“La fresque s’efface peu à peu au profit du vitrail” in Gothic art and architecture

Though the Gothic art movement in paintings and architecture saw the peak of its existence from the 12th to the 16th century, it was necessary for four centuries to have gone by dedicated to one particular movement as in some cases, the spread of gothic ideology and influence did not reach some regions until centuries after its birth in France. For instance, it takes until about the 14th century to reach major places like Italy. It is interesting to note that Gothic art actually was born in France while we see the Renaissance movement that replaces centuries later be founded in Italy, which was actually slow to adopt the Gothic movement when introduced there. The Renaissance movement that comes about after the Gothic art movement in Europe and that I associate with Italy and its churches is characterized by the appearance of frescos like those of Michealangelo in the Sistine Chapel. However, it is actually during the Gothic age that “la fresque s’efface peu à peu au profit du vitrail”. Therefore, it can be argued that a return of the mural paintings came about after the Gothic art need for a more translucent material like stained-glass windows had diminished in style as the Renaissance movement began to flourish and dominate over Gothic art and architecture with its darker and more dramatic color schemes.

The stained-glass windows and translucent materials used in Gothic churches went very well with the high-reaching towers and ceilings of the buildings that aimed to symbolically reach upwards toward the light. The light these cathedrals aimed to reach and let in through its windows was a result of the idea that light was a symbol of God. So too, then does the church’s architecture need to physically achieve great heights to reach such a light as the website describes this need by saying, “Comme Dieu est lumiere, son temple doit etre translucide”. Therefore, a certain architectural phenomenon took place during this Gothic Art movement that emphasized and catered to this new ideology of reaching towards illumination and God. The high walls and tall structures that reached toward the sky of these cathedrals relied on things like the flying buttress supports and high angled structures such as the gothic arches to carry the churches vertically.

Finally, in my research of Gothic church architecture, I found it new and interesting that there existed different styles within Gothic art and architecture like “gothique primitif”, “gothique classique”, “gothique rayonnant”, and “gothique flamboyant” that came about one after another and are represented by different cathedrals in France. Cathedrals that came about in the later gothic styles such as “le gothique flamboyant” seemed to reach even higher and therefore moved from a more “primitive” style based on the simple principal of building upward to let light in, to one of amazing architectural ingenuity and feat. Even the name of this style “gothique flamboyant” describes just how extravagantly some of these churches were actually built.

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