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366 • C H R I S T I A N I T Y A N D T H E F O R M A T I O N O F E U R O P E The Romanesque period was succeeded in the 12th century by the Gothic era. The term "Gothic" derives from the Goths, who were among the many nomadic tribes sweeping through Europe during the 4th and 5th centuries. It was applied to this style by later critics in the Renaissance, who considered the art and architecture of their immediate predecessors to be vulgar and "barbarian." Yet people in the 12th century found the new style to be beautiful and an appropriately lavish way of honoring the faith. The Gothic style was started by a powerful French abbot named Suger, who wanted to enlarge and remodel his church, the abbey church of Saint-Denis, near Paris. Inspired by early Christian writings, he came to believe that an ideal church should have certain characteristics: It should appear to reach up to heaven, it should have harmonious proportions, and it should be filled with light. To fulfill those goals, his architects responded with pointed arches, ribbed vaulting, flying but- tresses, and stained-glass windows so large they seemed like translucent walls. Fin- ished in two stages in 1140 and 1144, the graceful, light-filled interior of Saint-Denis immediately attracted attention and imitation. Gothic style was born, the creation of a brilliant architect whose name the good abbot did not record. The cathedral at Chartres, in France, shows the soaring quality of Gothic architecture (15.18). Here, the unadorned, earthbound masses of the Romanesque have given way to ornate, linear, vertical elements that direct the eye upward. Clearly visible are the flying buttresses that line the nave and apse to contain the outward thrust of the walls. Because portions of Chartres were built at different times, the cathedral also allows us to see something of the evolution of Gothic style. For example, the first thing most people notice about the west facade of the cathedral (15.19) is the mismatched corner towers and spires. The north (left) tower was built first (not including its spire), between 1134 and 1150. Its plain, unadorned surfaces and solid masses are still fundamentally Romanesque. The south (right) tower and its spire were completed next, between 1142 and 1160. Designed in the very earliest Gothic style, they are conceived so that each level grows out of the one before, and all the elements work together to lead the eye upward. 15.18 Chartres Cathedral, France. Begun 1134, completed ca. 1260. Iconotec/Alamy Stock Photo

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