During the middle Ages, religion was key. God was the center of the individuals’ world. Individualistic views, in the sense of modern times, were not quite set in yet, and the people, or so I believe, had more of a sense of “a greater purpose.” As in my last blog, I commented on the difference between churches built today and churches built back in the middle Ages. There was a different sense of purpose for a church. Whether one believes the purpose to be strictly for God or for the congregation of people worshiping is left up to the interpreter. Both are valid observations and beliefs. However, it is to be noted the greatness of middle age churches, whether they are Romanesque or Gothic.
Our cultures and societies have come a long way from the 1300s with many exceptional achievements. However, we have also lost sight of the beauty of this world and previous mindsets. The Gothic churches were an extension to Romanesque architecture – bigger windows with stained glass, higher arches that are ribbed and barreled, greater area space, and a new concept of “un élément de remplissage.” There was a new idea of creating the cathedral in such a way that brings heaven on Earth and gives us a closer sense of God. God is symbolized as many things including light. He is light. As in Geneses 1: 2-3,
“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”
And again in 1 John 1:7 God is represented and clearly stated that God is light.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”
God is represented as truth, knowledge, “the way,” light, among many other things. The architects in the Gothic period understood this and gave the cathedrals immense stained glass windows that illuminated the entire cathedral with a multitude of colors that could only be observed from within the church. It created a haven for the people. Many churches today are still constructed with stained glass windows with magnificent stories and pieces of art; however, the Gothic construction as a whole has been lost. The flying buttress, ribbed and barrel vaults, and arches have lost its passion in architecture. In Saint Thomas Aquinas’ “The Summa Contre Gentiles,” his ideology and perception of God and man’s coexistence is merely because of God and His works of His kingdom.
“God brought all things into being, not by natural necessity, but by His intellect and will… Therefore, [He] governs all things.” – Saint Thomas Aquinas, The Summa Contre Gentiles ch. 64.