Classic Elements

While the Gothic layout can vary according come location, age, and type of building, the is often defined by 5 key architectural elements: large stained glass windows, pointed arches, ribbed vaults, flying buttresses, and also ornate decoration.

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Large Stained Glass Windows

While stained glass windows are uncovered in many places that worship, they are specifically prevalent in Gothic cathedrals. Featuring meticulously reduced colored glass, these kaleidoscopic windows—which are typically either tall and arched ‘lancet" windows or round ‘rose" windows—are larger than those discovered in other species of churches. This permitted them to let in more dazzling light.

Interior that Sainte-Chapelle, Paris (Photo: Jean-Christophe BENOIST (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons)

Gothic stained glass windows additionally frequently feature tracery, a decorative type of rock support, and detailed scenes from Biblical stories.

Photo: WikiImages

Pointed Arches

A primary function of many spiritual structures, ample archways deserve to be uncovered in most Gothic churches and cathedrals. Rather than the wide, rounded arcs characteristic the Romanesque buildings, however, architects working in the Gothic style adjusted the tall, thin pointed arches found in Islamic architecture.


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This silhouette accentuated every cathedral"s height, symbolically pointed toward the sky, and accommodated similarly-shaped vaulting.

Ribbed Vaults

In order come incorporate greater ceilings and also taller windows into their designs, Gothic architects utilized a new technique of structure support called ribbed vaulting. Ribbed vaulting involves the use of intersecting barrel vaults—arches inserted parallel to one one more in bespeak to assistance a rounded roof.


Photo: NakNakNak

In enhancement to showcasing a much more decorative aesthetic than timeless barrel vaults, this criss-crossed constructions offer raised support for the sky-high buildings.

Flying Buttresses

On top of these advanced vaulting techniques, Gothic architects employed an additional unique an approach of structural support: flying buttresses. These projecting rock structures reinforced the buildings by redistributing the weight of the hefty roof to a lower, an ext solid level.


Photo: Rodney Bamford

Flying buttresses ensured the cathedrals" integrity so the architects go not must sacrifice the thin wall surfaces and huge windows distinctive of the Gothic style.

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Ornate Decoration

A last feature found in Gothic design is the existence of ornate decorative elements. These incorporate embellished colonnades and colonettes, sculptural moldings, statues that saints and also historical figures, pinnacles and spires, and also gargoyles, grotesque figures that dual as water spouts.