This is an essay that was done for Gr.10 class about Gothic architecture using the Yorkminster Church in York, Eng. as an example Christianity was a major force in the Middle Ages. It was a period of immense faith. Out of this faith came a desire to build magnificent places to venerate and worship God, to create visions of heaven on earth. Out of this faith came the great Gothic Cathedrals that still evoke awe in those who enter. Some of the designers of these great cathedrals believed that they had been divinely inspired, that God had given them a vision of the Celestial City. Even in todayâs secular world, entering one of these vast cathedrals can leave one feeling puny and silent. Gothic architecture, unlike Romanesque, did not develop in the classical centres of Rome or Greece but in Northern Europe. It was the first true European style. The style of Gothic has no precise founder or date but when Abbot Suger of St- Denis, France, decided to renovate his abbey in 1140, he built what is considered to be the first example of Gothic architecture. The result was immediately praised by almost everyone. While Gothic architecture was not the first to use pointed arches, or flying buttresses and ribbed vaults, it was the first use them all in combination that allowed thinner walls and more and bigger windows throughout the structure. This produced a translucent feeling from within the cathedral as light filtered through the shell: â The glass windows of the Gothic replace the brightly coloured walls of Romanesque architecture; they are structurally and aesthetically not openings in the wall to admit light but transparent walls.â Another of the differences between Gothic and the previous ecclesiastical style, Romanesque, is how the worship space is conceived inside the cathedral. The Gothic Cathedral was conceived as a total space and then divided within while Romanesque was more modular and unit was added to unit. The early Gothic style was noted for its immense size and height. An example of this is the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The new system of buttressing introduced around 1175 reduced the amount of thickness in the walls, allowing high and many beautiful stained glass windows. This allowed the Gothic cathedrals to become light-filled and naturally symbolic of the heavenly. The darker gloomier Romanesque cathedrals relied on manmade statuaries and paintings for religious symbolism. As all architectural styles go through various stages or phases in their growth and development, so too did the Gothic style. The first variation was the high Gothic style. By the 1200âs, the taste for enormous structures had passed. Improving building and architectural skills allowed designers to create a new elegance without a huge building. In England, Gothic architecture began with the building of the Canterbury Choir. Canterbury is one of the more interesting Gothic cathedrals, in England because it combines elements of both the Romanesque and the Gothic styles. For this reason, it is called a âfragmentâ. The Choir was built in 1174 by a French builder named William of Seas. Note that the date 1179 is only thirty years after the first Gothic cathedral. This is evidence of a fast acceptance and a rapid spread of the style through Europe. Another style of Gothic is called âDecoratedâ. This was primarily an English style. The variation on Gothic is characterized by flowing curves. Examples of this style are York, Exeter and Wells Cathedrals. Decorated preceded or co-existed with a style called perpendicular. This was because of the complex tracery found inside the cathedrals on the walls of the vaults. An example of this style is the chapel at Kingâs College in Cambridge. The Cathedral of York Minster which was the seat of the Archbishop of York, combined several gothic styles. The Nave was the first part to be built in 1291 and is the widest Gothic nave in England. The right key roof bosses are quite beautiful. They portray scenes of the life of Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Nativity, the Resurrection, the Ascension, the Pentecost and the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The north transept was built during the 13th century and is typical of the early English Gothic style with columns of purbeck stone. The use of purbeck stone also added to the luminous quality of the interior of Gothic cathedrals. The chapter house of York Minster, which illustrates the decorated style, was begun in 1260 and completed in 1286. This is where the Dean and Chapter, officials who governed the Cathedral met to discuss issues. It is still in use today. In common with other Gothic cathedrals, York Minsterâs choir is enclosed by screens. The choir is the traditional place for the service to be sung. The cathedra (throne) of the archbishop is also kept there. The east end of York Minster Cathedral is square ended. This is in keeping with typical English style. This area of the Minster was built in perpendicular Gothic style. The south transept of the Minster was the first part to be rebuilt and is in early Gothic style. Gothic Cathedrals include sculpture which differs from the preceding Romanesque style which was dramatic and strong. Gothic sculpture was calm and more humane. This idea also affects the atmosphere in the respective cathedrals. In dark and gloomy Romanesque Cathedrals the builders relied on manmade sculptures and paintings to depict Christ and to convey their religious messages. Gothic cathedrals however were softer, filled with light and calm harmonious decoration creating an entire transcendental atmosphere. Most Gothic Sculpture was created to decorate the entrances to the Cathedrals and I think that this allowed artists more freedom because the art was not actually going inside the House of God. Gothic Cathedrals are still in use today for a variety of denominations of Christians. Almost all the Cathedrals in Britain that are being used today are Gothic. York Minster has been a site of worship for almost one thousand years. It is still in use for regular Anglican church services and declares its mission as offering: âChristian worship, sacred music and a place to be still amidst the grandeur of carved stone and stained glass.â The Middle Ages, which gave birth to Gothic architecture and art, was a time of faith and belief in Roman Catholicism. Virtually everyone in the world where Gothic cathedrals evolved was a devout Christian. The Church was what united and held Europe as well as giving every person something to belong to. Christian scripture and doctrine affected all aspects of life in the Middle Ages. Only the Church could marry you. The Church held enormous power in all countries with each diocese wealthy and holding huge tracts of land. Beauty and artistic creativity in the medieval time derived from a transcendental vision of the divine. This indicates how heavily Christian beliefs influenced Middle Ages art. Further, artistic endeavors including the designing and building of the Gothic cathedrals were financed by the Church. The cathedrals were the centre of the Churchâs power in each diocese. The Gothic cathedral was designed as a symbol or image. In the Middle Ages most people could not read or write. Thus symbols meant much more in those days than now. The Cathedral represented the power of the Almighty. The beautiful interior was believed to recreate the beauty of God and the Heavenly City of the book of Revelations. Unlike earlier ecclesiastical buildings, the gothic cathedral form itself was intended to represent the supernatural reality of the Christian religion. This gigantic building, towering over the countryside, filled with light and in the structural form of a huge cross, was God on earth. Worshipping in one of those gigantic edifices must have been a truly uplifting experience. Imagine a poor illiterate farmer approaching a town with a cathedral towering over the small surrounding buildings. Such a view must have immediately solidified his faith in the power of his religion. When Canterbury was finished and dedicated in 1130, a contemporary described it as âthe most splendid of them since the Temple of Solomonâ. This shows how much of an effect the cathedral had on the people of that time and how important the building was in their religion. To compare the cathedral to the almost mythical temple in the ancient city of Jerusalem truly reflects the magnificence of these cathedrals. The people chanted âAwesome is this placeâ as part of the dedication service. Awe of the almighty God of their religion was the feeling evoked in the original worshippers, the intention of the designers and continues to be the feeling evoked in even the secular visitors of today. The people of the time considered the architectural perfection and symmetry of a gothic cathedral to be divinely inspired and symbols of the kingdom of heaven on earth. The designerâs vision of mathematical harmony embodied in the form and design of a gothic cathedral was founded in a mystical vision of harmony reflecting Godâs divine order in the universe. The Cathedral was a symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven and as a sanctuary from everyday life. In a time when the supernatural was a part of everyday life the designers were able to create a form which embodied the supernatural perfection of Heaven on earth and evoked the awe of the almighty in those who entered it.