The Dominance of Gothic Architecture in The High Middle Ages

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When one sees the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral in person or in pictures they are likely to be awestruck. The twin towers of the western façade rise high into the sky, seemingly in an attempt to scrape heaven. Spiky arches seem to grow out of the sides and claw at the ground. Inside it is cavernous with colored light filtering in through the large, intricate stained glass windows. All of these physical qualities make Notre Dame a prime example of Gothic architecture. It does not stand alone in that distinction. One is also likely to see several hundred examples of this style on varying scales throughout Europe. Because, despite its humble origins, Gothic architecture became the standard for religious buildings in the early 11th century thanks to innovative use of new and old design techniques which resulted in majestic buildings that symbolized the builder’s version of heaven. To understand the appeal of Gothic architecture at the time, it is critical to start in the small suburb of Paris called St. Denis. There, lived a worldly member of the monastery named Abbot Suger. When he took over as Abbot in 1122, his first priority was to “fatten the monastery’s purse” (Gilgoff 59). He was able to procure more land for the abbey through royal donations and even won favor for one of the region’s large annual trade events. Thus, with the revenues he had collected, “he felt justified in spending lavishly” (Gilgoff 59). But, in his heart, he was very religious and sought to create a welcoming environment for his parishioners and saw the need to expand the church because “The narrowness of the place forced the women to run toward the altar upon the heads of men as upon a pavement with much anguish and noisy confusion" (Gilgoff 59... ... middle of paper ... ...ic lighting thanks to intricate stained glass windows. These glorious structures built by some of the humblest of men have offered a vestige of the divine for people in the past and the present and will carry on into the future. Works Cited Bony, Jean. French Gothic Architecture of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983. Frankl, Paul. Gothic Architecture. Yale University Press, 1962. Gilgoff, Dan. "GOTHIC GLOW. (Cover story)." U.S. News & World Report 134.23 (2003): 59. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. "Gothic architecture and art." Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition (2009): 1-3. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 12 Apr. 2010. Scott, Robert. The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2003.

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