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1. denoting, relating to, or resembling the style of architecture that was used in W Europe from the 12th to the 16th centuries, characterized by the lancet arch, the ribbed vault, and the flying buttress
2. of or relating to the style of sculpture, painting, or other arts as practised in W Europe from the 12th to the 16th centuries
3. of or relating to a literary style characterized by gloom, the grotesque, and the supernatural, popular esp in the late 18th century: when used of modern literature, films, etc., sometimes spelt: Gothick
4. of, relating to, or characteristic of the Goths or their language
5. of or relating to the Middle Ages
6. Gothic architecture or art
7. the extinct language of the ancient Goths, known mainly from fragments of a translation of the Bible made in the 4th century by Bishop Wulfila
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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Morpheus (left) and Grovella Blak were the owners of the gothic and vampire store Siren, which closed in 2005.


(pop culture)

In literature, the term “gothic” refers to a particular form of the popular romantic novel of the eighteenth century. Gothic novels continued to appear in the nineteenth century and have reemerged in strength as part of the paperback revolution of the last half of the twentieth century. Elizabeth MacAndrew approached the essence of the gothic experience by defining it as the literature of the nightmare. Gothic literature evolved out of explorations of the inner self, with all of its emotive, nonrational, and intuitive aspects.

Thus it emerged as a form of romanticism, but confronted the darker, shadowy side of the self. At its best, gothic works force the reader to consider all that society calls evil in human life.

Gothic novels called into question society’s conventional wisdom, especially during the post-Enlightenment period when special emphasis was placed on the rational, orderliness, and control. Gothic authors have challenged the accepted social and intellectual structures of their contemporaries by their presentation of the intense, undeniable, and unavoidable presence of the nonrational, disorder, and chaos. These are most often pictured as uncontrollable forces intruding from the subconscious in the form of supernatural manifestations of the monstrous and horrendous. Gothic literature, as Thompson noted, imposed a sense of dread. It created a complex mixture of three distinct elements: terror, the threat of physical pain, mutilation, and/or death; horror, the direct confrontation with a repulsive evil force or entity; and the mysterious, the intuitive realization that the world was far larger than our powers of comprehension could grasp.

To accomplish its self-assigned task, gothic literature developed a set of conventions. Generally, action was placed in out-of-the-ordinary settings. Its very name was taken from the use of medieval settings by its original exponents, stereotypically an old castle. The most dramatic sequences of the story tended to occur at night and often during stormy weather.

Integral to the plot, the characters attempted to function amid an older but disintegrating social order. It was a literary device that subtly interacted with the reader’s own sense of disorder. The energy of the story often relied on the combined attack on the naïve innocent and the defenders of the present order by momentarily overwhelming and incomprehensible supernatural forces in the form of ghosts, monsters, or human agents of Satan.

The Origins of the Gothic and the Vampire: The birth of gothic fiction is generally cited as the 1763 publication of The Castle of Otranto by British writer Horace Walpole (1717–97). The tale described the interaction of the descendants of Aphonse the Good, a twelfth-century ruler of a small Italian state. His heirs, both the good and the bad, joined some innocent bystanders in struggles to attain their personal goals, only to be diverted by the ghosts that haunted their castle. The success of Walpole’s novel inspired other writers to explore the gothic world. Most notable among those authors was Ann Radcliffe, who was often credited with developing the gothic novel into a true literary form through her novels The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1789), A Sicilian Romance (1790), The Romance of the Forest (1791), The Mysteries of Adolpho (1794), and The Italian (1797).

The popularity of the gothic novel directly led to the famous 1816 gathering of Lord Byron, Percy and Mary Shelley, and John Polidori in Switzerland. Each was invited to wait out the stormy weather by writing and reading a ghost story to the others. Mary Shelley’s contribution was the seed from which Frankenstein would grow. Byron wrote a short story that Polidori would later turn into the first modern vampire tale. The effect of the storm was heightened by the group’s consumption of laudanum. This typified the role that various consciousness-altering drugs played in stimulating the imagination of romantic authors. The use of laudanum, opium, and/or cocaine produced a dreamlike state so prized by poets and fiction writers of the era that they defined it as the epitome of the creative moment. It also occasionally induced nightmares and encouraged the exploration of the darker side of consciousness.

Once introduced, the vampire became a standard theme in gothic romanticism, especially in France. Leading the French exploitation of the vampire was Jean Charles Emmanuel Nodier. However, virtually every romantic writer of the nineteenth century from Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Edgar Allan Poe ultimately used either the vampire or a variation on the vampiric relationship in his or her work. Gothic fiction reached a high point in 1897 with the publication of the great vampire novel, Dracula. Like Polidori, Bram Stoker brought the Gothic into the contemporary world; but Stoker developed his themes far beyond Polidori. Dracula played on traditional gothic themes by placing its opening chapters in a remote castle.

