The Grandeur of Neo Gothic Architecture

The Gothic style of architecture is one of the oldest and most magnificent styles of architecture that we have in our society today. The Gothic form was prominent in the construction of buildings during the Middle Ages. The Medieval era spanned approximately from 500-1500. The Gothic form itself did not appear until around the year 1200 where it remained the dominant form to the end of the era. The Gothic form of architecture has been pivotal in art beyond the Medieval Period and continues to be an important element in our understanding of art and architecture in our culture today. The Gothic style of architecture can be split into 3 categories. The first is called the Early English Gothic style. This style branched off from the early Norman architecture into something much more ornate. The Normans used large stones to craft their buildings, but the Gothic architects replaced these large stones with shaped stones that were cut with utmost precision. The Normans also used hollow walls in their architecture which were extremely thick. The new Gothic style used solid walls and pillars which were much thinner but also allowed the buildings to hold far greater weights. The ability to create bigger buildings led to one of the main features of Gothic architecture; grand and tall buildings. Early English Gothic architecture also placed an emphasis on the height of buildings which led to the use of the pointed arch. The pointed arch was able to support greater weight which was another element that allowed the walls to be thinner along with with wider window openings. Flying buttresses were introduced as a structural feature during the Early English Gothic period. These buttresses helped to distribute the weight of roofs and walls as well as pushing against the lateral force of the walls. The chisel also began to be used, as opposed to the ax, which led to more decorative designs in the buildings. Stone Gargoyles were also introduced which served as waterspouts protecting the building foundations from rain. The nest section of Gothic architecture, which ranged from approximately 1300-1400, is the Decorated Gothic style. This style was characterized by wider windows which were decorated with tracery and ornamentation. Gothic Rose Windows were used dominantly in great Gothic Churches and Cathedrals but some smaller Rose Windows were featured in the chapels of Gothic Castles. Gothic Rose Windows were created in a similar form as the stained glass window. “Stained glass led to a great extension of window openings, and the development of tracery. In itself it lost the mosaic character and became more translucent, the pieces being larger, and lighter in tone. The subjects portrayed became of more importance, and there was a loss in the general decorative effect of the interior, but the glass in itself gained in value and expression” (victorianweb). The use of vaults and buttresses as structural elements allowed the elaborate Rose Windows to be featured in buildings as the major source of light. The final branch of the Gothic style is the Perpendicular Gothic Style which included fan vaulting and hammerbeam roofs. “The ‘Hammer-beam Roof’ is considered to be a natural evolution of the triangular framing adopted at the foot of the trussed rafter roof, and consists generally of hammer-beam, struts, collars and curved braces. The hammer-beam is merely the lengthening and thickening of the ‘sole-piece’ at the foot of the trussed rafter, the principal rafter being strutted, and the weight of llic roof carried lower down the wall by means of a curved brace tenoned into the hammer-beam and wall-piece. Being thus strengthened, it forms a truss which, repeated at intervals of 10 feet or more, supports the intermediate rafters of the bay” (victorianweb). Westminster Hall in London England is an example of this type of roofing.

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All three of these branches of Gothic styles formed what is now known simply as Gothic architecture. The main elements of Gothic architecture are grand and tall designs, flying buttresses, pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, a light and airy interior, gargoyles, and an emphasis on ornate designs.

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This style emerged in the 12th century after knights travelled to the Byzantine Empire and saw the magnificent architecture they built. Initially this style was simply called “The French Style” because it first emerged with the Goths. Although this style of architecture is arguably the most beautiful form, many people rejected it simply because of their misconceptions about the Medieval Period. Another important aspect of Medieval architecture is iconography. Iconography is defined as, “the traditional or conventional images or symbols associated with a subject and especially a religious or legendary subject” (Merriam-Webster). Iconography was an extremely important aspect of the Medieval church. In the church certain icons, such as pictures or statues, would be given deeper symbolic and spiritual meaning. This idea transferred into Gothic architecture and became one of the oldest art historical disciplines. Many Gothic buildings depicted spiritual scenes, such as the crucifixion, as a part of the ornate detail (see images on blog). By the end of the Medieval period most architecture lost its spiritual and symbolic meaning and was created simply to be aesthetically pleasing. Exeter Cathedral, which was established in 1112 in England, is one of the greatest examples of authentic Medieval architecture.

