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Know More About The Extraordinary Period Of Court Gothic

Jun 18, 2008
The extraordinary period of invention in the history of art and architecture ended as the increasingly hot, dry climate burnt the fields and desiccated the northern French vineyards which had funded much of this work. As the population continued to increase in spite of worsening conditions, ordinary people became poorer and wealth was increasingly concentrated among the kings and nobility.

Where earlier churches expressed the spirit of the abbeys and the towns, much French architecture of the next century or two originated in the Court. France was by now the most populous country in Europe, and her society and culture was the most prestigious. Foreigners eagerly adopted the new "Opus Francorum" and spread the Court Gothic style throughout northern Europe and Spain. In the 1240s one country after another either imported French masons or sent their men to France to emulate what had been done there. They were most excited by la Sainte-Chapelle, the royal chapel built by King Louis for the Crown of Thorns, a holy relic from the Byzantine Empire.

In England the solid Norman architecture was replaced with much lighter structures. Sometimes whimsical, seldom pompous, the new style appealed to the people over the Channel. The great traceried windows were so beguiling that whole walls of earlier churches were ripped out in order to make those glorious fantasies in thin stone and stained glass as large as possible.

Unlike their prototypes in France, little sense of structure permeates English Gothic. The thin ribs and shafts in the Paris area, although decorative, always relate to their structural purpose, with ribs running from one support to another and arches remaining as arches without being disguised by heavy decoration. In England, however, the master masons often let pattern run its own course with little regard for the purpose behind it; the French called it cosmetique.

The French style hardly touched Italy, as that region was so pervasively influenced by the many Roman remains. Milan cathedral was built only after a long controversy between French and German masons who had been brought in to advise the locals who had no experience of or even interest in the new style.

It is symptomatic of the times that the quantity of construction throughout the whole of Europe in the century before the Black Death of 1348 was hardly more than that in the Paris Basin alone during the previous century. The Black Death marks a crucial watershed in architectural development. The population had trebled since the turn of the millennium, yet there was still no shortage of virgin lands to till. The plague killed one in three people within a few short months, and the style of architecture changed to suit.
About the Author
Max is not one of those famous architects or artists. He is just an ordinary guy who enjoys reading books about world architecture and art work.
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