Contemporary Transylvania (like contemporary Greece in Polidori’s story) replaced the older use of medieval settings and effectively took the reader to a strange pre-modern setting. However, Stoker broke convention by bringing the gothic world to the contemporary familiar world of his readers and unleashed evil from a strange land on a conventional British family. Neither the ruling powers, a strong heroic male, nor modern science could slow—much less stop—the spread of that evil. Except for the intervention of the devotee of nonconventional and supernatural wisdom, Abraham Van Helsing, the evil would have spread with impunity through the very center of the civilized but unbelieving world. Eventually, of course, Van Helsing was able to organize all the forces of good, including the necessary implements of what most considered an obsolete religion, to defeat Dracula.

Throughout the twentieth century, the vampire developed a life of its own. It flew far beyond the realm of the gothic, although it regularly returned to its gothic romantic home. The gothic vampire survived in novels and films, from Dracula (1931) to the horror features of Hammer Films. The genre experienced a notable revival in the 1960s through the television soap opera Dark Shadows’s. Dark Shadows’ success and the continued attention given to its basic myth vividly demonstrated the more permanent appeal of gothic realities in contemporary life. Dark Shadows was set in the late twentieth century, but action centered on an old mansion in a remote corner of rural New England. Its main characters were members of an old aristocratic family, the Collinses, who symbolized the establishment under attack by the hippie subculture of the time.

Vampire Barnabas Collins, and the accompanying supernatural horde that descended on the Collins family, seemed most analogous to the chaotic youthful uprising that was emerging in the very homes of the West Coast’s ruling elites.

The 1980s Gothic Movement: Heir to the gothic tradition, mixed with elements from the psychedelic/flower child/rock music subcultures of the 1960s and 1970s, was the gothic countercultural movement that appeared in most urban centers of the U.S. West during the 1980s. The movement’s origins can be traced to late 1970s, musical groups in the United Kingdom. It certainly also had its direct precursors in such bands as Black Sabbath and the punk rock music of the 1970s. Possibly the most prominent of those groups was Bauhaus, a rock band formed in 1978. In the following year, the band released the single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” their most popular recording to date. The song was picked up in 1983 for use in the opening sequence of the film version of Whitley Strieber’s The Hunger. Bauhaus was soon joined by such groups as Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cult, The Cure, and The Sisters of Mercy.

Together these bands created a variant music called gothic rock or death rock. A circuit of music clubs, most notably The Bat Cave in London, opened to provide a stage for their performances.

Gothic music, as all countercultural forms, articulated an explicit nonconformist stance vis-à-vis the dominant establishment. It opposed narrow sexual mores and traditional established religions. High priests, churches, and congregations were replaced with rock musicians, nightclubs, and fans. The music celebrated the dark, shadowy side of life and had a distinct fascination with death. Its slow, driving sound was frequently described as melancholy, gloomy, even morbid. To those enthralled by the new gothic culture, the vampire is perhaps the single most appropriate image.

In the continuing goth movement, both men and women dress in black. Men seem to be perpetuating vampiric images from Anne Rice novels, while women perpetuate what, at first glance, seems to be the persona of Morticia Addams of The Addams Family, Vampira, and Elvira, although some aim for a more Victorian funereal style or a modern vampish look. Vampires, blood, fangs, and bats have filled the pages of gothic magazines, whether or not vampirism is discussed.

The movement was especially popular in the early 1980s when it spread to the European continent and throughout North America. By the middle of the decade, however, it showed a marked decline in England. Bauhaus disbanded in 1983, although some of its members reformed as Love & Rockets. Most of the clubs that had provided meeting places for gothic aficionados turned their attention to other new trends in popular music, and The Bat Cave closed. To keep the movement alive when the media announced its obituary, one gothic band, Nosferatu, founded The Gothic Society and the periodical Grimoire. Through the remainder of the decade Grimoire became the new center of a network of gothic bands and fans. Curve, Rosetta Stone, Mortal Coil, Wraith, and Slimelight joined Nosferatu as bands of the gothic scene.

Even as the movement was suffering in England, it was experiencing the early stages of its emergence in the United States. By 1990, a number of gothic bands traveled a circuit of clubs, and fans kept up with the movement through their own fanzines. Propaganda was the first of the gothic fanzines to hit the newsstands and offered national (and international) coverage to the emerging gothic movement. Founded by “Propaganda Minister” Fred H. Berger, Propaganda provided some structure for “The Underground,” as the new gothic subculture referred to itself. The magazine publicized many gothic bands and personalities and provided advertising space for both gothic records and the variety of clothing, jewelry, and paraphernalia demanded by devoted fans. More recently, it produced two gothic videos, The Trilogy and Blood Countess, the second based upon the life of Elizabeth Bathory. In 1992, Propaganda was joined on the West Coast by the slick Los Angeles-based magazine Ghastly, published by Nosferatu Productions and edited by Jeremy Bai. Nosferatu Productions marketed the gothic subculture through a mail order catalog that included gothic fanzines, compact disc (CDs) and cassettes, cosmetics, clothing, and even condoms. Nosferatu also launched two additional periodicals: The Oracle, a monthly newsletter that updates readers on show dates and the latest releases on CD; and The Cabala, a fan networking journal.

