Gothic architecture developed at a time when significant social and economic changes took place in Western Europe. At the end of the 11th and 12th centuries, trade and industry came back to life, especially in northern Italy and Flanders. Cities were reborn and commerce strengthened the connection between them and the different regions in Europe. Workers in various professions united in guilds, which supervised the production and trade in the cities. The demand for products encouraged the industry.
Until the 13th century, studies took place in the monasteries, and there was the focus of intellectual life. In the middle of the 13th century, schools were largely free from restrictions of monks. Spiritual centers moved from the monasteries to the cathedrals, which served as universities, and control of artistic activity shifted from the abbots to the bishops. The real spiritual center of Christianity moved from Rome to Paris where a star of reason began to illuminate. In Paris, the school of the cathedral served as a university. Along with religious studies began secular studies and the church had lost some of its educational power.
During the 13th century, two orders of monks were founded, the Franciscan Order and the Dominican Order. The Franciscan Order was founded in 1206 by St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), who tried to imitate the life of Christ by the adoption of poverty. The Dominican Order was established in 1216 by St. Dominic in Spain with the aim of converting Jews and Muslims, and eliminating heresy. The Dominicans were the ones who became chief executive of the Inquisition trials.
With the development of cities, national states also began to appear. Feudal aristocracy declined, and the power of kings increased. In Late Middle Ages, England was a strong national state with a long line of kings. The same development took place in France.
In the 13th century, the monarchies in France and England were strengthened, and an economic competition between them led to the Hundred Years War (1337-1453) which was won by the French.
The 14th century was saturated in disputes and disasters. During this period, apart from the Hundred Years War, the Pope was exiled to Avignon, France, and the church split into factions.
The papal exile to Avignon was due to power struggles that emerged between religious leaders and the monarchy. The Order of the Templars, the great Crusader Order, which grew rich from banking, fell victim to the French King Philip IV (reigned 1285-1314) who had financial difficulties. He arrested all the members of the order in France, accused them of heresy, tortured them, and confiscated their property. In 1310, 54 of them were burned at the stake.
King Philip in France, and King Edward I (reigned 1272-1307) in England, who fought each other, collected, each in his own land, taxes from the Catholic clergy. Philip also prohibited the sending papal revenues from France to Rome. In response, Pope Boniface the eighth (served 1294-1303) imposed a ban on King Philip, who in reaction, sent agents to Italy to bring the Pope to France. The attitude of Philip's agents toward the old Pope led to his death, and the Archbishop of Bordeaux was elected as his successor, and became Pope Clement the Fifth. Staying in France, Clement hoped to save the last possessions of the Templars' Order.
Urban VI, at the beginning of his term, strongly condemned the cardinals and stirred up their opposition. In response, they elected Clement VII who settled in Avignon. Thus, Europe found itself with two popes hostile to one another. By 1409 a third pope was elected to replace the two, and so there were three popes in Europe at the same time. A Council held in Konstanz in Tyrol in 1414 had appointed a new pope, Martin V, and the three popes were ousted. These disputes rejected the supreme authority of the Pope and eroded the status of the church.
To these events have been added in the 14th century famine and plague, each of which resulted in the deaths of millions of people. Hunger in Europe (1315) was a result of population increase beyond the ability of the land to provide for it. The outbreak of Black Death in 1348 caused the disappearance of a third of the population of Europe. It had an effect on the rigid feudal system and caused economic instability.
There is a long Oriental tradition connecting God to the sun. We have already seen this in Egypt (The sun god Re). In Persia the god Ahura Mazda appeared as sunlight. It is also found in the neo-platonic theories, which revived the concept of the supreme good, as the sun of ideas.
Gothic architecture expresses emotions through material forms in stone and glass, creating a language for using them. The key to understanding this language is found mainly during the first half of the 13th century, in the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus (1205-1280), Vincent Beauvais (c. 1190-1264) and others.
The Gothic cathedral, which was built under the patronage of a civilian-driven initiative motivated by religious interests, was a kind of Summa – an entirety neatly organizing together different media, according to religious plans. The summa was designed in sculptures and stain glass featuring themes such as the Zodiac, the chores attributed to each month of the year, virtues, vices, animals representing allegorical meaning, etc. Along these, were presented descriptions of stories from the Old and New Testaments. Through sculptures and stained glass, the cathedral became a natural mirror, mirroring morality and history.
Panofsky writes that it is very likely that the builders of the gothic cathedrals did not read the writings of Thomas Aquinas, but they were exposed to scholastic doctrine in other ways. Their activities were associated with liturgical iconographical plans. They went to school and knew the sermons. As a summa of classical scholasticism, the Gothic cathedral as a whole reflects the Christian knowledge, the theology, and history, in that it puts everything in place.
The great builders of the cathedrals were the great scholars of their time. The passage of schools from monasteries to cathedrals united scholastic learning with construction techniques. The Gothic cathedral, with its skeletal support system, arches, and ribbed vaults, enabled penetration of light. The game of light, glass and stone, is reflected in the theology of Thomas Aquinas, who wrote that the grace of men comes from the presence of God, as light in the atmosphere comes from the presence of sunlight.
There is a direct connection between scholasticism and the emergence of the Gothic style. This connection was evident in the convent of St. Denis Cathedral (1140-1144) in northern Paris, the first Gothic church. In early 12th century, Abbot Suger, who was himself a student in the school of the monastery, became the abbot of St. Denis.
Abbot Suger has written a book from which we can learn about the approach of Gothic architecture. In his opinion, light is of utmost importance, visually and philosophically. He wrote that the light coming in through the windows of the cathedral, represents the creative outpouring of divine energy, a concept that appears in the neo-platonic writings, and is based on the relations between light and the participation of the divine essence. Suger believed that the light in the church moves the believer from the physical realm to a higher degree of spirituality.
Chartres Cathedral (discussed below) was one of the most influential cathedrals where St. Augustine's aesthetics connected with the philosophy of Plato. These formed together a synthesis of theology and cosmology that affected the development of Christian symbolism over the 12th and 13th centuries. The cathedrals, which reflect the spirit of faith of this period, were an expression of the connection between the cosmos and the divine city and Holy of Holies.
The Concept of Gothic Architecture
During the Gothic period, as during the Romanesque, architecture reflected the attitudes of religious leadership. While St. Bernard of Clairveau thought that a person, who is not a clergyman, should not have access to God, Suger felt that it was vital that the Lord will be open to any believer. The churches built according to the approach of Bernard of Clairvaux were deprived of ornaments. He prohibited using everything pleasing to the senses (except music), such as beauty and smells. The senses were associated with carnal passion. As for Suger, the opposite is true. Wealth of art, pleasant music, and emotion that could be awakened with color, harmony and light, served the faith.
As a structure that symbolizes more than any other structure the relations between the believer and Christ, the Gothic cathedral had a cross-shaped ground plan. The cross-shaped cathedral's roof design can be seen from above.
Referring to the symbol of the cross in Gothic architecture, Pugin mentions that the cross appeared not only in the ground plan of the church, but also at the end of each tower and gable. The Trinity is symbolized by the design of triangular windows surrounded by arches. The resurrection, according to Pugine, is represented by the great height and by using vertical lines, which were considered symbols of resurrection in early Christianity.
The philosopher Hegel (1770-1831) wrote about Gothic architecture that there is no architecture which with such enormous masses of stone completely preserved the character of lightness and grace. In the Gothic cathedral, the stone is released from its gravity and material. It seems as if it is not at all made of stone.
The emphasis on verticality in Gothic architecture, was associated with the elevation of the soul toward God, but with the rise of this religious spirit, also increased and strengthened the secular spirit. This was the result of a transition from feudal and agricultural society in the 10th and 11th centuries to a society of businesspersons and merchants, who were the most dominant figures in the city.
All residents took part in the work of cathedrals' construction, for the construction of a place of worship was part of a plan of redemption. All those who participated in the construction, if in supply of materials or doing the actual work of construction, were regarded as possessed by divine right, long before selling indulgences for the same purpose started. The construction work itself, was considered to some extent, a part of the worship.
The residents of the city would converge on holidays in the Gothic Cathedral, to view religious plays. This, contrary to most Romanesque churches, which were built away from urban centers.
The rules of proportions dictated by the Gothic style create clarity and simplicity. The naves' wall is divided into three areas: arcade, triforium (window consisting of three windows set close together, just above the arcade), and a clerestory. The triforium is a new element that appears inside the Gothic church and expresses a desire to break the continuous look of the wall. This is the part of the wall, behind which there is nothing, but the slope of the roof, which extends over the side aisles or the gallery. Through the dark and narrow triforium the architects of the Gothic cathedrals revived a "dead" area by forming a visual balance between the illuminated areas above and below. The high altitude of the Gothic churches brought the heightening of the clerestory above the triforium.
In Gothic architecture, complex pillars made of a sheaf of tall slender columns replaced the heavy Romanesque pillars. The windows have grown larger considerably, and the vaults rose higher as did the towers. However, the ambulatory and radiating chapels continued the tradition begun in Romanesque architecture. As was customary in Romanesque and early Christian architecture, the Gothic cathedrals' orientation is toward the east.
A new element that appeared in Gothic architecture is the rose window. During this period when science and religion were not separate as it is today, every rose window symbolized the beauty, order, and harmony of God's world. Using only a ruler and compass, architects created lace-like designs in stone.
Image - The statue of Pythagoras in Chartres cathedral
Hundreds of Gothic cathedrals were built in various European countries between the 12th and 15th centuries. Italian architecture was influenced by Gothic style to a small extent, and was the first to abandon it in the 15th century. French Gothic style architecture continued until 1530, and its influence did not stop even when France adopted the Renaissance style of architecture. In Germany, the Gothic style persisted until the 17th century, and England did not abandon it, and continued building in the Gothic style until the late 19th century.
