Markets began to thrive in the cities and the demand for public space and new cathedrals followed. In contrast to the heavy barrel vaults of Romanesque churches, the Gothic cathedral designers explored a structural system that combined pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses to achive dazzling heights and mysterious luminosity.

The City Returns: Market Towns and New Towns

  • The new prosperity of the cities encouraged the expansion of city walls, gigantic cathedrals and impressive civic buildings such as town halls, covered markets and hospitals.
  • The quest for emancipation from feudal bonds inspired the foundation of hundreds of new towns across Europe, most built on orthogonak plans that revived the idea of public space.
  • The growng economy of Troyes led to rebuilding of the cathedral the founding of the new church of St. Urbain and the foundation of a new hospital in the mid 13th century St. Urbain.
  • The transformation of Troyes prefigured that numerous mercantile cities throughout Europe: urban perimeters fattened w,th concentric layers linked by radial streets that converged on an administrative and economic hub.
  • By the end of the 13th century Bruges had rebuilt its walls as a gigantic oval enclosing the two earlier rings. The city also improved its canal system and constructed several significant civic monuments.
  • Zahringer counts initiated the concept of the new town as an enterprise. Its planners created a second street, cross axial to the first. The central market street of Berne was about ten times the width of typical medieval streets, grew in linear progression.
  • On a flat site adjacent to the fortress of Carcassonne, rebuilt as the French crown’s bastion, the king commisioned a polyonal new town with an approxiamte grid of square blocks for the resettlement and control of the population of Cathar beliefs. One sqaure in the center of the new town was left unbuilt for the city’s market.
  • Montpazier founded by the English and Villefranche de Perigord founded by the French followed a simple grid with string alignments. They subdivided the blocks into oblong “gothc lots” which the local peasants obtained through drawing lots.
  • The dimensions of the “gothic lot” related to the standard lengths of timber and allowed for two bays of windows per facade.
  • Florence alloted much more attention to public space, creating an oblong central piazza intersected directly by each of the streets. The new towns and the expanded merchant cities increased people’s accesibility and freedm of movement, reducing the intimidating presence of feudal control.


The Gothic Cathedral : The Crown of the City

  • 13&14th century new Gothic style in church building, an architecture as distinct in its details as the classical style of the Romans; eliminating the mass of the walls create interior light, experimenting with lender structural members to emphasize verticality.
  • Technical possibilities of construction using three structural expedients: pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses. While none of the three was a new invention, together they comprised an architectural theory that served the symbolic potential of light.
  • The rebuilding of the façade of St. Denis, retaining associations with imperial Carolingian westworks while inserting between the two towers an oculus, a wheel like round window. This motif repeated on the facades of all successive Gothic churches.
  • Verticality became a theological imperative for Gothic cathedral builders.
  • The great Gothic cathedrals doubled as marvels of enginerring and immense piles of sculpture. Statues were tucked into the niches, cut into the columns and pitched on the roofs.