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Home » Popular, architecture, church architecture, gothic architecture, paris, styles: gothic, whitehot

The White Hot Act of Gothic

Submitted by Andy Marshall on November 17, 2008 – 3:20 pm6 Comments


In terms of architectural history there are some buildings which are supercharged with energy. The Basilica of Saint Denis near Paris is one such building.

Walk over to the Chancel and the Sanctuary and look up at the vaulting in the ambulatory and here you will see where the Gothic style was born.

This building is the starting point of all things Gothic as we know it today.

The Mother of all Gothic.

OK, there have been others who have tried to claim the Gothic mantle of originator, but this is the first place where we see the pointed arch and vault with such lightness and clarity. It is here where the Gothic style reaches ‘critical mass’.

The great architectural commentator, Pevsner says: “Whoever designed the choir at St Denis, one can safely say, invented the Gothic style…the pointed arch, the flying buttress, and the rib-vault….What was decisively new….was the combination of these motifs for a new aesthetic purpose. (Pevsner, An Outline of European Architecture, Penquin, London 1943).

One particular visual joy is the tension between later Classical elements of the church shunted up against the original Gothic (see the top photo).

Upshot of the vaulting in the Ambulatory – where it all started

And it doesn’t stop there. The Basilica is also known as the Royal Necropolis. Almost all of the Kings and Queens of France are buried there (bar three).

Marie Antoinette

The last act was to seal the mummified heart of the Dauphin in the wall of the crypt in 2004.

The Crypt

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