Each place received a Gothic style of its own reflecting the local culture. This style was part of the past, and is part of life today. Despite the wars, revolutions, Reformation, divisions and deviations of religious faith, many Gothic cathedrals have remained in each country of Europe, where worshipers still pray. Gothic architecture, as expressed in various regions in Europe, will be discussed below.
To understand the Gothic cathedral, we refer also to the art of sculpture and stained glass, which were essentially related to architecture, and had hardly existed without it. The role of sculpture and stained glass in the Gothic cathedral was not only decorative, but also educational. Through mystic symbolism, the church conveyed through sculpture and stained glass, messages of faith to the faithful most of whom could not read or write.
Compared with sculptures found in Romanesque churches, sculptures in Gothic cathedrals became freer and released themselves from the connection to the wall or the column.
Common themes presented in sculpture on façades of Gothic cathedrals were the Last Judgment Day, Jesus on his throne, Virgin Mary (to whom many churches are dedicated, such as Chartres, Reims, Amiens, etc.), saints, and martyrs. Like in the Romanesque churches, Gothic cathedral sculpture introduced the evil and grotesque in man and devil, along with the sacred and sublime in man and God.
The statues were usually painted. On some of them can be still seen traces of color. Among the sculptures there were statues depicting themes not only from the Old or New Testaments, but also from apocryphal stories, literary sources of the period, such as literature that shows animals in allegory (Bestiary), and literature describing the lives of the saints.
Sculptures appeared all over the façade and some were almost impossible to see from the ground. They also appeared on the towers and on the flying buttresses.
Image - The northern gate rose window of Chartres cathedral
During the Gothic period, when the massive walls of Romanesque churches faded, spread the use of stained glass. Romanesque church paintings gave way to paintings using light – stained glass. The effect created by stained glass does not derive from the stained glass itself, but from the light coming through it and changing with the changing of day light, with the changing seasons and weather variability. Pieces of colored glass join to create images that the light coming through them make colorful patterns on the floor.
Apart from the different themes that appeared in stained glass (those mentioned in previous chapters), the coat of arms of their donor was often presented. Sometimes the activities of the guild that financed the stained glass would be depicted.
The most prominent stained glass window in the church is the rose window whose round shape indicates that it came from the Roman oculus – the small round window in the wall. In some of the Romanesque churches, an oculus is located at the western façade. With the progress in Gothic construction technique, creating openings increasing in size in the walls and building, large round windows were made possible until the diameter of the rose window in the Gothic cathedral reached the width of the nave.
The earliest stained glass in Gothic architecture was built in the Church of Saint-Denis, in 1144. In the Romanesque churches, blue-colored stained glass was long used as a background. The range of colors used in Gothic cathedrals was wider and included the colors: blue, yellow, red, green, and purple.
Abbot Suger, who was enchanted with light and color, was also occupied with the iconography of stained glass, which is very complex and symbolic. He contended that stained glass served a single purpose - to introduce to ordinary illiterate people the Holy Scripture, in which they should believe. However, to see all the details in the stained glass, binoculars were needed.
Gothic light survived, in rare cases in its pure form because most churches have lost their original glazing, or only a few parts of stained glass from the period has survived. In Chartres Cathedral one can feel the effects of light in the cathedral, and see the glow, as it was in the 13th century because most of the original stained glass has survived. Likewise, original stained glass has survived in the choir of churches of Beauvais, Le Mans, and Bourges.
Construction Technique in Gothic Architecture
The Gothic cathedral is a technological marvel of workmanship. The architectural concept was inspired by the strength of faith of the period, and could be performed only with the overall technology. Medieval builders were highly skilled artisans who combined the roles of architects, construction workers, designers, and engineers. They were open about sharing their knowledge, which is manifested in the Gothic structures, which imitate each other.
Gothic architecture in its purest form, sought to solve engineering problems and reach a balance of pressure. The weight of the building presses the external supports, which release the walls, of supporting the ceiling, and allow design with large openings. The development construction method through flying buttresses is one of the greatest achievements of Gothic architecture.
The pillars support the crossed vaults and pointed arches, and their role is to resist the pressure of the vaults on the sides, and the pressure created by high winds.
Gothic construction rules were very complex, and it was necessary to work as an apprentice for a long time, in order to be familiar with them. However, there were limits to the knowledge of architectural technology in Gothic cathedrals. Structures that collapsed in the cathedrals, such as the twin towers at the Cathedral of Laon, and the dome of the choir of Beauvais can testify to this.
The architects worked according to geometric proportions. They could not clearly define the pressure on each point in the walls of the building, and used to acquire their knowledge in the process of trial and error. After many attempts, they found the appropriate technical solutions. Thus, they took risks that not always brought the desired results, and sometimes caused serious disasters.
Building a model of the cathedral in a large scale helped the architect in his work. The model served many functions such as introducing the design to the person who ordered it, troubleshooting construction issues, and proving the stability of the structure. All the parts of the building, including the height of columns, their width, and the area between them, were expressed in terms of module. Dealing with numbers was an important element in the "secrets" of medieval builders.
The construction of Gothic cathedrals used local stone. The area around Paris is rich with quality stone. Transporting the stones from the quarry to the construction site was carried out by water or carts. Builders of the Cathedral of Laon, France, who used oxen to carry materials to the construction site, created reliefs of oxen peeping from the tops of the towers.
Even when the distance from the quarry to the construction site was short, transportation was expensive. To save on shipping weight, considerable work has been done cutting stones on the quarry site. Stonemasons used special symbols to ensure being paid for the chiseled stones.
Cathedrals were built on deep foundations with thick walls. Additional decorative elements helped to strengthen the weak spots in the cathedral.
The architect was not limited to construction work, but was also occupied with the decoration. He instructed the artisans in the creation of stained glass, and integrating sculpture into the architectural work, friezes, and ornaments of the cathedral. In dark areas of the cathedral, high on the internal and external walls, where the details are not visible from the ground, the artists were allowed to use their imagination and created grotesque and weird figures spiced with rude folk humor.
The stained glass, which constituted an important component of the Gothic cathedral, required accuracy of the technique. These were, in fact, mosaics of glass. Reverend Theophilus, wrote in c.1100 a book called "The Art of Glass Worker", a guide for the people of that time telling how to create stained glass. The early creators of stained glass made a drawing in the size of the stained glass. They used a hot iron to cut pieces of glass in the required sizes. These were joined together in strips of lead, and this layout was placed in an iron frame. Painting glass has been achieved in a melting pot (at a temperature of 600-620 degrees C) in which acid metal was mixed with metal ores, to create a variety of colors. In the 12th century, 50 percent silica were used for manufacturing stained glass, compared to 75 percent that are used today. The glass could be produced only in small pieces, and gave the impression of a jewel. The pieces in various sizes and thickness produced different effects resulting from breaking light beams in different ways. According to Theophilus, cobalt acid was used for creating blue color, copper was used for creating red, green yellow was produced with chemical element antimony and violet with manganese.
In order to correctly evaluate the technical and intellectual achievements of Gothic cathedrals architecture and design, we must remember that the Gothic cathedral was built by a man who was both an architect and engineer, or by a number of engineers-architects who worked in succession when building the church lasted for decades. The roots of the modern development that combines an engineer's work with that of an architect are found in the Gothic period, and earlier.
Gothic cathedrals were built with tremendous effort, often endangering human life. Building the great cathedrals was a hard work and dangerous task. To reach the higher parts of the structure, scaffolding was built. William Of Sens, architect of the choir of Canterbury Cathedral, fell from a scaffolding about 17 m high and became paralyzed.
At a time when many regions in France continued to adhere to the Romanesque architecture, Gothic style developed in Ile-de- France with gates decorated with large statues, which inspired the great Gothic church façades. Gothic style in architecture appeared in the first half of the 12th century in the churches of St. Denis (1137-1220) and Sens (whose construction began in c.1140).
The cathedrals of Chartres, Reims and Amiens laid the foundations of the vocabulary of Gothic cathedrals and served as a model for internal and external structure of the 13th century churches. They express the artistic qualities and define the characteristics of the Gothic style in Western Europe in the coming years. In their plan and nature, these cathedrals have common features, and yet each has its own individual character.
The common elements in the French Gothic cathedral are the ground plan, and design approach. The ground plan is in a general form of rectangle ending in half a circle.
The number of Gothic cathedrals steadily increased. Among these cathedrals were Sens, Senlis, Noyon, Soisson, Laon, Notre Dame in Paris, Chartres, and Bourges. The cathedrals became constant construction sites and the enthusiasm was contagious.
One notable aspect of the Gothic churches from the end of the 12th century was their dedication to Mary, Mother of God, and creating gates that present her. An expression to the importance of the cult of the Virgin in this period is found in Chartres, Amiens, and Reims, which were dedicated to Mary, and show her on their gates. In Chartres, she appears at the façade of the northern transept. In Amiens, we find her on the western façade, and in Rheims, in the main gate of the western façade.
We have practically no information on the first cathedral builders. During the 12th century, and even more in the 13th century, the individual's self-confidence increased, and human personality began to be more appreciated. Then also, the architects' names were perpetuated. The names of the architects of Rheims and Amiens were recorded in a special way, on the floor of the church.
St. Denis Cathedral
Image - St. Denis Cathedral, interior
When Abbot Suger was called to rebuild the church of Saint Denis, it was time for the birth of Gothic architecture, which has created a tangible expression of the achievements of Western thought in the 13th century. The cathedral, besides being an architectural monument of the spirit of the times, was also more of a summa, an encyclopedia shaped in stone.
The façade of the Church of Saint-Denis with its three gates surrounded by sculptured figures and a rose window above them, represented the gateway to heaven, and served as a model for the façades of Gothic churches. The gate remained faithful to the circular form of Romanesque arches. Sculpture, some of which survived in good condition, shows the influence of Burgundy. The central tympanum of the church is comparable to that of the abbey church of Beaulieu in Burgundy, which belonged to the Order of Cluny. The giant figure of Christ dominates the façade of the church. As in Beaulieu, in the tympanum of Saint Denis is presented the Last Judgment Day theme. The blessed appear to the right of Jesus, and to his left, the damned.
