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The church in the Middle Ages was a place that all people regardless of class could belong to As a source of unity its influence on art and architecture was great during this time As society drew away from the feudal system of the Romanesque period a new spirit of human individualism began to take hold alas the birth of Gothic Here the Church became a place where humanity became more acceptable alas becoming the ideal place to visual such new ideals The beauty and elegance of Gothic architecture is depicted most in the great cathedrals of the 12th 13th and 14th centuriesSt Denis Notre Dame Chartres Salisbury Durham Amiens and more The experience of looking at one of the great gothic cathedrals is to look up towards God Indeed most Gothic structures emphasize the vertical drawing ones eyes upwards toward the heavens with the awesomeness of God These cathedrals were built with towering spires pointed arches and flying buttresses giving impressions of harmony and luminosity One of the major accomplishments of the 12th and 13th centuries was to develop the engineering mastery of the ribbed vault pointed arch and flying buttress to create a great cathedral that is at once taller lighter wider and more elegant than the ones before Even though the pointed arch could support more weight than its predecessors there was still the problem of finding a way to support the heavy masonry ceiling vaults over wide spans In order to support the outward thrust of barrel vaults vertical support walls have to be very thick and heavy What makes possible the extensive use of ribbed vaulting and pointed arches to open and lighten the walls and space of the cathedral is the flying buttressan arched bridge above the aisle roof that extends from the upper nave wall where the lateral thrust of the main vault is greatest down to a solid pier Jansen History of Art p 407
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