A study of medieval cathedrals

These skyscrapers of stone dominate skylines for nearly 1, years. How, in the Middle Ages, without the benefit of modern tools and technology, did engineers construct Gothic cathedrals? Now, experts explore a radical new theory:

A study of medieval cathedrals

Bema[ edit ] As numbers of clergy increased, the small apse which contained the altar, or table upon which the sacramental bread and wine were offered in the rite of Holy Communionwas not sufficient to accommodate them. A raised dais called a bema formed part of many large basilican churches.

In the case of St. From this beginning, the plan of the church developed into the so-called Latin Cross which is the shape of most Western Cathedrals and large churches. The arms of the cross are called the transept.

The mausoleum of a noble Roman was a square or circular domed structure which housed a sarcophagus. Constantine the Great built for his daughter Constantina a mausoleum which has a circular central space surrounded by a lower ambulatory or passageway separated by a colonnade.

This burial place became a place of worship, Santa Costanzaas well as a tomb. It is one of the earliest church buildings that was centrally, rather than longitudinally planned.

There are many examples which give evidence of this, and include the mosaic vaults of Orthodox churches, the stained glass windows of Medieval churches and the sculptural schemes of Baroque churches. However, in many other cases, any unified scheme has been lost with the vagaries of the building's history. The book The Construction of Gothic Cathedrals: A Study of Medieval Vault Erection, John Fitchen is published by University of Chicago Press. The Construction of Gothic Cathedrals: A Study of Medieval Vault Erection, Fitchen. Gothic cathedrals were considerably darker than Romanesque cathedrals Western culture in the Middle Ages was formed a combination of classical, Christian, and Islamic influences Augustine wrote a spiritual autobiography called “Confessions”.

Constantine was also responsible for the building of the circular, mausoleum-like Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalemwhich in turn influenced the plan of a number of buildings, including that constructed in Rome to house the remains of the proto-martyr Saint StephenSan Stefano Rotondo and the Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna.

Ancient circular or polygonal churches are comparatively rare. In Denmark such churches in the Romanesque style are much more numerous.

In parts of Eastern Europe there are also round tower-like churches of the Romanesque period but they are generally vernacular architecture and of small scale.

The circular or polygonal form lent itself to those buildings within church complexes that perform a function in which it is desirable for people to stand, or sit around, with a centralised focus, rather than an axial one. In Italy the circular or polygonal form was used throughout the medieval period for baptisteries, while in England it was adapted for chapter houses.

In France the aisled polygonal plan was adapted as the eastern terminal and in Spain the same form is often used as a chapel. Other than Santa Costanza and San Stefano, there was another significant place of worship in Rome that was also circular, the vast Ancient Roman Pantheonwith its numerous statue-filled niches.

This too was to become a Christian church and lend its style to the development of Cathedral architecture. Bjernede Kirke is one of several circular Romanesque churches in Denmark. Most cathedrals and great churches have a cruciform groundplan. In churches of Western European tradition, the plan is usually longitudinal, in the form of the so-called Latin Cross with a long nave crossed by a transept.

The transept may be as strongly projecting as at York Minster or not project beyond the aisles as at Amiens Cathedral. Many of the earliest churches of Byzantium have a longitudinal plan.

At Hagia SophiaIstanbul, there is a central dome, framed on one axis by two high semi-domes and on the other by low rectangular transept arms, the overall plan being square.

This large church was to influence the building of many later churches, even into the 21st century. A square plan in which the nave, chancel and transept arms are of equal length forming a Greek crossthe crossing generally surmounted by a dome became the common form in the Orthodox Churchwith many churches throughout Eastern Europe and Russia being built in this way.

Churches of the Greek Cross form often have a narthex or vestibule which stretches across the front of the church. Axis[ edit ] As described above, the majority of cathedrals and great churches are cruciform in shape with the church having a defined axis.

Because it is also the direction of the rising sun, the architectural features of the east end often focus on enhancing interior illumination by the sun.

Pisa Cathedral from the " Leaning Tower " shows the Latin Cross form, with projecting apseforeground and free-standing baptistry at the west. Southwark CathedralLondonshows strongly projecting transeptslong eastern end and the central tower common in Britain.

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Nave[ edit ] The majority of cathedrals and large churches of the Western European tradition have a high wide nave with a lower aisle separated by an arcade on either side. Occasionally the aisles are as high as the nave, forming a hall church.

Many cathedrals have two aisles on either side. Notre Dame de Paris has two aisles and a row of chapels.The Milan Cathedral, constructed over a period of more than years, is one of the few Gothic cathedrals where permanent metallic tie-rods are installed under all naves to support a portion of.

The Age of Faith, the Medieval times, the dark ages, the early Middle Ages, and late Middle Ages. The Pope is the most powerful official of the Roman Catholic Church, and the bishop of Rome. The most enduring physical example of the power of the medieval Church can be found in the major cities across Europe in the large number of cathedrals, or churches that act as the home church of.

—A. D. R. Caroe, Annual Review, Central Council for the Care of Churches "Fitchen’s study is a tribute to the extraordinary creative and engineering skills of successive generations of mediaeval builders.

‘a turning point in the study of medieval cathedrals’ A quote from just one of the excellent reviews on this wide-ranging study of medieval cathedrals - the buildings that provide a physical foundation for the construction of the complex and plural European identity.

A study of medieval cathedrals

ABSTRACT: The study of three Gothic Cathedrals is presented with a discussion on the results obtained with regard to their structural features and present condition. The paper focuses on the significant difficulties that the analysts may encounter in the attempt of evaluating historical structures.

Medieval Cathedrals - History Learning Site