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  • Peter Kidson,
  • Michael T. Davis,
  • Paul Crossley,
  • Dany Sandron,
  • Kathryn Morrison,
  • Andreas Bräm,
  • Pamela Z. Blum,
  • V. Sekules,
  • Phillip Lindley,
  • Ulrich Henze,
  • Joan A. Holladay,
  • G. Kreytenberg,
  • Guido Tigler,
  • R. Grandi,
  • Anna Maria D’Achille,
  • Francesco Aceto,
  • J. Steyaert,
  • Pedro Dias,
  • Jan Svanberg,
  • Angela Franco Mata,
  • Peta Evelyn,
  • Peter Tångeberg,
  • Carola Hicks,
  • Marian Campbell,
  • Elisabeth Taburet-Delahaye,
  • A. M. Koldeweij,
  • G. Reinheckel,
  • Judit Kolba,
  • Lennart Karlsson,
  • Barbara Drake Boehm,
  • Danielle Gaborit-Chopin,
  • Virginia Chieffo Raguin,
  • Yvette Vanden Bemden,
  • Nigel J. Morgan,
  • Daniel Kletke,
  • Erhard Drachenberg
  •  and Scot McKendrick

Term used to denote, since the 15th century, the architecture and, from the 19th, all the visual arts of Europe during a period extending by convention from about 1120 to 1400 in central Italy, and until the late 15th century and even well into the 16th in northern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula. The Early Gothic style overlapped chronologically with Romanesque and flourished after the onset of Renaissance art in Italy and elsewhere. Scholarly preoccupations with the nature of the Gothic style (see §I below) have been centred almost exclusively on architecture, and the term has never been satisfactory for the figural arts, especially painting (see §IV below); but the 19th-century tradition of classification has proved so enduring that it continues to be used for figural styles.

I. Introduction.

The people who produced what has since come to be known as Gothic art needed no name to distinguish what they were doing from other styles. They were aware of differences of appearance between the churches they built and buildings of earlier periods, but if these had any significance for them, it was mainly iconographical. As the defining characteristics of Gothic are always more conspicuous in ecclesiastical than in secular art, they no doubt considered its primary function to be in the service of the Church. Otherwise they seem to have been unaware that their arts had a history. It needed the comprehensive changes of taste associated with the Renaissance to introduce the notion of Gothic into the vocabulary of art. During the 15th century educated Italians such as Alberti and Lorenzo Valla (1407–57), who were attuned to the superior decorum of all things Classical, began to use the adjective ‘Gothic’ to convey their sense of contemporary architecture as rough, rustic, or crude, by comparison with that of ancient Rome. The word was overtly pejorative, being derived from the barbarian Goths who sacked Rome in ad 410 and again in 455. It also came to designate the architecture of the Germans or northern Europe generally, and this purely descriptive use outlasted its role as an epithet of derision. When 16th-century Italians tried to explain the phenomenon of Gothic, they supposed that the pointed arch, the most notable of Gothic solecisms, would come naturally to the minds of men whose original habitat had been the northern forests. Despite its manifest absurdity, this theory has recurred from time to time among believers in Menschheitpsychologie, following the writings of Wilhelm Worringer.

Gothic was rehabilitated in the religious revival that followed the French Revolution, and for much of the 19th century the historicist Gothic Revival was in vogue all over the world as the approved style for new churches; it was also used for public buildings and even domestic design. The reunion of Gothic with the practice of architecture was anticipated by, and to some extent rooted in, a better understanding of the medieval buildings from which the style derived its prestige. By the second half of the 18th century, the science of mechanics was sufficiently developed to demonstrate that pointed arches could be more efficient than semicircular arches as load-bearing structures, and that far from being inept, Gothic architects had been superb structural engineers. The re-evaluation entailed by these discoveries culminated in the definition of Gothic by Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc as the conjunction of pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses. Until German shells in World War I contrived to demonstrate that Gothic structures did not always behave as theory prescribed (see Vault), Viollet-le-Duc’s technological interpretation of the style was accepted by architectural historians as the undoubted truth, and the demise of the theory after 1918 proved epoch-making (see Masonry, §III).

The second major step towards a sharper definition of Gothic was the achievement of a precise chronology. When it was realized, by the late 17th century, that pointed arches, the sine qua non of Gothic, did not appear until c1100, the proper understanding of the 700 years between then and late antiquity, and their relation to the three Gothic centuries, became a serious problem. Wren complicated matters by noting that pointed arches had been used by Muslim architects long before they appeared in Christian churches (see Arch, §2), and he proposed that the pointed style be renamed Saracenic. The revision proved too much for Goethe and the generation after Winckelmann, for whom it remained axiomatic that Gothic was German. Eventually attention was shifted from pointed arches to ribbed vaults as the defining characteristic, and Gothic became le style ogival. Few early 19th-century antiquaries pursued documentary research, which probably helped them to side-step the hazards presented by the actual chronology of ribbed vaults. It was largely a matter of luck that they came up with the right answer. Once the date of 1144 for the choir of Saint-Denis Abbey was firmly established, it was conceded on all sides, although to everyone’s surprise, that Gothic had originated in northern France in the second quarter of the 12th century (see §II, 1, (i) below).

The detailed examination of Gothic buildings (the perception of what went with what, and the classification of these clusters of forms into a sequence of substyles) began in earnest during the first quarter of the 19th century. The pioneer was Thomas Rickman in England (see Early English; Decorated style; Perpendicular style), followed soon after by Arcisse de Caumont in France. Much of the subsequent discussion has been about where the lines of demarcation should be drawn between the several phases, and what causal mechanisms presided over the changes. Nineteenth-century architects and antiquaries, who knew a lot about buildings but not much history, tended to think about style as though it was a living organism, on the analogy of the dominant science of the day, biology. Styles thus evolved from tentative beginnings (see Early Gothic) to a brief maturity, known variously as High Gothic, Rayonnant style, or Early English, after which they went into decline, as seen in Flamboyant style, Late Gothic, Decorated, Perpendicular, Sondergotik, and Reduktionsgotik.

Such a hypothesis carried an inherent criterion of quality. The best buildings belonged to the ‘best periods’. Early buildings could show promise; but anything that was late was almost irretrievably damned to decadence. This suited the French well enough. Their High Gothic cathedrals have never ceased to bask in the good fortune of coinciding with the apex of the Gothic cycle; and they have never had much of an opinion of their Late Gothic (Flamboyant). The Germans, who had next to no High Gothic and more than their fair share of the late style, sought to correct this imbalance by reappraising all so-called late styles. The notion of style notably promulgated by Alois Riegl and Heinrich Wölfflin was pruned of most of its biological overtones, and transformed into an extremely subtle instrument for detecting nuances and shifts of expressive intention. For architecture, what now turned buildings into works of art was how their designers handled the shaping of space (Raumform); and the leitmotif of Gothic was spatial fusion (Raumverschmelzung; see Schmarsow, August), which achieved its most extreme manifestations in German Late Gothic hall churches. Early and High Gothic, however, were equally amenable to spatial analysis, and when the modulation of spatial effects by means of light, colour, and pattern were taken into account, together with the paring away of superfluous structures, the art historians’ aesthetic insights could be substituted for Viollet-le-Duc’s theories as soon as the latter were disproved.