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During the 1740s in England the Gothic revival movement began. Up until this point, people completely rejected everything associated with the Middle Ages. Faulkenhagen states, “Gothic was originally a pejorative term, implying barbarism, as contrasted to the classicism of Western civilization. During the eighteenth century, or Age of Enlightenment, the art and architecture of the Middle Ages were often disparaged as barbaric remnants of feudalism and superstition” (Faulkenhagen). Many 18th century philosophers disliked the Middle Ages because of its religious connections. The 18th century was a period of enlightenment where reason was considered to be deity rather than God. These philosophers also believed the Middle Ages to be a childish and grotesque time in history. Because of the bad reputation that the Medieval Period had, society refused to consider implementing any Medieval practices including architecture. Fortunately, writers and artists began to admire the Gothic style and revived it in their literature and art. This Gothic revival is also associated with the rise of Romanticism in the early 19th century. These artists and writers wanted to push the cultural boundaries. They, like so many other artists and writers, were not content simply creating their art in one form that fit into one specific category. They wanted to move past the classical form and explore new ideas. These artists and writers looked back to the ornate architecture of the Gothic tradition and became inspired by its beauty. This Gothic Revival in architecture can be seen most prevalently in cathedrals and churches. For example, St. Patricks Cathedral is one of the most wonderful examples of Neo Gothic architecture.

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The construction of St. Patricks Cathedral began in 1858 and was not complete until 1878. Archbishop Hughes was determined to build this cathedral and refused to be content until the doors swung open. “Ridiculed as ‘Hughes’ Folly,’ as the proposed, near-wilderness site was considered too far outside the city, Archbishop Hughes, nonetheless, persisted in his daring vision of building the most beautiful Gothic Cathedral in the New World in what he believed would one day be ‘the heart of the city.’ Neither the bloodshed of the Civil War nor the resultant lack of manpower or funds would derail the ultimate fulfillment of Hughes’ dream and architect, James Renwick’s bold plan” (St. Patricks). This cathedral encompasses many of the elements of the Gothic style including vaulted ceilings, a tall and grand exterior, and exquisite detail spread throughout the entire cathedral. Another Neo Gothic cathedral in New York is the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester. This cathedral was opened in 1927 and underwent major renovations in 2005. Sacred Heart Cathedral is a beautiful example of the Neo Gothic style with its vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and grand exterior.

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This cathedral is also the greatest example of Neo Gothic architecture standing in Rochester today. Because of its beauty and grandeur, the Gothic style has survived for over 900 years. Although many philosophers and architects originally rejected the Gothic style because of its Medieval connotations, it continues to be one of the most magnificent forms of architecture in our culture today. Because of the Gothic revival, many Neo Gothic pieces were created which we are still able to enjoy in our communities to this day. There are thousands of skyscrapers and technologically advanced buildings across the globe, but none of the modern architectural forms are able to reach the awe-inspiring beauty of Gothic architecture.

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The Trifold Life of Charlemagne

This is a paper I wrote about Charlemagne for my Medieval History class. Let me know what you think!

Charlemagne was one of the most well known of the Frankish kings and he was part of the Carolingian Dynasty lasting from 750-987. He had a brother with whom the kingdom was shared until his brother died which gave Charlemagne total reign over the empire as a new Augustus. Charlemagne embodied a combination of Roman, Germanic, and Christian cultures which made him a well-rounded and intriguing figure in Medieval history.

One of the Roman traits that Charlemagne continued in his own life was teaching his children the essential education of the quadrivium. Einhard states, ”Charlemagne was determined to give his children, his daughters just as much as his sons, a proper training in the liberal arts…” (¶19). The quadrivium is the Latin word meaning “the four ways” which represent the four subjects which Roman children were taught (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy). The education of Charlemagne’s children was of utmost importance to him and he took it upon himself to help further their education. Charlemagne also learned Greek and Latin very well himself along with teaching himself the subjects of the quadrivium.

Another aspect of Charlemagne’s life that was influenced by Roman culture was his interest in architectural projects. Architecture played an essential part of Roman history passed down from the ancient Greeks. “Despite all the time which he had devoted to this preoccupation [conquering other nations], he nevertheless set in hand many projects which aimed at making his kingdom more attractive…” (¶17). Some of the most outstanding projects Charlemagne completed were the church of the Holy Mother of God at Aachen and the bridge over the Rhine at Mainz.

