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13th century (1200-1299)
  The Age of Great Cathedrals

  Gothic Art

Architecture-Sculpture-Stained Glass-Painting
Gothic & Early Renaissance Art

13th century (1200-1299)
Nicola Pisano
Antelami Benedetto
Master of Naumburg
Arnolfo di Cambio
Giovanni Pisano
Andrea Pisano
Bonaventura Berlinghieri
Lorenzo Maitani
Tino di Camaino
Pietro Lorenzetti
Simone Martini
Lippo Memmi
Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Giovanni di Balduccio
Gothic Art
Gothic is the term generally used to denote the style of architecture, sculpture, and painting that developed from the Romanesque during the 12th century and became predominant in Europe by the middle of the 13th century. The many variations within the style are usually distinguished by the use of chronological or geographical terms (for example, early, high, Italian, International, and late Gothic).

Early Gothic

One of the moves away from Byzantine influence took the form of a softer, more realistic style whose general characteristics survived until the middle of the 13th century. In France the style is particularly noticeable in a series of magnificent Bibles Moralisees (books of excerpts from the Bible accompanied by moral or allegorical interpretations and illustrated with scenes arranged in eight paired roundels, resembling stained glass windows) done probably for the French court c. 1230-40. In England the new style appears in numerous manuscripts--for instance, the psalter done for Westminster Abbey (British Museum, London; Royal MS. 2a XXII) and the Amesbury Psalter (c. 1240; All Souls College, Oxford). A particularly individual application of it is found in the manuscripts attributed to the chronicler Matthew Paris and in a series of illustrated manuscripts of the Apocalypse.

In Germany the graceful pictorial style did not become popular. Instead the successor to the Byzantine conventions of the 12th century was an extraordinarily twisted and angular style called the Zackenstil. In the Soest altar (c. 1230-40; now in the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin), for example, the drapery is shaped into abrupt angular forms and often falls to a sharp point, like an icicle.

The Meeting at the Golden Gate
Arena Chapel at Padua, Italy

High Gothic

Certain characteristics of high Gothic sculpture spread to influence painting about 1250-60. Probably the first place where this became evident was Paris, where Louis IX (St. Louis) was a leading patron. In an evangelary (a book containing the four Gospels) prepared for use at the Sainte-Chapelle (Louis IX's palace chapel), one can see the early Gothic pictorial style superseded quite abruptly by a drapery style incorporating the large, rather angular folds of the Joseph Master (Bibliotheque Nationale). Combined with this style was a growing emphasis on minute detail almost as an end in itself; faces, in particular, became tiny essays in virtuoso penmanship.

Although details such as faces and hands continued to be described chiefly by means of line, in a subsequent development drapery and other shapes were modeled in terms of light and shade. This "discovery of light," partial and piecemeal as it was, began around 1270-80 but is particularly associated with a well-known Parisian royal illuminator called Master Honore, who was active about 1288-1300 or later.

It is possible that this new use of light was stimulated by developments in Italian painting. However that may be, Italian influence emerged quite clearly in the second quarter of the 14th century, in the workshop of the Parisian artist Pucelle Jean. More than a dozen books have been associated with this artist; most show an awareness of the recent Italian discovery of perspective in the portrayal of space and some an awareness of Italian iconography.

The French style was introduced fairly rapidly into England. Although Henry III apparently was not a bibliophile, various manuscripts executed for his immediate family contain echoes of the dainty and minute style of Louis IX's artists. Some large-scale paintings that demonstrate similar stylistic traits, notably the "Westminster Retable," survive in Westminster Abbey.

Subsequent changes in English painting involved greater decorative elaboration. A number of large psalters, such as the Queen Mary Psalter (in the British Museum), survive from the first half of the 14th century, many of them done for East Anglian patrons and almost all laying heavy emphasis on marginal decoration. Although some books with elaborate border decorations date from as early as the 13th century, such decorations became much more lavish in the 14th. There are occasional indications of Italian influence in figure poses and compositions but nothing really comparable to that found in books from Pucelle Jean's Parisian workshop.

