Gothic architecture was one of the most prevalent styles throughout Europe from the 12th to the 16th century.
Since that time, various architectural movements and styles have drawn inspiration from the gothic architectural style. It is a style that’s defined by vaulted spaces and walls that were overlaid with tracery.
In this article, we’ll explore 10 of the most famous gothic architecture works in history and the designers behind them.
Famous Gothic Architecture
1. Chartres Cathedral
Chartres Cathedral is said to be one of the most famous pieces of gothic architecture from the 12th and 13th century in Europe. The cathedral was built by the Roman Catholic Church to officially serve as the seat of the Bishop of Chartres.
The Chartres Cathedral sits in Chartres, which is just north of Paris in central France and is viewed as one of the most prominent churches in the world. It serves as a major historical landmark in this section of France, as well as one of the country’s most impressive architectural works from any period in history.
The Chartres Cathedral was a project that was constructed between 1194 and 1120 A.D. Since it was completed, there have been numerous remodel and upgrade projects done to the interior and exterior of the cathedral, but it has mostly retained its ribbed foundational design.
Much of the cathedral’s interior has been cleaned in recent years, which gives it a much more stunning appearance to those within its walls. Chartres Cathedral is very often considered to be the pinnacle of gothic architectural achievement.
2. Cologne Cathedral
Another popular work of gothic architectural achievement is the Cologne Cathedral, which sits in the town of Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany.
This cathedral resembles the Chartres Cathedral in many ways, but also boasts its own distinct characteristics that set it apart from other works that were built during earlier or later periods.
The Cologne Cathedral features a similar appearance on the front-facing section that’s facing the west to that of the Chartres Cathedral.
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This massive church was built under the rule of the Holy Roman Emperor and was initially meant to serve as a place of worship for the emperor. Construction on the project began in 1248 and would drag on for decades before stalling around 1560 A.D. for a variety of reasons that forced builders to abandon the structure.
It was not until the early 19th century that builders once again worked on the high-reaching towers and exterior sections. The Cologne Cathedral was finally completed in 1880.
3. Notre Dame de Paris
One of the most famous cathedrals and churches in the world is Notre Dame de Paris. Many people travel from all over the world to Paris, France each year and one of the city’s main attractions happens to be the Notre Dame cathedral.
It is located in the heart of Paris and is situated along a middle island section in the Seine River known as Île de la Cité. This large Roman Catholic cathedral is one of the best-known examples of builders using such architectural innovations as the rib vault and the flying buttress.
Notre Dame de Paris was under construction beginning in 1163 A.D. and it was Bishop Maurice de Sully who was tabbed to oversee the project’s beginning phases.
It was finally completed nearly two centuries later in 1345 after having several architects oversee the work of the cathedral. Notre Dame de Paris has suffered extensive damage and desecration over the years, especially during the French Revolution and during the 20th and 21st centuries.
A fire destroyed much of the cathedral’s ceiling, which was made up of elaborate woodworking and pillars, but efforts are currently underway to restore this section.
4. Reims Cathedral
Another one of the most well-known gothic cathedrals in the world is the Reims Cathedral, which is located in the historic city of Reims, France. It is officially known as Notre-Dame de Reims, which translates to “Our Lady of Reims” in English.
The cathedral contains a litany of gothic architectural characteristics and was a church that had been officially dedicated to the Virgin Mary upon its completion. The Reims Cathedral also served as the traditional seat of coronation for the kings of France.
Construction began on the structure that is the Reims Cathedral today in 1211 A.D. However, the massive cathedral was built on the site of an already-existing church that is believed to date back to the 5th century A.D. and was likely founded by Bishop Nicasius at some time around 425 A.D.
This cathedral is known for its elaborate front-facing facade and the numerous historic artworks contained inside its walls.
5. Milan Cathedral
Another one of the most striking gothic buildings in the world is yet another sprawling cathedral that was built during the height of the Roman Catholic church’s influence over Europe during the medieval period.
The Milan Cathedral is situated in Milan, Italy in a city that used to function as its own sovereign state for many centuries. The Milan Cathedral is actually the largest church in Italy and is arguably the most extensively-decorated of any other church in the country, including Saint Peter’s Basilica, which is located in Vatican City.
Construction on the Milan Cathedral began in 1386, but builders would encounter various obstacles along the centuries following which delayed and stalled any progress on the structure for much longer than anyone ever anticipated.
The Milan Cathedral is well known for the detailed and beautiful statues that sit along the top of the structure and it is one of the greatest works done according to the gothic architectural style.
6. Westminster Abbey
London, England is filled with a variety of historical structures in and around the city, but Westminster Abbey is arguably the most famous building in England’s capital city.
This large, extensively-decorated church is the site of many of the English country’s official ceremonies that include weddings, funerals and even the coronation of kings and queens.
The church was founded in 1062, but construction on Westminster Abbey did not begin until 1245 under orders from King Henry III. The church was not part of the Roman Catholic denomination and exists under the Church of England.
The project of building the main cathedral structure lasted multiple decades, but Westminster Abbey was largely completed in 1269.
Various additions and upgrades have been made over the centuries since this time, but this church still exists as one of the most prominent gothic churches in the world.
7. Basilica of Saint-Denis
One of France’s most historically-rich cities is that of Saint-Denis, which is located on the northern side of Paris. This city is home to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, which is another famous building that’s recognized for its gothic architectural characteristics and qualities.
The Basilica of Saint-Denis became a place of pilgrimage for many people within the Catholic faith as it was the site of a necropolis that contains the tombs of all the kings of France, dating back to Louis XVIII.
Construction on the Basilica of Saint-Denis began at some time during the late 12th century and was completed in different phases throughout France’s history. This church is considered one of the greatest early gothic works from the medieval period.
8. Florence Cathedral
The Florence Cathedral is among the most widely-recognized churches in Italy for a variety of reasons, but it is also one of the most impressive gothic structures still in existence.
The cathedral’s massive dome is designated as the world’s largest masonry dome and this beautiful church draws millions of visitors each year.
Construction on the Florence Cathedral began in 1296 during the height of the gothic architectural style’s popularity in Europe. The project would continue on for nearly two centuries before it was finally completed in 1436.
Much of the Florence Cathedral’s design is credited to Arnolfo di Cambio, who is recognized as one of Italy’s most famous architects and builders.
9. Canterbury Cathedral
Another one of the world’s greatest gothic architecture works is also located in England and was built by architects from the Roman Catholic church.
The Canterbury Cathedral is among England’s most famous structures and is located in Canterbury, Kent. The current structure was built on an existing church that is said to date back to the late 6th century.
Construction on the Canterbury Cathedral began in 1070, but it was later, during the 1170’s, before much of the church’s gothic characteristics were added.
Work continued until Canterbury Cathedral was finally completed in 1834.
10. Amiens Cathedral
The Amiens Cathedral is one of the most distinct gothic-style churches in the world and it is also among the most famous historic sites in northern France.
The cathedral sits along a ridge overlooking the River Somme and offers a strikingly-beautiful front-facing facade.
Construction on the Amiens Cathedral began in 1220 and was fully completed by 1270, which was a remarkable achievement for builders during this time period.
This gothic cathedral is the largest in France and is twice the size of Notre Dame de Paris.