Charlemagne had utmost respect and adoration for his Germanic heritage. He solely wore the “national dress of the Franks” and he refused to wear clothing from other countries regardless of how attractive they might be (¶23). Charlemagne also renamed all of the months of the year in his native language along with naming the twelve winds (¶29). Although Charlemagne synthesized German, Christian, and Roman attributes, much of his heart lay with Frankish traditions.

One of the main Gremanic references that can be seen in Charlemagne’s life is that he was constantly at war. He waged a plethora of wars and he was a relentless fighter. “These [battles] were directed by Charlemagene with such skill that anyone who studies them may well wonder which he ought to admire most, the King’s endurance in time of travail, or his good fortune” (¶8). Charlemagne was also an avid hunter. He hunted for pleasure up until the last days before the end of his life. Hunting, along with horsemanship, came naturally to Charlemagne because of his Germanic heritage. “As soon as they were old enough he had his sons taught to ride in the Frankish fashion, to use arms and to hunt” (¶19). Charlemagne found it extremely important to pass these life skills on to his own children as his father had passed them on to him.

Charlemagne was raised in a monastery where he was taught about faith from his early childhood and he grew up to be a devout Christian. His adoration for the church of Christ is referenced in many of his actions throughout his reign. As before mentioned, Charlemagne built the beautiful cathedral at Aachen, one of his most important architectural projects, mainly because of its connection to the Christian faith. Charlemagne also attended church every morning and evening until his health began to decline. He was extremely serious about the importance of church ceremonies and he treated them with utmost respect.

Charlemagne was the wealthiest individual in the empire during his reign and he always donated a portion of his funds for the poor and needy. “Wherever he heard that Christians were living in want, he took pity on their poverty and sent them money regularly” (¶27). He sent his funds around the world to help the Christian faith in every way he could. Before Charlemagne died, he established a Will which stated that a fourth of his belongings should be given to the poor for the cause of the Christian church. Charlemagne acted with generosity to those who were not as fortunate as him which is one of the most important callings of a Christian.

Because of Charlemagne’s upbringing he embodied many of the traits from Roman, Germanic, and Christian societies. He was a fierce fighter but he also had a loving heart towards those in need. He taught his children all of the elements of the quadrivium while also teaching them horseback riding and how to fight. Charlemagne was a devout Christian which permeated his interest in architectural projects. Because of this syntheses of cultures that Charlemagne had embodied, he became a complex and intriguing figure whom many historians will be studying for ages to come.

The Story of My Adversities

This is a paper I wrote for my Medieval History class about Abelard’s Historia Calmitatum. Let me know what you think!

Historia Calmitatum or The History of my Adversities is one of the most well known works of the Medieval Period. This history is written in the form of a letter which Peter Abelard writes to his friend describing all of the calamities which have overtaken him. Abelard states to his friend , “In comparison with my trials you will see that your own are nothing, or only slight, and will find them easier to bear.” Abelard does face a great multitude of trials and hardships which eventually lead him to a completely different life than he had once lived.

When Abelard was a young man he realized that he was not meant for the military life but rather that he should take on the “weapons of dialectic” which he preferred “to all other teachings of philosophy.” Abelard moved to Paris so he could further his studies of the dialectic and studied under the best teacher of the subject William of Champeaux. Soon after Abelard began studying with Champeaux, his teacher “took a violent dislike to me because I set out to refute some of his arguments and frequently reasoned against him.” Champeaux became his first of numerous enemies. Abelard states, “This was the beginning of my misfortunes which have dogged me to this day, and as my reputation grew, so other men’s jealousy was aroused.” Here Abelard is saying that many, if not all, of his misfortunes were rooted in jealousy of his intellect by other people. This seems to be a fairly proud thing to say.

This pride takes an even deeper root when Abelard decides to found a school of his own “estimating my capacities too highly for my years. Abelard states that his self confidence continued to grow continuously and he set out to move his school to Paris where he could further embarrass his former teacher. Abelard also states, “However, I was not there long before I fell ill through overwork and was obliged to return home.” It appears that Abelard believed that his pride was detrimental to him and his success.