Italian influence reached other European countries. An Italianate style of painting developed in Spain in the 14th century and, to a lesser extent, parts of German-speaking Europe--in Austria, for instance, paintings in the Italianate style were added around 1324-29 to make up the present Klosterneuburg altarpiece.

Jean Pucelle
The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux
ca. 1324–1328


Simone Martini
The Road to Calvary.

Italian Gothic

In the 13th century both Rome and Tuscany had flourishing pictorial traditions, and both, until the middle of the century, were strongly influenced by Byzantine art. The transitional period 1250-1300 is poorly documented. Since much of the Roman work was subsequently destroyed, evidence for what was happening in Rome must be sought outside the city. The most important location where such evidence exists is Assisi, where the upper church of St. Francis was decorated by Roman-trained fresco painters between about 1280 and 1300. In Tuscany the stylistic changes are probably best revealed by Duccio di Buonisegna's "Maesta" (1308-11), formerly the high altarpiece of Siena cathedral.

Duccio di Buoninsegna's "Maesta" (1308-11)

As with all Gothic decorative art, the changes are in the direction of greater realism. By the end of the 13th century, painters in Rome, such as Pietro Cavallini and probably Duccio in Tuscany, had discovered, like their contemporaries in Paris, the use to which light could be put in figure modeling. The Italian painters also made sudden and unexpected advances in the manipulation of perspective to describe the space of the scenes they were painting. More than this, the best painters developed an extraordinary ability to create figures that really look as if they are communicating with each other by gesture and expression; the work of the Isaac Master in the upper church at Assisi is an especially good example.

Pietro Cavallini

How far the Italian tradition of painting on a large scale magnified problems such as perspective, it would be hard to say. The survival of a large-scale mural tradition certainly marks Italy off from the north. Italian mural paintings were executed with a technique involving pigment applied to, and absorbed by, lime plaster that was still fresh (hence the name of this type of painting--fresco). It was with work in this medium as much as in tempera (a substance binding powdered pigments, usually made from egg at this date) on panel that artists in Italy won their reputations. The typical subjects of fresco painting were series of biblical or hagiographic narratives. The painting of such fresco narratives (in Italian, istorie, hence "history painting") was to be regarded in the 15th century as the most important part of an artist's work by Leon Battista Alberti, an architect, painter, sculptor, and the founder of "modern" or "Renaissance" art theory. In making such claims, Alberti had in mind the work of the painter Giotto di Bondone, better known as simply Giotto, of the late 13th to early 14th century.

Trained in Rome, Giotto executed his first important surviving work for the papal financier Enrico Scrovegni at the latter's family palace in Padua. The palace chapel, called the Arena Chapel (decorated c. 1305-13;), is a masterpiece in which all the lessons of Roman mural painting were translated into a narrative sequence of great economy and expressiveness. In spite of the apparent realism of Giotto's work, however, the Byzantine past makes itself felt in the extremely strong sense of pattern and design noticeable throughout the compositions.

In Tuscany somewhat similar developments took place. Duccio's altarpiece, the "Maesta," contains a large number of small narrative scenes reminiscent of Giotto's fresco paintings. The figures, which have firmly modeled faces and expressive gestures, are arranged in buildings or landscapes that convincingly enclose them. Duccio's interest in realistic space, however, was much weaker than Giotto's. Although Duccio's scenes feature a variety of action and wealth of detail that, on the whole, is lacking in Giotto's early work, they do not make the same simple but dramatic impact.

These conflicts are inherent in all realistic painting. In Giotto's work a shift in the balance between the two conflicting elements takes place. He completed two chapels in Santa Croce, Florence (c. 1315-30), of which one, the Bardi Chapel, is smaller but not unlike the Arena Chapel. The other, the Peruzzi Chapel, tends toward greater detail and less stability in the settings.