Yet the distinctive task of the 20th century has been not so much to appreciate the artistry of Gothic, as to place individual Gothic buildings in their proper historical setting, following the lead given for Renaissance works by Aby Warburg, who saw style ideally as an exact equation between form and content. To understand the content, vast learning and intensive research were often required, but for Gothic churches the contextual material was not easy to find, and the reconstruction of the specific occasions difficult to accomplish. It therefore took several decades before the results began to show. Here Erwin Panofsky’s Abbot Suger on the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis and its Art Treasures (Princeton, 1946) played a decisive role.

The historical approach brought with it shifts of emphasis that have both extended and diluted the meaning of Gothic. It introduced the notion of function: the expectations and purposes of the patrons and users of Gothic churches. Attention was now paid to practical requirements of the cult, as these affected both clergy and laity. Beyond that, however, much of the imaginative effort that went into the design process made sense as the presentation of the Church as allegory. The building came to be seen as a comprehensive religious symbol in which the architecture was no longer just an evocative shape, but a frame with specific iconographical associations of its own (e.g. the Heavenly Jerusalem) and inhabited by appropriate images rendered in stone and wood or else painted in stained glass and on walls. All the arts worked in conjunction with one another and towards the same end (Sedlmayr). The invention of Gothic architecture in the 12th century had its precise counterpart in the transformation of the human figure from the stylized abstractions of Romanesque into a naturalism that could be called Gothic by association. In due course these major art forms were joined by a repertory of Gothic ornament, and rather belatedly it has been recognized that Gothic art was never exclusively religious, but that it spilled over into the pageantry of public and domestic life throughout Europe. There was hardly any category of artefact made during the last three medieval centuries that was not in some measure affected by the style. Ruskin’s vision of the honest medieval craftsman may have been tinged by Utopian socialism, but his sense of an all-pervasive craftsmanship was not entirely wishful thinking.


  • S. Wren, ed.: Parentalia; or, Memoirs of the Family of the Wrens (London, 1750/R 1965), p. 306
  • J. W. von Goethe: Von deutscher Baukunst (Frankfurt am Main, 1772)
  • T. Rickman: An Attempt to Discriminate the Styles of English Architecture from the Conquest to the Reformation (Liverpool, 1817, rev. 7/1888)
  • E.-E. Viollet-le-Duc: Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle, 10 vols. (Paris, 1854–68)
  • A. Riegl: Die spätrömische Kunstindustrie (Vienna, 1901, rev. 2/1927/R 1973)
  • W. R. Worringer: Formprobleme der Gotik (Munich, 1911; Eng. trans., London, 1957)
  • H. Sedlmayr: Die Entstehung der Kathedrale (Zurich and Freiburg im Breisgau, 1950)
  • P. Frankl: The Gothic: Literary Sources and Interpretations through Eight Centuries (Princeton, 1960) [complete bibliog. with commentary, up to c1950]
  • J. Białostocki: ‘Late Gothic: Disagreements about the Concept’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3rd ser., vol.29 (1966), pp. 76–105
  • W. Sauerländer: ‘Style or Transition? The Fallacies of Classification Discussed in the Light of German Architecture, 1190–1260’, Architectural History [Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain], vol.30 (1987), pp. 1–30
  • J. Sureda: La España gótica, 14 vols. (Madrid, 1987–95)
  • M. Camille: The Gothic Idol: Ideology and Image-making in Medieval Art (Cambridge and New York, 1989)
  • V. Pace and M. Bagnoli, eds: Il gotico europeo in Italia (Naples, 1994)
  • P. Kidson: ‘Gotico’, Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale, vol.7 (Rome, 1996), pp. 41–54
  • R. Toman and A. Bednorz: Die Kunst der Gotik: Architektur, Skulptur, Malerei (Cologne, 1998; Eng. trans., Cologne, 1999)
  • E. Bacher and G. Brucher: Gotik (Munich, 2000), vol.2 of Geschichte der Bildenden Kunst in Österreich (Munich, 1998–2002)
  • M. Brandis: La maniera tedesca: Eine Studie zum historischen Verständnis der Gotik im Italien der Renaissance in Geschichtsschreibung, Kunsttheorie und Baupraxis (Weimar, 2002)
  • J. A. Givens: Observation and Image-making in Gothic Art (Cambridge, 2005)
  • C. Rudolph: A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe (Malden, MA, and Oxford, 2006)
  • T. Albrecht, B. Franke, and B. Klein: Gotik (Munich, 2007), vol.2 of Geschichte der bildenden Kunst in Deutschland(Munich, 2002–9)
  • K. Krause: Spätgotik und Renaissance (Munich, 2007), vol.4 of Geschichte der bildenden Kunst in Deutschland (Munich, 2002–9)
  • J. Wirth: L’image à l’époque gothique (1140–1280) (Paris, 2008)
  • C. Hourihane, ed.: Gothic, Art & Thought in the Later Medieval period: Essays in Honor of Willibald Sauerlander (Princeton, 2011)

II. Architecture.

  • Peter Kidson

The success of Gothic as an architectural style is reflected both in the length of time that it flourished, from early in the 12th century to very late in the 16th, and in its geographical extent. Gothic buildings can be found from Ireland and Scandinavia in north-western Europe, to Cyprus and the Levant. Manuals of architectural history once emphasized contrasts between Gothic and the architecture of Classical antiquity and the Renaissance, but, as art historians have become better historians, the sharp distinction has been blurred and diminished. If only because it was the architecture that corresponded to the 12th century Renaissance, it is unlikely that Gothic, alone among the arts and sciences of the time, was completely divorced from the inheritance from antiquity (see Vitruvius, §3, (i)). Below the level of visual dissimilarities, continuities of method can be detected, from which it may be inferred that, far from being a fresh start, Gothic only marks the stage where medieval architects emancipated themselves from the restraints of precedents. Henceforth they felt free to construct whatever forms they or their patrons wanted, subject only to the reservation that they conformed to the perennial principles of good architecture, which they believed (with good reason) had been handed down to them from the ancients.

The stylistic development of Gothic architecture is discussed in the article below. For analysis of Gothic structure see also Masonry, §III; for Gothic design techniques see Mason.

1. c 1120–the late 13th century.

(i) Introduction.

Between 1120 and 1300 European architecture enjoyed one of its most brilliantly creative periods. The art of building was transformed by a series of new structural features, and major edifices achieved a previously unparalleled size, lightness and visual complexity. Contemporaries referred to this architecture as the opus francigenum (or later maniera tedesca), but most often it was simply described as ‘new’. Since it first appeared and was developed in northern France, there has been a tendency to view Gothic architecture in terms of French features and to evaluate building in other countries by its resemblance to French models. Specific structural elements, such as ribbed vaults, pointed arches, the flying buttress, large windows and bar tracery, and a general emphasis on verticality and lightness have been identified as the defining components of the style. Increasingly, however, emphasis is being placed on the diversity of 12th- and 13th-century construction. Buildings outside France are seen less as timid, conservative or failed attempts to emulate French architecture, than as independent creations resulting from their local histories, functions and patrons. A crucial distinction must be made between the absorption of French structural principles that made possible breathtaking spaciousness, overwhelming size and lightness, and the adoption of Gothic ornament, such as bar tracery or crocket capitals, which combined with local building traditions to create an image of stylistic modernity.

