A History of Gothic Architecture
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Abbey, Lazio, Italy
This Cistercian abbey is one of the finest examples of the Burgundian Early Gothic style in Italy, dated from around 1135. Consecrated in 1208, it retains the bare architecture, the magnificent rose window and finely carved capitals, reflecting the prominent role within the area.
The frugal Gothic church (1187-1208)
is cruciform and square-ended, closely similar to that of Casamari
and also of the great church at Citeaux. The church is flanked on one
side by the cloister, along with the refectory and chapter house and
on the other side by the cemetery. The nave at Fossanova dates from
1187 and the church was consecrated in 1208.
En route to the Second Council of Lyon the Dominican scholastic Thomas Aquinas died at the abbey on 7 March 1274.
Abbey, Frosinone, Italy
A chronicle of the abbey from the
13th century dates its founding to the 9th century as a Benedictine
monastery with the same name. Initially a small community with a
simple church, the buildings were expanded in the mid-11th
The 12th century, however, saw a period of long decline for the abbey. Due to the severe financial distress which arose in the shift to a capital-based economy, the region underwent great instability. During this period St. Bernard of Clairvaux, promoted the Cistercian reforms of monasticism as the best way to ensure fidelity of life and obedience to the Church. He himself arranged the incorporation of Casamari in the new Order, officially listing it in the Cistercian directory as the 29th foundation of Citeaux.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Italy found itself invaded by the armies of the First French Empire. The abbey, along with most other religious communities, was suppressed by a decree of Napoleon in 1811. By 1814 some of the surviving monks returned to the abbey and were able to resume monastic life, now under the direct authority of the Holy See.
The abbey is a fine example of Burgundian early-Gothic architecture (1203-1217), equaled within Italy only by that of the Abbey of Fossanova and is very well preserved. The abbey has a plan similar to its French contemporaries, the entrance being a gate with a double arch. The interior has a garden whose central part is occupied by a cloister, of quadrangular shape, with four galleries having a semi-cylindrical ceiling.
The cathedral occupies the site of an earlier building. It has the form of a Latin cross with a slightly projecting transept, a dome and a bell tower. The dome rises from a hexagonal base with supporting columns. The lantern atop the dome is a work by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with addition of red marble on the façade.
Siena's Duomo was built between 1215
and 1263 and designed in part by Gothic master Nicola Pisano. His
son, Giovanni, drew up the plans for the lower half of the facade in
1285. The facade's upper half was added in the 14th
Expansion got underway in 1339 with construction on a new nave off the Duomo's right transept. But in 1348, the Black Death swept through the city and killed 4/5 of Siena's population. The giant cathedral was never completed, and the half-finished walls of the Duomo Nuovo (New Cathedral) survive as a monument to Siena's ambition and one-time wealth.
The west facade was begun in 1285 with Giovanni Pisano as the master architect. He completed the lower level by 1297, at which time he abruptly left Siena over creative differences with the Opera del Duomo. Camaino di Crescentino took over from 1299 until 1317, when the Opera ordered all work to focus on the east end of the cathedral. Attention finally returned to the facade in 1376, with a new design of the upper half inspired by the newly built facade of Orvieto Cathedral. The celebrated pavement of Siena Cathedral features 59 etched and inlaid marble panels created from 1372 to 1547. The subjects include sibyls, scenes from Sienese history, and biblical scenes.
The conspicuous mosaics in the upper gables were made by Venetian artists based on drawings of 1878 by Sienese painters Luigi Mussini and Alessandro Franchi.
Abbey, Tuscany, Italy
The Abbey of San Galgano was founded
by Cistercian monks from Casamari Abbey. They dedicated the new
foundation to St. Galganus (d.1181), a hermit who lived on the hill
above the abbey. The abbey was constructed around 1224-88.
The abbey declined in the 16th century due to a long period of corruption that culminated with an abbot selling the lead from the church roof, which soon collapsed. The monastery was eventually abandoned, and the church was deconsecrated. Although the roof is still missing and the cloister has mostly disappeared, the abbey remains remarkably intact today.
Pope Gregory IX laid the first stone
of the Lower Basilica the day after the canonization of St Francis,
on July 17th 1228.
The treasures of San Francesco are its murals (not all are frescoes), a veritable gallery documenting the transition of Tuscan mural painting from Gothic to the Renaissance – and from dry tempera to fresco painting. Only the highlights are described below. A more detailed description would exceed this format.