Subsequent Florentine and Sienese painters also moved in this direction. Of the Sienese, Simone Martini was probably the most famous, since he worked outside Italy at the papal court in Avignon and was a friend of the great Italian poet Petrarch. His painting has strong suggestions of northern influence in its elegance and grace, but his care over detail is reminiscent of Duccio, and the careful structure of his setting recalls Giotto and the Roman painters. His major surviving work is now in Siena and Assisi, but some impressive remains have been recovered at Avignon.

Among other Tuscan painters were the brothers Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, who worked for almost their entire lives in that part of Italy. Their major works are in Siena, but, again, there are important frescoes at Assisi, where, probably, it was Pietro Lorenzetti and his workshop who decorated a transept in the lower church (c. 1330). Ambrogio Lorenzetti is especially famous for an enormous landscape, illustrating the effect of good government, painted in the Palazzo Pubblico Siena (1338-39). Historically, it is the first large, realistic landscape in which Byzantine conventions were entirely discarded. It had strangely few imitators, suggesting that the process of discarding convention and using the evidence of the eye is a slow one.

By the middle of the 14th century, Italian painters had achieved a unique position in Europe. They had made discoveries in the art of narrative composition that set them quite apart from painters anywhere else. Their achievements in capturing reality were not easily ignored. Many subsequent changes in northern painting consist of the adaptation of Italian compositional realism to northern purposes.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Life in the City.

Paul Limbourg
The Expulsion from Paradise.


International Gothic

The style of European painting prevalent during the last half of the 14th century and the early years of the 15th is frequently called International Gothic. There were certainly at that time features common to European painting generally. In particular, figures were elegant and graceful, yet at the same time there was a certain artificiality about such figures, and a taste grew for realism in detail, general setting, and composition. The degree of internationalism about this phase of Gothic painting owes something to the fact that much of the most important work was executed under court patronage, and most European royal families were closely linked by marriage ties. Local idiosyncracies, however, persisted; seldom can the art of Paris, for example, be mistaken for that of Lombardy.

The main European courts were those of the Holy Roman emperors (who had nominal suzerainty over central Europe and who at this time had their capital at Prague), the Visconti of Milan, the Valois of France, and the Plantagenets of England. But other sources of patronage existed--in Florence, for example, where the art of Lorenzo Ghiberti and Lorenzo Monaco merged with that of the early Renaissance. And an extraordinary number of important painters were associated about 1350-1400 with the linguistic area of Low Germany--the Low Countries and Westphalia especially--and the Rhineland.

Under the Holy Roman emperor Charles IV and his son Wenceslas, Prague was the seat of a flourishing and enlightened court for about 60 years. Brought up in Paris, Charles had also traveled in Italy. Indeed, his main palace chapel at Karlstejn Castle near Prague, which is the chief monument to Charles's patronage, had an altarpiece by an Italian painter called Tomasso da Modena. The chapel itself was decorated chiefly by a local painter called Theodoric of Prague, whose work is Italianate. A group of his panel paintings, especially the altar of Vyssi Brod (c. 1350), shows a curiously Sienese character, though he did not achieve the delicacy associated with paintings from Siena. The emphasis instead is on heavily modeled faces and thick, heavy drapery. Theodoric's style seems to have initiated the "soft style" that remained a part of German painting well into the 15th century. He certainly determined the character of Bohemian panel painting up to the outbreak of the disastrous Hussite wars (1419).

Charles IV apparently did not collect manuscripts. His ministers and courtiers, however, stimulated an important school of manuscript painting, influenced by French and Italian styles but with distinctive decorative characteristics. Two of the more important manuscripts were a missal (a book containing the office of the mass) done for the chancellor Jan of Streda (c. 1360; Prague, National Museum Library, MS. XIII. A. 12) and a huge Bible begun for Charles's son Wenceslas (1390s; Vienna, Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 2759-2764).