Down to the end of the 13th century, France, as the centre of the most intense, sustained activity, dominated developments. Yet French architecture did not provide the sole standard of evaluation for the rest of Europe; and Gothic architecture cannot be circumscribed by an exclusive set of forms or criteria. In addition, the history of Gothic building cannot be told only in terms of the great church. The deliberately simplified architecture of the Cistercians (see §(ii)(a) below), Dominicans and Franciscans (see §(vii)(a) below), formulated as an alternative to the rich cathedral Gothic, had in some ways a greater impact on building than the small number of élite structures. In England, Germany, Spain and Italy, the Cistercians seem to have been the agents of such proto-Gothic forms as ribbed vaults and pointed arches, and established contacts with France. Further, there existed a dynamic interaction between structures of different classes, types and size. It cannot be presumed that the modest monastic and parish churches inevitably mirrored cathedral models.

In spite of the importance of civil construction, this article will concentrate on ecclesiastical architecture. While there was certainly interchange between ecclesiastic and secular building, the fundamental concerns of the castle-builder lay not with arranging corridors of circulation or with the representational issues, but with pragmatic problems of defence and living (see Castle, §I). It was in ecclesiastical architecture that the most salient structural innovations took place and the most complex visual effects were achieved.


  • A. Dimier: Recueil de plans d’églises cisterciennes, 2 vols (Paris, 1949)
  • H. Hahn: Die frühe Kirchenbaukunst der Zisterzienser (Berlin, 1957)
  • F. Bucher: ‘Cistercian Architectural Purism’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 3 (1960), pp. 89–105
  • R. Branner: Gothic Architecture (New York, 1961)
  • P. Frankl: Gothic Architecture, Pelican Hist. A. (Harmondsworth, 1962)
  • F. Bucher: ‘Micro-architecture as the “Idea” of Gothic Theory and Style’, Gesta, 15 (1976), pp. 71–89
  • L. Grodecki: L’Architecture gothique (Paris, 1976; Eng. trans., New York, 1977)
  • R. Mark: Experiments in Gothic Structure (Cambridge, MA, 1982)
  • W. Sauerländer: Le Siècle des cathédrales, 1140–1260 (Paris, 1989)
  • C. Wilson: The Gothic Cathedral: The Architecture of the Great Church, 1130–1530 (London, 1990)
(ii) France.
(a) First manifestations of a new vision, c. 1120–50.

By c. 1120 French builders, like their peers from Lombardy to northern England, had integrated the ribbed vault and pointed arch into their constructional repertory (see Romanesque, §II). The use of such masonry vaults necessitated complex systems of support, while the introduction of ribs produced a more intimate coordination of the vault with elevations that were articulated with networks of columnar shafts and mouldings (see Masonry, §III, 3, (iii)). The pointed arch, which may have offered slight structural advantages relative to the semicircular arch, visually underscored verticality, and when combined with the ribbed vault, as at Durham Cathedral (1093–1133), created new potential for spatial expansion and integration.

Similarly, in plan design from the late 11th century onwards spatial complication and unification, especially in the choir had begun to be explored. The plan of an ambulatory and radiating chapels was adapted at Fécamp Abbey (ded. 1093) and Avranches Cathedral (ded. 1121; destr. 1794), but by multiplying and setting the chapels contiguously a series of uniform interior spaces enclosed by a continuous exterior wall was created. Apses in echelon, originating with the secondary abbey church (begun c. 955; destr.) at Cluny and elaborated at Saint-Sever Abbey (c. 1100), provided a corridor of circulation around the main liturgical space and produced a unified envelope of tangential chapels (see Church, §II, 3, (i)).

Early 12th-century French architecture, however, was structurally and visually diverse, and the progressive edifices of the Ile-de-France were conceived within a context of experimentation and historical reverence. During the second quarter of the 12th century, Paris was established definitively as the royal capital, a vital commercial hub and Europe’s leading intellectual centre. Vigorous architectural activity accompanied this efflorescence as the monarchy promoted projects that enhanced its image and the cult of its patron, St Denis. The abbey church of Saint-Denis (see Saint-Denis Abbey, §I, 2) was the most spectacular manifestation of a wave of building that also included an expansion of the royal palace on the Ile-de-la-Cité and the rebuilding of the churches of St Pierre-de-Montmartre, St Magloire and St Germain-des-Prés (see below). The absence of an entrenched building tradition in the Paris region may also have contributed to an atmosphere conducive to architectural innovation.

The west façade (c. 1137–40) of Saint-Denis was indebted most immediately to recent works in Normandy, such as the late 11th-century abbeys of St Etienne and La Trinité in Caen. It articulated more emphatically the contrast between an assertive supporting frame of aggressively projecting buttresses, strong piers and arches enclosed by thin walls and ample, glazed openings. The choir, built in the second campaign (1140–44) is noted for its two rings of slender columns defining a double-ambulatory scheme in which the outer aisle is integrated with a continuous series of shallow chapels. The exterior wall is composed largely of expansive glass windows stretched between isolated masonry salients. Vestigial mural mass is dissimulated behind groups of applied shafts that are coordinated rigorously with ribs and arches of the vaults above.

The master mason’s ability to perfect a combination of existing architectural forms that produced an essentially new whole displayed genius. In the plan, he pursued the implications of previous experiments in spatial expansion. Ambulatories with a continuous corona of chapels appeared in Paris at the abbey of St Magloire (before ?1138; destr.) and in an awkward double-ambulatory variant in the Cluniac house of St Martin-des-Champs (c. 1130–40). Both churches were at least partially rib vaulted, a technology that had appeared in the Ile-de-France possibly in the late 11th century at St Etienne (rebuilt after 1180), Beauvais, and found currency in numerous structures in the region, such as Notre-Dame (c. 1130) at Morienval. The Saint-Denis master’s system of ribbed vaults of uniform curvature and pointed arches achieved a disciplined regularity of texturally consistent, integrated spaces and lent itself to an efficient workshop production of standardized parts.

The determinants of the structure were Abbot Suger’s demand for capacious windows (for a discussion of the place of light metaphysics at Saint-Denis see Suger, Abbot of Saint-Denis) and columnar supports. Not only did the latter’s cylindrical form enhance the spatial fluidity of the interior, but their slender dimensions required the builder to realize an exceptionally light superstructure, characteristic of such contemporary Parisian churches (all 1130s) as Ste Geneviève, St Pierre-de-Montmartre and the circular nave of the Temple (destr.) Nevertheless, the columns of Saint-Denis also reflected their surviving 8th-century analogues in the nave, in some cases supporting reused capitals, satisfying Suger’s concern to join harmoniously the new work with the old. The columns and the west façade, with its echoes of Roman triumphal arches and Carolingian and Ottonian westworks, set up associations with both the medieval past and the Early Christian structures of Rome, demonstrating St Denis’s status as a disciple of St Peter and apostle to Gaul.

Although the Saint-Denis choir was widely known, an accurate assessment of its influence is hampered by uncertainties in the dating of other structures. The choir plans of Noyon Cathedral and the abbey church of Saint-Germer-de-Fly, for example, are often classed as members of a ‘school of Saint-Denis’ and dated in the 1150s. However, their plans with tangential chapels may have been laid out in the 1130s and derived from such nearby models as Thérouanne Cathedral (c. 1133; destr.). Thus, they may be parallels to rather than followers of the royal abbey. The choir of St Germain-des-Prés Abbey, Paris, however, was rebuilt c. 1145–63. Like Saint-Denis, this Benedictine house, which sheltered the tombs of the Merovingian rulers, was important in the Capetians’ effort to establish their pedigree. The three-storey elevation, a columnar arcade surmounted by a false triforium of biforate openings and an ample clerestory, offers the closest extant reflection of Suger’s choir; the single ambulatory, the handling of ribs and arches and the orientation of capitals defined interior spaces more crisply, however.