Brother Elias, an intimate of St
Francis, designed the lower basilica as a Romanesque crypt with
ribbed vaults. He had acquired his experience by building large
sepulchers out of hard rock in Syria. The lower basilica consists of
a central nave with several side chapels with semi-circular arches.
No date has been recorded concerning the beginning of work on the Upper Basilica, but it must have been after the abdication from the order of Brother Elias in 1239. The bright and spacious Gothic Upper Basilica consists of a single four-bay nave with cross-vaulted ceiling bordered with patterns of crosses and leaves, a transept and a polygonal apse. The four ribbed vaults are decorated alternately with golden stars on a blue background and paintings.
Both churches were consecrated by Pope Innocent IV in 1253, before work started on the large cycle of fresco decorations.
The nave is decorated with a
profusion of paintings the oldest by an unknown artist, called
Maestro di San Francesco. His murals, executed in tempera on dry
plaster, were completed about 1260-1263. They are considered by many
as the best examples of Tuscan wall painting prior to Cimabue.
The first chapel on the left is the San Martino Chapel, dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours, was painted between 1317 and 1319 with ten frescoes depicting the saint's life by Simone Martini. The nave ends in a richly decorated semicircular apse, preceded with a transept with barrel vaulting. The frescoes in the right transept depict the childhood of Christ by Giotto and his workshop. These frescoes by Giotto were revolutionary in their time, showing real people with emotions, set in a realistic landscape.
The west end of the transept and the apse have been decorated with frescoes by Cimabue and his workshop (starting in 1280). The magnificent Crucifixion, with St. Francis on his knees at the foot of the Cross, soon suffered from damp and decay. Due to the use of lead oxide in his colors and to the fact that the colors were applied when the plaster was no longer fresh, they have deteriorated badly. The most important paintings are a series of 28 frescoes ascribed to the young Giotto along the lower part of the nave. Each bay contains three frescoes above the dado on each side of the nave.
Pisa, S. Maria della
Santa Maria della Spina is a small
Gothic church in the Italian city of Pisa. The church, erected in
1230, was originally known as Santa Maria di Pontenovo: the new name
of Spina ("thorn") derives from the presence of a thorn
allegedly part of the crown worn by Christ on the Cross, brought here
in 1333. In 1871 the church was dismantled and rebuilt on a higher
level due to dangerous infiltration of water from the Arno river: the
church was slightly altered in the process, however.
The church has a rectangular plan, with an external facing wholly composed of marble, laid in polychrome bands. The exterior is marked by cusps, tympani and tabernacles, together with a complicated sculpture decoration of tarsiae, rose-windows, and numerous statues by Pisane artists of the 14th century.
Compared to the rich exterior, the interior is simple. It has a single room, with a ceiling painted during the 19th century reconstruction. In the presbytery's center is one of the masterpieces of Gothic sculpture, the Madonna of the Rose by Andrea and Nino Pisano.
Bologna, Basilica San
The sober Romanesque
The Basilica of Saint Francis is a
historic church in the city of Bologna. Founded in the 13th century,
it has served the Conventual Franciscan friars since then.
Construction was begun and sufficiently complete by 1251 that it was
consecrated by Pope Innocent IV. The main structure was finally
completed in 1263. The architect is not known.
During the occupation of Italy by the French Revolutionary Army in 1796 the church was used as barracks by the occupying forces. The artworks of the church were seized and scattered. The church was finally returned to the Franciscans in 1886. The restoration of the church to its original aspect was carried out under the supervision of Alfonso Rubbiani, a expert in restoration, and was completed in 1919.
Florence, S. Maria
Santa Maria Novella is
chronologically the first great basilica in Florence, and is the
city's principal Dominican church. The church, adjoined by a cloister
and chapter-house, contains a store of art treasures and funerary
monuments. Especially famous are frescoes by masters of Gothic and
early Renaissance. They were financed by of the most important
Florentine families, who ensured themselves of funerary chapels on
This church was called Novella (New) because it was built on the site of the 9th-century oratory of Santa Maria delle Vigne. When the site was assigned to Dominican Order in 1221, they decided to build a new church and an adjoining cloister. The church was designed by two Dominican friars, Fra Sisto Fiorentino and Fra Ristoro da Campi. Building began in the mid-13th century (about 1246), and the older, Romanesque part was finished about 1360. The church was consecrated in 1420.