Through the early 1990s, fans around the United States created a host of gothic fanzines that serviced the growing gothic community, including The Black Chronicle from Necronomicon Publishers, Dark Arts, Delirium, Dysmetria from Nosferatu Productions, Elegia: A Journey into the Gothic, Esoterra, La Noire D’Immortality, Machine Gun Etiquette, Permission, Terra-X, Theatre of the Night, Virtue et Morte, and Carpe Noctem.

Gothic writers were second only to the bands in defining the gothic world. The most notable are Poppy Z. Brite, author of the novel Lost Souls, and Lydia Lunch, an author and recording artist. Among Lunch’s writings is a vampire comic book, Bloodsucker (Eros Comics, 1992). Nights’ Children, the independent comic art of Wendy Snow-Lang also circulated freely through the gothic subculture.

In the 1990s the majority of large urban centers in the United States developed at least one nightclub that regularly featured gothic music. Most clubs scheduled gothic nights once or twice a week and devoted other evenings to closely related rock music, most often punk and/or industrial rock. Some of the more well known goth rock bands from the early 1990s were Ministry, Shadow Project, Christian Death, This Ascension, The Shroud, The Prophetess, and Death in June. They were joined through the mid-1990s by the likes of Skinny Puppy, Faith & Disease, and Thanatos. Several bands adopted specifically vampiric images, including Astro Vamps, London after Midnight, Lestat, Neither/Neither World,, and Transvision Vamp. In addition, individual musicians adopted stage personae tying them to the vampiric image. They include Eva Van Helsing of The Shroud and Vlad of Nosferatu. Toney Lestat of Wreckage claims to have met the real vampire Lestat de Lioncourt, the character featured in the vampire novels of Anne Rice. Toney Lestat adopted his name after Rice made the Lestat character famous.

Gothic music has continued to develop in relation to other trends in rock, especially industrial rock. Besides the bands who self-consciously play to a goth audience, there are others who have adopted much of the dark gothic image aimed at alienated teenagers, while reaching a somewhat different audience. Possibly the best example from the mid-1990s was Marilyn Manson, arguably the most controversial rock musician of the decade with a name constructed with reference to two of the previous generation’s most tragic figures. He was able to provoke parental anger unmatched since the Satanic bands of the 1980s.

The Atmospheric Gothic World: Integral to the contemporary gothic world is the dark and eerie atmosphere surrounding those who inhabit it. The presence of that atmosphere, initially created by the music and the decor of the nightclubs, has been furthered by the appearance of the bands and copied by the members of their audiences. Commonly, clothing is black, loose fitting, and revealing, though tight-fitting leather is an acceptable alternative. Hair, if combed, tends to be uncurled, razor cut, and either black or starkly blonde.

Accessories include chain mail and symbolic jewelry (ankhs, crosses, and daggers). Dark clothing combined with pale make-up and dark lipstick presents an overall image of death. A variety of specialty enterprises have arisen to supply the necessary clothing and accessories for the gothic public. Opened in 1988, Siren, a gothic shop in Toronto, was the oldest and best-known retailer of gothic clothing, jewelry, and accessories in North America, but it finally closed in 2005.

Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles emerged as popular reading material in the gothic world, and her leading character Lestat the ideal to emulate. Rice described Lestat as essentially an androgynous being—and for many an essential aspect of the gothic image is androgyny, an ideal of wholeness in which one part of a duality encompasses its opposite. Androgyny can be said to exist when light accepts darkness or pleasure recognizes the role of pain, but the word is most commonly associateded with individuals who blur the social distinctions between what is masculine and feminine. Many members of the gothic bands, especially the males, present a stage persona that make it difficult for the audience to immediately identify them as male or female and choose names with either no gender identification or an opposite one. The androgynous theme was an element present in such pre-gothic rock groups as Twisted Sister and KISS.

As a secondary theme, based in part upon the androgynous ideal, the gothic world has continued a self-conscious critique of the dominant sexual mores of late twentieth-century society. This critique was also present in previous movements such as punk rock. It has been reflected in the names of several gothic bands such as the Andi Sex Gang and Sex Gang Children. Some have noticed that the androgynous ideal (as articulated by Rice and embodied most forcefully in her male characters) was, in many ways, indistinguishable from the value system of the gay community. The homosexual aspect of the gothic world has been presented most clearly in Poppy Z. Brite’s writing.

Beyond just a demand for sexual freedom or the acceptance of homosexuality, some gothic music and literature have also argued for the destruction of the taboos that surround sadomasochism (an essentially androgynous activity that explores the pleasure of pain), fetishism, bondage, and other sexual activities still considered perverted even by many who consider themselves otherwise sexually liberated. Among the bands most focused on this message was Sleep Chamber, led by John Zewizz. Zewizz has argued that these various forms of sexual activity—among the most threatening and misunderstood by the general public—are merely a form of foreplay and, alone, are harmless and pleasure-producing. Several periodicals focused on this aspect of the gothic world, most prominently Blue Blood and Euronymous Future Sex. Possibly the most extreme element of the gothic scene is its celebration of death. The most extreme expression of this is found in the writing and activity of Leilah Wendell at the Westgate Gallery in New Orleans (

Through the first decade of the twenty-first century, the goth scene has continued in both England and North America, and to a lesser extent in such places as Australia and Japan. Magazines, goth retail shops, nightclubs, and bands have come and gone, though a few bands such as Alien Sex Fiend, Inkubus Sukkubus, Fields of the Nephilim, and Rosetta Stone have survived in the highly volatile field. The survival of the vampire theme in goth music is no better illustrated than in the CD collection Vampire Rituals: Gothic Music from the Deepest Depths of Hell (2006), which included cuts from twelve goth bands/artists.