Within the Ile-de-France, Senlis Cathedral (begun c. 1151; see Senlis, §1), located in another centre of Capetian power, adopted shallow chapels, monolithic columns and shafts en délit, large windows, and base, abacus and rib profiles from Saint-Denis; but it also synthesized elements culled from Normandy and around Beauvais: rectangular stair-towers placed east of the projecting transept, a central vessel covered with sexpartite vaults carried on alternating piers and columns, and a spacious gallery set between the arcade and clerestory. Saint-Denis should, therefore, be seen neither as a miraculous apparition nor as the progenitor of all Gothic churches. For all its precocity, it was part of an energetic regional movement inaugurated around 1130 and developed in both major projects fostered by the crown and allied ecclesiastical magnates and in such relatively modest buildings as the parish church of St Maclou (choir and transepts 1140–65), Pontoise. The inimitable character of Saint-Denis resulted from its triple function as monastery, pilgrimage centre and royal church, and from the talents of its masons.

Sens Cathedral brings into focus the complex filiations of the earliest buildings to bear the label ‘Gothic’ (see Sens, §1, (i)). Begun in a local Burgundian Romanesque style, with a plan common to a broad area south of Paris, most notably Chartres Cathedral (after 1020; rebuilt) as erected by Bishop Fulbert (reg 1006–28), its final appearance was the fortuitous accident of the rapid architectural changes c. 1140. The voluminous central vessel offered a distinct alternative to the lateral expansiveness of Saint-Denis’s interior. Its pattern of broad cubic units echoed in the nave of Le Mans Cathedral (c. 1145–58), recalls such German imperial buildings as Speyer Cathedral (see Speyer, §1) and may have its ultimate source in Lombard architecture. Around 1145, however, the central vessel was redesigned as a structure of thin mural planes articulated by a taut armature of shafts and mouldings as seen in the Ile-de-France. The alternation of piers and twin columns that carry sexpartite vaults parallels that of Senlis Cathedral, while the original configuration of the upper two storeys (rebuilt 13th century) repeated that at St Germain-des-Prés and Saint-Denis. The stability of the enormous ribbed vaults was ensured by a system of vertical piers that launched exposed arches over the aisle to abut the light clerestory wall.

In south-west France well-established Romanesque approaches were recast using the new structural techniques, but the influence of Paris in planning or elevation design is not discernible. Ribbed vaults and pointed arches, possibly derived from Normandy, were employed in the single nave of Angers Cathedral (c. 1150) to transform the compartmentalized interior typical of the region’s domed churches into a unified space bounded by walls that are treated as perforated tympana. Similarly, Poitiers Cathedral (c. 1160) influenced the design of the local hall churches, leading to the elegant vaulted canopies (c. 1210) of St Serge, Angers (see Angers, §2, (iii)).

Cistercian architecture also acted as a foil to contemporary developments in the Ile-de-France, and as a prelude to the Order’s role as a primary conduit for the transmission of French ideas throughout Europe (see Cistercian Order, §III, 1). At Cîteaux II, Clairvaux, Fontenay and Pontigny in the 1130s and 1140s, the Cistercians drew largely on Burgundian Romanesque forms and traditions (see Romanesque, §II, 5, (i)), but they expertly incorporated the ribbed vault into their conventual buildings. The Order’s later detailed architectural legislation, which forbade stained-glass windows, excessive height and width, towers and sculptural embellishment, seems a conscious rejection of the elaborate spatial and light effects at the heart of the new architecture.

Ironically, Cistercian design was infiltrated by recent developments almost immediately after the death of Bernard of Clairvaux in 1153. The new choir of Clairvaux III (c. 1154–74; destr. 1812–19), with its ambulatory, radiating chapels and clerestoried apse, was a simplified version of the royal necropoleis of Saint-Denis and St Germain-des-Prés, intended presumably as an appropriately grand setting for Bernard’s tomb (see Clairvaux Abbey). Cîteaux III (rebuilt by 1190) introduced a variant scheme with a rectangular ambulatory bordered by contiguous chapels (see Cîteaux Abbey). While the ‘Bernardine’ cruciform plan was repeated in France (e.g. Le Thoronet Abbey, Languedoc) and abroad into the 13th century, more ambitious choir plans, usually with rib-vaulted, two-storey elevations of an arcade and clerestory, characterized such larger houses as the abbeys at Pontigny (1180s) and Vaucelles (late 12th century).

Between 1120 and 1150, then, French architecture, far from being a homogeneous movement emanating from Paris, showed a striking variety in its approaches to structure and space. The use of ribbed vaults, the interest in large windows and the taste for columns were not induced by pragmatic or liturgical considerations. Although its underlying motivations are not fully understood and probably varied according to place and patron, the new architecture of the Ile-de-France coincided with the effective reassertion of royal power and the appearance of a conscious modernity in the élite intellectual circles of Paris.

(b) The first synthesis and the quest for height, 1150–90.

Architecture between 1150 and 1190 was dominated by large-scale ecclesiastical projects in the burgeoning urban centres of northern France. A series of cathedrals and abbeys was begun c. 1150 that explored greater height as they retained the lightness introduced during the previous decades. A four-storey elevation, composed of arcade, gallery, triforium passage or decorated wall zone and clerestory, generally combined with sexpartite vaults, was favoured in the cathedrals of Cambrai (c. 1150; destr.), Arras (c. 1160; destr. 1804), Laon (c. 1155–60; see Laon, §1, (i)), Paris (c. 1160), Soissons (south transept begun c. 1176), Rouen (nave after 1200; see Rouen, §IV, 1, (i), (b)) and Meaux (c. 1200), the abbeys of Notre-Dame-la-Grande (after 1171; destr.) in Valenciennes, Notre-Dame-en-Vaux (c. 1157–c. 1180) at Châlons-sur-Marne, the choirs of St Remi (c. 1170–90), Reims, and Montier-en-Der Abbey (c. 1190–1200), and the parish church (c. 1190) at Chars. Although the four-storey design with ribbed vaults may have appeared in the Ile-de-France during the 1130s at Saint-Germer-de-Fly and slightly later at Noyon Cathedral (1150), probably under the influence of St Lucien (1095–1140; destr. 1791–1819), Beauvais, the sources of this elevation lay in Rhenish architecture, for example the nave of Essen Minster (mid-11th century; destr. 1275), and is implied in the palatine chapel (c. 790–805) at Aachen. The concentration of this scheme in northern France and the contemporary construction in a Romanesque idiom of the transepts of Tournai Cathedral and St Donatien (destr. 1799) in Bruges underscores the variety of interpretations possible in a given regional building type.

Four-storey elevations were set over quite different ground-plans, cruciform at Laon and Arras, but with apsidal transepts at Cambrai, Valenciennes, Soissons and Noyon, based on the trefoil plans of such major Romanesque buildings as St Lucien, Beauvais, Tournai Cathedral or St Maria im Kapitol (consecrated 1065) in Cologne. The five-aisled plan of Notre-Dame, Paris, with a non-projecting transept seems to have realized the projected form of Suger’s Saint-Denis, but may have been inspired equally by its Merovingian predecessor. The location of the transept towards the middle of the plan produced a significantly deeper choir, which separated the clerical and congregational spaces.

