Most Famous Gothic Buildings


There are so many different types of architecture this world has to offer. Today we are going to be focussing on Gothic architecture design. There are many things we have to learn about Gothic design so let’s jump straight in. Continue reading if Gothic designs are something that interests you or is simply something you want to learn more about.

What Is Gothic Architecture?

famous gothic buildings

If you have never heard about Gothic architecture before, or have but do not have an abundance of information surrounding this topic, allow me to help you out. During the late 12th century all the way into the 16th century, Gothic architecture made its popular and significant debut all around Europe as it was originally founded in northern France. During this time, people were living in the High and Middle Ages. Don’t be fooled, these buildings didn’t just disappear after the 16th century. In some places throughout Europe, these Gothic architect designs survived into the 17th and 18th centuries. Gothic architecture may also be known to some as pointed or ogival architecture.

This particular style of architecture was heavily inspired and influenced by Romanesque architecture. Romanesque architecture was what came right before Gothic architecture came to the forefront of societies. As the sizes of populations grew, the need for more space within churches and cathedrals became a necessity. Gothic architects took this idea and created their work with it in mind. Gothic architecture is larger and more spacious than Romanesque buildings, with larger windows providing more natural light.

Physical Traits Of Gothic Architecture

There are many physical traits that are present within famous Gothic cathedrals and famous Gothic churches. Here is a list and a brief explanation of a few common characteristics:

  • Stained Glass

As mentioned earlier, as architects transitioned from the preceding Romanesque architectural designs into Gothic architecture, the additions of large windows came into play. Not just any ordinary windows either. Rather, these greatest Gothic cathedrals had beautiful stained-glass windows which welcomed color and light into space.

  • Pointed Arches

Another feature that made Gothic church design layouts stand out from the rest was the large pointed arches that they possessed. The pointed arches are why Gothic architecture was sometimes considered pointed architecture, for their appearances are quite sharp. These pointed arches accentuated the height that these buildings have, pointing towards the skies, perhaps even pointing towards the heavens.

  • Ribbed Vaults

Ribbed vaults were introduced out of necessity for the support of the tall, arched ceilings. Although necessary, these ribbed vault ceilings brought another layer of beauty into space. They were these beautiful beams that all met in the center of the arches, drawing the eye upward to appreciate the extremely high ceilings.

  • Flying Buttresses

Buttresses are essentially external beams that architects use to support the outer walls of a structure. Flying buttresses were used with the designs of Gothic architecture as the architects were dedicated to maintaining tall, thin walls. In order to ensure support whilst maintaining these beautiful walls, the use of flying buttresses, similar to that of the ribbed vaults, was a necessity, resulting in a beautiful outcome.

  • Ornamental Decorations

The ornamental decorations used in these Gothic cathedrals were the cherries on top. The churches and cathedrals would have been just as beautiful without these extra details. However, these embellished colonnades, pinnacles, gargoyles and more truly make these buildings extremely eye-catching and memorable.

Famous Gothic Buildings

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral

Chartres Cathedral is a Roman Catholic Church that can be found in Chartres. It is still active today which is quite amazing as it was built between the years 1194 – 1220. This cathedral in particular falls under both the category of High Gothic architecture and Romanesque. The overlapping qualities make sense to reiterate, the Romanesque era is the predecessor of the Gothic era. UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization have deemed the Chartres Cathedral one of the high points of French Gothic Art.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

The Cologne Cathedral, as the name makes obvious, is located in Cologne, Germany. This is a Catholic cathedral which is Germany’s most visited site. The Cologne Cathedral is not quite the biggest Gothic cathedral though it is the tallest twin-spired church in the world. This cathedral began to be built in the year 1248 however some halts in the process were made along the way. It wasn’t until 1880 that the Cologne Cathedral was finally completed.



Sainte-Chapelle is considered to be a Gothic chapel which is located in Paris, France. The construction of this royal chapel began in 1238 and was completed on April 26, 1248. The Sainte-Chapelle was damaged during the French Revolution however still stands today due to reparations in the 19th century. If we focus on the stained-glass windows of this Gothic architectural masterpiece, we will be blown away. The Sainte-Chapelle royal chapel is considered having the most extensive stained-glass collection for the 13th century in the entire world.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame

Cathédrale Notre-Dame

A Gothic cathedral that is extremely well-known is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame located in Paris. This particular cathedral was consecrated to the Virgin Mary. 1163 was the year in which the construction of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame began. In the year 1260, it was finally considered to be completed, though changes were continued to be made. As you may already know, in the recent year of 2019, Notre-Dame caught on fire. This was tragic news which thanks to the help of social media immediately spread globally. Repairs are still being made in hopes to make Cathédrale Notre-Dame one of the modern Gothic cathedrals.

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano is special in that it took nearly six whole centuries to complete. The construction of this beautiful cathedral began in 1386 and was not completed until 1965. That’s right, the Duomo di Milano was completed only 56 years ago. This church is the largest in Italy and the second largest in all of Europe. Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo was one of the famous Gothic architects who began the construction of the Duomo di Milano. The denomination of this church is Roman Catholic, and it is still active and alive today.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

The Westminster Abbey is an extremely popular Gothic architectural piece. Located in London, England, many go to visit the Westminster Abbey to gawk at its beauty and history. Just East of the Westminster Abbey is the Palace of Westminster. The status of this building has gone through many phases. Beginning as a Benedictine monastic church, following as a cathedral, to then being an abbey or cathedral, to now be considered a Church of England. An interesting fact about Westminster Abbey is that it is home to a burial ground for more than 3,300 people.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral

This cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral, is known by many to be the oldest Christian structure in all of England. Founded in 597, architects completely rebuilt and renovated this cathedral between 1070 and 1077. A fire took place in 1174. During the rebuild following the fire, this cathedral was rebuilt in a gothic style. This cultural landmark can still be found today, standing tall with five towers in Canterbury.

Cathedral of Barcelona

Cathedral of Barcelona

When talking about Gothic architecture, we must include some examples of Spanish Gothic cathedrals. One of many would be the Cathedral of Barcelona. This cathedral was being built from the ground up during the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. All cathedrals have their memorable features. What calls people to this cathedral are the gargoyles on the roof. There is a wide range of animals from all families both mythical and domestic. The Cathedral of Barcelona is still active today.

History Through Architecture

I have always been incredibly drawn to older buildings, as many others are as well. For me, it is not only their beauty that draws me in, it is all the places my mind wanders whilst admiring it. I think about all the histories that went on within and outside the walls. With Gothic architecture, in particular, the beauty is astonishing, yes, but the history these buildings hold is incredible.

The fact that many Gothic architecture designs are still alive and active today is a true gift. It is one thing to learn about the history of architecture in books, but to actually be able to see and experience these masterpieces with your own eyes is magical. I hope that after today you have gained some knowledge surrounding that of Gothic architecture. If you ever get the chance to visit one of these incredible buildings, do not pass it up.

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