Source: Art Theory For Beginners, p. 29 Bottom.

Gothic architecture is all big cathedrals, with pointed arches, and flying buttresses, supporting intricate sculptures and beautiful decoration. Based on sophisticated engineering, the building's skeleton could house huge stained glass windows. Abbot Suger 1081—1155 described in detail the improvements he made to the French cathedral of St. Denis (one of the first Gothic cathedrals). He stuffed his building full of precious materials and artworks, symbolising "divine radiance," and thought that the new stained glass windows reflected the "light of God." In painting and sculpture a very elegant, colorful, and decorative, religious art developed at the end of this period, which is known as International Gothic.

Doesn't the first sentence overhead fit Baroque Architecture? I also read this.

  • 6
    This does not seem like a history question. How to classify architectural styles is an architecture question even when referring to buildings constructed in the past.
    – Semaphore
    Apr 23, 2018 at 6:38
  • 2
    If you think Gothic architecture and Baroque architecture are similar you clearly haven't seen either. Apr 23, 2018 at 7:29
  • 8
    @Semaphore It's also a question of Art history Apr 23, 2018 at 8:09
  • 3
    Seems like the first step would be to compare the two Wikipedia pages and a google image search. Once you've done that, can you explain why the differences are not clear? I suspect some of the difference has to do with the amount of ornamentation.
    – MCW
    Apr 23, 2018 at 9:09
  • 3
    "Crocodiles have 4 legs. Wikipedia says zebras have 4 legs, too. Is there any difference between those two?" Any prior research? You should really take at least a look at photos or some basic text which includes specifics, and go beyond on such vague descriptions as "big cathedrals and beautiful decoration"
    – Greg
    Apr 27, 2018 at 4:16

1 Answer 1


Short answer (Edited and expanded)

A full one would require a book or several.

Gothic architecture was a break from the Romanesque style which preceded it, based on round arches, fat columns, and thick walls or buttresses to bear the downward and outward thrust, and small windows. The pointed arch of the Gothic is more efficient at load-bearing; it also deals better with changes in space - eg a wide nave meeting a narrower transept - since the angle of the arch can be varied without awkward junctions.

This, together with flying buttresses enabled Gothic (churches) to rise higher, use slimmer, often clustered, columns and, crucially, permit more window openings. They were open to the Divine light, windows into Heaven.

1) Rheims Cathedral Interior

Rheims Cathedral Interior

When the Renaissance rediscovered Classical Greco-Roman architecture, Gothic was seen as a debased style; the very term "Gothic", suggesting barbarous and uncivilised, was a term of abuse. The "Classical language" of Greco-Roman architecture was revived, influenced by people like Palladio. Classical architecture rejected the flamboyance of the Gothic for restraint, harmony and proportion.

2) Chiswick House, London

Chiswick House

Finally we come to the Baroque! Baroque used the Classical forms, but in new and innovative ways. (The term "Baroque" originally meant a defective pearl, and came to mean "eccentric, bizarre".) Where Classical architecture is restrained, Baroque is monumental, tectonic: it handles space in a totally new way - colonnades sweep round, facades advance and retreat, mass is piled upon mass.

3) Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace

4) Castle Howard Yorkshire England - Great Hall

Castle Howard Yorkshire England Great Hall

If you compare the interior of Rheims Cathedral (1) with the Great Hall at Castle Howard (4) you will see how different they are. Yes, they are both lofty and enclose large spaces, but there the similarities end. Rheims is linear, leading the eye to the sanctuary and High Altar. Castle Howard is self-referential - it is saying "Look at me" (not God!) And the actual forms are completely at odds; the Great Hall uses round, Romanesque arches, but built on giant pillars, themselves resting on monumental plinths. The statuary is classical, Romans or psuedo-Romans, not saints or Biblical figures. Yet even these "heroic" figures are dwarfed by the scale of the setting, which is literally awe-inspiring.

Baroque became the architectural language of power - popular in Catholic, absolutist France, largely rejected in Protestant, constitutional Britain, where it was frequently laughed at. Pope famously remarked about Blenheim :-

Thanks, sir, cried I, tis very fine, but where do you sleep or where d'ye dine? I find by all you have been telling, that 'tis a house but not a dwelling'

Pope arguably missed the point. The Baroque was no more about comfort than it was about religion. It was power and magnificence in stone.

Recommended : 50 Architecture Ideas you need to know Philip Wilkinson London 2010

(All illustrations from relevant Wikipedia pages.)

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