12-16th Century

Gothic architecture emerged in Europe during the late medieval period and can be separated into Early Gothic and High Gothic periods. Gothic architecture was primarily churches, cathedrals, and sometimes public buildings like town halls and universities.

Gothic architecture was the first architectural style consciously developed and promoted, as architects sought to create increasingly elaborate and impressive structures to reflect the power and glory of the Church. The emphasis on verticality symbolized spiritual ascent and the pursuit of the divine. Moreover, this style fostered a sense of unity across Europe as Gothic designs spread widely.
Important Features
Pointed Arches
Pointed arches were a significant departure from the rounded arches of the Romanesque period. This design allowed a more efficient weight distribution and enabled builders to construct taller, more elaborate buildings. Pointed arches also provided greater stability to the structure, allowing for more open and airy spaces.

Pointed arches created a sense of verticality, a central design feature of Gothic architecture, creating a feeling of being drawn towards the heavens. In addition, they allowed for the use of ribbed vaults, which added further structural support and provided a decorative element to the building.
Ribbed Vaults
Ribbed vaults are a system of arched masonry supports that create a series of intersecting arches and diagonal ribs, which distribute the weight of the roof or ceiling more effectively than previous architectural techniques. Another benefit of ribbed vaults was their ability to allow for the use of stained glass windows. The ribs provided additional support for the walls of the building, allowing them to be thinner and allowing for larger windows. This meant that more natural light could enter the building, creating a more dramatic and awe-inspiring effect.
Flying Buttresses
Flying buttresses are exterior supports attached to the walls of a building and extend outward to connect with the upper portions of the building. They transfer the weight of the roof and upper portions of the building to the ground through a series of arches and supports, allowing more open and airy interior space.

The flying buttress is also a decorative element in Gothic architecture, with many intricate designs and ornamentation. They provided an opportunity for artistic expression and added to the overall beauty and grandeur of the building.
Stained Glass Windows
Stained glass windows are colored glass used to create decorative and pictorial designs in windows. These windows were often massive in Gothic architecture, featuring intricate designs and rich colors. They provided a means of bringing light into the building while offering privacy. The windows were often filled with images of religious figures and scenes, serving as a visual representation of the teachings of the Church. Skilled artisans would spend months or even years creating these intricate works of art, often telling stories and conveying theological messages through their designs.
Sculptural Decoration
The sculptures were often intricate and detailed. Depicting religious figures, scenes from the Bible, and other important figures or symbols conveying religious messages reinforce the Church's power and authority. They were often placed in prominent locations, such as the portals or the exterior of the building, where large numbers of people could see them.