The goth subculture continues to attract an audience of mostly young adults who see it as both a viable alternative to the mainstream culture of their elders and the pop culture of their contemporaries. Members of the goth movement remain the most marginalized of subcultures, relatively small in numbers but a viable community of like mind and heart. Though Western culture in general has been very tolerant of goths, occasionally they have become victims of hate crimes by those disturbed by the gothic dark demeanor.

Conclusion: The world of vampire enthusiasts fades imperceptibly into that of the gothic subculture. They support each other, although the mainstream of vampire fandom would not share the gloomy atmosphere that pervades the gothic world. Between the two communities, the observer can see the wide variation in the vampire’s role in the lives of different people.


Baddeley, Gavin. Goth Chic: A Gothic Guide to Dark Culture. London: Plexus, 2002. 288 pp.
Bevington, Gregory. “All Aboard the Ghost Train: An Interview with Tony Lestat.” Ghastly 2 (1992): 24–26.
Brite, Poppy Z. Lost Souls. New York: Delacorte Press, 1992. Rept. New York: Dell, 1993. 355 pp.
Duncan, Michelle. “Nosferatu: The Vampire’s Cry.” Propaganda 19 (1992): 8–10.
Goodlad, Lauren M. E., and Michael Bibby, eds. Goth: Undead Subculture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. 456 pp.
Hart, Paul. “Murphy on Bauhaus: Interview with the Vampire.” Propaganda 20 (1993): 8–11.
Hodkinson, Paul. Goth: Identity, Style and Subculture (Dress, Body, Culture). Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers, 2002. 288 pp.
Kilpatrick, Nancy. The Goth Bible: A Compendium for the Darkly Inclined. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2004. 304 pp.
MacAndrew, Elizabeth. The Gothic Tradition in Fiction. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979. 289 pp.
Mercer, Mick. Gothic Rock: Black Book. London: Omnibus Press, 1988. 95 pp.
———. Gothic Rock. Birmingham, UK: Pegesus Publishers, 1991. 178 pp.
Praz, Mario. The Romantic Agony. London: Oxford University Press, 1970.
Thompson, G. R. “Introduction: Romanticism and the Gothic Tradition.” In The Gothic Imagination: Essays in Dark Romanticism. G. R. Thompson, ed. Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1974.
Venter, Julian. Gothic Charm School: An Essential Guide for Goths and Those Who Love Them. New York: Harper, 2009. 256 pp.

Gothic Society of Canada see: Siren

Gothica see: Vampire Fandom: United States

Graham, Heather see: Pozzessere, Heather Graham

The Vampire Book, Second Edition © 2011 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Gothic style), an art style representing the final stage in the development of medieval art in the countries of Western, Central and, in part, Eastern Europe from the mid-12th to the 15th and 16th centuries. The term “Gothic” was introduced by the Italian humanists of the Renaissance period as a derogatory term for all medieval art, which was regarded as “barbaric.” From the beginning of the 19th century, when the term “Romanesque style” was adopted for the art of the tenth through 12th centuries, the chronological limits of Gothic art were established, and the period was subsequently subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Gothic periods.

In its ideology and culture Gothic art preserved its feudal and ecclesiastical foundations. Like Romanesque art, Gothic art developed in areas dominated by and under the protection of the Roman Catholic Church. It was primarily for purposes of religious worship, and its theme was basically religious. The relationship of Gothic style to concepts of eternity and “higher,” irrational forces accounts for its symbolic, allegorical ways of thought and the conventional features in its artistic expression. From the Romanesque, the Gothic period inherited the complete supremacy of architecture among the arts, as well as the traditional forms of its religious buildings. The cathedral was the outstanding form, combining architecture, sculpture, and painting which was represented primarily by stained-glass windows. The incommensurable vastness of the cathedral, the towers and arches reaching up to heaven, the subordination of statuary to dynamic architectural rhythms, and the unworldly effect of the light through the stained glass exerted a strong emotional influence on the believers.

At the same time the development of Gothic art reflected fundamental changes in the structure of medieval society— the beginning of the formation of centralized states, the growth and consolidation of towns, and the rise of secular forces, including urban, commercial, and trades and guild strata, as well as courtiers and knights. During the Gothic period, with its higher level of social consciousness, trades, and techniques, the foundations of medieval religious and dogmatic ideologies became weaker, and there were broadened possibilities for knowledge and aesthetic comprehension of the real world—particularly in human relations, spiritual aspirations, and lyric emotions. In addition, new architectural forms and tectonic systems were developed.

