Illustrated Dictionary of British Churches

History and Architecture

Gothic

Originally a term of derision applied by post-medieval writers, who considered the architecture of the Middle Ages to be reminiscent of the destructive influence of the Goths on the classical civilisation of Rome. Gothic architecture in Britain was the period between the Norman, or Romanesque style, and the post-medieval Tudor style. It was originally called 'the French styl;e' as the principles of Gothic architectue first evolved in France. The main characteristics of Gothic church architecture are:

  • Pointed arch
  • Elaborate vaulting, using ribbed vaulting techniques
  • Clustered shafts of piers
  • Great interior height of buildings
  • Large windows, often with elaborate, curved tracery and stained glass

There are three main periods of Gothic architecture:

  • Early English (roughly 1180-1275)
  • Decorated (1280-1380)
  • Perpendicular (late 14th - early 16th century)
See individual listings for each of the three main periods for more details.

Gothic style was re-popularized during the Victorian period, when many churches were restored using the Victorian's interpretation of Gothic style. Such Victorian architecture is usually termed Gothic Revival, or Victorian Gothic.

Related: Arch   Romanesque   Early English   Vaulting   Victorian Gothic   Tracery  

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