Styles similar to this Bohemian painting soon appeared elsewhere--the paintings of Master Bertram of Minden at Hamburg (c. 1380), for example.

In Paris a style appeared that had some of the characteristics of Bohemian work, especially a strong emphasis on faces and facial expression. An early example, probably executed before 1364, is a portrait of John II (Louvre, Paris), which is firmly modeled in a rather Italianate manner. More important, however, is the workshop of the master of the "Parement de Narbonne" (1370s; Louvre), an altar hanging (parement) found at the Cathedral of St. Justin Narbonne. These artists, who were active c. 1370-1410, worked in a very distinctive style: their figures, while graceful, have markedly heavy heads and expressive faces. That some interest in settings had developed is suggested by the care that must have been taken to render them reasonably three-dimensional. In this respect the works have much in common with earlier Italian painting.

An interest in the settings of paintings was shared by panel painters such as Melchior Broederlam, who executed the Dijon altar wings (1390s; Museum of Fine Arts, Dijon). The interest quickly spread during the early 15th century to the manuscript painters, who produced a series of extremely impressive landscape and architectural settings. Especially fine are the so-called Brussels Hours (Brussels, The Belgian National Library, MS. 11060-1) and the Hours of the Marechal de Boucicaut (Jacquemart-André Museum, Paris). The best of the manuscript painters worked for the royal family, among whom Jean, duc de Berry, the brother of King Charles V of France, has achieved permanent fame as a patron. The most notable painters who enjoyed his patronage were Pol de Limburg and Pol's two brothers. Their illuminations are frequently reminiscent of contemporary Italian painting. The largest and most sumptuous work, the Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry (left unfinished in 1416, Conde Museum, Chantilly, Fr.), includes calendar pictures representing each month in terms of the seasonal activities of nobility and peasants. At least one Italian artist--identified tentatively as Zebo da Firenze--was painting in Paris at this period (c. 1405). Manuscripts associated with him are usually sumptuously, if erratically, decorated. Indeed, in the matter of erratic decoration they seem to have had a baleful influence. The border decoration of Parisian manuscripts c. 1410-25, such as those of the artist called the Master of the Duke of Bedford, often seems to run wild and to lack the restraint characteristic of Parisian painting up to this date.

The most eminent Italian artist of this period was perhaps Gentile da Fabriano. Trained probably in Venice, he painted there in the Doges' Palace (first decade of the 15th century) and also at Brescia. Subsequently he moved to Florence and thence to Rome, where he died. Most of his north Italian work has been destroyed, and his style must be assessed chiefly by the work done in Tuscany, the "Adoration of the Magi" altar (1423; Uffizi, Florence). His faces and drapery tend to have a soft, rounded modeling, somewhat reminiscent of the northern "soft style." The subject matter of his painting includes detailed studies of birds, animals, and flowers.

Gentile da Fabriano
The Presentation of the Child in the Temple.
Musee du Louvre, Paris

His style forms an interesting contrast to that of Lorenzo Monaco in Florence, who, though equally an International Gothic artist, tended to draw figures with finer, more incisive lines. In many ways Gentile's style resembles painting done at the Milanese court during this period. Many illustrated manuscripts survive, giving an impression of a transition about 1370-1410 from a strongly traditional Lombard style to something that has much in common with northern work. In particular, Michelino da Besozzo seems as court artist to have worked in a soft style similar to that of da Fabriano. Also dating from around 1400 is a distinguished group of illuminated manuscripts including the Book of Hours of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, herbals (manuals containing botanical drawings), and a famous sketchbook (c. 1395) containing a large number of drawings of animals (Bergamo, Municipal Library, VII 14) from the workshop of an earlier court artist, Giovannino de' Grassi.

In England the decoration of the royal Chapel of St. Stephen's (c. 1360) was apparently, for the period, outstandingly Italianate. (Surviving fragments are in the British Museum, London.) Subsequently, however, in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey (probably executed c. 1370) there was strong Germanic influence, which has been tentatively compared with the work of Master Bertram at Hamburg.