Urban construction and civil architecture began to be intensively developed, and residences, town halls, guild houses, street markets, warehouses, and town belfries were built. Urban architectural groupings, including religious and secular buildings, fortifications, bridges, and wells were constructed. The main city squares were surrounded with houses with arcades and trading and storage quarters in the lower stories. Streets generally radiated from the squares, and dwellings with two to five stories, narrow facades, and high pediments were erected along the streets and quays. Fortifications were perfected, towns were surrounded with strong walls, and gate towers were richly ornamented. The castles of kings and feudal lords gradually lost their inaccessible appearance and were transformed into complex edifices combining characteristics of fortresses, palaces, and religious buildings. At the center of the town, dominating its buildings, was the cathedral or the castle.

The bold, complex structural framework of the cathedral of the Gothic period eliminated the inert, massive quality of Romanesque structures, lightened the walls and arches, gave dynamic unity to spaces, and made it possible to enlarge the interior considerably. The cathedral became the focal point of town life and at times contained the entire population of a town within its walls. In addition to religious services, theological discussions and meetings of citizens were held in the cathedral, and mystery plays were acted there. The ideological and artistic content of the cathedral was complex, multifaceted, and synthetic. The cathedral was considered a depository for knowledge (primarily theological at that time) and a symbol of the universe. Its entire artistic structure combined solemn grandeur with passionate dynamic feeling and infinite abundance and variety of fluid forms with a strict hierarchical system for their coordination. It expressed not only ideas on social hierarchy that were derived from the feudal system and ideas on the power of the divine force over man, but also the growing consciousness of the towns and the creative efforts of the community, which imparted a spiritual quality to the stone mass.

The synthesis of artistic forms in Gothic art is incomparably richer and more complex than in Romanesque art, and its system of themes is much more inclusive, harmonious, and logical, reflecting the entire medieval world outlook. The main form of fine arts was sculpture. For the first time since antiquity, statues and groups of sculptures (on cathedral facades or altar rails) achieved a high artistic level, with fully developed fluid forms. The wooden, reserved look of stiff Romanesque statues was replaced by the lifelike quality of figures that seemed to communicate with each other and the spectator. On a spiritual level there was a resumed interest in real, natural forms, physical beauty, and man’s senses. In contrast to antiquity, the range of emotional and ethical values changed considerably. The themes of motherhood, moral suffering, martyrdom, and the spiritual steadfastness of man as the victim of violence entered art. Interest in the diversity and contradictions of life, which reflected the confrontations between the social forces of medieval society, determined the complexity, conflicts, and drama of Gothic art, which combined lyricism and tragic passions, high spirituality and satire, and fantastic grotesqueness and unvarnished, accurate observation of nature. The tense emotional nature of Gothic art was the direct result of the yearning quality of the figures, their light, S-shaped curves, the sharply expressed rhythm of the draperies in the sculpture, and the incomparable intensity and depth of color of the stained-glass windows.

The Gothic period was the period of the art of manuscript miniatures. Painting developed, and a strong upsurge occurred in the decorative arts—a movement related to the development of guild handicrafts. In stone, wood, and ivory carving, ceramics, glasswork, the decoration of many kinds of metal objects with precious stones and enamels, and the weaving of fabrics and wall tapestries, delicacy of fantasy and lavish ornamentation are combined with masterly workmanship and perfect finish.

The Gothic style originated in northern France in the mid-12th century and reached its full development in the first half of the 13th century. Its emergence was conditioned by the rise of the town as an independent political and economic force and by the new demands of urban life. The rapid development of French Gothic was also due to the national growth of France, whose unification had begun.

The Gothic cathedrals, which acquired their classic form in France, became symbols of the centralization of the kingdom and the independence of the growing towns. As a rule, the cathedral consisted of a basilica with from three to five aisles and a transept with a semicircular aisle around the choir (the ambulatory), which was bordered by radiating chapels (a “wreath of chapels”). The interior was unusually lofty (at Beauvais, 47.5 m high) and spacious (at Amiens. 118 m long and 33 m wide), and it was lit by the colored light of the stained-glass windows. The rows of slender pillars, the powerful, soaring effect of the pointed lancet arches, and the accelerated rhythm of the smaller arches of the upper gallery (the triforium) create a feeling of irrepressible movement upward and forward to the altar. The contrast of the lofty, lighted nave with the semidark side aisles creates a picturesque wealth of aspects and a feeling of infinite space. The structural basis of the cathedral is a framework consisting of piers (in High Gothic, clusters of columns) and the lancet arches that they support. The structure of the building consisted of rectangular vaults, which were bounded by four pillars and four arches which, together with the ribs (nervures) that cross each other diagonally, formed the frame of a cruciform vault, with lightened stoppings in between. The thrust of the vault is transmitted by the connecting flying buttresses (arcs-boutants) to powerful exterior piers (counterforts). The walls, freed from the weight pressing on them, are pierced between the piers by arched windows. By bringing to the exterior the structural elements that counteract the thrust of the arch, an impression is created of lightness and spacious freedom of the interior and an upward soaring of its vertical lines, tempered by the articulation of the tiers. In turn, the exposed structures around the southern, eastern, and northern sides of the cathedral, which are not visible from the interior or from the facade, give an impression of visible tectonic strength and rhythmic power.