Within the French examples, master masons’ handling of walls, approaches to support and choices of form were borrowed freely from Normandy, Paris and Picardy. At Laon, for example, an essentially thick-wall elevation was adopted, as at St Remi, Reims, which included a gallery and triforium passage on the interior and an exterior walkway at clerestory level (see Thick-wall structure). Both edifices have cylindrical piers, while at Arras the choir structure was carried on piers and twin columns and the Cambrai transepts rose on composite piers. Laon’s multiplicity of towers, two each on the transept and west façades, and a crossing lantern, continued a Romanesque theme also found at Tournai. At Notre-Dame in Paris, on the other hand, towers were restricted to the public entrance of the west façade.

The builders of Arras Cathedral, Notre-Dame-en-Vaux, Châlons-sur-Marne, and St Remi, Reims, experimented simultaneously with new approaches to unity and the effects of disalignment, with results that were more complex visually than at Saint-Denis and Sens. In the former churches, the clerestory window mouldings were continued downward into the triforium, linking the two levels. At the same time, the different pattern of openings in the front and back walls of the gallery and the use of free-standing columns across the mouths of the chapels created an ambiguous play of light through arcaded screens set one before the other. In a brilliantly unorthodox solution, the master of the Noyon transepts (c. 1170–80) reversed the second and third storeys of the four-storey choir elevation to concentrate two glazed levels in the upper half of the wall. Constructed of three superposed passages and pierced by three zones of glazing, the Noyon transepts achieved a nuanced luminosity and diaphanous fragility unsurpassed in 12th-century architecture.

At Notre-Dame, Paris, begun c. 1160, four-storey elevation was combined with the characteristically local thin-wall structure and columnar piers; but its most remarkable aspect was its height, nearly 33 m, surpassing even the largest Romanesque churches and fully one-third taller than Noyon or Laon. According to Clark and Mark a two-tiered arrangement of flying buttresses (rest.) stayed the gallery and clerestory and resisted the substantial wind forces against the steeply pitched roof (see Buttress). While the presence of such a system in the choir and the primacy of the cathedral in the development of the flying buttress remain unresolved, there is little doubt that Notre-Dame’s soaring, light structure set a new standard for emulation. In his condemnation of sumptuous church building (c. 1180), Peter the Chanter (d 1197) captured the pride and spirit of competition that informed the architecture of leading ecclesiastics: ‘Men sin even in building churches; for their heads should be more lowly than their bodies … Today on the contrary, the choirs of churches are built higher and higher.’ (Verbum abbreviatum; ed. in PL, ccv (1855), col. 258).

Although the four-storey elevation dominated large-scale church architecture during the third quarter of the 12th century, the three-storey composition continued to appear widely. Some smaller churches were conceived as reduced versions of four-storey models: in the vicinity of Paris, for example, the cathedral’s structure of flat walls and flying buttresses was adopted at Notre-Dame, Mantes-la-Jolie, and St Martin, Champeaux; Mantes has a gallery while Champeaux has oculi in the middle level. In and around the capital, the parish churches of St Hermeland, Bagneux, St Denis, Arceuil, and Ferrières-en-Brie all contain extensive reflections of Notre-Dame, and the two-storey pilgrimage church of St Mathurin, Larchant, has been attributed to a cathedral master. North of Paris, the Benedictine abbey of St Vincent (c. 1175; destr.) at Laon and the Premonstratensian St Yved (c. 1176–1208), Braine, show the local response to Laon Cathedral. Orbais Abbey (c. 1165–1200) clearly derived its columnar supports and triforium–clerestory linkage from St Remi, Reims. Their shared three-storey composition with a band triforium passage of uniform arches set between balanced arcade and clerestory zones was to be profoundly influential on the next generation of Gothic architects. The scheme seems to have developed less in reaction against the four-storey type than as a variant appropriate to the liturgical needs and modest scale of monastic and parish churches.

Finally, the influence of the first generation of French Gothic structures continued to the end of the century. Sens Cathedral was particularly significant within its immediate area, as shown at St Quiriace (1157–85), Provins, and the priory of St Martin (late 12th century), Chablis. The choir (second half of the 12th century) of the Cluniac priory church of St Nicolas at Saint-Leu-d’Esserent was indebted mostly to nearby Senlis Cathedral. The rebuilding of the choir (c. 1180–1200) of Ste Madeleine at Vézelay on a plan and elevation design stemming from Sens and probably from Saint-Denis is a reminder that the three-storey elevation was not relegated to secondary edifices, but appeared at even the most important cult sites.

(c) Maturation and experiment, 1190–1230.

Around 1195 the image of the great church was altered at the cathedrals of Bourges, Chartres and Soissons, where the potential of the flying buttress to increase the height of a building was dramatically developed. Rather than achieving subtle effects in depth, their masons erected thin flat walls framing enormous openings and articulated by a legible framework of shafts and mouldings. As the solutions formulated at this time persisted in élite European architecture for the next three centuries, this moment of French building has been labelled High Gothic and seen as a period of maturity after the diverse experiments of the preceding half century. In reality, while acknowledging the critical role that these structures played for future builders, the architectural activity between 1190 and 1230 was as intensely speculative and heterogeneous as in the 1130s and 1140s.

The elevation of Chartres Cathedral, reconstructed after a fire in 1194, has often been seen as the classic configuration, formed by a three-storey central vessel, with a triforium passage, towering over flanking aisles, that was passed on to the cathedrals of Soissons, Reims, Amiens and Beauvais. It is probably more accurate to see Chartres and the choir (begun c. 1200) of Soissons as closely related but simultaneous creations from common sources. Both were indebted fundamentally to architecture emanating from the Laon area and the three-storey elevations found at St Yved, Braine, and St Vincent, Laon—all versions of ‘reduced architecture’—but at Chartres and Soissons combined with such devices as the flying buttress to realize designs of unprecedented scale. Yet the new cathedrals were not simply enlarged versions of parish or smaller monastic churches. Perhaps their most obvious feature was the dramatic extension downwards of the clerestory to produce an approximate ABA rhythm of the three zones of the elevation. In the clerestory, oculi were set above large twin-lancet windows and the three openings were joined by thin slabs of stone, in the form known as plate tracery.

Chartres and Soissons introduced a consistent use of quadripartite vaulting over the main and peripheral spaces that was linked to a uniform support system. Given their size, height and the incorporation of flying buttresses, galleries were no longer necessary to stiffen walls or to provide additional space for altars, and they were consequently eliminated. Taken together, these changes resulted in a simplification and regularization of the structure that involved fewer parts capable of greater standardization. The role that considerations of production played in the design of large-scale buildings is only now beginning to be appreciated. From c. 1200 some master masons sought to rationalize the fabrication of building elements by applying techniques of mass-production similar to those used in contemporary industry (Kimpel and Suckale). The erection of the choir of Soissons in less than 20 years and the vast bulk of Chartres in c. 25 years bears witness both to diocesan prosperity, which sustained continuous building, and to their workshops’ efficient methods of construction.

