Immerse Yourself In Gothic Architecture Across Europe

Check out these different interpretations of the medieval style

By Google Arts & Culture

Gothic architecture is an architectural style that flourished in Europe during the Middle Ages. It first originated in 12th century France and continued up until the 16th century spreading across the continent. It evolved during the construction of great churches in the Paris region in a move to create greater height, light and volume in the city's buildings.

High Street, Oxford (between 1798 and 1799) by Thomas Malton the Younger, 1748–1804, BritishYale Center for British Art

The movement evolved from Romanesque architecture. It was typically characterized by semi-circular arches, thick walls and sturdy pillars. Characteristics of Gothic architecture were structures built from stone combined with large expanses of glass, clustered columns, pointed spires, large arches, intricate decoration, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses – a specific form of buttress composed of an arched structure that extends from the upper portion of a wall to a pier.

By St Philips Church, Salford (1926 - 1926) by LS LowryThe Lowry

The style was applied most famously to great cathedrals, abbeys and churches around Europe. It is also the style of many castles, palaces, town halls and universities. Grand, ornate and impressive, the buildings of Gothic architecture signify a progression in technology and building techniques. Here we take a tour of some of the most impressive Gothic structures found across Europe.

Ruined German Cities (1945) by Margaret Bourke-WhiteLIFE Photo Collection

St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria

St. Stephen's Cathedral is one of the most iconic buildings in Vienna and the main Roman Catholic church. The building of the original church began in 1137, but this structure was ravaged by a large fire and only the stone foundations on which it stood survived. Since then the cathedral has grown and developed over time with a large section rebuilt after damage for World War II and various towers and decorations being added.

Reformed Church, Nyírbátor, Hungary

Nyírbátor is a town in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county, in the Northern Great Plain region of eastern Hungary. The city is known for its 15th and 16th-century ecclesiastical and secular architectural heritage. The best known building is what is now known as the Reformed Church. Built between 1488 and 1511, it is one of the most beautiful International Gothic structures in Hungary. The late Renaissance-style belfry next to it is the largest wooden bell tower in the country.

Porvoo Cathedral, Porvoo, Finland

Porvoo cathedral belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Mostly built in the 15th century, there are parts of it that date back to the 13th century. Originally a church, it became a cathedral in 1723. 

Visby Cathedral, Visby, Sweden

Visby Cathedral was built as a church for German traders in Visby, Sweden. It was financed by a fee that every German trader arriving in Visby had to pay. Construction started at the end of the 12th century and was finished around 1190.

Leuven Town Hall, Leuven, Belgium

Leuven Town Hall is a landmark building in the main market square in Leuven, Belgium. Built between 1448 and 1469, the building is famous for its ornate architecture, crafted in lace-like detail. The style of the building is Brabantine Late Gothic, which is found in the Low Countries like the Netherlands and Belgium. It was developed to compete with the elaborate designs of French Gothic architecture and used the region’s natural stone.

Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln, United Kingdom

For a time, Lincoln Cathedral was the tallest building in the world for 238 years (1311-1549) and the first building to hold that title since the Great Pyramid of Giza. It lost the title in 1549, because the central spire collapsed and was never rebuilt. Despite losing that status, it’s still the third largest cathedral in England and is said to a high point in Gothic architecture due to the showcase of decorative art on display both inside and outside the building.

Orvieto Cathedral, Umbria, Italy

Orvieto Cathedral is a large 14th-century Roman Catholic cathedral situated in the town of Orvieto in Umbria. The construction of the building took almost three centuries and as such saw the design and style evolve from Romanesque to Gothic as construction progressed.

Florence Cathedral, Florence, Italy

Florence Cathedral, or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is the main church of Florence. Construction began in 1296 under the designs of Arnolfo di Cambio in the Gothic style and was completed structurally in 1436. The exterior of the basilica is covered in marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white, and has an elaborate 19th-century Gothic Revival facade by Emilio De Fabris.

Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France

Notre Dame cathedral is widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is one of the largest and best-known church buildings in the Catholic Church in France. Completed in 1345, the cathedral was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress.

Basilica St Denis, France

The Basilica of Saint Denis is a large medieval abbey church in the city of Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris. The building is important both historically and architecturally as its choir – the area of a church or cathedral that provides seating for the clergy and church choir – shows the first use of all of the elements of Gothic architecture.

Black Church, Transylvania, Romania

The Black Church in Brașov, a city in south-eastern Transylvania, Romania is the largest and one of the most important places of worship in the region. Built by the German community of the city, it is the main Gothic style monument in the country.

St. Nicholas’ Church, Ghent, Belgium

St Nicholas’ Church is one of the oldest and most prominent landmarks in Ghent, Belgium. Construction began in the early 13th century as a replacement for an earlier Romanesque church and building continued through the rest of the century in the local Scheldt Gothic style. Typical characteristics of this style is the use of blue-gray stone from the Tournai area, the single large tower and the slender turrets on the building’s corners.

Göss Abbey, Styria, Austria

Göss Abbey is a former Benedictine nunnery and former cathedral in the Göss part of Leoben in Styria, Austria. The old abbey is a large late Gothic building containing an early Romanesque crypt beneath the choir, some important early Gothic frescoes in the chapel of Saint Michael in the Zackenstil style (a transitional style between Romanesque and Gothic) and an imposing roof.

Maison Guiette, Anvers.İstanbul Research Institute

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