Courses Spring 2012

The Art and Architecture of Gothic Cathedrals, 1140-1400

Undergraduate lecture

This lecture course presents a series of case studies of Gothic ecclesiastical buildings, from the Benedictine abbey church of St-Denis near Paris (ca. 1140) to the imperially funded cathedral in Prague (ca. 1344-1400). The materials are organized chronologically and geographically, beginning with the origins of Gothic in the Ile-de-France and spreading outward to England, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Central Europe; students will thus emerge with an understanding of the design principles of Gothic style both in its “classic” guise and in its regional variants. The aim of the class, however, is not only to provide a developmental survey of Gothic architecture, but also to understand each building as a multi-functional, multi-media entity in its own right. To that end, we’ll be looking at the political situation and conditions of patronage in which each building emerged, the ritual actions that unfolded within and around the architecture, and the role of allied media – sculpture, stained glass, metalwork, textiles, and other liturgical furnishings and paraphernalia – in facilitating these rituals and shaping the experience of viewers. Students will emerge from the course with a deepened understanding of the various forms and functions of religious architecture and allied arts during the twelfth through fourteenth centuries; knowledge of medieval cultural and political practices associated with church buildings; and a sense of how modern scholarship has opened these distant monuments to ever-new interpretations.

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