On commission from Giovanni di Paolo Rucellai, a local textile merchant, Leone Battista Alberti designed the upper part of the inlaid black and white marble facade of the church (1456–1470). The vast interior is based on a basilica plan, designed as a Latin cross and is divided into a nave, two aisles with stained-glass windows and a short transept.
There are 7 chapels
with frescoes, sponsored by prominent Florentine families: Filippo
Strozzi (Filippino Lippi, 1502) , Gondi (Giuliano da Sangallo,
Brunelleschi's Crucifix, 1425), Strozzi di Mantova (Nardo di Cione,
1357), della Pura, Rucellai, Bardi (Vasari,1570), and the Tornabuoni
Apse (Ghirlandaio, 1490).
For a floor-plan see planetware
The Holy Trinity, situated almost halfway in the left aisle, is a pioneering early Renaissance painting by Masaccio, exloring Brunelleschi's new ideas about perspective and mathematical proportions. Its meaning for the art of painting can easily be compared to the importance of Brunelleschi for architecture and Donatello for sculpture. The patrons are the kneeling figures of a judge and his wife, members of the Lenzi family.
Santa Maria sopra Minerva is one of
the major churches of the Dominican Order. The church's name derives
from the fact that the first Christian church structure on the site
was built over the ruins of a temple dedicated to the Egyptian
goddess Isis, which had been erroneously ascribed to the Greco-Roman
goddess Minerva. The church is located in the Piazza della Minerva
one block behind the Pantheon.
SM sopra Minerva is the only Gothic church building still extant in Rome. Behind a restrained Renaissance façade the Gothic interior features arched vaulting that was painted blue with gilded stars and trimmed with brilliant red ribbing in a 19th-century Neo-Gothic restoration.
The Dominicans began building the present Gothic church in 1280 modeling it on their church Santa Maria Novella in Florence. In 1453 church interior was finally completed when the infamous Spanish Inquisitor Domonican Cardinal Juan Torquemada ordered the main nave to be covered by a vault that reduced the overall projected height of the church. In the same year Count Francesco Orsini sponsored the construction of the façade at his own expense. However work on the façade remained incomplete until 1725 when it was finally finished on the order of Pope Benedict XIII.
Between 1848 and 1855 Girolamo Bianchedi directed a program of restoration when most of the Baroque additions were removed and the blank walls were covered with neo-gothic frescoes giving the interior the Neo-Gothic appearance that it has today. The basilica's stained glass windows are from the 19th century.
The construction of the cathedral,
dedicated to the Assumption of Mary (Santa Maria Assunta),
lasted almost three centuries with the design and style evolving from
Romanesque to Gothic as construction progressed. Begun in 1290 by
Pope Nicholas IV using a design by Arnolfo di Cambio.
Construction continued slowly until in 1309 the Sienese sculptor and architect Lorenzo Maitani was commissioned to solve several static issues of the building, especially of the choir. He substantially changed the design.
Maitani strengthened the external walls with flying buttresses, which proved later to be useless. The buttresses were eventually included in the walls of the newly built transept chapels. He rebuilt the apse into a rectangular shape and added a large stained-glass quadrifiore window. Starting in 1310 he created the current façade up to the level of the bronze statues of the Evangelists. He also added much of the interior. He died in 1330, shortly before the completion of the duomo.
In 1347 Andrea Pisano, the former Master of the Florence Cathedral, was appointed the new Master of the project. He was followed in 1359 by Andrea di Cione, better known as Orcagna. The beautiful mosaic decoration and the rose window are attributed to him. The Sienese architect Antonio Federighi continued the decoration between 1451 and 1456. Final touches to the façade were made by Ippolito Scalza between 1590 and 1607. All in all, the succession of architects managed a surprising stylistic unity of the façade.
The most impressive frescoes in the church are in the Chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio.
The construction of the chapel (also known as the Cappella Nuova or Signorelli Chapel) was started in 1408. Fra Angelico and Benozzo Gozzoli began painting of the vault of the chapel in 1447. They painted only two sections: Christ in Judgment and Angels and Prophets as they were summoned in the same year to the Vatican by Pope Nicholas V to paint the Niccoline Chapel. Work came to a halt until after being abandoned for about 50 years, the decoration of the rest of the vault was awarded to Luca Signorelli in 1499.
