Gothic revival

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Gothic revival,

term designating a return to the building styles of the Middle Ages. Although the Gothic revival was practiced throughout Europe, it attained its greatest importance in the United States and England. The early works were designed in a fanciful late rococo manner, exemplified by Horace Walpole's remodeled "gothick" house, Strawberry Hill (1770). By 1830, however, architects turned to more archaeological methods. Thus, just as the classical revivalists had done, they began to copy the original examples more literally. A. W. N. Pugin wrote two of the basic texts of the Gothic revival. In Contrasts (1836) he put forth the idea that the Middle Ages, in its way of life and art, was superior to his own time and ought to be imitated. He amplified his ideas in The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (1841), propounding that not only must Gothic detail be authentic but that the contemporary architect should achieve the structural clarity and high level of craftsmanship that were found in the Middle Ages by using the methods of medieval builders. John Ruskin elaborated on these ideas in The Stones of Venice. Followers of Ruskin and Pugin soon came into conflict with proponents of the classic revivalclassic revival,
widely diffused phase of taste (known as neoclassic) which influenced architecture and the arts in Europe and the United States during the last years of the 18th and the first half of the 19th cent.
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, and the resulting conflict has often been called a battle of the two styles. The Church of England supported the Gothic movement, however, and provided for the restoration of a great number of medieval religious buildings. Sir George Gilbert Scott was the noted English restorer of the day, while in France, Viollet-le-Duc led the exponents of the Gothic revival there. Many architects found it advantageous to work in both styles, as did Sir Charles Barry, a leading classicist. Working with A. W. N. Pugin, he won a competition in 1840 with Gothic designs for the houses of parliament. In the United States the picturesque aspect of the style took precedence over the doctrinaire approach of Pugin. The first works of note in the Gothic style appeared in the 1830s in buildings designed by A. J. Davis and Richard Upjohn. The younger James Renwick became important in the 1840s and was especially renowned for his Grace Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, both prime examples of the Gothic revival in the United States. The Gothic movement foundered because of the impossibility of reproducing medieval buildings when there was no longer a medieval economy or technology. Only superficial effects of the style lingered in some eclectic works of the 19th and 20th cent. However, the ideals of earlier theoreticians, the clear expression of structure and materials have influenced modern architecture.


See K. Clark, Gothic Revival (3d ed. 1963); P. B. Stanton, The Gothic Revival and American Church Architecture (1968); C. L. Eastlake, History of the Gothic Revival (rev. ed. 1972).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Gothic Revival


an architectural style of the 18th and 19th centuries, reviving forms and, in a number of instances, structural elements of medieval Gothic architecture. The origin of Gothic revival (particularly in England, where traditions of Gothic art were strongest) is associated with the flourishing of garden art, the development of tastes for the picturesque, and, in literature, the preromantic poetization of the medieval (especially typical of the Gothic novel, which influenced the formation of European romanticism).

Early Gothic revival structures include artificial ruins, pavilions, chapels, and villas. An interest in the national past, stirred by romanticism, and the appearance of archaeological publications on monuments of medieval architecture facilitated the transformation of the Gothic revival into one of the most influential currents of 19th-century eclectic architecture (in England, the architects A. Pugin and C. Barry; in Germany, the architect K. F. Schinkel).

The Gothic style dominated Catholic and Protestant church architecture and was increasingly used for civic buildings. One widespread type of Gothic revival monument had a baldachin. Monuments of medieval architecture were reconstructed and restored. In Russia the Gothic revival was initially developed in the construction of country estates (architects included Iu. M. Fel’ten and the brothers I. V. Neelov and P. V. Neelov). In the work of the architects V. I. Bazhenov and M. F. Kazakov, Gothic elements were combined with motifs of medieval Russian architecture. In Europe the Gothic revival of the second half of the 19th century was characterized by the extensive use of iron structures and polychromy (in England, the architects W. But-terfield, G. G. Scott, G. Street, and A. Waterhouse; in France, E. E. Viollet-le-Duc). The striving to re-create the characteristically Gothic integrity of artistic thinking (expressed in the works of J. Ruskin, W. Morris, and Viollet-le-Duc) and the recognition of the aesthetic value of frame construction were aspects of the Gothic revival that not only became components of art nouveau and neoromantic currents of the end of the 19th century but also significantly influenced the emergence of 20th-century functionalism.


Kozhin, N. A. “K genezisu russkoi lozhnoi gotiki.” Akademiia arkhitektury, 1934, nos. 1–2, pp. 114–21.
Frankl, P. The Gothic: Literary Sources and Interpretations Through Eight Centuries. Princeton, N. J., 1960.
Clark, K. The Gothic Revival. Harmondsworth, 1964.
Eastlake, C. L. A History of the Gothic Revival. Leicester, 1970.


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

Gothic Revival

Gothic Revival: façade of house
A movement originating in the 18th century and culminating in the 19th century, flourishing throughout Europe and the United States, aimed at reviving the spirit and forms of Gothic forms; applied to country cottages, churches, some public buildings, and castlelike structures. Gothic Revival buildings usually are characterized by ashlar masonry, polychromed brickwork, or wood walls, often extending into the gables without interruption; Gothic motifs such as battlements, decorative brackets, finials, foils, foliated ornaments, hood moldings, label moldings, pinnacles, pointed arches, towers, turrets; often, a porch with flattened Gothic or Tudor arches; a symmetrical façade; steeply pitched gables often decorated with ornate gingerbread bargeboards; projecting eaves; decorative slate or shingle patterns on the roof; occasionally, a flat roof with crenelated and castellated parapets; ornamental chimney stacks and chimney pots; a cast-iron decorative strip at the ridge of the roof; windows extending into the gables; often, an elaborately paneled front door set into a lancet arch; the entry door sometimes within a recessed porch or under a door hood, occasionally bordered with sidelights. The initial phase is sometimes calledEarly Gothic Revival ; the latter phase is sometimes calledLate Gothic Revival or Victorian Gothic. Also see Collegiate Gothic, High Victorian Gothic, and Carpenter Gothic.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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