The French cathedrals, with their western facades of two towers with three recessed “perspective” portals and traceried round window (rose window) in the center, combine an effect of soaring and a clear, balanced articulation. The facades have an infinite variation of lancet arches and architectural-plastic motifs—for example, traceried gables, pinnacles, and scrolls. The rows of statues on the corbels over the slender columns of the portals and in the arched galleries and the reliefs on the plinths and the tympana of the portals present a whole symbolical pattern, which includes biblical figures and episodes and allegorical images. The whole decor is rhythmically organized and strictly subordinated to architectural articulation. This determines the tectonics and the proportions of the statues, the solemnity of their pose, and the restraint of their gestures. The best statuary on the facades of cathedrals such as Reims. Amiens, and Strasbourg and on the portals of the transept of the Chartres Cathedral are imbued with spiritual beauty, sincerity, and human feeling. Other parts of the structures are also decorated with reliefs, statues, foliage, and representations of fantastic animals (chimeras). There are many secular motifs—scenes of everyday life, depicting the work of artisans and peasants and grotesque and satirical subjects. There is variety, too. in the subjects depicted in the stained-glass windows, whose colors are predominantly red. blue, and yellow.

The developed Gothic framework appeared in the Church of the Abbey of St. Denis (1137–44). Other examples of Early Gothic art are the cathedrals of Laon (c. 1150–1215). Notre Dame de Paris (1163–1257). and Chartres (1194–1260). The superb cathedrals ot the High Gothic period—Reims (1211–1311) and Amiens (1220–88). as well as the Sainte Chapelle in Paris (1243–48). with its splendid windows, are remarkable for their wealth of rhythmic effects, the perfection of their architectural composition, and their sculptural ornamentation. From the mid-13th century, cathedrals of the French type were built in other European countries: Germany (Cologne. 1248–1880). the Netherlands (Utrecht. 1254–1517). Spain (Burgos. 1221–1599). England (Westminster Abbey. London, 1245–1745). Sweden (Uppsala, begun c. 1260). Bohemia (choir and transept of the Cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague. 1344–1420) and Italy (Milan. 1386–1856). At the same time, these countries developed their own national valiants of the Gothic style. The Crusaders introduced the principles of French Gothic in areas as remote as Rhodes. Cyprus, and Syria.

In France itself the construction of cathedrals went through a period of crisis at the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century: the architectural forms became stiffer and the ornamentation more elaborate, and the statuary acquired a uniform, emphasized curve and a stereotyped, cloying quality. At the same time, various new artistic forms appeared, which made no pretense to universality and expressed the growing self-awareness of the burghers, who were endeavoring to establish their own culture. In addition, the new forms reflected the aristocratization of the feudal elite and the growing refinement of court life. From the 14th century the town and monastery hall churches (with naves and aisles of equal height) and castle and palace chapels became increasingly common. They were all small and simply planned, but along their vaults extended elaborate and sometimes curvilinear rib tracery (net, honeycomb, star, and other patterns). Also characteristic of Late (“flamboyant”) Gothic is the intricate tracery of the windows, which is reminiscent of tongues of flame (Church of St.-Maclou in Rouen. 1434–70). During this period secular town architecture became important, which made more use of the Gothic style’s compositional and decorative concepts than of its structural features. Town halls with elaborate ornamentation and frequently with a tower were built in the main town squares (the Town Hall of St. Quentin. 1351–59), and castles were converted into palaces with richly decorated interiors (the Papal Palace in Avignon, 1334–52 and the castle of Pier-refonds, 1390–1420). Private homes (hôtels) were built by rich citizens—for example, the house of Jacques Coeur in Bourges (1443–51). Altars in the interior of churches, combining painted and gilt wood sculptures and tempera paintings on wooden panels, replaced the stone sculpture on the facades of churches. In Late Gothic art a new emotional system of forms developed: a mannered stylization and expression, an exalted sense of the dramatic, and a predilection for scenes of suffering depicted with cruel realism. At the same time, secular mural paintings (for example, in the Papal Palace in Avignon. 14th and 15th centuries) and portraits (John the Good, c. 1360). began to appear. The miniatures in books of devotion and particularly in those of the nobility (the Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry, c. 1380–85) showed the aspiration to represent spiritual human forms and convey vital observations, space, and volume. Among the best examples of French Gothic art are small ivory statues, silver reliquaries. Limoges carved enamel work, trellis work, and carved furniture.