These frescoes are considered the most complex and impressive work by Signorelli. He and his school spent two years creating a series of frescoes of the Apocalypse and the Last Judgment, starting with the Preaching of the Antichrist, continuing with tumultuous episodes of the End of the World, finding a counterpart in the Resurrection of the Flesh. The fourth scene is a frightening depiction of the Damned taken to Hell and received by Demons. On the wall behind the altar, Signorelli depicts on the left side the Elect being led to Paradise and on the right the Reprobates driven to Hell.
Florence, Duomo Santa
Maria del Fiore, Italy
Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church of Florence. Il
Duomo di Firenze was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the
design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally 140 years
later in 1436 with the dome by Filippo Brunelleschi.
After Arnolfo died in 1302, work on the cathedral slowed for the following thirty years. In 1331 the Arte della Lana, the guild of wool merchants, took over exclusive patronage for the construction of the cathedral and in 1334 appointed Giotto to oversee the work. Assisted by Andrea Pisano, Giotto continued di Cambio's design. His major accomplishment was the building of the campanile. When Giotto died in 1337, Andrea Pisano continued the building until work was again halted due to the Black Death in 1348. In 1349, work resumed on the cathedral under a series of architects. The nave was finished by 1380 only the dome remained incomplete.
In 1418 the Arte della Lana announced a design competition for erecting the dome. The two main competitors were two master goldsmiths, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi, the latter was supported by Cosimo de Medici. Ghiberti had been the winner of a competition for a pair of bronze doors for the Baptistery in 1401, and the lifelong competition between the two remained acute. Brunelleschi won and received the commission.
Ghiberti, appointed coadjutor, was drawing a salary equal to Brunelleschi's and, although neither was awarded the announced prize of 200 florins, would potentially earn equal credit, while spending most of his time on other projects. When Brunelleschi feigned illness, the project was briefly in the hands of Ghiberti. But Ghiberti soon had to admit that the whole project was beyond him. In 1423 Brunelleschi was back in charge and took over sole responsibility. Work started on the dome in 1420 and was completed in 1436. The cathedral was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV on March 25, 1436.
It was the first 'octagonal' dome in history to be built without a temporary wooden supporting frame: the circular domes of the Aghia Sophia (536 AD) and the Roman Pantheon (128 AD) were built with internal support structures. Architecturally it is the most decisive achievement of the Renaissance.
Basilica di Santa Croce, Italy
The Basilica di Santa Croce
(Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the principal Franciscan church in
Florence. It is the burial place of some of the most illustrious
Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, Foscolo,
Gentile, and Rossini.
Its most notable features are its sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils, and its tombs and cenotaphs. The construction of the current church, to replace an older building, was begun in 1294, possibly by Arnolfo di Cambio, and paid for by some of the city's wealthiest families. It was consecrated in 1442 by Pope Eugene IV.
The building's design reflects the austere approach of the Franciscans. The floorplan is an Egyptian or Tau cross (a symbol of St Francis), with a nave and two aisles separated by lines of octagonal columns. To the south of the church was a convent, some of whose buildings remain.
The Primo Chiostro, the main cloister, houses the Cappella dei Pazzi, built as the chapter house, completed in the 1470s. Filippo Brunelleschi was involved in its design which has remained rigorously simple and unadorned.
In 1560, the choir screen was removed as part of changes arising from the Counter-Reformation and the interior rebuilt by Giorgio Vasari. As a result, there was damage to the church's decoration and most of the altars previously located on the screen were lost.
The bell tower was built in 1842, replacing an earlier one damaged by lightning. The neo-Gothic marble façade, by Niccolo Matas from Ancona, dates from 1857-1863.
In 1386, Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo began constructing the cathedral. The start of the construction coincided with the accession to power in Milan of the archbishop's cousin Gian Galeazzo Visconti. Before actual work began, three main buildings were demolished: the palace of the Archbishop, the Ordinari Palace, and the Baptistry of St. Stephen at the Spring, while the old church of Sta. Maria Maggiore was exploited as a stone quarry. Enthusiasm for the immense new building soon spread among the population, and the shrewd Gian Galeazzo, together with his cousin the archbishop, collected large donations for the work-in-progress. The construction program was strictly regulated under the "Fabbrica del Duomo", led by first chief engineer Simone da Orsenigo. Orsenigo initially planned to build the cathedral from brick in Lombard Gothic style.
