french gothic architecture

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The Stained Glass of Sainte-Chapelle

Interior of the upper chapel (looking northeast), Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, France, 1243–1248

This chapel is a masterpiece of the so-called Rayonnant (radiant) style of the High Gothic age, which dominated the second half of the century. It was the preferred style of the royal Parisian court of Saint Louis. Sainte-Chapelle’s architect carried the dissolution of walls and the reduction of the bulk of the supports to the point that some 6,450 square feet of stained glass make up more than than three-quarters of the structure. The emphasis is on the extreme slenderness of the architectural forms and on linearity in general. Although the chapel required restoration in the 19th century (after suffering damage during the French Revolution), it retains most of its original 13th-century stained glass. Approximately 49 feet high and 15 feet wide, they were the largest designed up to their time. (source)

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As shown above in Assassin’s Creed Unity:

Notre-Dame de Paris; French for “Our Lady of Paris”), also known as Notre-Dame Cathedral or simply Notre-Dame, is a historic Catholic cathedral on the eastern half of the Île de la Cité in the fourth arrondissement of Paris, France. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. The naturalism of its sculptures and stained glass are in contrast with earlier Romanesque architecture. 

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Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris - architects Jehan de Chelles, Pierre de Montreuil, Pierre de Chelles, Jean Ravy and Jean le Bouteiller,  restorators Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and Jean-Baptiste Lassus, Paris, France by serene movement

Parisian churches #5 - Enlighten the faith.

The Saint Gervais church was refurbished to coincide with Pope John Paul II’s second visit to Paris with the continued installation of a number of new stained glass windows (Claude Courageux, earlier work by Sylvie Gaudin. The five windows by Gaudin are worth the trip to Paris by themselves. (Source Wikipedia)

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Rayonnant Gothic

Although the Gothic period is frequently associated with darkness, these shining cathedrals were anything but dark.

Rayonnant Gothic architecture was a brief period within the Gothic movement during the mid-13th to 14th century in Western Europe, particularly France; hence the name ‘Rayonnant’ from the French word for ‘radiating’. The term itself originated in the 19th century as art historians attempted to distinguish different periods of the Gothic style from each other.

Rayonnant Gothic is characterized by its extravagant use of window space, almost replacing the walls of these structures in some instances. Exterior structures like buttresses were often minimized or hidden from sight, to increase the beauty of the overall work. Glazed triforia and bar tracery were also introduced during this time, differentiating these buildings from previous cathedrals of the High Gothic tradition. These churches are renowned even among the Gothic tradition for their exquisite handling of light and especially color, as the rose windows are among some of the most famous images in European art history. Tragically, several of the earliest examples of this style were destroyed in the French Revolution; however, drawings and engravings from earlier years remain and help scholars to understand and visualize these incredible buildings.

Some notable examples of the Rayonnant style include St. Chapelle in Paris, Strasbourg Cathedral, and the Church of St. Urbain in Troyes. Westminster Abbey is also heavily influenced by this style.

Images taken from the Wikimedia Commons. Top: Strasbourg Cathedral Bottom: St. Chapelle