Gothic Architecture—“Infinity made Imaginable”

From the Renaissance time period and well into the 19th century, the Gothic style had fallen far from its intended resonance.  Fortunately, such shifts of appreciation do swing back to former appreciation and perhaps glory.  Such is the time in which we now live as more and more Gothic cathedrals, abbeys, monasteries, and cloisters are finding themselves to be art and architecture destinations.  The Western world is better off now that the Gothic is being seen in greater light.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in his Table Talk of 1833, wrote the following:  “The principle of the Gothic architecture is infinity made imaginable.”  A mere eight years later, John Keble published the following observation in his Lectures on Poetry:  1832-41 (1844):  “A style of architecture which, to me at least, is, in comparison with all others, the most beautiful of all, and by far the most in harmony with the mysteries of religion.”

What are your thoughts of Gothic architecture as the proper aesthetic form to encase “the most beautiful of all, and by far the most in harmony with the mysteries of religion”?

Exterior View of Sainte-Chapelle

Interior of Sainte-Chapelle


Published by: roberttracyphd

Academic professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. I teach theory courses in Art and Architecture History. In addition, I also curate exhibitions on campus as well as in other venues nationally and internationally.


13 thoughts on “Gothic Architecture—“Infinity made Imaginable””

  1. I have been in quite a few cathedrals and with the use of Gothic Architecture it is easy to see how this style of architecture weighs on your perception. Depending on the cathedral the light may vary, but for the most part, whenever you enter these types of cathedrals you are greeted by natural luminescent lights and feelings of openness. These buildings almost appear bigger on the inside than they do on the outside. I have yet to see anything that may translate the mysteries and beauty of religion better. I believe Gothic architecture blends well with religion because it uses elements from sacred geometry, natural sources of energy for light, and these cathedrals take a much longer time to build. Sometimes these buildings incorporate the tiniest details but the time used to create them is a journey within itself. I think this enhances the idea that the building is used for a place of worship.


  2. What makes Gothic architecture a beautiful sight may depend on its structural and dominant appearance. I would not say it rules out on top, however, I am pleased with how the development had been a huge influence on culture, literature, and art. There is a sense of fascination for its complex layout and harsh ridges. For the matter of subjective analysis it beguiles us to associate religious affairs and a sort of mysterious judgement imposed by worshipers of God. One may not be in love with the architecture, but to me it does speak another language, described as both ‘formal’ and ‘direct.’


  3. The Gothic style of architecture enveloped in the mid twentieth century in France. The Gothic architecture was a new era that changed design and engineering of buildings. The Gothic architecture created buildings that were larger but with thinner walls. The Saint Chapelle is consider the late Gothic and is represented by soaring stained glass windows. The building design uses arches and thin walls. The stain glass windows have colorful shapes. I love Gothic architecture but we don’t us it because it is more expensive.


  4. The beauty that I find in Gothic architectures might be biased. Growing up in a third world country, the sights of the Catholic churches is such a marvel in contrast to the common sights of poor neighborhoods. I don’t think the community church that I attended is Gothic but it did have very high ceilings, stained glass windows, and the sense of grandeur. In Gothic architecture, all of these features are amplified. It leaves me in awe thinking all the work that the craftsmen have put into every detail of the building. I love detailed work and when it’s done right, it could produce perfection. I believe every era have their own sense or style of beauty. The Gothic and the Renaissance are probably my favorites among the rest.


  5. I am constantly fascinated with what the world has to offer, especially in Gothic style architectures. These unimaginable yet complex buildings are built upon carefully engineered geometric shapes and pointed arches. The original Gothic style, ironically, not so much of what the word “goth” intended to mean but it was said to bring light to the people’s lives, especially into cathedrals/churches. For instance, the Sainte-Chapelle, a building made of glass, with windows high and opening towards the sky. The mystery of the church lies within these stained glass window panes. The kind of harmonious satisfaction it brings when it allows light flooding through the blue and purple stained glass makes the chapel a more mystical and wondrous gothic architect of all times. The Gothic aesthetics give a powerful vision to our visitors from around the world.


  6. Gothic architecture can be recognized from other architecture style because it has the mysterious aura that comes out from the architect itself. Gothic architect is built with colored stained glass window, high ceiling, and decorative carving to the inner and outer walls. It is a complex yet harmonized from all of these different aspect that makes it Gothic style. I believe that is the reason why it is beautiful and mysterious at the same time because of its uniqueness.