Visconti had ambitions to follow the newest trends in European architecture. In 1389, a French chief engineer, Nicolas de Bonaventure, was appointed, adding to the church its Rayonnant Gothic, a French style not typical for Italy. He decided that the brick structure should be paneled with marble.
Ten years later (1399) another French architect, Jean Mignot, was called as the masons needed new technical aid to lift stones to an unprecedented height. At the death of Gian Galeazzo in 1402, almost half the cathedral was complete. Construction, however, stalled almost totally until 1480, for lack of money and ideas.
In 1452, under Francesco Sforza, the nave and the aisles were completed up to the sixth bay. In 1500 to 1510, under Ludovico Sforza, the octagonal cupola was completed, and decorated in the interior with four series of 15 statues each, portraying saints, prophets, sibyls and other characters of the Bible. The exterior long remained without any decoration, except for the spire by Guglietto dell'Amadeo ("Amadeo's Little Spire"), constructed 1507-1510. This is a Renaissance masterwork which nevertheless harmonized well with the general Gothic appearance of the church.
After the accession of Carlo Borromeo (look at him!) to the archbishop's throne (1564-1586), all lay monuments were removed from the Duomo. Borromeo's main intervention was the appointment, in 1571, of Pellegrino Pellegrini as chief engineer. Borromeo and Pellegrini strove for a new, Renaissance appearance for the cathedral, that would emphasize its Roman/Italian nature, and subdue the Gothic style, which was now seen as foreign. As the façade still was largely incomplete, Pellegrini designed a "Roman" style one. This design was never carried out, but the interior decoration continued: in 1575-1585 the presbytery was rebuilt, while new altars and the baptistry were added in the wooden choir stalls were constructed by 1614 for the main altar by Francesco Brambilla. In 1577 Borromeo finally consecrated the unfinished church.
On May 20, 1805, Napoleon Bonaparte, about to be crowned King of Italy, ordered the façade to be finished by Carlo Pellicani. In his enthusiasm, he assured that all expenses would fall to the French treasury, which would reimburse the Fabbrica for the real estate it had to sell. Even though this reimbursement was never paid, it still meant that finally, within only seven years, the Cathedral had its façade completed (1858).
Certosa di Pavia,
Carthusian Monastery, Italy
The Certosa di Pavia is a monastery
complex in Lombardy, built between 1396 and 1495. The Carthusian
Certosa is renowned for the exuberance of its architecture, in both
the Gothic and Renaissance styles, and for its collection of artworks
representative of the region.
The church, the last edifice of the complex to be built, was to be the family mausoleum of the Visconti of Milan. It was designed as a grand structure with a nave and two aisles, a type unusual for the Carthusian Order. The nave, in the Gothic style, was completed in 1465.
However, since its foundation, the Renaissance had spread in Italy, and the rest of the edifice was built according to the new style, redesigned by Giovanni Solari continued by his son Guiniforte Solari and including some new cloisters. The church was consecrated in 1497, but the façade was not completed until 1507.
In 1782, the Carthusians were expelled by Emperor Joseph II of Austria, and were succeeded at the Certosa by the Cistercians in 1784 and then by the Carmelites in 1789. In 1810 the monastery was closed until the Carthusians reacquired it in 1843.
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Barcelona, Cathedral of
the Holy Cross and Santa Eulalia,
The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is a Gothic church and the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona, Cataluña. The cathedral was constructed between the 13th and the 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century. The cloister, which encloses the Well of the Geese (Font de les Oques) was completed in 1448. In the late 19th century a neo-Gothic façade was constructed over the nondescript exterior that was common to Catalan churches.
Burgos, Cathedral Santa
Burgos Cathedral (Catedral de
Burgos) is famous for its size and unique architecture. Its
construction began in 1221, and it was in use as a church nine years
later, but work continued off and on until 1567. It was primarily
built in the French Gothic style, although Renaissance style parts
were added in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The construction of the cathedral was ordered by King Ferdinand III of Castile and Mauricio, the English-born Bishop of Burgos in 1221. The architects were a Frenchman in the 13th century and a German in the 15th century. In 1417, the bishop of Burgos attended the Council of Constance and returned with the master builder John of Cologne (Juan de Colonia), who completed the towers with spires of open stonework tracery.