The court style of the second half of the 14th century is best illustrated by a series of manuscripts done for members of the Bohun family and by a sumptuous missal given to Westminster Abbey by its abbot, Nicholas Litlington, in 1383-84. The work is decoratively lavish, but the figure style conveys only distant reflections of Italian painting.

A great change in English manuscript painting occurred about 1400 and is associated with an artist named Herman Scheerre, who seems to have come from the region of Cologne. His figures have a rather plump softness that brings them into line with stylistic developments elsewhere; he also had a command of perspective and compositional structure lacking in the work of most previous artists in England. The style of John Siferwas, another painter active during this period, is similar, but his page decoration is usually more lavish; he produced a series of beautiful bird studies reminiscent of Lombard work. It should be noted, however, that this sort of realistic observation had long been a feature of English work--in the 14th-century East Anglian manuscripts, for example, and in English embroidery from about 1300.

In view of the number of good painters who came from the region of the Low Countries, Westphalia, and the Rhineland, it is puzzling that these areas should themselves have produced little important painting from the period about 1350-1410. Judging from the surviving works, easily the most distinguished of the painters active in this part of Europe was the Duke of Burgundy's painter, Melchior Broederlam, who lived and worked at Ypres. Other artists, such as Konrad von Soest, who executed the "Niederwildungen Altar" about 1403, seem to have reflected developments elsewhere without pioneering anything strikingly new. It was not until the 1420s that the Low Countries became the centre of intense pictorial development.

Lorenzo Monako
Adoration of the Magi.

Late Gothic


The key to much 15th-century painting in northern Europe lies in the Low Countries. The influence of Paris and Dijon decreased, partly because of the renewal of the Hundred Years' War between England and France and partly because of the removal of the Burgundian court, after the mid-1420s, from Dijon to Brussels, which subsequently became the centre of an extensive court patronage.

The founder of the Flemish school of painting seems to have been Robert Campin of Tournai. The works of Campin, his pupil Rogier van der Weyden, and Jan van Eyck remained influential for the whole century. One of the most important discoveries of the period of about 1430--especially in the work of van Eyck--was the multifarious effects a painter can achieve by observing the action of light. These early Flemish artists found that light can define form, shape, and texture and that, when captured in a landscape, it can help convey a mood. Rogier van der Weyden also explored the problems of conveying emotion. A development in the rendering of the drapery--the so-called crumpled style of hard angular folds--is particularly clear in the paintings of Campin. Portraiture made dramatic progress during this period. Portraits were obviously not new; sculptors were already experimenting in the 14th century with life--and death--masks. But the brilliant use of lighting gives the portraits of Jan van Eyck, for instance, a vivid life hitherto quite unknown.

A great deal of later 15th- and 16th-century Flemish painting seems to play variations on these themes. Although there were painters with distinctly individual styles, such as Hugo van der Goes, with his highly accomplished technique and somewhat contemplative depictions, Hans Memling was more typical (despite having been born in the Rhineland).

Robert Campin
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Dijon

The influence of van Eyck's paintings was felt to a limited extent outside the Low Countries--for example, by Konrad Witz of Basel, Switz., by the Master of the Aix Annunciation (1442) of Aix-en-Provence, Fr., and by the Neapolitan artist Colantonio and his illustrious pupil Antonello da Messina. In the course of the century, however, the style of Rogier van der Weyden and his immediate successors, such as Dieric Bouts, became more influential, being felt in Germany, England, Spain, and Portugal. Evidence of Rogier van der Weyden's influence can be seen in the works of Hans Pleydenwurff of Nurnberg, in the wall paintings in Eton College Chapel (c. 1480), and in the paintings of Nuno Gonçalves in Portugal. This new "international style" also influenced the great German engraver Martin Schongauer and, ultimately, the outstanding representative of the German Renaissance school of painting, Albrecht Durer.

