#1 Christian Architecture Styles: Gothic
What makes it great?
All architecture conveys meaning. Good architecture tends to harmonise in something greater, in conveying a greater message, which is embedded at smaller scales in the architecture itself.
A great example of this is Gothic architecture. Because the Christian message is so great and complex, there are different architecture styles which point at this truth.
Byzantine, Romanesque or Gothic, all show different aspects of the Christian message. All symbolism, the symbols in the architecture here presented, show a deeper reality which is clear, and which we take in unconsciously. They bring us to higher realities.
The Cosmic Structure of Cathedrals
All churches are a microworld, showing symbolic truths. They are an image of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Great church architecture is biblical. Ultimately, church architecture points to reality.
The gargoyles show how the church, as a miniworld, is defended by the gargoyles, which spout rain water at the enemies.
Another fact of this cosmic reality is that it is not possible to enter the church by the most holy part (the sanctuary). You step from the narthex, nave, to the sanctuary, the holiest part of a church. Each step, is a step closer to the most holy, the most inner of the church.
Each well-structured part of reality needs a center to hold, without this, it falls apart. For churches, the sanctuary and the altar serve this function. All of reality is a hierarchy leading up to God.
One of the main focuses of gothic architecture, compared to Byzantine and Romanesque architecture is height, the pointing upwards. Romanesque architecture tends to be low and to have a sturdy feeling.
Gothic cathedrals focus instead on lightness, on pulling you upwards. The stained glass windows are long vertical windows of brightness. This points at the vertical dimension of life, the ontological reality of Being. At the top, it comes together in patterns which point at the number Three.
St Gregory of Nyssa, in his work The Life of Moses explains how the Saints are the pillars of the world. The stained glass windows, which are vertical indeed point to the pattern of the Trinity at the top. They serve as a pillar to uphold the cathedral.
Besides the stained windows (this pattern of pillars supporting the truly cosmic structure of the Gothic cathedral), the statues, which are shown on every side. These statues show again how the saints and often the Virgin are the material support, and how we should strive to become a part of this, in our calling as a saint.
Everything has a feeling of lightness. It tends to focus more on the heavenly aspect of reality, instead of the material aspect. Both material and form (as in the Platonic framework), are needed, but Gothic tends to focus more on the formal aspects of reality.
There is a certain kind of lightness that is implied in gothic architecture. It lets light in, and this makes it very bright. Besides architectural tricks, the stained glass windows help doing this.
One truly has a heavenly feeling. This feeling is made stronger by the echo effects when singing. The height of gothic churches makes it possible to sing and then hear an echo of this in time. The singing of the choir raises up, and it seems as if the angels answers, a truly beautiful effect.
Besides that, the stained glass also serves a particular function. It enlightens the architecture inside, and received light (which in general is a symbol of the Divine Truth). They are enlightened or inspired by Divine Truth.
Trinity and Triangles
Gothic churches put a heavy focus on triangles and triangular form. This is clear in the examples given above. The stained glass windows at the top show three patterns, which again have three circles in them. In total 9 circles. It’s a double emphasis on the trinity. God is fractally present throughout reality. The nested pattern (3 circles in 3 circles), shows this very clearly. God is present at every level of reality. This fractal pattern of 3 by 3 also returns in the Kyrie of the Roman mass (3 times Kyrie followed by 3 times Christe Eleison, then finishing by 3 times Kyrie). Christianity is an incarnational religion. This means that God acts in the world.
Kyrie eleison (3x)
Christe eleison (3x)
Kyrie eleison. (3x)
The Kyrie from the Roman Missal
Secondly, beside the trinity, the pattern of triangles also points at the how Christianity is ultimately a non-dual religion, all ultimately resolves in God. All duality exists, but can be resolved, in God, which is ultimately oneness.
For this, you need to envision two bottom points, supporting a top part. Religions which are focused on duality try to split everything up. Everything in modern ideologies is an opposition (based on an arbitrary measure). Based on this fake division (this concept is similar to Hegels thesis, antithesis), societies are divided up. In these societies, only the bottom part (the two dots) are realised. The conflict around which these two dots turn, are not visible. An example of this modern division is capitalism and communism. Both try to value a human in terms of his economic value, and based on that, a division in society is created. Christianity solves this problem, because all is united in God, there is no division anymore.
Christianity is not structured like this, it transcends this duality. The God of Christianity truly transcends all reality, while still being immanent (being in creation). Modern architecture such as brutalism is only focused on flatness. It has no transcendent point (the top of the triangle).
The pattern of the triangle, shows the pattern of material support of heavenly principles.
What is also important to mention, is that most Gothic cathedrals were beautifully colored. This extreme coloring could be a reason why the protestant revolution, which was generally an attack against wealth, against beauty and for soberness.
Color, is again a kind of information of hidden meaning. The blueness of Our Lady points at the water of the sea (a simple example). A white wall compared to a richly decorated wall is a huge difference in meaning.
Gothic architecture is harmonic. It points to something higher. It is almost part of heaven (with the amount of light it lets in). Gothic lifts you up. This is why it truly transcends. The gothic cathedrals of Europe (think of the cathedrals of France) will stand.