Image - The last Judgement Day. The tympanum of the church of Baulieu
Notre Dame Cathedral in Laon, which is located 130 km to the northwest of Paris, was an early Gothic church. It was founded at the end of the fifth century, later burned in 1112, and rebuilt during the years 1160-1235.
Image - Laon Cathedral
Laon's rose window, built of drilled stone, was an early example of a Gothic rose window. It is placed at the center of the façade and dominates its entirety. The façade of the Cathedral of Laon was highly regarded at the time, and was often imitated.
. A pair of towers were supposed to be built in the façade of each transept, and a tower over the intersection area as well. Together with a pair of towers in the western façade, there were supposed to be seven towers, the perfect mystical number. (Number seven consists of three symbolizing the Holy Trinity, and four representing the four Gospels). In fact, eventually, only five towers were built.
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, (1163-1250), which was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was an expression of conservative and progressive ideas. The construction began a few years after construction began in Laon Cathedral. During this period, Paris was a political and economic center. No expense was spared in building the cathedral, which would reflect the prestige of the city. Paris needed a cathedral that would stand out more than other cathedrals that were built in cities such as Sens and Noyon. King Louis VII contributed greatly and encouraged the construction.
Image - Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
Image - Notre Dame in Paris - ground plan
Flying buttresses were added to the structure in 1180. These supports, which lean on pillars standing around the outer walls of the cathedral, absorb the pressure of the vault outward and downward. Thus, they liberate the walls from carrying the load. Unfortunately, the renovations made in the church after 1225, obscured the original building, and we cannot know how the problem was originally overcome. In the 19th century, restoration work was made in the church. Cracks were discovered in the walls forty years after the completion of construction and constant maintenance work has been required since then.
The façade of the cathedral is designed as a big square divided by vertical and horizontal lines creating a grid pattern with rose window in the center. The entrance to the cathedral looks like a triumphal arch and radiates a sense of power, which is sometimes absent from the contemporary and later cathedrals. A row of statues representing the kings of France, expresses the continuation of the monarchy and its authority. Cautious balance between horizontal and vertical elements, achieves a quality of stability, making this one of the most successful façades in Gothic architecture.
Duran, a priest who lived in the 13th century during the construction of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, points out that its towers represent the preachers. This statement is reinforced by the meaning attributed to the bells. These, according to him, remind the Christians the values that they should adhere to if they want to reach the heights of the towers, which represent the image of perfection and exaltation of the soul.
Chartres Cathedral whom French sculptor Rodin called "the Acropolis of France," towered like a crown above the city of Chartres, and served as a symbol of the cult of the Virgin. People who approached the city could see it from a great distance. The foundation of Chartres cathedral is an earlier Romanesque church, from the beginning of the 11th century, which was burned down in 1194. It was exceptional at the rapidity of its construction and luckily survived almost intact. Because of the quality of its construction, neither reconstructions nor renovations were needed.
In the year 876, Karl the bald, grandson of Charlemagne, introduced a relic, a piece of cloth presented to him in Constantinople, which was supposed to be part of tunic which, he said, the Virgin was wearing during the annunciation. Therefore, Chartres was regarded as her chosen place of residence.
Under the influence of Bernard of Clairvaux, the Virgin was seen as a mediator between the faithful and humanity. As a link between the natural and the supernatural, the people of the period believed that she could understand the fragility of man more than anyone else could.
To understand the construction of Chartres cathedral we must become familiar with the cult of relics and the cult of Virgin Mary. Contemporaries believed that Virgin Mary brought protection to Chartres, and ascribed to her a variety of miracles. When the Vikings sieged the city of Chartres in 911, the bishop held the tunic of Virgin Mary above the city walls, and thus frightened Raul the Viking and his men who went back to wherever they came from and fled. Raul accepted the Christian religion and became the first Duke of Normandy.
The economic situation of the people of Chartres largely depended on the success of the four fairs, which were held simultaneously and were all associated with the life of the Virgin. Most customers at the fairs were pilgrims who were attracted to the place due to the relics of the Virgin. Thus, economics and religion were incorporated together.
Image - Chartres Cathedral
Chartres Cathedral - ground plan
As for stained glass, Chartres Cathedral is the only one where the original light has survived. Except for eight windows at the choir and four windows in the transept, which were demolished in 1791, all the windows have survived since the Middle Ages. The interior of the church bathes in light dark purple light, and has an indescribable mysterious quality. The light creates a "supernatural" sense, expressing an escape from everyday life, and distancing from the material world.
A Gothic cathedral, which continues the tradition of Gothic cathedrals, and also introduces innovations, is the Cathedral of Reims (1211-1299) which was a stage in the development of the Gothic style, between Chartres and Amiens. This cathedral was closely related to the history of the kings of France, and was nicknamed "Queen of the French Churches." Its first architect was probably Jean D'Orbais.
Image - Reims Cathedral
The novelty of Rheims lies in the refinement in architecture, and the tight integration between architecture and sculpture that had never been so close to each other as in this cathedral.
While Chartres introduced technical solutions, Reims showed wealth of motifs in its details. The architect of Reims designed a completely new type of window, a window called "Gothic window" - a tracery window. In the uniform decoration of the capitals of columns, Rheims uses a unique decorative design that imitates natural leaves, to the extent that was possible.
In Amiens Cathedral the Gothic style reached the peak of its development. The fire that broke out in the cathedral in the site, allowed the construction of a new cathedral, which was built during the years 1220-1270. We know its architects' names - Robert De Luzarches, Thomas De Cormont and his son.
Image - Amiens Cathedral - western facade
In Amiens we find a skeletal structure, vertical look inside the church, and majestic proportions. In the 19th century people spoke of Amiens Cathedral as the Parthenon as of France.
Image - Amiens Cathedral - flying buttresses
In the façade of the cathedral, whose towers were never completed, the dominant line is vertical. This façade can be clearly divided into three vertical sections. Horizontal lines are very short in places where they appear, and give in to the vertical lines.
The deep gates of the cathedral create the connection between the interior and exterior. On the sides, there are statues and blind arches above them adorning the façade. Under the rose window are presented the kings of the Old Testament, the spiritual ancestors of the medieval French kings. On the gates, which were considered as gates of heaven, are depicted religious themes. Each gate is devoted to another theme. The main gate is dedicated to the Last Judgment Day, the right is dedicated to the Virgin, and the left is dedicated to the former bishop of Amiens and the patron saint of the cathedral, Saint Firmin.
Inside the church, the relatively high arcade contributes to a sense of height. The proportions of the three areas of the wall of the nave changed here compared to the proportions customary in previous cathedrals. While in the cathedrals of Chartres and Reims the height of the arcade equals the height of the clerestory, the height of the arcade in Amiens Cathedral alone equals the total height of both the triforium and clerestory.
Sometimes the labyrinth served as a substitute for pilgrimage to Jerusalem and hence its nickname "Roads to Jerusalem" (in French: "Chemins de Jerusalem"). When the labyrinth was used for repentance, believers would walk on it on their knees.
In its location, the labyrinth is associated with the nave and choir. The pilgrim, who enters the church through the main gate finds that the labyrinth "blocks" his way in the passage from the western end of the church to its eastern end. This occurs when the chairs are not hiding the drawing of the labyrinth on the floor, and assuming that the pilgrim is aware of this "blocking".
The labyrinth of Amiens Cathedral was octagonal in shape. It was removed in 1825 because of the noise that the children made playing on it and disturbing the worship, and was replaced during the years 1894-1897. The central stones with the labyrinth designs have not survived, but there are texts that describe them. On the labyrinth in Amiens it was inscribed: "In the year of grace 1220 this work first began. At that time
Reims labyrinth has not survived, but we know it from drawings and documents. It had a general form of a square with a bulge at each corner of the square. On these corners, there were portraits of the architects-builders. Jean d'Orbais is shown in the upper right corner of the drawing with a compass in his hand. He began building the choir in 1211. Jean DeLoup apparently holding a square ruler in the upper left corner, finished building the choir and transept, and began building the façade. He died in 1247. Gauchet De Reims who is shown in the lower left corner, continued building the façade from 1247 to 1255. Bernard De Soisson who appears at the bottom right, is seen drawing a rose window on the floor with a large compass. He built the great rose window on the western façade during the years 1255-1290. Robert De Courcy, who began the construction of the towers in 1290, is the architect presented in the place of honor in the center of the labyrinth. This architect was probably responsible for placing the floorboard with the portraits of his predecessors.
Image - The labyrinth of Reims
Villard de Honnecourt
Image - A page of drawings from the book of Villard de Honnecourt
Honnecourt's book, like all medieval text that discussed construction, also engaged in geometry. According to him, the divided square is the basis of art. Some of his drawings show plans that were not built, but we can learn from them about the basic characteristics of cathedrals architecture of his time. His drawings show the tracery window at the Cathedral of Reims, one of the most significant innovations in the vocabulary of the architecture of the cathedrals, which is perceived as very important in the history of architecture. Among other things, Honecourt drew the rose window of Chartres cathedral with slight alterations, and the tower on the western façade of Laon. This book of drawings, which accompanied Villard de Honnecourt in his travels, only partly survived, and is now found in the National Library in Paris
New Records of Height
Apart from being much occupied with modules and proportions, architects of cathedrals were also practicing absolute sizes of height of cathedrals. They sought to reach new peaks of height.