Any individualists at this time were usually painters who chose to go to the extreme of emphasizing the bizarre or the horrifying. Hugo van der Goes veered in this direction.

A very different sort of extreme individuality is found in the work of the Tirolean painter and sculptor Michael Pacher. His pictorial work is so strongly marked by a concern with the structure of the composition and with effects of perspective--particularly foreshortening--that it seems clear he knew the work of Andrea Mantegna of Padua. Although virtually free of antique motifs, Pacher's painting demonstrates the growing fascination of Italian Renaissance art for northern artists.

Rather different were the French painters of the 15th century. Court art revived, especially during the reign of Louis XI (1461-83), as exemplified by the illuminated manuscript Le Livre du coeur d'amours espris (1465; Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna). The most interesting painter was probably Jean Fouquet, who, apparently early in his career, visited Italy. Italian details certainly appear in his work, but, as is evident in the Hours of Etienne Chevalier (Conde Museum, Chantilly) and the "Melun Diptych" (now divided between the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp), he still painted within the northern tradition. The restrained and somewhat reticent character of much French painting is interestingly similar to much of the sculpture.

Melchior Broederlam
The Dijon Altarpiece
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Dijon

Encyclopædia Britannica


Architecture in France

From the middle of the 12th century, a totally new style of architecture emerged in the great cathedrals of northern France. Incorporating improved building techniques and a new perception of symbolic values, this style quickly spread throughout Europe where, in many countries, it would endure for three centuries or more. This was Gothic art,
a prolonged and highly original phase in European culture.

The revolutionary new architectural styles and building techniques first used in the mid-12th century on the construction sites of the cathedrals of northern France quickly spread to England, central Europe, Italy, and Spain. In some countries this "Gothic" architecture was to rule until the beginning of the 16th century. The term "Gothic" was first coined by early Renaissance architects as a means of deriding all architecture created in a medieval style. The word itself referred to the idea of a barbaric past of the Dark Ages and, more specifically, to the "Goths" - a Germanic people who invaded Italy in the fifth century and sacked Rome. However, the term was to lose its derogatory overtones and, by the Baroque age, great architects like Borromini and, later, Guarini were quick to appreciate the technical quality and originality of form of these Gothic buildings. In the 19th century, new sensitivities to the picturesque by the English critic John Ruskin, and structural analysis by the French architect and leader of the Gothic Revival in France, Viollet-le-Duc (1814-79), led to a reappraisal of the social and religious qualities of the Middle Ages. Some 20th-century studies of Gothic art have perhaps laid too much emphasis on trends linked to the evolution of style or to geographical location. Others, like those by the art historian Erwin Panofsky and the critic Otto von Simson, have indicated links with scholastic philosophy, or with metaphysics of Neo-Platonic origin. Meanwhile, critics such as Georges Duby have upheld the importance of the role of social and religious context. In architecture, which more than the any other art category personifies Gothic culture, innovation grew out of a progressive mastery of geometry and composition. With new advances in technology, organization, and planning, building methods changed. Construction sites became efficient and economic, and the development of specialist areas, such as carving and layout, enabled work to be allocated and integrated into orderly sequences. The task of the architect became both more intellectual and more independent and names like Pierre de Montreuil (c.1200-66), Peter Parler (1333-99), and Ulrich von Esingen, came to be known. The new style, known as opus francigenum spread rapidly, as the competition between bishops to build cathedrals grew more intense, and it was consolidated by the dominance in the 13th century of the French monarchy throughout northern France. Impressed by the economical use of time and materials, the growing monastic orders - Cistercians, Franciscans, and Dominicans - adopted the Gothic style. Building plans began to circulate outside the strict confines applied by the masons, and were used by architects and patrons.

Durham Cathedral, begun 1093 view of the nave. The structure is bulky and the components are separate, but the ribs on the vaulting compartments run down the piers. For the first time a sense of structural coherence overlaid the solid mass of the supports.


