the rest of Europe.

It wouldn’t be until the rise of Romanticism in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that the style was revived – or at least that’s how the story usually goes.

But Gothic architecture didn’t completely die out with the advent of the Renaissance and lingered on through the Baroque era.

In rural areas, and especially where there was good building stone, some local craftsmen kept on working in the Gothic tradition.

Furthermore, many ongoing buildings projects of cathedrals and universities continued in their original style, and new Gothic additions were sometimes also made, to better fit into the existing context.

In contrast to the revival of the 18th and 19th centuries, this phenomenon has become known as “Gothic Survival”, and in this video, we’ll take a look at a few examples of it.

Our first building, the church of Saint-Eustache, in Paris, began construction in 1532, but wouldn’t be finished until well into the 1600s.

It’s typical of several other churches being built in France at the time, in that it’s structurally a Gothic building, but clothed in Classical detail.

Although it retains the buttresses, tall ornate windows and grand vaults characteristic of medieval architecture, it’s been decorated with things like Corinthian capitals and Doric entablatures.

Another significant difference from earlier Gothic buildings is that it’s lost its pointiness.

The arches are all-round, like those found in Roman buildings, and the decoration in the windows have become circular.

The original main facade, seen here, was unfortunately torn down in the 18th century when the addition of two chapels severely compromised its structural integrity.

In its place, a new classical facade began to be built in 1754 but remains unfinished to this day.

If it had been completed, it would have looked something like this.

Across the channel in England, the Gothic tradition was proving unusually resilient.

Surviving the Reformation and the upheavals of the Civil War, it continued to be used for both rural churches, and occasionally for more prestigious buildings.

When in the early 17th century, a new and larger chapel was to be built in connection to Lincoln’s Inn, London, it was made in the gothic style.

Constructed from 1620-23, it’s designer was none other than Inigo Jones, who is otherwise famed for bringing a more pure style of classicism to England.

The building also has a connection to Christopher Wren, designer of St Paul’s Cathedral, as he was brought in to oversee its renovation in 1685.

The exterior is of a traditional Gothic style and decorated with gargoyles and coats of arms.

On the inside, it’s fitted with a wooden roof held up by decorative sculptures, and beneath the building is a magnificent fan-vaulted undercroft.

Here we find a single reminder of Classical Architecture in the Tuscan columns that Inigo Jones attached to the piers.

Another institution that held on to the Gothic style was the University of Oxford.

For example, it was used in the Front Quad of Oriel College, dating to the 1620s, and in 1638 a dramatic fan-vaulted ceiling was installed in Bodley Tower.

The University’s perhaps most famous example of late Gothic architecture is Tom Tower, marking the entrance to Christ Church College.

A tower had been intended for this spot when the quadrangle it stands on began construction in 1525; however only the lower part was finished by the time its patron, Cardinal Wolsey fell from power.

By the second half of the 1600s, the decision was finally taken to complete the gatehouse structure, and Christopher Wren was brought in to design it.

Arguing that the building “ought to be Gothick to agree with the Founders work”, he made it in an elegant and comparatively sober version of the style.

Construction work was carried out by his recommended stonemason, Christopher Kempster, and lasted from 1681-82.

A similar development occurred in Westminster Abbey, which for a long time had only finished the lower parts of its western facade.

Nicholas Hawksmoor, a leading figure of the short-lived English Baroque style was the abbey’s surveyor and provided designs for two towers on top of it.

Constructed from 1722-45; the towers now soar to a height of 225 feet or about 68 and a half meters.

The facade, made of Portland stone, shows signs of Hawksmoor’s classical influence in the cornices as well as the ornate baroque pediments above the clock and rose window.

Around the same time as work on it finished, interest in the style was growing, and new buildings are imitating it began to appear across the British Isles.

Already in 1743, work began on the fortress-like Inveraray Castle in Scotland, and a few years later, Horace Walpole built Strawberry Hill House on the outskirts of London.

Although using the style for its picturesque and romantic qualities as opposed to its structural possibilities or original function, these buildings are the beginning of the Gothic Revival.

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