In 1220 the vaults of the Cathedral of Amiens reached a height of 43.2 meters. Finally, in 1225, the vaults of Beauvais Cathedral reached a height of 48 m, almost twice the height of the Church of Salisbury, England. It was the tallest structure ever built until then in Western Europe, and the most ambitious project of the Gothic style at its peak. In 1284, the vault of the choir in Beauvais whose construction was completed in 1272, collapsed and it was required to reinforce the structure by coupling the columns. One reason for the collapse of the choir was using poor quality stone that could not withstand the pressure from the structure. A tower reaching 151 m in Beauvais cathedral was built during the years 1558-1569, but collapsed in 1773, and has never been rebuilt. The nave of Beauvais has never been completed after the collapse of its vault in 1284. All that remains in this cathedral is the transept and the choir. Beauvais crossed the limits of possibilities of building to heights and reached the final stage of the art of building cathedrals.
Flamboyant Style in French Civil Architecture
The Gothic style gradually became more picturesque. New architecture was born with reduced dimensions, and a purely decorative style, the style known as "flamboyant style", began in the late 13th century, and was characterized by an abundance of ornaments resembling flames, hence its name.
The increase in importance of the bourgeoisie at the end of the Middle Ages led to the development of public and secular architecture. This style of religious architecture was implemented in the late Middle Ages in the buildings of the nobility and the bourgeoisie, as it developed in military architecture.
Palaces and castles (chateaux) of the nobles were built in the Gothic style. Their basic shape was four wings grouped around a rectangular square, and four powerful towers at the corners. Naturally, a castle as a fortress would not be influenced by the Gothic tendency to create skeletal structure. Likewise, decoration was limited.
Civil construction during the 14th and 15th centuries, private, and public houses became the most magnificent and were designed in the flamboyant style. This style, which drew inspiration from the English Gothic architecture, reached a peak of decoration. Decorative traceries, plenty of turrets, ornate reliefs and niches were incorporated into it. The purpose of the architect was to hide the structural supports. Much attention has been paid to the building's appearance, be it religious or secular.
A new concept of light is associated with this decorative architecture. The dark colors of the stain glass, which dominated the high Gothic style, disappeared, and was replaced by large windows, flooding the interior with light.
The Gothic palaces were built at a time when Renaissance style flowered in Italy, and palaces such as Palazzo Medici and Palazzo Rucellai were built for the Italian noble families in Florence .
The house of Jacques Coeur presents a particularly elegant example of a civil palace with a chapel as an integral part of it. The Gothic character of the house is reflected in the roofs and pointed turrets sometimes reaching more than half the height of the wall. Likewise, the Gothic style is reflected in the tracery windows, a decoration reminiscent of the flamboyant style in churches.
This elegant house reflects the power of art to create illusions. The saints appearing in the façades of the cathedrals, are replaced in the house of Jacques Coeur, with statues of servants waiting forever for their master whose sculpted figure is seen peering out the window.
One of the most fortified palaces that were built in France, is the palace of the Popes in Avignon (1335-1352), which was built by Popes Benedict the 12th (served 1334-1342), and Clement VI (served 1342-1352).
When Pope Clement V came to Avignon and was received by the Dominicans, he was not going to make Avignon a place of permanent residence, nor create a new capital to Christianity in Avignon, but this was the city's role since. Choosing Avignon as the capital of Christianity was the result of political events. The Pope did not want to get caught between the opposing schisms and be subject to uprisings and riots.
During the first period in Avignon, between the years 1309-1376, six popes lived in Avignon. These 67 years have left their mark in the city whose population has grown significantly, and reached 40,000 people. Thus, Avignon became one of Europe's largest cities.
The palace of the Popes in Avignon was the largest Gothic palace built in Europe during the Middle Ages. Jean Froissart. A chronicler of medieval France called it "the most beautiful and fortified house in the world". The rigid architecture and decoration inside the palace bear witness to its glorious past.
For a hundred years, the Popes lived in the palace until Rome returned to be the capital of Christendom. Throughout the city of Avignon, cardinals built homes competing their beauty and splendor.
The Palace of Justice (Palais de Justice) in Rouen
The Palace of Justice in Rouen, whose construction began in 1482 and continued in the early 16th century, presents an example of Gothic structure in the flamboyant style in northern France.
The division of the palace's wall is asymmetric and the decoration is influenced by English architecture. The arches of the windows in the main floor, and in the roof were designed in Tudor style. They are flattened with a pointed area in the center. On the ground floor, there are handles-shaped arches. These two types of arches first appeared in England and reached the mainland with the flamboyant Gothic style.
English Gothic Architecture
Unlike French cathedrals, English Gothic cathedrals are moderate in height, and narrower. The transepts of the English Gothic cathedrals, unlike the French, are always noticeably sticking out from the nave at the sides. The central tower is very emphasized, and the eastern end of the church is square-shaped and serves as a substitute for Romanesque ambulatory. Rarely, the western towers competed with the central tower. The western façade was highlighted, but generally less than in France. The entrance with three gates was not customary.
The English Gothic church was relatively isolated. About half of the English churches were founded by the monasteries. The parish churches borrowed their character from the monastery churches, building in them a chapter house and cloister. Besides being a place of worship, the English churches served as fortresses against barbaric tribes.
In the 14th century, England began to build a chantry chapel designed for holding a Requiem in the church. After the Black Death outbreak, there was a need to express strong faith, and a special meaning was attached to the memory of the deceased. According to medieval belief, the arrival of the souls of the dead to heaven depended on the prayers made for them by the living left behind.
It is customary to divide the period of Gothic architecture in England into three sub-periods:
Early Gothic period - 1170-1240.
Decorated style - 1240-1340.
Perpendicular style, which is the longest - 1340-1530.
The Gothic style came to England through the Cistercian order whose Romanesque churches in Burgundy served as its inspiration. The round arches of English architecture began to be replaced by pointed arches. When the galleries were gone, the clerestory was taller, and the windows became larger. The entire interior of the church has changed, and the dim light has turned into glowing light.
One of the earliest monuments in the Gothic style in England is Canterbury Cathedral. In 1170, Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered (1118-1170) at the center of Canterbury Cathedral by the King Henry II. Soon after the murder, going to the grave has been institutionalized, and in 1173, the Pope declared him a saint. Years later the cathedral was burned (some considered it intentional). Rebuilding the choir led to one of the most impressive projects built in England for a long time. The architect who won the competition to build the new church was the French architect William of Sens who began the work in 1174, and had brought to the British island the building shapes from France. Canterbury Cathedral was revolutionary in England, equally revolutionary as Saint Denis in France. In the city of Sens, where William the architect came from, a new cathedral began to be built thirty years before the work started in Canterbury. Hence, the elements in Canterbury Cathedral, which are affected by the Cathedral in Sens.
A unique English Gothic style began in the construction of the cathedrals of Wells (1175-1239) and Lincoln (1192-1280), which placed an emphasis on straight horizontal lines and planar eastern walls (without radiating chapels). Lincoln Cathedral was rebuilt with a double transept, after being severely damaged by an earthquake.
Very impressive and most important among the churches of England during this period was Salisbury Cathedral, which was built during the years 1226-1270 and was dedicated to Mary, Mother of Jesus. This is the only English Gothic cathedral built according to plan, on virgin soil. Compared to its earlier structure that was located on a hill near the royal castle, the new cathedral was built in the valley, against a green field. Its longitudinal shape is distinctly English.
Image - Salisbury Cathedral
Image - The nave of Salisbury cathedral.
Salisbury cathedral has heavy walls supporting the arches. Here we do not find the skeletal structure, which characterizes the French Gothic cathedrals. The division of the wall, the arcade, triforium, and clerestory, are highlighted by separating horizontal bars. The double transept cathedral is a phenomenon, which was rare in France. The double transept idea came, in fact, from Cluny. Since the 11th century, there were close relations between the Burgundy monasteries and the English ones.
Image - Ground plan of Salisbury Cathedral
Both in the exterior and interior design, in Salisbury Cathedral there is a prominent emphasis on horizontal lines. The round Norman arch developed here into a pointed arch that turned the building into a Gothic structure. The lancet windows create a sense of order, simplicity, and even monotony. The rib vaults are quadripartite. Originally, the stained glass of the cathedral were in dark and strong colors. In the 14th century, a tower dominating the complex was built in the intersection area, 123 m in height. Since then, almost nothing has changed in the cathedral, and it serves as a representative example of early Gothic English cathedrals.
The great English cathedrals tended to be much shorter than the great contemporary French cathedrals. The division of the nave's wall into three horizontal zones - arcade, triforium, and clerestory, appears both in English and French cathedrals, but in the English cathedral, there is a clearer separation between the wall zones by highlighted horizontal lines.
The Decorated Style in England
The desire for rich decoration brought a change in the nature of architecture and the formation of a new style called "the decorated style" or the "flamboyant style" (1240-1340). The flying buttresses reduced the areas of the wall and magnificent tracery windows were designed. The windows became larger (in the choir of Lincoln Cathedral, they reach a height 18 m) and narrow lancet windows were grouped together under one broad arch. The lancet windows ranging from about 30 cm to 60 cm in width, were separated from each other by stone mullions. The stone which was widely used for strengthening the metal frame of the window, formed graceful decorations in the tracery windows. Decoration in stone was more flourishing and diverse, and the stain glass became more colorful.
Unlike the early English Gothic style where the emphasis was on structure, in the decorative Gothic style, ornament occupies a more important place than the structure. Double S shapes, curved and reverse S shapes, and decorative tracery characterize the ornaments of windows.
The decorative style shows preference for unexpected shapes, especially diagonal. The design here is more flexible than it was in the early English Gothic style.
The center of the decorative style was in the south - west of England. The first building of this style was Exeter Cathedral, which was renwed from west to east during the years 1280-1286. The interior was relatively small and dominated by a low vault. The windows were decorated with rich lattice design. During the years 1316-1342, worked in the church one of the most creative people of his time - Tomas of Witney, who was responsible for completing the construction of the western façade, and the furnishings of the choir. The flat façade has a large central window with rich decoration. The sculptures on the façade are a later addition dating to the 14th and 15th centuries.
The decorative style was directly inspired by the French flamboyant style.