In exterior views its cruciform floor plan, with a 106 meter long nave and wide aisles, is almost hidden by the fifteen chapels added at all angles to the aisles and transepts, by the beautiful 14th-century cloister on the northwest, and the archiepiscopal palace on the southwest.
The cathedral of Toledo is one of
three 13th-century High Gothic cathedrals in Spain and is considered
to be the magnum opus of the Gothic style in Spain. It was begun in
1226 under the rule of Ferdinand III, and the last Gothic
contributions were made in the 15th century when, in 1493, the vaults
of the central nave were finished during the time of the Catholic
Its five naves are a consequence of the builders' intention to cover all of the sacred space of the former city mosque with the cathedral, and of the former sahn with the cloister. It also combines some characteristics of the Mudéjar style, mainly in the cloister, and with the presence of multifoiled arches in the triforium. Archeological investigations show that the prayer hall of the mosque corresponds with the layout of the five naves of the current cathedral; the sahn would coincide with part of the current cloister and the chapel of Saint Peter and the minaret with the bell tower.
Toledo was reconquered by Alfonso VI, King of León and Castile, in 1085. In 1087 the archbishop in cooperation with Queen Constance sent an armed contingent to seize the mosque by force. They proceeded to install a provisional altar and hung a bell in the minaret. On 25 October 1087, the archbishop in cooperation with Queen Constance sent an armed contingent to seize the mosque by force. They proceeded to install a provisional altar and hung a bell in the minaret. The mosque-cathedral remained intact until the 13th century, when in the year 1222 a Papal bull authorized the construction of a new cathedral which was begun in 1224.
The structure of the new building was greatly influenced by the French Gothic style of the 13th century, but was adapted to Spanish tastes. Numerous chapels were added during the 14th-16th cent. The current dome was designed in the 17th century by the son of El Greco, Jorge Manuel Theotocopoulus.
For an extended description see the Wikipedia article.
Valencia, Cathedral of
Mary's Assumption, Spain
Valencia Cathedral was consecrated
in 1238 by the first bishop of Valencia after the Reconquista, Pere
d'Albalat, Archbishop of Tarragona. It was built over the site of a
former Visigoth cathedral, which under the Moors had been turned into
a mosque. Gothic architecture, in its Catalan version, is the
predominant style of this cathedral, although it also contains
Romanesque, French Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neo-Classical
There is documentary evidence that for some decades after the Christian conquest of the city (1238), the mosque-cathedral remained standing, even with the Koranic inscriptions on the walls, until 1262, when bishop Andreu d'Albalat resolved to knock it down and build a new cathedral in its place, according to the plans of the architect Arnau Vidal(!).
The first part to be finished was the ambulatory with its eight radiating chapels. Between 1300 and 1350 the crossing was finished and its west side went up until the Gothic Apostles’ Gate. Three out of the four sections of the naves and transepts and the crossing tower were also begun. in 1459 the architects Francesco Baldomar and Pere Compte expanded the nave and transepts in a further section, known as Arcada Nova.
The centuries of the Renaissance (15th-16th centuries) had little influence on the architecture of the cathedral but much more on its pictorial decoration, such as the one at the high altar, and sculptural decoration in the Resurrection chapel. During the Baroque period, the German Konrad Rudolf designed in 1703 the main door of the cathedral, known as the Iron Gate.
A project to renew the building was launched during the last third of the 18th century, the intent of which was to give a uniform neoclassical appearance to the church, different from the original Gothic style, which was considered vulgar. The task of removing the Neoclassical elements in order to recover the original Gothic aspect was undertaken in 1972. The only Neoclassical elements spared were most of the ambulatory chapels, and some isolated elements, such as the sculptures at the base of the dome.
Zaragoza, Cathedral La
The cathedral rests on one of the
oldest mosque of Al-Andalus (750). It was replaced by Romanesque
church after the Reconquista (1121).
Under archbishop Pedro López de Luna (1317–1345) a High-Gothic church with the present three central naves was built, keeping the Romanesque apses. In 1346 a Mudéjar dome was started to provide light at the altar. In 1360 the main facade was renovated and the so-called Parroquieta was built, all in Mudéjar style. The work was finished in 1376 creating a spacious, well-lit Gothic cathedral with numerous chapels.