In Germany, Gothic art began to flourish in the mid-13th century (the western choir of the cathedral in Naumburg, after 1249). Hall churches appeared in Germany at an early date (for example, the Church of St. Elizabeth in Marburg, 1235–83). In the southwest, the one-tower cathedral was developed. Examples are the cathedrals Freiburg im Breisgau (c. 1200 to the end of the 15th century) and Ulm (1377–1529), whose tower, which was completed in the 19th century, is 162 m high. In the northern areas of Germany brick churches were built (the Chorin Monastery, 1275–1334, and the Marienkirche in Lübeck, c. 1270–1350). The brick churches often combined simplified designs, volume, and structure with tracery and the use of glazed and figured brick (the Marienkirche, Prenzlau, 1326–40). Stone, brick, or frame secular buildings, which varied a great deal in type, composition, and ornamentation, included city gates, town halls, guild halls, warehouses, hospitals, and dance halls, with arched galleries, towers, and oriels. The sculpture of cathedrals, which was usually found in the interior, was distinguished by a striking solidity of form and powerful, plastic expression (Bamberg, Magdeburg, and Naumburg, 13th century). Ornamental articles—for example, the enamels of the Rhine Province, reliquaries, goblets, carpets, and furniture—reveal the mastery and inventiveness of the artists. The German Late Gothic period (end of the 14th to the beginning of the 16th century) provides fine examples of hall churches and palace halls with complex vaults (the Annen-kirche in Annaberg-Buchholz, 1499–1525, and the Al-brechtsburg in Meissen, 1471–85). Altar sculpture and painting also flourished. Large Gothic buildings were erected in Austria (Gothic parts of the Cathedral of St. Stephen in Vienna, 1304–1454) and Switzerland (the cathedral in Bern, 1421–1588).

The Gothic art of the Netherlands is famous for the magnificent towers of the cathedrals in Antwerp (1521–30) and Malines (1452–1578) and particularly for civic buildings such as the cloth halls of Ypres (1200–1304) and Bruges (1248–1482) and the town halls of Brussels (1401–55), Louvain (1448–59), and Oudenaarde (1526–37), the decoration of which is sometimes fantastically elaborate and rich.

In England the preconditions for Gothic architecture developed sooner than in continental Europe. The first Gothic arches in Europe are found in Durham Cathedral (c. 1130–33). However, the development of Gothic art was interrupted by internal historical upheavals and delayed and prolonged as a result. English cathedrals, chiefly monasteries, are low and elongated, with rectangular choirs and a central tower. The simplified, geometric disposition of space is compensated by the elaborate tracery on the facade and arches. The styles are classified according to the type of ornamentation: early (“lancet”; for example, Salisbury Cathedral, 1220–66), “ornate,” which is similar to flamboyant Gothic (Exeter Cathedral, between 1275 and 1375), and “perpendicular,” which has no analogous style in other countries and is distinguished by the fractional rhythm of the unbroken verticals along the walls and windows and by the exclusively decorative, intricate lacework of the ribs on the arches and carved ceilings (the choir of Gloucester Cathedral, 1329–77, and Kings’ College Chapel, Cambridge, 1446–1515). English manuscript miniatures, carved wood and alabaster work, and embroidery also show the influence of Gothic style. The influence of English, French, and German brick Gothic appears in the Gothic architecture of Norway (Trondheim Cathedral, the Gothic parts of which were built between 1180 and 1320), Denmark (St. Knud’s Cathedral, Odense, c. 1300–15th century), and Sweden (Vadstena Church, 1369–1430).

In Spain, city cathedrals (León, 1203–88 and Seville, 1402–1506) are large and have richly ornamented facades and small windows. The interiors are divided in two by a structure behind the altar—the retable, which is decorated with sculptures and paintings. The influence of Moorish art is particularly pronounced in the Gothic art of Catalonia and southern Spain. In Catalonia, Late Gothic single-nave halls were covered by wide, sweeping arches supported by buttressed walls (Gerona Cathedral, 1325–1607, which has a have 24 m wide). Large, arched halls were built in secular edifices such as the exchanges in Palma de Mallorca (1426–51). In the 16th century Gothic construction was introduced in the Spanish colonies in America.

Italy had its own distinctive Gothic style. In the 13th and 14th centuries Gothic features were included in the churches, which retained their general Romanesque forms (Orvieto Cathedral, 1290–1569). Even churches with Gothic arches, such as Santa Maria Novella in Florence (c. 1278-c. 1360), had characteristic imposing masses of stonework and clear wide vistas. Wealthy Italian cities were intensively engaged in constructing municipal buildings, such as town halls (Palazzo Publico in Sienna, 1297–1310) and palaces (the Doges’ Palace, most of which was built between the 14th and the 16th century, and the Ca’ d’Oro in Venice, 1422–40). In these buildings features of the Gothic style were transformed into new, original forms. The influence of the Venetian Gothic style can be seen in the architecture of Dalmatia, Greece, Crete, and Cyprus. In the Italian fine arts the spread of Gothic was restricted by the early development of Renaissance culture.