Abbot Suger, a profound mystic, became abbot of Saint-Denis, Paris, in 1122. In 1140, he inaugurated the new basilica, intended as a burial chapel for the Capetian monarchs. This was the first truly Gothic building. Although he only completed the choir aisles and west entrance block, his vision of a ring of stained glass windows expanded the precious shimmer of the altar furniture into an aesthetic of mystic light. The oldest aesthetic dictate, "all that which exists is light", "was echoed in the new edifices in the He de France, with an extraordinary use of stained-glass windows adorned with figures. The glorification of the portal, which had to be rich and light as a sign of Christ and a true door to the salvation of man, was a forerunner of the great sculptures that were to appear at the entrances of Notre-Dame in Paris and Chartres Cathedral. It is really in the shadow of these great building sites that theologians like Theodore of Chartres and William of Conches found an obvious counterpart in the logicality of the Gothic structure, with its impression of everything soaring upwards, Their speculations on creative energy, anima mundi and its other aspect, ornatus mundi, is reflected in the elaboration of detail in the varied and wonderful repertory of sculpted decoration.

Detail of the Portal Royal, Chartres Cathedral, 1145-70.

View of the mid- 13th-century interior of the
basilica of Saint-Denis (1140-1281)

The Gothic Cathedrals


Proceeded by a Gallo-Roman temple to Jupiter, a Christian basilica, and a Romanesque church, construction of Notre-Dame de Paris began in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII. Pope Alexander III laid the foundation stone. The idea to replace the Romanesque church occupying the site - the Cathedral of St. Etienne (founded by Childebert in 528) - was that of Bishop Maurice de Sully (who died in 1196). (Some accounts claim that there were two churches existing on the site, one to the Virgin Mary, the other to St. Stephen.) Construction was completed roughly 200 years later in about 1345. The choir was completed in 1182; the nave in 1208, and the west front and towers circa 1225-1250. A series of chapels were added to the nave during the period 1235-50, and during 1296-1330 to the apse (Pierre de Chelles and Jean Ravy). The transept crossings were build in 1250-67 by Jean de Chelles and Pierre de Montreuil (also the architect of the Sainte-Chapelle). It was essentially completed according to the original plans. The reigns of Louis XIV (end of the 17th century) and Louis XV saw significant alterations including the destruction of tombs, and stained glass. At the end of the 18th century, during the Revolution, many of the treasures of the cathedral were either destroyed or plundered. Only the great bells avoided being melted down, and the Cathedral was dedicated first to the cult of Reason, and to the cult of the Supreme being. The church interior was used as a warehouse for the storage of forage and food.

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258
General view
The front facade, executed somewhat later than the nave, depicts the Last Judgment in the central portal-a common medieval subject, stories in the life of Mary in the north portal tympanum, and those in the life of her mother Anne in the south portal tympanum

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258, (interior)

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258. Unlike most cathedrals, Notre-Dame still represents the heart of its city. After eight centuries, it remains a point of reference for French art, from its foundations built in 1163 on the site of an old temple dedicated to the Roman god Jove, to the 19th-century restoration work by Viollet-le-Duc. The portals retain some of the original sculpture. The transept was added in the 13th century The interior is dominated by the soaring vaults, the feeling of infinite space, and the austerity of the cylindrical columns in the double aisles.