Abelard gained great success after his teaching took off. He grained a great deal of supporters which included men who were once loyal to his previous master. This created more problems for Abelard. Abelard states about his previous teacher, “William was eaten up with jealousy and consumed with anger to an extent it is difficult to convey.” Abelard soon began to tackle the Scriptures as well as philosophy and he excelled over many of those who had been studying much longer than him. Unfortunately for Abelard, he created enemies in whatever field he studied.

Abelard describes the reason for his calamities at thus, “But success always puffs up fools with pride, and worldly security weakens the spirit’s resolution and easily destroys it through carnal temptations. I began to think myself the only philosopher in the world, with nothing to fear from anyone, and so I yielded to the lusts of the flesh.” These lusts to which Abelard is referring manifested themselves in the form of pride and lechery. Abelard became obsessed with a girl named Heloise from Paris and he would not be content until he had her for his own in every way possible. Abelard was taken in by the fact that Heloise had a gift for writing and he believed he would have an easy time getting her to sleep with him. Abelard ended up living in the home which Heloise resided and he was given complete charge over her which made it easy for the two young lovers to fulfill the sexual desires of their flesh. During this time Abelard’s studies declined and he continued to spend less time studying philosophy and the Scriptures. He was obsessed with this woman which would end in yet another of his many misfortunes.

Abelard continued to let his desires overtake him and he eventually got Heloise pregnant. Heloise’s uncle soon found out about the two lovers and was furious. Abelard and Heloise were married but that proved unhappy and worthless since both ended up in convents. Abelard also was wounded by a group of his oppressors which rendered him and eunuch and unable to ever give in to sexual desires again. Abelard states, “…the hand of the Lord had touched me for the express purpose of freeing me from the temptations of the flesh and the distractions of the world so that I could devote myself to learning…” Here Abelard is stating that his tragedies befell him because the Lord was chastening him.

Throughout the rest of Abelard’s tragic tale, he must deal with the repercussions of the foolish actions he took in the earlier parts of his life. He urges the reader, “…not to put base pleasures before your sacred duties, and to guard against being sucked down headlong…” He was able to gain some favor because of his genius in interpreting the Scriptures but still many people were against him because of his previous behavior. In the end Abelard explains his many misfortunes as God bringing him away from the perverse life he was living and closer to the direction of teaching the Scriptures.

Abelard understands his humanity and he is not afraid to point out his downfalls and shortcomings. Although he is aware of his humanity, I think that his conclusion about the root of all of his misfortunes is not quite correct. I believe it is possible for God to chasten us during our weak moments and when we make mistakes but I do not believe this is the main cause of Abelard’s misfortunes.

Abelard commits many wrongdoings to people and he is forced to deal with the repercussions of his actions. He is a young and prideful philosopher who believes that he knows everything and everyone else in his field is a fool. He pushes people to their limits and many of them would like nothing better but to see him dead. He gives in to many sinful desires which lead to his demise. Although the men who wanted Abelard dead were guilty of wrongdoing, Abelard was just as guilty as those men were. He thought of himself as a God and it was only a matter of time before his peers and teachers threw him off of that pedestal.

This story is a wonderful lesson to each and every person who reads it. It speaks of the life of a genius philosopher and Biblical interpreter who let his gifting puff up his pride. Abelard is an example to all of us of how easy it is for anyone to give in to the lusts of the flesh. There will be consequences for foolish actions and eventually we will all have to bear the burdens of our sinful nature. Abelard also is a great example of a redemption story. Although Abelard’s misfortunes did not disappear, he was able to cling onto the truths of the Bible to carry him through the trials.

Vacationing with photography

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I am currently taking a b&w film photography class and it has completely changed my views on photography as a whole. I have loved taking photos for as long as I can remember. I would always steal my grandmother’s dslr to go on photoshoots before I had my own camera. In this class I am using my great grandfather’s 35mm slr camera and I love it. It’s sentimental and nostalgic. The process of developing my own film is one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have ever done. The dark room itself is one of the most peaceful places on earth. We live in such a fast paced world and it is so lovely to be able to slow down and take a vacation. It is nice to just escape through a lens which creates beautiful art.