In seeking to integrate the supports more closely with the structure above, builders of the 1190s followed the previous generation, who had experimented with pier designs by multiplying shafts about a cylindrical or polygonal core (see Pier, §2), possibly to mark liturgical divisions of space or to lend luxurious complexity to the interior. At Soissons, a single colonnette was grafted on to the main vessel face of a columnar pier, while the pilier cantonné, with four shafts placed on the axes of the central core, appeared in the abbey of St Laumer (now St Nicolas; c. 1165), Blois, in the choir (c. 1180) at Canterbury Cathedral and at Chartres, to be taken over at Reims, Amiens, Beauvais and in the choir aisles (c. 1210) of Troyes Cathedral. The piers of Bourges Cathedral (begun ?1180s) were designed with eight shafts around a circular centre) in a disposition that recalled the alternating aisle supports of Notre-Dame, Paris. Thus the supports of Soissons, Chartres and Bourges cathedrals retained the primacy of the column as they created a continuous vertical accent from the floor to the springing of the vaults.

Bourges Cathedral offers an interpretation of the three-storey elevation markedly different from that of Chartres or Soissons. Its five aisles are massed in a pyramidal section, with relatively short clerestories and enormous arcades rising nearly two-thirds of the total height (37.5 m. The miniaturization of the choir chapels, the elimination of the transept, the choice of broad, sexpartite vaults and the restriction of exterior towers to the west façade reveal a desire for integration and a unifying lateral expansion of interior spaces that appear to unfold from the central vessel. Major elements of the plan and structure were derived from Sens and Paris; the inspiration of the tall arcades may lie in Romanesque Burgundy, for example at Cluny III or St Philibert, Tournus. Bourges can be seen as an amalgamation of features drawn from the most prestigious buildings of France, doubtless to promote its archbishop’s claim as the primate of southern France.

The so-called Chartrain scheme, stressing evenly lit spaciousness, could be applied to churches of radically different scales and was infinitely more adaptable than the Bourges solution, which could be realized only on a large scale and was echoed in but a few major edifices, for example the choirs of St Martin (destr.), Tours, and the cathedrals of Coutances, Le Mans and Toledo. Yet the structures begun between 1210 and 1230, including Reims, Amiens and Beauvais cathedrals and the collegiate church of Saint-Quentin, reveal a subtle, synthetic response to the apparently opposing alternatives offered by Bourges and Chartres.

Reims Cathedral, begun in 1211, insofar as it adopted the pilier cantonné and the ABA scheme, was the most straightforward appropriation of the Chartres elevation, but it also included significant local elements in the plan, the linkage of triforium and clerestory in the apse, and superposed passages and oculi in its interior transept façades that derived immediately from St Remi. Like Chartres, Reims Cathedral was thoroughly modern in structure and ornamentation, yet encapsulated its own long architectural history in its plan (see fig.) and isolated features of its elevation. The most significant contribution of Reims to Gothic architecture was geometric bar tracery, formed by slim stone mouldings set into the window (see Tracery, §2, (ii)). This replaced the last vestiges of the Romanesque approach of a continuous enclosing wall interrupted by isolated openings, substituting the impression of a skeletal cage, within which space was defined by connective membranes of stone and glass. A dense, texturally consistent grid of tracery now embraced all forms and spread over all surfaces of the building.

Reims Cathedral, interior of nave, after 1221; Photo credit: Giraudon/Art Resource, NY

Bar tracery in increasingly elaborate patterns appeared in Amiens Cathedral (1220–c. 1270) and the choir (1225–72) of Beauvais Cathedral, demonstrating, together with Saint-Quentin, that builders and patrons did not necessarily see Chartres and Bourges as mutually exclusive alternatives. At both Beauvais and Saint-Quentin, pyramidal massing with a clerestoried inner aisle is wedded to a tall central vessel. At Amiens the narrow central vessel (h. 42 m) is three times as high as it is wide, with an arcade that rises to half the total height. The AA elevation sets up a series of unifying lateral views into the aisles and squeezes space emphatically upward. The nave was ordered with consummate rigour and clarity: each bay is outlined by shafts and responds; above, the mullion linking the triforium and clerestory divides the upper section of the unit in half; finally, the clerestory is halved again. Each component of the elevation was placed in a separate plane and different tracery patterns distinguish one level from another.

Exterior design was also transformed. The masters of Chartres, where nine towers were planned, created the illusion of a glowing, dematerialized interior by means of a massive exterior structure. At Reims and Beauvais, despite the persistence of towered transepts to mark major public or clerical entrances, the exterior bulk was hidden behind a mantle of applied tracery and punctuated by crockets and pinnacles, which at Amiens (see fig.) also functioned structurally to counteract tensile forces in the buttress piers (Mark, 1982). Mimicking the design of precious metalwork, French cathedrals around 1230 achieved a consummate integration of structure and ornament.

A further architectural solution, termed the ‘resistance to Chartres’ (Bony, 1957–8), appeared in the early 13th century in a zone extending from Switzerland through Burgundy and northward into the south Netherlands and England. Numerous buildings, such as the cathedrals of Geneva (completed c. 1232), Lausanne (1190–1232) and Lyon (c. 1190), Notre-Dame (1220–50), Dijon, Notre-Dame (nave 1235–50) at Semur-en-Auxois, St Martin (begun 1221), Ypres, and the Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (1234–8) in Oudenaarde, retained an elevation with a short clerestory, but pursued complex effects obtained through walls of superposed arcaded passages and remained impervious to the planar gigantism of Chartres or Reims. This style had precedents in the same Braine–Laon–Cambrai corridor that underlay the Chartres and Soissons designs, but drew together a different set of features, including the screened and syncopated effects of St Remi, Reims, and Arras Cathedral, and the elaborate patterns of shafts en délit of Laon, Paris and the south transept of Soissons. Further, the churches at Taverny (c. 1225–30) and Nesles-la-Vallée (c. 1190–1210) were modelled on the Braine elevation and are nearly indistinguishable from Oudenaarde, demonstrating that the Chartres scheme did not wholly prevail. Auxerre Cathedral (begun 1215), with its tall clerestory, incorporated Chartrain ideas within a structure that included wall passages. So too in Normandy, at the cathedrals of Bayeux and Coutances (see Coutances Cathedral), and the choir of St Etienne, Caen, the traditional thick-wall elevation persisted, but was lightened and enriched through the assimilation of the flying buttress and plate tracery.

If viewed in terms of sheer numbers of churches built, Chartres, Bourges, Soissons, Reims, Amiens and Beauvais represent a class of exceptional structures that were distinguished from more usual designs. The development of French architecture in 1190–1230 was not concentrated in a single region nor was it the possession of one group of avant-garde edifices.

(d) Rayonnant architecture, 1230–1300.

The linearity and preciosity made possible by bar tracery established in France a general theme with countless local variations and references to earlier Gothic and even Romanesque works (see Rayonnant style). The career of Gautier de Varinfroy (fl c. 1240–75) demonstrates the ability of a master mason to tailor his work to the physical and stylistic parameters of each particular project. He remodelled the four-storey elevation of Meaux Cathedral, built the upper half of the nave of Evreux Cathedral over a Romanesque arcade, perhaps repaired the western bays of Sens Cathedral after the south tower collapsed in 1268, and constructed the triforium and clerestory of the choir at St Pierre, Chartres.

