Gothic cathedrals are among some of the earliest architectural works that still exist today. This architecture involved intricate designs that date back to around 1144 (Gregory, 2012). To make these buildings so magnificent, as well as resistant to wear, required a lot of work and building materials especially considering that much of the work was done by hand. This required a lot of time for completion. The cathedrals had many similarities starting from the materials used, floor plans, designs and form, as well. One of the most magnificent and still surviving gothic cathedrals is the ‘Cathedral of Chartres’ that was constructed for over 26 years and again after a fire in 1194. The other one is ‘Reims Cathedral,’ built after another church building was destroyed by fire in 1211. The mighty cathedrals symbolized God, His power, as well as how much people had regard for Him. Chartres Cathedral and Reims Cathedral have more similarities than differences.
The main building material in Chartres Cathedral is stone. Much of the stones were of limestone. The stones were joined together using mortar. Mortar was a material used in binding stones and other building materials together, which is comparable to cement. Another material used is wood, which may look unlikely. The gothic architecture used wood to hold their roof, the flying buttresses and doors. Additionally, wood is used in supporting some of the vaults. The other material used for windows is stained glasses. These are the same material used in the Reims Cathedral and almost the same way (thinkquest.org, n.d).
Creation of the Buildings
Considering that stone was used, great weights were involved. In order to carry more weight, the cathedrals were built with pointed arches that could support more weight. To support even greater weight, the architectures at this time used flying buttresses that are additions to the main part of the building, allowing the weight of the roof spread alongside the nave and to the foundation. The flying buttresses are evident in both cathedrals, with arches that are meant to support more weight (History Learning Site, 2013). This way, the enormous weight of the roof was spread evenly across the whole foundation instead of exerting pressure on the isles in the nave alone. The roof gained its weight from the materials used that was mainly limestone. Further, the cathedrals are made with spires that are also meant to support the enormous weight of the roof. This is similar in both cathedrals.
The other similarity in the two cathedrals is the shapes and even floor plans. The floor plans take the shape of a cross, probably signifying crucifixion of Jesus. Additionally, the tall arcades and pointed facades were a symbol of superiority. To further achieve the purpose of the Chartres Cathedral that is worship, it has large amounts of sculptures, with some large ones as statues while others are just miniature. These sculptures depict scenes of the bible. Additionally, the stained glass contains images of different themes such as Mary, crucifixion and other stories told through painting the glass with bright colors. The Reims Cathedral is not left behind on this although it does not have as many sculptures as the Chartres Cathedral. It has a few sculptures in the exterior as well as in the interior. At the three entrance portals, it has statues as well as statuettes (History Learning Site, 2013). At the center portal, instead of a statue, Mary is represented in the rose window enclosed in an arch. The interior holds other statues and stained glass telling stories of Christianity. One of them represents the life of Virgin Mary. Although the statues are not similar, they present the purpose of the cathedrals, which is purposely for worship.
The cathedrals represent the highest regard for God through its magnificent design. The people believed that cathedrals being places of worship were supposed to be magnificent in order to please lord. Additionally, cathedrals were the center of the economy of the city during the middle ages where the bishops would collect tax and other forms of revenues from the people. They also acted as places of social activities such as the crowning of kings in the Reims Cathedral.
Context of the Cathedrals
These works fit into the context of their period, which is between 1140 and 1300. The materials used depict a time when technological advancement for building was not available, but when new knowledge was available. Had the cathedrals been built in the modern day, the material used would most likely be reinforced concrete with lighter roofing. Other materials such as mortar are in use, which depict the Middle Ages when mortar was greatly used as cement. Further, the two cathedrals are characterized by naves with aisles. Both have transepts with isles and a choir with double isles. This represents the gothic culture of the middle ages. Another feature that fits the context is stained glass that dates back to the middle ages, telling stories of the bible such as the early life of Jesus. Although some have been replaced with newer ones during restorations, some are still in existence.
Gothic cathedrals have been in existence for over centuries and remain significant buildings especially when it comes to highlighting a rich history in architectural design. Although architecture has undergone many transformations, gothic characteristics are still seen in some churches today. However, the two works analyzed here are quite similar with extremely little difference in terms of the materials used and design. Almost all features such as isles in the nave and buttresses amongst other features are similar.
Gregory, G. Gothic Cathedrals. Retrieved from http://fourriverscharter.org/projects/Inventions/pages/europe_gothiccathedrals.htm
History Learning Site. (2013). Gothic Church Architecture. Retrieved from http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/gothic_church_architecture.htm
thinkquest.org. (n.d). Gothic Cathedrals. Retrieved from http://library.thinkquest.org/10098/cathedrals.htm