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258
View of portal

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258
South tribune, from east looking, west

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258.
Rose window; parapet with Virgin and Child flanked by angels


Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258


Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258

Notre-Dame, Paris, 1163-1258

The rebuilding of Chartres Cathedral - the Romanesque structure was destroyed by fire in 1194 - provided a prototype for the new Gothic style. The earliest complete Gothic building was Laon Cathedral (1160), and a different system of encircling bay supports was used at Bourges (1195). The Chartres scheme of single aisles, small triforium, and vaulting bays was simpler. The plan is a longitudinal central body with side aisles, a short transept, and a choir with ambulatory and radial chapels. The main structural elements are the slender pillars topped by pointed arches, which separate the side aisles and rise to form high cross-vaults. The thrust was carried on flying buttresses to allow for large window openings. Set between two towers, the facade is pierced by a large rose-window. As Gothic style flourished, the early variations at Noyon (1150) and Notre Dame (1163) were superseded by developments at Soissons, Rheims, Amiens, and Beauvais. In the mid-13th century, Gothic ait followed the route of monks and pilgrims to Spain, where cathedrals were built at Salamanca. Burgos, and Leon. In England, at Canterbury and Westminster, French design gradually gave way to linear and decorative styles, culminating in the 14th-century perpendicular style. German regions adapted this style early in the 13th century. in the Liebfrauenkirche of Trier and the cathedrals of Strasbourg and Cologne.


Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Laon. Laon, France. 1160-1225

Cathedral of Notre-Dame at Laon, 130km northwest from Paris, has one of the great early Gothic style as well as Notre-Dame at Paris. The cathdral of Notre-Dame was established in the end of fifth century but burned in 1112.The reconstruction of the choir and transepts began about 1160 and completed in 1174. The reconstruction started again about 1180 and after 1205, the completion of the nave, the orginal choir was replaced by the greatly lengthened present-day choir in 1215.
The west facade was completed about 1220.

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Laon, France (1160-1225)

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Laon, France (1160-1225)


Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Laon, France (1160-1225)

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Laon, France, 1160-1225

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Laon, France (1160-1225)


Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Laon, France (1160-1225)  (interior)

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Laon, France (1160-1225)


Chartres Notre Dame. Chartres, France. 1145-1220

South tower (right side of the image) was completed in the 1160.
North tower was completed in the 1150 and rebuilt in 1513 after the destruction of the wooden steeple by the fire. The rose window was built in early 13th century. The central portal, called "Portail Royal", is completed about 1155.


Chartres Notre Dame, Chartres, France,

Chartres Notre Dame, Chartres, France,


Chartres Notre Dame, Chartres, France,

Chartres Notre Dame, Chartres, France,


Chartres Notre Dame, Chartres, France, (1145-1220)

Chartres Notre Dame, Chartres, France,

Chartres Notre Dame, Chartres, France, (1145-1220)

Chartres Notre Dame, Chartres, France, (1145-1220)

Amiens Notre Dame. France, begun 1220

Cathedral Amiens is the largest and most Classical of French cathedrals in Gothc era.
The height of the ceiling is about 42.3m (about 37m at Cathedral Chartres, about 38m at Cathedral Reims) and the width of the nave is about 14.6m. The Cathedral Amien was built in 1152 with the Romanesque style and burnt in 1218 by lightnings. The reconstruction was started in about 1220 and the nave was completed in about 1245. The choir was started to reconstruct in about 1238 and completed befor 1269 and the most of part including transept was completed in 1288. The south tower was constructed in about 1366, the north tower was done in about 1401.

Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220


Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220

Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220

Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220


Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220

Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220

Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220


Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220

Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220

Amiens Notre Dame, France, begun 1220

Cathedral Saint-Etienne, Bourges. Begun mid 1190s

Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Bourges, used to call Cathedral of Bourges, is located about 200km south of Paris.Cathedral of Bourges is, together with Cathedral Chartres, the first cathedral of high-gothic era.Cathedral of Bourges had peculiar style in contrast with Cathedral of Chartres which became a starting point of the typical French Gothic style. The construction begun in 1195. The choir was completed in 1214 and the nave was completed in 1225-50 but the west facade was continued construction untill 1270's.
In 1505 the north tower fell down and rebuilt in 1542.

Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Bourges,
begun mid 1190s

Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Bourges,
begun mid 1190s

Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Bourges,
begun mid 1190s

Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Bourges,
begun mid 1190s


Cathedral of Saint-Etienne in Bourges,
begun mid 1190s