A Survey of Western Art I – ARHI201
November 9th, 2016
Meaning of Light in Gothic Architecture
The church in the middle ages was a significant place for many individuals as it was the only thing where they thought they could belong to, regardless of their class. The church was also known for its unity and its great influences on art and architecture during this time. As society slowly drifted apart from the Romanesque period, a new and technical era had taken birth, also known as, the Gothic era. This era came to life at the end of the 12th century and lasted through the 16th century; this was enough time for the era to have a significant influence on the political, social, and religious aspects of culture throughout Europe. The exquisiteness and classiness of Gothic architecture were mostly portrayed in cathedrals from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries which included, Basilica of St. Denis, Chartres, Amiens, Salisbury, Notre Dame and much more. Furthermore, it was the use of light that enhanced the beauty and the meaning of the cathedrals to a whole new level. Therefore, this paper will be highlighting the significance of light in the architecture of the Gothic cathedrals and how they were incorporated for connecting oneself with the spiritual as well as discuss the important architectural elements of the Gothic era.
It has been argued that the importance of light in 12th and 13th-century cathedral architecture had a direct correlation with spiritual ideologies of the time, therefore connecting light with God. In that time, the light was believed to be a natural occurrence that closely related to the idea of pure form or the pure being of God. The way the light was used in cathedrals, according to Scott was by, “Conceal[ing] Himself so as to be revealed and [where] light was the principal and best means by which humans could know Him” (Scott 131). How people valued the importance of light in cathedrals, as Scott describes, was how they perceived the light, “[Their] eyes rose toward heaven, God’s grace, in the form of sunlight, was imagined to stream down in benediction, encouraging exaltation. Sinners could be led to repent and strive for perfection by envisioning the world of spiritual perfection where God resided...” (Scott 132).Thus, building cathedrals with an abundance of interior light became one of the greatest significance during this period. The first and most famous Gothic cathedral was the choir of the church, which was known as the Abbey of St. Denis, founded by “Dagobert I and Abbot Suger (1081-1155), the patron [for the rebuilding of St. Denis]” (Blankenbehler, par.1). The interior of Abbey of St. Denis as Davies describes included, “Seven nearly identical wedge-shaped units fan out from the center of the apse. Instead of being in separate apsidioles, the chapels merge to form, in effect, [the] second ambulatory... [and creates] a continuous space…which is outlined by the network of slender arch...