Paris was apparently the crucible for the assimilation of developments of local origin and derived from other centres such as Amiens. Royal patronage under Blanche of Castile and Louis IX (see Capet family, §1) realized a series of ambitious projects that defined the opus francigenum and created monuments that were to be widely imitated throughout Europe. The reconstructed nave of Saint-Denis (begun c. 1231) shows, despite the constraints imposed by the preservation of much of Suger’s building, the combination of influences from Normandy, Burgundy and Reims that produced a new stylistic synthesis. The articulation of mouldings, the recession of aisle windows behind a Remois passage, and the planar recession of the clerestory marked the final step in the dissolution of the solid wall of the three-storey elevation. The building’s contrasts of surface and depth, of physical and optical means of unification, animated a wide variety of experiments during the remaining years of the century. The Saint-Denis master may also have been responsible for the glazed triforium and clerestory of Troyes Cathedral (after 1228) and the royal chapel (c. 1230) at Saint-Germain-en-Laye. Saint-Denis also influenced the chapels (1235–40) added to the nave of Notre-Dame, Paris, and penetrated into provinces far from the capital, best seen in Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral (1248–80).

France, Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, view from the south, c. 1241–8; photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY

In the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, built c. 1241–8 to house relics of the Passion of Christ acquired by Louis IX, the minimalist structural members created an unobtrusive scaffolding for a multimedia covering of sculpture, stained glass, painting and glass inlay that present the sacral character of French kingship and the nation as the chosen of God (see Paris, §V, 2, (i)). Its most salient features, perforated gables above the upper windows and florid pinnacles crowning the buttresses, combine with the huge traceried windows to impart a character reminiscent of metalwork to the architecture that conveys its character as a monumental reliquary (see fig.). The imitation of so-called micro-architecture (Bucher, 1976) can be recognized in the delicate sculpted piers of the south transept porch of Chartres (c. 1220–30) or the quatrefoil reliefs of the Amiens façade dado, but, before the Sainte-Chapelle, never had an entire edifice been conceived in an aesthetic so close to metalwork.

Following the Sainte-Chapelle, chapels of special status, such as the Virgin Chapel (1259–67) at Saint-Germer-de-Fly, and commemorative churches, notably St Urbain (1262–c. 1280), Troyes, and St Louis (begun 1298), Poissy, were built in the image of shrines through exteriors decorated with gables and tracery. From about 1250 the decoration of gables became increasingly important in the ornamental work applied to prestigious buildings. New choirs at the cathedrals of Cambrai (c. 1250), Tournai (begun 1245) and Limoges (c. 1265) were festooned with gables, perhaps to emphasize the sacred connotations of the eastern arm. Even interior arcades at Sées Cathedral (1278–94) and the triforia of Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral and the Amiens choir were enriched by applied gables.

Façades erected in the mid-13th century were treated with an especially intense ornamentality. Now conceived as flat closing walls coordinated with the interior elevation, for example at Reims for St Nicaise (c. 1242/5–c. 1256; destr. 1798–1819) and the cathedral (after 1252) and for the transepts (c. 1250–67) of Notre-Dame, Paris, screens of sharp, openwork gables were deployed across the portal zone while enormous rose windows, the patterns of which gave the Rayonnant period its name, dematerialized the upper levels. The transept façades of Notre-Dame, although differing in the handling of ornament, were both based on the Saint-Denis transepts. They influenced a whole series of cathedral transepts in the later 13th century and the early 14th, including the north arm at Tours, the south transept at Meaux and both façades at Rouen, Clermont-Ferrand and Bordeaux.

At St Urbain, Troyes, elision, the elimination of capitals and the introduction of continuous and ‘dying’ mouldings (see Moulding, §III, 3, (ii)) began to destroy the clear definition and distinction of parts. Southern France, in the cathedrals of Narbonne (begun 1272; see Narbonne, §1, (i)), Toulouse (choir 1272–86), Carcassonne (now St Nazaire; 1269–1330), and Bordeaux (begun c. 1280), as well as the Dominican chapel at Toulouse (now Jacobin church, begun 1230–50), emerged as an area of particular importance at the end of the 13th century. Employing northern French thin walls and bar tracery, their emphasis on height and luminosity broke with the indigenous southern tradition of mural mass and unified breadth, doubtless as an affirmation of their bishops’ royal allegiances and their sees as centres of orthodoxy in a region still afflicted with rebellion and heresy. Nevertheless, the interior spaciousness and the reassertion of wall surfaces in these structures may look to local sensibility, exemplified by the single nave (vaulted 1211–13) of Toulouse Cathedral and later continued at Albi Cathedral (begun c. 1277).

The columnar pier, most recently a feature of Cistercian and mendicant architecture alone, was adopted at Narbonne, Toulouse and Carcassonne, perhaps as a sign of sobriety intended to counter criticism of architectural materialism. Simplified pier forms combined with complex mouldings of vaults, arches and window tracery produced a spare network of linear elements that replaced the logic of perfect linkage. At Narbonne, for example, the ribs and arches of the ambulatory vaults arise from a single frail shaft attached to the apse pier, while the arcade mouldings merge into the pier core well above the level of the simple moulded capital.

Thus, the Rayonnant style of Paris, embodied by Saint-Denis and the Sainte-Chapelle, retained a particular currency in aristocratic projects through the first half of the 14th century, but it was complemented by ideas emanating from other centres, such as Troyes and Narbonne. It was taken up by masters at such diverse cathedrals as Gloucester, Girona and Prague, whose approaches to space and redefinition of articulation in many ways set the stage for the developments of the Late Gothic era (see §II, 2 below).


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(iii) British Isles.

Until c. 1300 architecture in the British Isles developed differently from that in France. Although in England there was a comparable burst of prosperity and population growth, the concentration of wealth in the hands of the bishops and the persistent strength of regional barons meant that the crown was relatively less influential in establishing a coherent formal vocabulary that was passed on to provincial centres. The history of Gothic architecture in the British Isles has frequently been written in terms of regional schools, but Cistercian buildings and certain key edifices, such as Canterbury and Lincoln cathedrals or Westminster Abbey, override such localism. Rather than a consistently paced, methodical evolution, there was a succession of pivotal moments in which the impact of external influences redirected architectural thinking in unanticipated directions.

(a) The reception of Gothic, c. 1150–85.

The first intimations of French Gothic forms in England appeared in the second generation of buildings by the Cistercians in the north, notably Kirkstall (W. Yorks), Furness II (Cumbria) and Roche (S. Yorks). Kirkstall (1152) was articulated by ribbed vaults and compact clustered piers, and the terminal wall of the south transept even included a triforium passage. Furness II (c. 1160) and Roche (c. 1170), however, introduced a more conscious strain of French architecture that can be termed Early Gothic. Furness was the first Cistercian church to have a three-storey elevation in its main vessel, possibly to demonstrate its prominence and wealth, intended to rival episcopal structures. Its Gothic character essentially resided in the overall effect of wall surfaces, pierced by large openings and framed by shafts and mouldings, that resembled churches in the Soissons–Laon region, such as St Omer, Lillers, and Nouvion-le-Vineux. Roche, with its three-storey elevation, sharply pointed arches and ribbed vaults rising above uninterrupted wall shafts, looked to more advanced models from the Ile-de-France. As at Furness, however, connections were made not with French cathedral Gothic, but with such relatively modest churches as St Hildevert, Gournay-en-Bray, and at Notre-Dame d’Acey Abbey, Vitreux (Jura), in a style acceptable to the Cistercians. The architectural link between northern England and north-east France followed a pattern of close ecclesiastical relations within the Order.