The construction, elegantly carried out in a combination of Gothic architecture and Mudéjar ornamentation (arabesques), is a unique example of the work of its Seville and Aragonese masters, who covered the exterior walls with geometric designs made of smooth brick and glazed ceramic. In the interior, the ceiling of the nave is constructed of gilded wood, decorated in Mudéjar style.
During the Renaissance the Romanesque apses were elevated, two towers buttressing the sides of the apses were added, and a new dome was built in the shape of a Papal Tiara, decorated in 1409 by master Mohammed Rami.
During the 17th century, the Mudéjar tower was pulled down, and in 1686 construction was begun on a new one in the Baroque style.
In the second half of the 20th
century a thorough restoration of the building took place, which
lasted some 23 years.
In 1986 UNESCO declared the cathedral a Heritage Site for its unique Aragonese Mudéjar style.
Santa Maria del Sede, Spain
Seville Cathedral was built over the
Almohad Great Mosque (1184-1198) of Seville after the 1248 reconquest
of the city by Ferdinand III. For 150 years the mosque had served as
a Christian church, when it was decided to build a new cathedral that
would reflect the wealth and prosperity of the city. Between 1401 and
1432 the nave built, and in 1467 the east end was finished. The
vaults were drawn in between 1467 and 1489, the dome with lantern was
constructed 1489-1506. Disaster struck in 1511 when the dome and the
choir collapsed. By 1519 the damage had been repaired. It lasted
until 1888, when an earthquake destroyed the dome and vaulting a
The only remnant of the Almohad mosque is the Giralda, its former minaret. It was heightened to 104 m in 1568 with a Christian spire which survived to this very day. The cathedral has 80 chapels, in which 500 masses were said daily in 1896.
The cathedral was built on the present site between 1525-1593 in a late Gothic style using a design by the Trasmeran mason named Juan Gil de Hontañón and his son Rodrigo Gil de Hontañón. The building has three tall vaults and an ambulatory, with fine tracery windows with numerous stained glass windows. The interior is characterized by unity of style (late Gothic), except for the Baroque dome, built around 1630 by Pedro de Brizuela. The nave and the aisles are surrounded by 8 chapels.
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Monastery Santa Maria, Extramadura,
Alcobaça Monastery, Mosteiro
de Santa Maria de Alcobaça, was founded by the first
Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and maintained a close
association with the Kings of Portugal throughout its history.
The building of the monastery began in 1178, some 25 years after the arrival of the Cistercian monks in the Alcobaça region. Initially, the monks lived in wooden houses, and only moved to the new stone monastery buildings in 1223. The church was completed in 1252. The finished church and monastery were the first truly Gothic buildings in Portugal, and the church was the largest in Portugal. The last touch in the medieval ensemble was given in the late 13th century, when King Dinis I ordered the construction of the Gothic cloister.
Évora was reconquered from the Arabs in 1166 by Geraldo Sem Pavor (Gerald the Fearless), and soon afterward the new Christian rulers of the city began to build a cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This first building, built between 1184 and 1204, was very modest and was enlarged circa 1280-1340, this time in early Gothic style. The cathedral received several additions through time, such as the Gothic cloisters (1317-1340), the Manueline chapel of the Esporão (early 16th century) and a new, magnificent main chapel in Baroque style (first half of the 18th century).
The Monastery of Batalha, Mosteiro
da Batalha, literally Monastery of the Battle, is a Dominican
establishment. it was erected in commemoration of the 1385 Battle of
Aljubarrota, and would serve as the burial church of the 15th-century
Aviz dynasty of Portuguese kings. It is one of the most exuberant
examples of Late Gothic architecture in Portugal.
It took over a century to build, starting in 1386 and ending 1517, spanning the reign of seven kings and 15 architects.
The church is vast and narrow (22m) in proportion to its height (32.4 m). The nave was raised to its present height by the second architect Huguet (1426-1434), altering the proportions of the church and giving it its present aspect. Its interior gives a sober and bare impression by its complete lack of ornaments and statues in the nave. The ribbed vaults, supported by compound piers, are closed by ornamented keystones. The choir extends into two-bay transepts and consists of five apsidal chapels, with the central one projecting.
Batalha probably had the first workshop for stained-glass windows in Portugal. The art was introduced in Portugal by German artists from Franconia and Nuremberg The ogival stained-glass windows in the choir date from the 1520s and 1530s.