In Eastern Europe, Gothic buildings were frequently fortress-like, somber, and austere. Gothic art developed in Hungary from the end of the 13th to the 15th century (the Church of St. Michael in Sopron and the Castle of Viŝegrad). The Bohemian Gothic style flourished in the 14th century when construction began on the Cathedral of St. Vitus, the Stare Mesto Town Hall in Prague, and the hall church of St. Barbara in Kutná Hora (1388–1547). Other Gothic structures included the Karlov Bridge in Prague (1357–78), the Royal Castle of Karlstein (1348–57) and the hall churches of southern Bohemia. Gothic art also extended to Slovakia (Cathedral of Koŝice, 1382–1499), Slovenia (church in Ptuj, 1260), and Transylvania (Black Church in Braşov, c. 1385 to c. 1746). In Poland, Gothic art began to develop in the 13th and 14th centuries. The wars against the Teutonic Order stimulated the development of fortress-like architecture, and the rise of the towns promoted the development of secular architecture (town halls of Gdansk, 1378–1492, and Torun, 13th to 14th centuries). Churches were primarily built of brick (Church of St. Mary in Kraków, c. 1360–1548, and the hall church of St. Mary in Gdansk, 1343–1502), and they were frequently decorated with frescoes.

In Latvia the transition to Gothic occurred between the 13th and 14th centuries (the Dom Cathedral in Riga, 1211 to c. 1300, and the Castle of Cesis, 13th to 16th centuries). In southern Estonia brick Gothic churches were built in the 14th century (Church of St. Johannes in Tartu, before 1323). Tallinn took on a Gothic appearance in the 14th and 15th centuries, when its walls and numerous towers were built. Gothic structures in Tallinn also included the fortified center of the town—Vyshgorod (Toompea)—the burghers’ section with its town hall (before 1341 to 1628) and the Church of St. Olaf (choir, c. 1400). Early Gothic monuments also appeared in Lithuania in the 14th and 15th centuries (castle of Trakai). In the 15th and 16th centuries the Church of St. Ann in Vilnius (completed in 1580) and the house of Perkūno in Kaunas were richly ornamented in brick.

In the Late Gothic period the accumulation of empirical knowledge, the growth of interest in the real world and in the observation and study of nature, and the increasingly strong role of creative individualism conflicted more and more with the dogmatic bases of Gothic art, bringing about its collapse and preparing the ground for the Renaissance world outlook. This process is clearly seen in 14th-century French miniature art, Burgundian sculpture (Claus Sluter and Claus de Werve) and painting (for example, Melchior Broederlam), Bohemian sculpture (Peter Parler) and painting (the master Theodoric and the painters of the altars at Vyŝŝi Brod and Třeboň). The process became more intense in the 15th century and was accelerated by the Renaissance movements in Italy and the Netherlands. In the 16th century, Gothic art gave way everywhere to Renaissance culture. Nonetheless, the national Gothic heritage, deeply ingrained in the popular life of many European countries, exerted a strong influence on Renaissance and baroque art. particularly in northern Europe, and it later became a subject for imitation and stylization. Romanticism in the 19th century strongly increased the interest in Gothic art, which had become one of the main sources of man’s spiritual traditions. The archaeological study of Gothic art led to a revival of the principles of Gothic construction and influenced the development of new building systems, while attempts to reestablish medieval artistic handicrafts led to a search for new ways of developing decorative art.


Vseobshchaia istoriia iskusstv, vol. 2, book 1. Moscow, 1960.
Nessel’shtraus. Ts. G. Iskusstvo Zapadnoi Evropy ν srednie veka. Leningrad-Moscow, 1964.
Vseobshchaia istoriia arkhitekturv, vol. 4. Leningrad-Moscow 1966.
Harvey, J. The Gothic World, 1100–1600. London, 1950.
Sedlmayr. H. Die Entstehung der Kathedrale Zürich, 1950.
Jantzen. H. Die Gothik des Abendlandes. Schauberg-Köln. 1962.
Martindale, A. Gothic Art: From the Twelfth to Fifteenth Centuries New York-Washington, D .C. 1967.




the language of the Goths, which belongs to the eastern group of the ancient Germanic languages. Gothic is known primarily from written records of the fourth century, when the Goths inhabited the Black Sea region. The most important of these is the translation of the Bible attributed to the Visigoth bishop Ulfilas, which has come down to us in fifth-century Ostrogoth manuscripts. Ulfilas is also thought to have created the Gothic alphabet (based on the Greek and, partly, the Latin alphabets) and runic writing. Because of its early literary establishment and its conservatism, which was due to its peripheral position among the Germanic languages, Gothic maintained a great similarity to common German. It therefore plays a particularly important role in the comparative grammar of the Germanic languages.

There were no significant differences between the two Gothic dialects—East Gothic and West Gothic. The so-called Crimean-Gothic language (known from approximately 70 words recorded by the Flemish Busbecq in the 16th century), which stems from the East Gothic dialect, was long preserved in the Crimea.


Gukhman, M. M. Gotskii iazyk. Moscow. 1958.
Streitberg. W. Gotisches Elementarbuch, 6th ed. Heidelberg. 1920.
Streitberg. W. Gotische Bibel, 3rd ed. Heidelberg, 1950. (Texts and lexicon.)
Braune, W.. and K. Helm. Gotische Grammatik, 16th ed. Tübingen. 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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