The Perpendicular Gothic Style in England
During the decorative style, the perpendicular (literally "vertical line") style (1340-1530) whose name indicates its main feature - a vertical line, began to develop and played a significant role in structure, as in decoration. Emphasis on the vertical nave is expressed particularly in high arcades and high slender pillars. Another feature is the large tracery windows. The perpendicular style was a response to the excessively decorative style.
Some associate the turning away from exaggerated ornament, with the disasters that brought the Black Death during the years 1348-1349. There were fewer builders available, and the dominating atmosphere was that of gloom and regret. Decoration was reduced in favor of straight and angular lines with an emphasis on vertical lines.
Decorative character did not completely disappear from the cathedrals. It was reflected in the vaults, which were shaped like fans - a phenomenon unique to the English Gothic architecture. The walls have been reduced to a minimum, creating a wonderful sense of light and space inside the building.
The perpendicular style started in Lincoln Cathedral (1335). In Gloucester Cathedral (1337-1367), one giant window opens to the east and replaces the wall of the choir reaching the height of the vault. The tracery windows include lancet windows moving toward the vaults.
Image - The Gloucester Cathedral Choir
Arches, gates, and the top of the windows in the perpendicular style tended to be sharp at first. Over time, the arches became more flat and less pointed.
Later churches which were built in the perpendicular style were Kings College Chapel, Cambridge (1446-1515) and Henry VII's Chapel in Westminster Abbey (1503-1519) where Henry VII is buried. In these churches, the vaults are fan vaults, unlike the Church of Gloucester, in which there are ribbed vaults. From a technical and artistic perspective, the English Gothic style of fan vaults of which many were built in wood, displays wonderful masterpieces.
The vivid Italian Romanesque, which fed on classic roots, received the French Gothic style coldly. Since the basilica churches in early Christianity, the essence of Italian architecture was reflected in the balance of proportions based on human scale. The vertical orientation and skeletal structure that we found in the Gothic style in France, were strangers to Italy.
The only Gothic elements adopted by the Italian Gothic cathedral, were usually decorative elements. Italian Gothic cathedrals generally have flat ceilings and relatively wide and low nave, without triforium. The windows remain small, and the wall surface is large.
In the Italian Gothic cathedrals, there are certain structural elements, such as the pointed arch, sheaves of columns, and sometimes crossed and ribbed vaults. However, the Italian architects placed limits on the vertical symbolism.
The Gothic style that developed in Italy, is an independent style contrary to the spirit of the French Gothic style. Byzantine style marble covered the exterior and interior walls of the cathedrals, which were built in bricks, as seen in the cathedrals of Siena, Florence, and Orvieto.
In 1226, St. Francis decided to build a church expressing the sanctity of poverty. Rules were set for building Franciscan churches, and they were the following: a vault in the choir only above the altar, no statues, and a ban on building belfries. Likewise, according to the rules, the church should be marked by a severe and simple look. The paintings on the walls, depicting the lives of the saints, play an important role. They are not only decorative, but also teach the faithful, reminding them the sermons.
The Church of St. Francis in Assisi
Immediately after the death of St. Francis in 1228, construction of his church began in Assisi. It was the mother Church of the Franciscan Order, which opened a new era in architecture and historic culture of Italy. The church was established as a burial structure for St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) who in his death was announced a saint in Assisi. The church was dedicated to him in 1253. According to the descriptions of his life in Christian literature, St. Francis lived in poverty and humility with compassion for all creatures, giving up the pleasures of the world.
The church of St. Francis in Assisi was built on two levels with a nave and without side aisles and transept and with polygonal choir. The lower floor was dim, being Romanesque in style, and the upper one was the first example of Italian Gothic architecture. It is referred to as a Gothic church because of the many Gothic elements found inside it such as the lines flowing upwards, the much light entering into it, the pointed arches and ribbed vaults. All these elements have made it a model for the architecture of Gothic churches all over Italy.
Image - St. Francis in Assisi, interior
In fact, the spirit rising from the upper floor of St. Francis of Assisi is Romanesque rather than Gothic. Instead of stained glass, there are cycles of paintings on the walls. Giotto (some think that it is not his work) and others painted the cycle of paintings in this floor describing St. Francis' life.
The church's bell tower is from the 11th and 12th centuries and its style is Lombardian.
The Church of Santa Maria Novella
The Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (1278-1360), which was built in c.900 instead of the church of Santa Maria della Vigna, has set new standards for the construction of churches in Italy. Here is adopted the ground plan of the Cistercian churches where the nave and the side aisles are arranged with quadratic chapels, and the square choir with a flat ceiling replaces the apse.
Image- Santa Maria Novella. Interior of the church
The façade of the church was built during the years 1439-1442 by Alberti.
In 1295, Arnolfo Di Cambio (1245-1302) planned the Franciscan church of Santa Croce, which was the largest Franciscan church in Florence (138 m in length and 39 m in width). Construction took a long time and ended only in 1442. Vasari wrote in his book that Arnolfo Di Cambio was widely considered the best architect in Tuscany. He built the outer walls of Florence in 1284, churches, and many monasteries in the city.
Image - Santa Croce - looking toward the apse
Five rectangular chapels open on each side of the transept to the east. This is inspired by the formula adopted by the Cistercians. The construction of chapels was financed by families of bankers, who have established for themselves monuments in the form of frescoes of Giotto, Gaddi, and other artists.
The Franciscans were well aware of the gap between the spiritual heritage of their founder, which was based on the poverty and simplicity, and their association with wealth and power. However, Santa Croce was built at great cost. The aspiration of the church is expressed in its great dimensions, and its interior is clear and marked by simple decoration. The only decorative elements are pilasters growing from the capitals of pillars and the dividing line between the arcade and the clerestory, emphasizing the horizontal direction.
The façade of Santa Croce was restored during the years 1857-1863.
Siena Cathedral was built by Arnolfo di Cambio during the years 1284-1299. The upper part of the cathedral was completed in the 14th century. The nave was initially designed in Siena Cathedral (1245) as a transept of a larger cathedral, but because of the plague from 1348, the original plan has never been completed.
Image - The Cathedral of Siena
The cathedral was built in Italian Gothic-style, and is part of the city plan. Its façade is decorated with zebra-colored marble, and with no structural innovation. It was built at the same time when Amiens Cathedral was built in France. The western façade was designed by Giovanni Pisano (1250-1314), an artist who was familiar with the French architecture. We can see the influence of the western Gothic façades on the façade of the Cathedral of Siena, but unlike them, here there are no towers, such as in the French Gothic cathedrals. The arches of the gates on the western façade are circular rather than pointed as we found in the French Gothic cathedrals. Coating the church with black and white marble, and the separated bell tower were borrowed from the Italian Romanesque heritage.
The three gates, which are at the same height, the gables, blind arcades, rose window and many towers, make up the façade. Most of these elements serve for dividing the façade rather than for functional purpose. The vertical and horizontal lines are designed in a balanced way, and contribute to a sense of stability.
The cathedral of Orvieto (1290-1500), also designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, was built under the patronage of the Pope. The façade of the cathedral was designed by Lorenzo Maitani in the 14th century, drawing inspiration from the Cathedral of Siena. The picturesque impression of the façade is achieved by colorful mosaics.
Image - Orvieto Cathedral , facade
Figure columns of the typical French Gothic gate, have never been adopted by the Italians. Here, instead of these, Romanesque forms of architectural sculpture cover the wall's surface. Lorenzo Maitani (in c.1320) covered the wide pilasters between the gates, with reliefs of whose existence, the believers were aware, only when they got close to it. On the southernmost pilaster is displayed the torture of the damned reminiscent of the façades of the Romanesque churches where the Last Judgment is depicted in sculpture.
Extraordinary Gothic cathedral is the Cathedral of Milan in Italy (1386 to the 15th century) whose character is closer to that of the French Gothic cathedrals. The construction entrepreneur Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1351-1402) was the sole ruler, the first Duke of Milan after the murder of his uncle in 1385. Under his rule, there was a time of prosperity which was considered a golden age of Milan, and he built a cathedral designed to compete with the great Gothic cathedrals.
Image - Milan Cathedral , facade
Milan Cathedral had been the largest church in Europe until the church of San Peter's in Rome was rebuilt. Local builders of Milan Cathedral encountered difficulties during the construction, and consulted with French and German builders who were more familiar with Gothic construction principles. It became a cosmopolitan cathedral made by Italian, French, and German architects, a fact, which justifies, in this case, the name of the style known as "International Gothic".
In Milan Cathedral plan, there are a nave with two side aisles on each side, transept with side aisles, and polygonal choir with an ambulatory reminiscent of the great northern cathedrals. In the façade of the cathedral can be seen a clear geometric division, introducing the internal division with the nave flanked by the side aisles.
This cathedral, which is stranger to Italy in its character, is "the most Gothic" of all Italian cathedrals. Pillars made of sheaves of columns support pointed vaults, barely lit by small windows on the top floor. In this church can be found the effect of the decorative flamboyant style. Like the gothic cathedrals built in France, the cathedral's contours fit the space around them, and create an impression of melting in space by using delicate leaves that grow out of them.
As mentioned earlier, Gothic architecture had classical roots. A drawing of the Cathedral of Milan, which was drawn by Cesariano, shows the connection between the structure of the Gothic cathedral and the method of Plato's triangles, and thus presents the relations between Gothic style and antiquity.
Civil Gothic Building in Italy
When the early cities became self-governing communities, the main building in the city was the city hall, which, first appeared in the 12th century and many such buildings were built in the 13th century. In France, only in the late 15th century there were many municipal buildings. Until this period, residents usually gathered in churches and monasteries to discuss their matters. The most typical town hall in the cities of France was a two - story building. The first floor was a large hall usually designed for public meetings, court proceedings, etc. On days of public celebrations, or during an emergency, citizens would be called by the bell tower of the city hall, whose sound was heard throughout the city.
