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For nearly four hundred years Gothic style dominated the architecture of Western Europe It originated in northern France in the twelfth century and spread rapidly across England and the Continent invading the old Viking empire of Scandinavia It confronted the Byzantine provinces of Central Europe and even made appearances in the near East and the Americas Gothic architects designed town halls royal palaces courthouses and hospitals They fortified cities and castles to defend lands against invasion But it was in the service of the church the most prolific builder of the Middle Ages that the Gothic style got its most meaningful expression providing the widest scope for the development of architectural ideas1 Although by 1400 Gothic had become the universal style of building in the Western world its creative heartland was in northern France in an area stretching from the royal domain around Paris including Saint-Denis and Chartres to the region of the Champagne in the east and southward to Bourges Within this restricted area in the series of cathedrals built in the course of the 12th and 13th centuries the major innovations of Gothic architecture took place2 The supernatural character of medieval religious architecture was given a special form in the Gothic church Medieval man considered himself but an imperfect refraction of Divine Light of God Whose Temple stood on earth according to the text of the dedication ritual stood for the Heavenly City of Jerusalem3 The Gothic interpretation of this point of view was a cathedral so grand that seems to belittle the man who enters it for space light structure and the plastic effects of the stonework are made to produce a visionary scale The result of the Gothic style is distortion as there is no fixed set of proportions in the parts Such architecture did not only express the physical and spiritual needs of the Church but also the general attitude of the people
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