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Famous Work of Architecture of the Gothic Period: Notre-Dame De Paris.
Perhaps the most famous work of architecture from the Gothic period is the Notre-Dame de Paris, situated on the Island of Ile de la Cite at the very center of the French Capital, Paris. Norte Dame is a French term literally meaning “our lady” and in the context of the cathedral, it specifically denotesthe Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother according to the Christian faith. Soaring 35 meters high and adequately large to accommodate at least six thousand persons, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is recognized as “the mother” of all Parisian churches. It is a fine example of a medieval Gothic architecture whose construction process ended up spanning the entire Gothic period. The construction process of the cathedral, which was built on the relics of Saint Stephen Basilica and a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter, began in 1163, with the first stone being laid by Pope Alexander III (iMinds 1). It took a massive 182 years for Notre-Dame de Paris to be built, during when many different architects worked on the project, which is reflected in slight changes in style that are evident in various parts of the cathedral (Cunningham, Reich, &Fichner-Rathus 312).
Figure 1: Notre-Dame de Paris, image courtesy of The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica
Notre-Dame de Paris spurred major advances in building technology: the cathedral’s weight, for instance, is supported by pillars rather than walls. Moreover, the building was one of the first in the world to be supported by flying buttresses which allowed the weight to be distributed among the pillars. Notre-Dame de Paris was completed gradually and in stages: the apse and the choir of the building were finalized in 1182, which allowed for the commencement of the construction of the nave and the western façade that were fully finished in 1225. The north rose windows and the towers were finalized in 1250, with other construction continuing until 1345 (iMinds 1). The finished building was an impressive reminder and symbol of the authority of the church in addition to being a beautiful work of medieval architecture.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral comprises of an apse and choir, a nave bordered by twin aisles, a minuscule transept, and square chapels. The cathedral’s interior is 130 by 48 meters, and its roof covers a height of 38 meters. It also consists of a central spire, which was added in the course of the restoration that occurred in the 1990s after the cathedral suffered great damage for the duration of the French Revolution and the Second War of the world. Two gigantic Gothic towers crown the façade in the western side of the building, which is split into three floors and has entrances decorated with pleasing carvings of the Gothic period, transcended by figures of the kings of the Old Testament. At the east of Notre-Dame de Paris, there exists an apse with enormous clerestory windows and is reinforced by flying buttresses which are single-arched, demonstrating the more audacious Rayonnant style of the Gothic period (Cunningham, Reich, &Fichner-Rathus 315).
Figure 2: Notre-Dame de Paris, image courtesy of The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica
One of the Gothic style characteristics is an awe-inspiring verticality. Everything in the Gothic style seems to strive upward – the clusters of thin columns rising from the nave floor toward the sky, pointed arches and pinnacles, and the lofty ceilings. Another characteristic is colored light – an almost mystical light that penetrates jewel-like panes of stained glass disperses into prismatic hues and appears to etherealize the solid stone on which it lands (Kleiner 193). Indeed, Notre-Dame de Paris reflects these characteristics with its two gigantic Gothic towers that crown the façade in the western side of the cathedral, the 38-meters high roof, the clerestory windows on the apse at the east of the building, and the flying buttresses that support the nave walls. The cathedral also has a clerestory with very tall windows that illuminate what would be an otherwise dark vault, reflecting the colored light characteristic of the Gothic style (Cunningham, Reich, &Fichner-Rathus 315).
Cunningham, Lawrence, et al. Culture and Values: A Survey of the Humanities. Vol. 1, New York, NY, Cengage Learning, 2016.
iMinds. Notre Dame. New York, NY, IMinds Pty Ltd, 2014.
Kleiner, Fred. Gardner’s Art through the Ages: A Concise Global History. New York, NY, Cengage Learning, 2016.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Notre-Dame de Paris.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 19 Dec. 2012, www.britannica.com/topic/Notre-Dame-de-Paris. Accessed 27 Apr. 2017.