In Italy, the cities, which were separate governmental entities, constantly fought each other and naturally, the town hall took a shape of a castle. Elegance was sacrificed for the sake of security. Palazzo Vecchio (literally: "old palace" or "ancient palace") (1299-1310) the government building in Florence, which was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, is a clear example of this.
Image - Palazzo Vecchio
This building, where the authorities were located, was prominent throughout the city. It was built of local stone in a shape of a jagged box with a high tower, and with an inner courtyard. Its fortified appearance is achieved by a coarse rustication (rough surface made of squared block masonry, with clearly seen joints) on the exterior wall. The jagged appearance at the top of the structure and tower reinforces the sense of fortification.
At the top of the tower, there was an open room on stilts, with a bell, by which the rulers appealed to the residents to gather in case of emergency to protect their city. The tower that was originally built was considered inadequate, and in 1310 was replaced by a tower built on the basis of the existing tower.
In its severe form, Palazzo Vecchio heralds the Renaissance palace.
In Siena, the town hall (Palazzo Pubblico) (City Hall today) (1297 – 15th century) which was the seat of the ruler (podestà) and of the council, has a fortified look like Palazzo Vecchio, but it looks a bit richer. It is found in the city's main square - Piazza del Campo. Red bricks typical of Siena, were used for building it, and travertine stone was used for building its base. The lower floors were built during the years 1297-1309, and the upper floor was added in the 15th century, but kept the style of the lower floors. The tower here is taller than that of the town hall of Florence. Blind arcade on the ground floor shows the activity of trade at the site.
Image - Palazzo Publico in Siena
The windows with stone bars were used as a source of inspiration for other civilian buildings that were built later in Siena.
The Duke's Palace in Venice
In Venice, which was very strong and calm, as exemplified by its nickname, "serenissima" (in Italian, literally "the most serene"), one could build a Gothic public building, without the fortified character which we found in Florence. This city has developed a unique style combining Byzantine grace and wealth with western gothic elements. An example of such a successful integration can be seen in the Doge's Palace - Palazzo Ducale, whose façade faces the water. The building was built by the architects Giovanni and Batolomeo Buon during the years 1309-1424 after being rebuilt several times since the ninth century, and had a great impact on civil architecture in Venice.
Image - The Doge's Palace in Venice
Ca d'Oro Palace in Venice
Another palace in Venice, which reflects the peaceful life in the city of Venice, is Ca d'Oro, meaning "Golden House". This name was given to it, because originally, many architectural decorations in the façade were covered with gold. It was a gesture of extravagance without parallel even in the Doge's palace, which was the seat of government in the quiet Republic.
Image - Ca d'Oro in Venice
The Legacy of Gothic Architecture
Gothic architecture heralds modern architecture. Gothic characteristics that we find in modern architecture are: skeletal structure, transparency, and the emphasis on the power of line which was adopted by the movement of Art Nouveau, and which can be clearly seen in the works of Victor Horta in Brussels.
Many twentieth-century architectural designs were based on basic shapes, such as triangles, which we found in Gothic churches under the influence of Pythagoras and the Greek philosophers.
Cities in Middle Ages were centers of religious worship. Most of the streets led to the cathedral or church of the city, which for both practical and symbolic reasons, was usually placed in the city center.
Only Cities could support the priests. The bourgeoisie saw the cathedral structure as "theirs". In Chartres Cathedral, each stained glass praised the economic activity of the body that funded it. In France, Spain, and England, the word "cathedral" is used for describing a church in which the seat of the bishop is found. In Germany and Italy, there is no such distinction. In Germany, the terms are "Dom" or "Munster", and in Italy "Il Duomo".
Each medieval city had a patron saint (a tradition that continues even today) or patron saints, as each city in antiquity had a patron god. St. Mark is the patron saint of the city of Venice, St. Ambrogio is the patron saint of Milan, Florence is the city of Saint John, St. Peter is the patron saint of Rome, St.Denis and St. Genviève are the patron saints of Paris and Ulric is the patron saint of Augsburg. Each patron god had a cathedral dedicated to him. When it came to St. John, baptisteries were dedicated to him.
As there were ancient structures that were no longer in use, new types of structures were created as well. A structure not known previously, was the public clock tower, which was a kind of framework for the activities during the day. It announced the time by a bell, and served as the representative of the cosmos as well.
Public clocks were first introduced in Florence in 1325, and were followed by other cities in Italy. Before the municipal buildings appeared in the urban landscape, the bell tower with the clock, was the only public civil building of the community in the city. In Nuremberg and cities in southern Germany, the clock counted the hours since sunrise to sunset. The first hour after sunrise, the clock bell rang once and it was 1:00 o'clock in the morning. Thus, the first hour after sunset was 1:00 o'clock at night, and the second time was at 2:00 o'clock, and so on. In a short day, there were 8 hours, and at the night of that day, there were 16 hours. In Nuremberg, the clock worked in this way until 1488.
Many characteristics of the medieval city vanished with the extensive construction during the period starting in the 17th century and ending in the 20th century. Some of the medieval cities were destroyed, or their walls were destroyed, and some have been changed beyond recognition. Canals became sidewalks, and municipal buildings and churches were rebuilt. Medieval construction had a negative image, which Camillo Sitte tried to fix in late 19th century, and Lewis Mumford in the 20th century, by describing the medieval cities as clean attractive towns.
When we discuss the medieval cities, we must distinguish between the Byzantine city, which kept its character as a center of commerce, and the city in Western Europe, whose population had dwindled of inhabitants since the fall of the Roman Empire, and came back to life in the 11th and 12th centuries.
Like in the ancient world, government, administration and cultural life of the Byzantine Empire, centered in the cities. Since the early Byzantine period, the Byzantine rulers invested great effort in improving the quality of life in cities. The city dwellers spent their free time in inns, and sporting events. In inns, they used to play luck games, chess, and backgammon.
The laws of Theodosius in the fourth century, ordered the provincial rulers to take care of building new walls to cities, or strengthen the the old ones.
Procopius, in his book "Justinian's Buildings" describes the work done under the rule of Justinian to improve the quality of life in the cities of Mesopotamia. He describes the construction on the ruins of Edessa (today Urfa in Turkey) in Mesopotamia and the creation of a new river channel in order to divert it and prevent the flooding of the city.
In order to mark the beginning of a new era based on Christian faith, Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire in 326 to the city of Byzantium. Byzantium was then an ancient Greek colony of a thousand years, on the European side of the Bosphorus Strait, on the junction connecting Europe with Asia, and the Black Sea with the Aegean Sea. Constantine changed the name of Byzantium to "Constantinopol"- literally: "city of Constantine" (Istanbul since 1930).
Image - The map of Contantinople in the 10th centurry
Constantinople was the first Christian city, the only major city in Europe during the Middle Ages, and one of the world's great cities at the time. Its population, at its peak, reached around a million inhabitants, while the second most populous city in Europe numbered 50,000 people. It was a cosmopolitan city where the Greeks were a minority. Its inhabitants were Armenian, Persian, Italian, Syrian, Arab, Ethiopian, Goth, Norman Celt, Russian, Bulgarian, and others. Christian Constantinople invented the ghetto - a section of the city occupied by Jews. This was a precedent of Jewish ghettos, which appeared repeatedly throughout Europe until the 20th century.
Constantine's ambition was to turn the city into "new Rome", and in order to fulfill it he offered the Romans generous lands for construction and promised them oil, meat and wheat. Thus, some of the population of Rome moved to Byzantium. The walls of the city assured its defense for a thousand years.
Throughout the Middle Ages, Constantinople was the center of glittering treasures and gold-plated palaces. It served as a model of the luxury world. All this wealth was a result of trade and economic flourishing. Unlike cities in Western - Europe where the population has seen trading as humble occupation, Constantinople was a cosmopolitan city, an industrial, export, and international trade center.
The city of Constantinople has provided entertainment for its residents. These were expressed in magnificent ceremonies of the emperor and the clergy. Most of all, the hippodrome entertained the citizens of Constantinople. Like Rome during Augustus, jugglers, dancers, and charlatans attracted the people in cities. Life of the Byzantines, after they became Christians, remained similar to that in pagan Rome. Theaters were full, and churches were empty. Theaters presented parodies referring to religious texts, and mocked the cult of the Virgin Mary, who the Conference of Euphesus (431 AD) tried to bring closer to the people. Theaters' favorite theme was adultery, and the actors appeared nude on stage sometimes.
Byzantium remained pagan, while its emperors were pious. During the period of Justinian, the three most important buildings in town were close to each other: the Imperial Palace, Church of Hagia Sophia and the hippodrome, where competitions were held. Among these magnificent buildings, in the square, a statue of Justinian stood. They used to say in Byzantium that the hippodrome belonged to the people, the palace belonged to the emperor, and Hagia Sophia to God.
The palace buildings were built on a layout of gardens and terraces on different levels with summer pavilions, churches and public halls. From the palace complex there was a direct access into the imperial hippodrome, which was built by Septimus Severus in 200 CE, and expanded during Constantine's rule. Here were held fights between wild animals, riding contests and performances by clowns, jugglers, acrobats, musicians, dwarves, and imitators. The most exciting were the horse racing contests at the hippodrome of Constantinople, where fiery political meetings were also held.
The public buildings were generous gifts of the ruler to his subjects, and at the same time served for glorifying his name. Justinian built more than any other Christian emperor did. Among others, he built hospitals for the poor. To please his wife Theodora, he built a park linking the public baths in a place called Arcadianae with the beach of Marmara Sea. Marble-paved courtyard was built on the beach. It was a large area surrounded by colonnade and roofed by marble. All this space was decorated with bronze statues. People used to go there to enjoy the cool breeze and the view. A statue of Theodora stood above a porphyry column.
in the courtyard.
In the side-streets of the city there were houses with arched windows, facing the street. Through the narrow streets usually were walking load donkeys, camels, and many porters who were preferred for being cheaper than load animals. The streets were filled with animals often transported to market.