The Capelas Imperfeitas (The Unfinished Chapels) are a testimony to the fact that the church was actually never finished. They form a separate octagonal structure tacked onto the choir of the church (via a retrochoir) and are only accessible from the outside. They were commissioned in 1437 by King Edward ("Dom Duarte", d.1438) as a mausoleum for himself and his descendants.
The Royal Cloister (Claustro Real) in Manueline style was not part of the original project. It was built under the architect Fernão de Évora between 1448 and 1477.
The Jerónimos Monastery,
Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, is located near the shore in
Lisbon-Belém. The monastery is one of the most prominent
examples of the Portuguese Late Gothic Manueline style of
The existing structure was started on the orders of King Manuel I (1469–1521) in 1495. The construction of the monastery and church began in 1501. King Manuel originally funded the vast project with money obtained from the Vintena da Pimenta, a 5% tax on commerce from Africa and the Orient, equivalent to 70 kilograms of gold per year, with the exception of pepper, cinnamon and cloves, which went directly to the Crown.
The monastery was designed in a style that later became known as Manueline, an ornate architectural design that includes complex sculptural themes incorporating maritime elements carved in limestone. The construction came to a halt when the King Manuel I died in 1521.
The architect Diogo de Torralva resumed the construction of the monastery in 1550, adding the main chapel, the choir, and completing the two stories of the monastery, using only Renaissance motifs. Torralva's work was continued in 1571 by Jérôme de Rouen.
In 1604 Philip II of Spain (who ruled Portugal after the Iberian Union) made the monastery a royal funerary monument, prohibiting everyone but the Royal family and the Hieronymite monks from entering the building. After the restoration of Portuguese Independence (1640), the monastery regained much of its importance, becoming the royal pantheon.
Google-Earth markers for Sites in Cyprus
Sofia/Selemiye Mosque, Cyprus
The Selimiye Mosque is housed in the largest and oldest surviving Gothic church in Cyprus, formerly the Cathedral Santa Sofia.
The cathedral’s first
construction phase began during the first years of Frankish rule
(possibly in 1209) and by 1228 the eastern part of the building was
completed. By the end of the 13th century the side aisles and a large
part of the nave were completed. From 1319 to 1326 the Venetian
archbishop of Nicosia Giovanni del Conte or Giovanni de Polo was
responsible for the completion of the middle aisle, the construction
of the roof buttresses, the cathedral’s façade and the
building of a chapel (which functioned as a baptistery) in the
western part of the southern wall. He also adorned the cathedral with
frescoes and sculptures. In November 1326 the cathedral’s
official inauguration took place.
Due to the building’s large scale, lack of money and various historical events it took 150 years for the cathedral to be built and still, it was never completed since the southwest tower and the portico’s upper floor were not constructed.
With Nicosia's occupation by the
Ottomans (1570), the cathedral of Agia Sofia was turned into a mosque
and two minarets were added onto the building’s west part. The
cathedral’s rich sculptural decoration was destroyed and so
were the frescoes, the sculptures and its stained glass depicting
scenes from the Old and New Testament.
In August 1954 the monument was renamed the Selimye mosque in honor of Sultan Selim II (1566 – 1574) who ruled at the time of Cyprus’ conquest by the Ottomans.
Nikolas/Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque,
The French Lusignan dynasty ruling
as Kings of Cyprus from 1192 to 1489 brought with them the latest
French taste in architecture, notably developments in Gothic
architecture. The cathedral was constructed between 1298 and 1312 and
was consecrated in 1328.
The cathedral was built in Rayonnant Gothic style, quite rare outside of France, though mediated through buildings in the Rhineland. The historic tie between France and Cyprus is evidenced by its parallels to French archetypes, so much so that the building has been dubbed "The Reims of Cyprus". It was built with three doors, twin towers over the aisles and a flat roof, typical of Crusader architecture.
The upper parts of the cathedral's two towers suffered from earthquakes, were badly damaged during the Ottoman bombardments of 1571, and were never repaired. With the Venetians defeated and Famagusta fallen by August 1571, Cyprus fell under Ottoman control and the cathedral was converted into a mosque, renamed the "St.Sophia Mosque of Mağusa".
In 1954, it was renamed the Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque after the infamous commander of the 1570 Ottoman conquest.