  7. i feel like i kind of just answered this question in the last discussion, but i have a preference fro Gothic architecture. I have a love for line and crisp clean design and every catholic cathedral ive been to has been a staple of the iconic designs with the open space and the stained glass windows. I appreciate the manipulation of light into the buildings and the use of stone to hold everything together plus they always seem to be really cool on the interior so it makes it practical and saves on the power bill.


  8. Gothic architecture has a feeling of being “gravity defying” with its extremely tall vaulted archways and ceilings, as if it is reaching up towards heaven itself. This, combined with the use of finer supporting columns and the “heavenly” light emanating through the exquisite stained glass windows, creates a sense of “heaven on earth” for visitors. More than any other architectural style I have experienced, this supports Keble’s statement: “…the most in harmony with the mysteries of religion.” I am so grateful that during the centuries when the Gothic seemed old fashioned and out of favor, these beautiful buildings were preserved for us to enjoy today.


  9. Gothic architecture is very beautiful. I don’t have very much personal experience with Gothic architecture, but from the images that were shown in class, there is an extravagance that just is not seen in other art styles. The interiors of these buildings are vast and open which gives an angelic sound to choir voices as they sing their praises to God. The stained-glass windows give a unique atmosphere where people feel as if they are surrounded by God when they enter. Every design choice that is made is religious in nature; it is to make people feel as if the path to a happy afterlife can only happen if they live a moral life through the teachings of Christ and other religious figures. The aesthetic beauty of these cathedrals adds to the appeal of the Christian way of life. Only through God could something so alluring have been created. The exterior of these buildings might seem intimidating, while the interior is simply magical. This could represent the leap of faith that is required when becoming a Christian. It is scary to have to accept something that you cannot see, but once you accept God into your life (i.e. enter the cathedral) you start to reap the benefits of a spiritual person. So yes, I do agree with John Keble that the Gothic is the best architectural representation of the wonders of religion.


  10. I think Gothic Architecture has a big impression on perception of religion to remind us that we our sinners in our mortal state. Its a sensorial experience, to take us to another place. Inside cathedrals is a reference to what is possible, a perfected state. There is a special light that we look up to, taking us from mortality to a celestial zone. They created that transition to give you a sense of hope. a powerful metaphor of love and commitment. In some ways, it reminds me of the Rococo art movement, in the way that every detail is decorative and adorned to an almost gaudy extreme. Personally I find them both to be excessive, but my feelings towards the Gothic art movement recently have moved more towards admiration, after learning about it’s symbolism in class.


  11. I agree that Gothic architecture is, “the most beautiful of all.” Perhaps because I was raised catholic and was surrounded by it, I have found soils and comfort in its arches and glasswork. I am bias because I believe that saying it is harmonious with religion simply because I was surrounded by the two and recognize them as one. In a religious person’s life the light is something we turn to— God being symbolic within light— and in that the style of gothic architecture parallels this concept.


  12. I really enjoy architectural feats done in the gothic style, and I have yet to see an image of a cathedral that isn’t beautiful. However, while gothic architecture has excellent aesthetics that make it an admirable style to emulate, it is not necessarily the canon of all religious spaces. There are many different religions and cultures that have established their own style for building a religious space. There is beauty to be seen in mosques, synagogues, and temples. It’s understandable that each culture or religion would like to think of their architectural style for religious spaces as the “proper” way to encase the mysteries of religion. I however think that any space dedicated to worship of the Lord, no matter what its architectural features, is a beautiful and respect worthy place.


  13. The Gothic architecture differs widely from the style of Romanesque and others before it. The style is much lighter and luminescent. Previously, religious architecture was very grounded and heavy with this feeling of separation between mortality and godliness. With the Gothic aesthetic churches sparkle on the inside with the use of colored stained glass windows and there is a feeling of being lifted the high pointed arches. The supports for these arches are also much thinner and allow much more light in. Sunlight seeping through these windows provides viewers with a heaven-on-earth experience that transcends beyond the earthly realm. It’s not so much a fear of what can do as seen in churches with heavy stone carvings and painted rooms but a hope into seeing what God’s light can provide. Gothic architecture does the best job in encasing “the most beautiful of all, and by far the most in harmony with the mysteries of religion.”


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