In the main streets could be seen ladies in carriages hauled by mules. The rich and government officials were riding on horseback. There were streets leading to plazas rich in fountains and vegetation. The main streets and squares were filled with not only commercial activities, but also social life. People used to meet every day before the Grand Palace, walk, talk and browse the books displayed for sale at stands in the square.
According to the fourth crusade historian (1202-1204), Robert de Clary, in the city of Constantinople there were 4388 palaces, houses, many hospitals, orphanages, homes for the poor, thousands of churches and a university founded in 849. Likewise, there were in the city luxury private homes, public baths, bridges, magnificent churches, and on the other hand, slums.
Procopius, who described the city, wrote that it had churches, fountains, aqueduct, baths, paved streets, homes, and colonnades.
During the early Christian period, when the emperor's figure replaced the city's patron god to some extent, the Ostrogothic king Theodoric loved building and restoring cities, as is demonstrated by Anonymus Valerianus. Valerianus wrote that in his capital cities – Ravenna, Pavia and Verona, Theodoric, built not just walls, but also other structures, such as porticos, aqueducts, baths, and amphitheaters. In these works, Theodoric hoped to establish the legitimacy of his rule. His determination to connect to the glorious Roman past was also reflected in the method of construction. He ordered restoring ancient building materials and encouraged reuse of old stones. This was not due to economic hardship, or inability to build with new stones, but to the desire to continue the ancient tradition.
A large Italian city, the only one that was born during the middle ages, as opposed to the great Italian cities that have already existed during the Roman Empire, was Venice. The mythical date of its establishment was March 25, 421, about noon, but in fact, inhabitants of northern Italy, who found refuge from the Lombard invasions, founded it in 586 CE.
Image - Piazza San Marco in Venice
In other areas in Europe, following the devastating barbaric nomadic tribes, and the fall of the Roman Empire, life in the city was in decline, and disappeared almost completely. The period from the fifth to the tenth century, five centuries of violence, paralysis, and uncertainty, caused a deep desire for security. City dwellers everywhere were forced to abandon their homes, and go to the villages to grow their own food.
Between the years 410-560 CE, the population of Rome, which was the largest city in the west, with around a million people, was reduced to several thousand who lived by begging money from the church. It was hard to abandon the rural life, even when the agricultural crop was not enough to support life of the city. In any case, life in the city assured less means for living than life in the country.
The view of life in the Middle Ages did not encourage economic activity. The social ideal opposed accumulation of property and wealth. Medieval literature condemned all extravagant and flamboyant clothing. Glorification of poverty found the peak of its expression in the person of St. Francis of Assisi, who consecrated the mystic marriage with Mrs. Poverty. This saint saw poverty as a virtue, and had no intention to redeem the poor from their poverty.
In the early years of Charlemagne in power, it seemed that he was facing an eternal peace. This found its expression in destroying cities' walls, including Reims, Francoforte, Ratisbon and Beauvais. The destruction of the walls, ultimately, led to enlarged towns and development of new urban systems imitating the health and care systems that were found in the monasteries as a result of the reforms carried out inside them.
At the end of the tenth century, real city life existed in less than a dozen cities across the continent of Europe, and in none of them, the population exceeded 10,000 people. A hundred years later, there were several dozen cities, including several populations reaching 20,000 people and more. This was the beginning of re-awakened urbanism after a long period. Major cities that began to flourish in the 11th century were Rouen and Paris in France, Hamburg and Cologne in Germany, and Genoa, and Venice, Pisa and Amalfi in Italy. The pattern of city growth was different in each place.
Cities in Italy
Cities were revived when the guilds, unions of traders and craftsmen accumulated political power and control over the economy of the city. The house of the guild has become over time the city hall. Italian cities had city halls before the 13th century. The rulers of Florence would meet in private homes, until c.1250.
A prominent element in the medieval cities in Italy was the private tower. In the 60s of the 12th century, the Jewish traveler Benjamin of Tudela was impressed by the picturesque character of Italian cities. About Genoa, he wrote: "and the city was walled... and every one of them had a tower in his house, and when arguments took place they were fighting each other from the heads of the towers". Of Pisa, he wrote: "it is a big city with ten thousand towers in their homes, to fight at a time of dispute".
Image - San Gimignano
The first attempt to limit the maximum height of the towers was in 1100 in Pisa, where there was a law according to which a person who assaulted another person through the tower, would be fined. The noble of the city were not allowed to build towers for the city hall, and in 1337 demolition order was issued to private towers in the city. In Florence, the height of private towers was limited to 29 meters. In Genoa, the threat to destroy towers that passed the height limit was implemented in 1196. The debris of the ruined tower were reused for building for the community.
In medieval England, the English rulers used the remains of Roman walled cities and main roads, as administrative centers. These cities, which had a grid plan, include Winchester, Chester, Chichester, Exeter, Bath, and more. The names of the cities sometimes can teach us about their nature and origin. The Latin name of the city of Chester, was probably Castra Legionum, which means "The fortress of the legion".
Image - Map of the city of Winchester
in the 12th century
Medieval Cities Originating in Monasteries
From the development of the city of Cluny we can learn about the development of other cities that were founded around monasteries.
There were cities that developed around monasteries engaging in commerce. The combination of commercial activity with the activities of the monastery accelerated the development of these cities. From the chronicles of the English monk Jocelin who entered a monastery in 1173, we can learn about the monasteries' activity in the markets of England. He writes that in 1201 an abbot from another monastery came to his monastery and asked to move the market activity from Sunday to Monday, which aroused opposition. The same abbot, as Jocelin writes, wanted to move the market day from Sunday to Monday in other cities in England as well. He goes on telling - "in the same year, the monks of Ely set up a market for buying and selling at Lakenheath, for which they had the assent and charter of the king. But we, at first, with our friends and neighbours, labouring peacefully, sent messengers to the chapter of Ely, and also at first letters to the lord of Ely, praying that they would desist from that which had been begun. And we added that we would in a friendly manner pay the fifteen marks which had been given for the charter obtained from the king for the sake of peace, and for the securing of the maintenance of mutual affection. What more need be said? They would not desist, and threatening words went to and fro, and spears threatened spears."
Cities Originating in Castles
Like monasteries, fortified castles attracted residents and were the basis for the growth of a city. The castle was, essentially, the lord's residence. Development of castles began in Western Europe in the ninth century, and lasted until the 10th century. At first, castles appeared in France, and later, in Germany. The reason of its first appearance in France, and later in Germany, is related to the differences in the feudal development in these countries. In France, after the fall of Carolingians, there was a chaos, which was followed by the formation of a centralized state. In Germany the process was reversed, political disintegration and fragmentation led to the formation of small sovereignties.
The word "Town" in English, comes from the word "tun" in Old English, which has two meanings: a fortress or a camp, and a closed place: a field, garden, or courtyard, a closed place usually found next to a residence. The Norman and French word "ville" (city), like the English word "village" is an extension of the Latin word "villa" (literally in Latin: "country house". The word "Borough" (City), originates in the Old English word "Burh", meaning "fortress" or "city", and sometimes, both meanings together. In Chinese, there is also a direct link between the word "city", and fortification. The word "Chéng" in Chinese means both "city", and "wall".
The names of many French cities include the word "chateau" as prefix, or as their suffix. Thus, we find in cities' names the words "Castel", "Comte" and "Duc", indicating that they originate in medieval forts. Such cities are Castelnaudry, Chateauroux, Bar-Le-Duc and Fontenay-Le-Comte. In England, eighty percent of the first towns built between the years 1066-1100 originated in a fortified palace.
Protecting the castle was no easy task. Deep trenches around the wall were effective defenses. Prominent towers defended the walls. The gates were few and highly protected. Standard tactics of attack was the siege. The city under siege was a kind of big collective required to be able to supply its own needs for a long time, and serve as a great fortress always standing on the lookout.
Since the 12th century, there were princes who built their castles within the city limits. Such examples are found in Munich and Vienna. Some moved their residence to castles in the outskirts of the city, to detach themselves from the residents whom they ruled. The king of France moved from the Palais De La Cité to the Louvre palace and the castle of the Duke of Munich was transferred from the city center to its northern end.
The bishops also were in need of castles to protect their rule. Their limited territorial power often led them to build their castles on a hill. Wurzburg and Salzburg are the most typical examples of this phenomenon. In the early Middle Ages, illustrations, drawings and manuscripts presented the castle as an object in the landscape, dominating it and isolated, but as time passed, it became a city of commerce and small industry, and from a distant object, it became the residents' own environment.
The development of fortifications in the Gothic period continued the Romanesque tradition. The need for defense made the people gather together to ensure their protection. For obvious reasons, when life and death depend on a structure, function is more important than style.
Image - the city of Carcassonne
The Wall, which marked the city limits, was one of the most prominent elements of medieval city design. It had three elements that continued the Roman tradition: the wall itself, towers and gates. The thickness of the wall was one meter or two, and its height sometimes reached 20 meters. Round or square towers rose about 30 m apart. The towers were military outposts that enabled attacking the enemies. The gates, being the most sensitive places, were protected by particularly large towers.
Until the 12th century, only few cities were surrounded by walls. Most of the city's fortifications are dated to the 13th century. During the years 1100-1500, a period when fighting techniques became more sophisticated, the early walls that were built with earth and wood, were replaced by heavy stone buildings and fortifications, which have been improved steadily. The wall served as protection against military attacks, and also against thieves. In addition, it was a status symbol, a sign of wealth and power.
Expression of the defensive character of the city wall, is symbolically displayed in a miniature from the 13th century, depicting the lion-shaped map of Rome. The wall around the city on this map, is actually an outline of a drawing of a lion, which adds a symbolic meaning of a powerful long barrier impenetrable to enemies.
