A short history of the Gothic Cathedrals
The term “Gothic” has a complex history. It was the humanists of the Renaissance who first used it as a term to describe what they saw as “barbaric” architecture produced between the decline of classical civilization and its glorious rebirth in their time. The word itself referred more specifically, to the “Goths”, a Germanic people who invaded Italy in the 5th century.
In the 12th century, people began to build larger and larger windows in churches, so they took the craft of glass to unprecedented achievements. The results of this work were buildings that represented unprecedented declarations of Christian devotion and faith.
One of the most significant transformations that took place between the early Christian basilica and these new great churches had to do with light. While the high walls and sparse windows of the Romanesque and later Norman basilica of earlier periods led to dark interiors, the 11th-century efforts to bring light in the churches transformed Christian architecture.
Due to the visual character of these new churches, people were deeply impressed by the biblical characters represented by the mosaic glass of the windows and the light projected into the church, bringing God closer to them.
In this direction, an unprecedented style is born and strongly marks the transition from dark basilicas to increasingly imposing cathedrals.
As this new architectural style was born in the Middle Ages and replaced the Romanesque tradition, it came with innovations such as the pointed arch that originated in the Arab space, as well as with larger and larger windows as the style develops. Thus, from the dark basilicas, the transition is made to the huge and increasingly bright Gothic cathedrals through elements that must be analyzed to see the evolution and symbolism of this style.
Key Elements of Gothic Cathedrals
When it comes to the labyrinth that is present in Gothic cathedrals, it did not always have a positive connotation, often representing distancing from God. But, in the 13th century, the labyrinth acquiring the connotation of a spiritual journey, the winding path of the soul through life.
A very important and innovative element of the Gothic style is the stained glass mosaic. It gave the churches a special atmosphere, surrounding the believers in the light and at the same time drawing their attention to the scenes it described. The stained glass scenes in the Old and New Testaments also played an important educational role for believers, the vast majority did not know how to read or write, which brought them closer to Christian moral principles.
Therefore, the Gothic cathedrals have rich symbolism, the Gothic style marking the colossal evolution of architecture at that time.