A Guide to Understanding Gothic Architecture

Gothic architecture is arguably one of the most impressive architectural periods. Building elements widely seen in popular culture and embroidered like laces are enough to make this era the favorite of architecture lovers. There aren’t many people who don’t have anything significant in mind when it comes to Gothic. But still, aren’t there any ways to tell if a building is Gothic or not? Of course, there are! Here are some tips that will make you recognize Gothic structures instantly!

Flying Buttresses

The strange bearers you will see when approaching a Gothic structure from the outside are called flying buttresses. As you know, Gothic buildings have very high ceilings. They also have large spaces. You can see lots of glass, especially on its facades. As such, it was necessary to develop a different system to carry such massive structures. Flying buttresses support the walls of the structure from the outside, gradually transmitting the weight down. The walls are not crushed under the roof’s weight or collapse from side to side. You can check this to see an image of a flying buttress.

Pointed Arches

If you can see flying buttresses and pointed arch in a single structure, you can be sure that it was built in the Gothic style!

So why do the pointed arches made a sharp turn instead of semicircular arches? Actually, this is a pure choice of engineering. The ratio of height and width of the structure remains constant in semicircular arches. It is possible to adjust the dimensions as desired in pointed arches, and it provides excellent design freedom regarding the dimensions of the building. When combined with flying buttresses, the pointed arches turn into perfect carriers. As a result, the Gothic architects’ desire for the ever more significant rise is satisfied.

Stained Glass

Gothic buildings, especially Gothic churches, have their atmosphere. One of the most important sources of that atmosphere is stained glass. It is almost hypnotizing that the light refracted in the colorful windows creates games in the space! People must have understood this powerful influence also in the years when Gothic architecture was influential. They were generally used in religious buildings, and it is not possible to see stained glass in civil structures.

Actually, Gothic architecture aims to show people the greatness of God and how weak we are as humans against his power. Stained glass is also used to show this condition more. The light filtering through the colored glass into space is a representation of God’s light. The extraordinary impact this light creates inside is a tool that makes sacred places appeared, such as churches to be separated from magical places. So when you enter a Gothic church, you feel as if everything outside is far away.

Rose window

Can you imagine those flat windows adorning the main facade of Gothic buildings? This particular form is commonly seen in Gothic architecture. It is also called Rose Window. Sometimes it is seen that stained glass is used in these windows.

High Ceilings

The high ceiling is not the only characteristic of Gothic architecture. But when it comes to Gothic, we’re talking about really high ceilings. As we mentioned above, Gothic structures aim is to reflect the glory of God. High ceilings are also seen as a way to reach God. To explain better, we can look at Reverend Suger’s ideas, who started the Gothic movement. According to Suger, the church is the reflection of God’s kingdom on earth. For this reason, the church should evoke heaven and God. So we can say that the intense effort behind Gothic structures has based on strong religious foundations.


We couldn’t finish this article without the horrible creatures of Gothic architecture. Gargoyles, mythological creatures, are often seen in Gothic structures. Sometimes they are in such positions that feel like they follow you down from the buildings’ top. Sometimes they act as rain gutters. According to the legend, these creatures come alive at night and become petrified with the sunrise. Different cultures and beliefs have attributed other meanings to them. Some people believe that they are protective creatures; according to others, they are symbols of the devil. Whatever happens, we think it would be terrifying to see them in the dark. But they look well with Gothic buildings.

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