We should not forget the psychological significance of the wall and the sense of belonging and security that it instilled among residents. People lived inside or outside the wall. They belonged to the city, or did not belong to it. When the gates of the city were closed at sunset, the city was isolated from the outside world, and a unity was created among its people. Their sense of isolation increased with the lack of highways between cities. During starvation or siege, the moral in the city was similar to that in a sinking ship.
The wall surrounded a separate area of administration and government. The gate of the wall was the meeting place between urban and rural, between domestic and foreign. The entrances to the city, which were few, had an architectural significance because through them passed various main streets of the city. Here was reflected the functional approach to the organization of the medieval city.
. Although the expansion of the city was limited by walls, the walls were not permanent borders. It was possible to expand the city by settling the growing population, and new walls were built to protect the areas added to it. Sometimes the residents built new cities in uninhabited areas, or went to war to annex land. Any increase in the diameter of the city was involved with increasing construction costs, maintenance, and defense. Richer cities expanded and built new fortifications.
The walls of cities, like rings of tree trunks, indicate periods of cities' growth. Florence added, in a hundred years, two walls: one in 1078 and the other during the years 1172-1175. Not less than one hundred years later (in 1299), a new wall was built around an even larger area. The city size enclosed within the new wall was five times the size of a large city enclosed within the ancient walls. The new wall was built in optimistic anticipation of a further expansion of the city, but expectations were disappointed. Large open area that lay between the populated center and the wall remained empty until the 19th century.
Five lines of walls were built in Paris, between the years 1180-1845. The city walls were adjusted to the topography, and sometimes built along the hillsides, as the medieval town plan adapted to the site where it was built.
The medieval city design was intuitive and environmentally conscious as a whole. A building in the city was an integral part of its surroundings. Most houses were built of wood, and often fires broke out and destroyed entire quarters. After such events, when the houses were built anew, they were built according to a plan.
The re-awakening of cities in the 11th and 12th centuries was gradual. Most of them grew slowly and irregularly. Non-regularity of a city plan is one of the main characteristics of the cities that developed spontaneously. The houses were built according to the interest of homeowners, along roads leading to ports, and urban centers.
Most medieval cities were circular, unlike the Roman cities, which were usually rectangular. Some see the circle shaped medieval city as an expression of Christianity, if paradise on earth is perceived as a circle. The Huns built their cities in the shape of concentric rings. Most of all, Jerusalem is a circular city model as it appears in manuscripts' illuminations, but the Romans built it in right angles.
We must remember that the perimeter of the city does not indicate its plan. We have seen that ancient cities had various shapes such as square, rectangle, and circle, but these are mere frames or outlines. More important is the internal plan of the city within the frame. There are three circle-shaped plan options: a chaotic city, a city with grid plan and a radio-concentric plan.
Image - The Medieval city of Neubrandenburg (from the 13th century). A grid within circular frame
The street system, even when it seemed completely lacking logical order, was well calculated and expressed the living conditions. Every street, road, corner, and square, were well known to the residents of the community. For them, the city system was not confusing at all. The opposite is true. For them, it was functional, familiar, and above all, pleasing in its intimate nature. Even the cathedral had no formal shape. Often, in cities that expanded organically, the market area was irregular in shape, sometimes triangular, polygonal, oval, with serrated or twisted shape.
Compared with the cities that most of them have a round plan, among the churches, we find a few round structures. Most churches had a basilica plan. A quadratic city plan was not typical in the Middle Ages, but it appeared in rare cases. Square shape, unlike the round shape, represented a stable character.
An outstanding example of a ground plan from the Middle Ages, is the ideal plan of the Carolingian monastery of St. Gallen which is discussed in the chapter on Carolingian architecture. The layout of stone buildings of the monastery was like a small town that provides its own needs. This is a geometric plan, where a rectangle is the basis for its division. The plan uses straight lines and right angles. The monastery's plan gives an idea, not only of the church planning but also of buildings designed for teaching and patient care.
A first step in turning medieval alleys into city streets, was made by Philip August the king of France during the years 1180-1223. According to his biographer, one day in 1184, he stood at the window of his palace when carriages were stuck in the mud. The mud emitted stench that caused a great inconvenience to the king, and then he ordered the mayor of Paris to pave the streets and public squares with "strong and hard stones." The streets were paved with large stones of various sizes, whose remains were found, and some are preserved in the museum of Cluny.
In a typical medieval square there was one tree that stood isolated in contrast to most squares today. The French expression "Wait for me under the elm tree" ("attendez moi sous l'orme") illustrates this. In Middle Ages isolated trees were preferred. Thus, we find in Paris the "Street of the dry wood" (La Rue De L'Aabre Sec). In Avignon, in many squares there was only one tree. In Place St. Pierre in Avignon there was an elm tree since 1158. Such small squares were found also in Venice and the cities of Greece.
Today urban researchers tend to divide the city into areas according to their function: industrial, commercial and residential. This division has already been found in the Middle Ages.
Some names of streets in medieval cities have survived to this day and indicate the division of the city into areas according to the occupations of their residents. Paris, for example, had street names such as "the old cloth" (Vieille Draperie), "The old weaving" (Vieille Tisseranderie), and "The old currency" (La Rue De La Vieille Monaie).
Another division of the city into areas, was an ethnic division. The ghetto is the most familiar example of this. A special district designated for Jews originally appeared in Byzantium. The first ghettos were in Salonika and Constantinople, in the Eastern Empire. The word "ghetto" originates in an order issued in Venice in 1516 for a "new ghetto" (Ghetto Nuovo) forcing Jews to live on a small island with two entrances that could be easily closed at sunset. It was not far from downtown and was designed to protect the Jewish people from the non-Jewish population's hostility. The word "ghetto" later received a broader meaning, which included isolation of other ethnic groups.
Typically, the ghettos were not closed. In Thessaloniki, there were Jewish, Turk, and French quarters. The idea of the ghetto moved to the west. In Paris there was a street of Jews, as there was a Lombards' street and an English Street. Jewish quarters were usually inside the fortified city, but at its edge. The "Jewish street" was found near some industrial quarters. The difference between Jews and other ethnic groups, was that the Jews were the only ethnic group forced to live in their area according to law.
Environment and Beautifying the City
Until the 14th century, cities were surrounded by rural areas, which preserved the health of residents. Many residents had private gardens and rural occupations. A strong rural influence can be seen in early medieval city plans. During this period, the cities that did not retain their Roman character and were not limited by topographical restrictions, had gardens at the rear of their houses. It was common to build rows of houses. Within the city, there were often pastures, gardens, and orchards, which were also found in the suburbs outside the city.
The medieval cities were noisy, and their transportation grew due to the exploitation of horsepower. Paving streets, building bridges, walls and gates for the city, were considered the most prestigious municipal works of the period. Roman bridges were too few, and sometimes in desperate situation, new bridges were built to replace them.
During the rule of King Philip-August, paving the streets brought with it attempts to clean the city. Presence of pigs was banned in the city walls. All pigs found were killed, and a fine was imposed on the owner. In addition, residents were required to remove the garbage in front of their homes, and bring it out of town.
Most major cities were paved in the 14th century. Paved streets were found in cities such as Troyes, Amiens, Dijon and more. Avignon, during the years 1376-1391, spent part of its income to pavement works in the city. Florence began paving the city in 1235 and Lübeck in 1310. Until 1339 the city of Florence was all paved. Siena paved its main square, Piazza del Campo, in 1333-4.
In the medieval city of Durham, the responsibility to repair and maintain streets was of the feudal lords and the bishops. The latter took care of the individual areas that they dominated. There is no evidence that bishops contributed to repairing streets outside their area. In other cities, the responsibility for the streets fell on the homeowners nearby. There were people who built their street segment on a level higher than that of their neighbors. Thus, the level of the streets rose repeatedly until it reached a height of 6 m above the Roman streets buried beneath them. Such streets can be found in London. During the reign of King Edward I (ruled 1272 -1307) the maintenance of the street was the responsibility of the city councils, which built new ways to replace the old ones.
A sense of order and cleanliness, which was a stranger to the village, and began to be more prevalent in the city, did not solve the ecological problem caused by the imbalance between population density and the level of public hygiene. Sanitation has been a constant problem in many cities in the Middle Ages. Open canals flowed through the main streets. Many stables were open to the street, and piles of garbage piled in the passageways. In the houses, there were no lavatories or sewage. Feces and dirt were thrown into the street or ditch. The result was frequent outbreaks of epidemics, and the stench did not cease until the 19th century.
Most of the inhabitants possessed pigs, which were a cheap and convenient food source. With houses, which were small, and gardens even smaller, pigs roamed the streets for food, and were a nuisance. However, they had a great deal of benefit, serving together with the dogs as the streets cleaners until 1850. This was the case also in Manchester and New York. Most of the waste was organic and rotted in the ground. Fires that broke out served as antibacterial.
Attention has been given, at times, to the uniform look of the façades. Since 1297, according to a regulation, the windows facing the square in Siena had to have small columns, and without any bumps. The goal was to create a uniform look in the buildings facing the square. Regulations violators were sentenced to a fine. One hundred seventy years later, the law was still in force.
Medieval homes were usually built in wood, which caused the destruction of many cities as a result of fires. In German cities, in early Middle Ages, the buildings were built in stone on the street corners, to prevent the spread of fires. Stone building has evolved slowly, and initially was used by the nobility and the well to do.
The City as a Symbol
As in painting, sculpture and architecture during the Middle Ages, symbols were of central importance, referring to the city. St. Augustine wrote "City of God". Cain, the first farmer, after killing Abel, founded the first city, east of Eden. The first founder of the city killed his brother. According to Augustine, the first city is a house of crime and curse of God.
In the Middle Ages, heavenly Jerusalem is described in architecture, sculpture and painting. As opposed to presenting it as a quadratic city in the Bible, it was usually drawn in a circle shape that indicates a divine symbol of life after death. This shape of the city can be seen in many maps of the Land of Israel. The circular area of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters by the two main axes that cross each other, at right angle.