The ambitious projects of Roger Pont L’Evêque, Archbishop of York (reg 1154–81) at York Minster (see York, §III, 1, (i)), Ripon Cathedral and the Cistercian church at Byland Abbey (both N. Yorks) were important in the development of early English Gothic. The exact relation of these three churches is controversial. The Byland and York choirs were laid out with flat east walls and rectangular ambulatories connecting a succession of chapels. This may represent a chain of influence from such continental structures as St Bavo (destr. 1540) in Ghent and St Bartholomew (c. 1140–50; destr.) in Liège, through Evesham Abbey (Hereford & Worcs; destr.) and the cathedral (consecrated 1092; destr.) at Old Sarum, near Salisbury, then to Byland via York. Equally it may indicate the minster’s appropriation of a Cistercian plan transmitted from Morimond to Byland. This arrangement was widely adopted, at, for example, Wells Cathedral (begun c. 1185), Glastonbury Abbey (1185), Lichfield Cathedral (c. 1215; Staffs) and Salisbury Cathedral.

The treatment of the structure at Byland, Ripon and York was similarly complex in its filiations and no less important in the formulation of a distinctive English style. The French-derived Furness elevation was joined with the Anglo-Norman thick-wall. The remains of Byland and the surviving upper levels of Ripon, as well as reflections of the scheme at Hexham Priory (early 13th century; Northumb.), indicate that clustered piers, elaborate moulding profiles and an overlay of blind arcading created a veneer that masked and fractured solid mural mass. The constantly shifting patterns of openings produced a surface animation both reminiscent of Anglo-Norman decoration and parallel to the experiments in syncopated screens at Arras and St Remi, Reims (see §(ii)(b) above). The wooden vaults and the truncated shaft responds in the arcade spandrels above the piers emphasized the horizontality of three superposed zones.

In the west of England, the Romanesque thick-wall elevation was retained in the nave (after 1175) of Worcester Cathedral, although the application of attenuated shafts and mouldings may betray awareness of Parisian architecture. The banded elevation of the Byland type found its most inventive sequel in the nave of Wells Cathedral, where vertical divisions were assiduously avoided (see Wells, §1, (i)). Like York, Wells underscores the difficulties of satisfactorily defining English Gothic when the terms of analysis move away from French-based criteria. While it may be argued that the Romanesque thick-wall structure merely changed its decorative clothing by adopting a mantle of sharper, finely scaled forms, the increased luminosity, emphasis on sharply moulded surfaces, consistent use of pointed arches and shedding of all references to classical forms demonstrate the formulation of a Gothic architecture, in the sense of a non-historicizing style that was even more fully realized than in France.

England, Canterbury Cathedral, interior of the choir, after 1174; photo credit: Anthony Scibilia/Art Resource, NY

French Early Gothic architecture was most directly influential in the choir of Canterbury Cathedral, rebuilt after the fire of 1174 (see fig.;see also Canterbury, §III, 1). Within the constraints imposed by the retention of the Romanesque crypt and outer walls, Canterbury represented the transplantation of an architecture derived from north-east France and the area of Valenciennes. The columnar arcade, false triforium and clerestory recessed behind a continuous passage were crowned by sexpartite vaults, linked to alternating triple and single colonnette responds. The clerestory passage, although an Anglo-Norman feature, links Canterbury to the architectural current that ran from Switzerland (e.g. Geneva and Lausanne) to the south Netherlands (see §(ii)(c) above).

The clerestory passage at Canterbury demonstrates the fundamental compatibility of continental and English architecture in the later 12th century and the ability of masons to inflect structure and design to meet the requirements and taste of a given region or set of patrons. This is true also of the use at Canterbury of dark marble shafts attached to piers and walls, employing colouristic accents that enjoyed a modest vogue at Valenciennes and Tournai. This may perhaps be connected with the reference by Gervase that William of Sens imported stone ‘from across the sea’. The extraordinary popularity of marble shafts in 13th-century England, at Lincoln, Salisbury and Westminster, exemplifies the insular tendency to appropriate and develop isolated elements rather than entire systems from French sources.

William the Englishman, master mason of the Trinity Chapel and Corona, effected subtle but significant structural changes by introducing a true passage into the triforium and reinforcing the thin clerestory wall with low flying buttresses. While the model for the flyers remains elusive, they point to an awareness of recent French structural innovations at Sens, Paris and Cambrai. In the Trinity Chapel, the setting for Becket’s shrine, the architectural richness increases: the arcade columns are ringed by changing configurations of two, four and eight shafts; the twin hemicycle columns, as at Arras or Sens, are themselves coloured polished marble. Together with the incomparable stained glass and wall paintings, the Canterbury choir seems to be an almost literal representation of the Heavenly City (Revelations 21).

Canterbury Cathedral, Trinity Chapel, after 1174; Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

(b) From Canterbury to Westminster, 1185–1245.

The importance of the Canterbury choir lay not in generating a series of copies, but in directing English architecture towards new effects of lightness and linearity (see Early English). This was best captured at Lincoln Cathedral in a sequence of building campaigns (1192–c. 1250: St Hugh’s choir, the two transepts and the nave; see Lincoln, §2, (i), (b)). At Lincoln, however, the design was driven by considerations of space and light rather than structural logic. Following the Canterbury type of elevation, disalignment and syncopated layering were raised to the status of guiding principles. The dark Purbeck ‘marble’ shaft of the vault respond is cut off above the level of the arcade capital and meets the rib at a seemingly arbitrary level in the triforium spandrel, destroying the visual relationship of the vault to the piers. Truncated vault shafts had previously been used at Byland and the similarity of triforium designs would also seem to confirm Lincoln’s connection to the north.

The most unusual feature of St Hugh’s choir, the so-called ‘crazy vaults’ comprising groups of three ribs that converge on two centres at the crown, marked the first appearance of tiercerons, ribs that arc from wall to keystone, a form that was to trigger myriad inventive variations in English vault design (see Vault). By multiplying the number of ribs and introducing two keystones tied by a longitudinal ridge rib, the Lincoln vaults further broke down the centralized focus and integrity of the individual bay and intensified the effects of horizontality. These vaults were not, however, the product of capricious design by a perverse master mason, but an ingenious solution that permitted an expansion of the windows in the choir to include three broad openings per bay. In this regard the architect of St Hugh’s choir was the heir to William the Englishman’s explorations of luminosity in the upper levels of the Canterbury presbytery and Trinity Chapel. The vault of St Hugh’s choir was further refined in the nave (c. 1220–c. 1237), the solution of which was to be repeated in ever more elaborate variations throughout the 13th century, as in the Ely presbytery (c. 1234–52; see Ely Cathedral, §1, (i)) and the rebuilding of Exeter Cathedral (from c. 1279).

The multiplication of linear elements and layered arcaded walls used at Lincoln was explored, together with other influences, in the east end (c. 1225–50) of Beverly Minster, the Worcester Cathedral choir and presbytery (completed 1231) and the Glasgow Cathedral choir (c. 1240; see Glasgow, §3). Worcester and other West Country buildings influenced the designs of the first Gothic buildings in Ireland, all begun in the 13th century, the cathedrals of Waterford and Christ Church and St Patrick in Dublin (see Dublin, §IV, 1). At the same time, a current of greater restraint and sobriety informed Salisbury (1220–66), rebuilt on a rectilinear double-transept plan that seems to reflect the requirements of the newly devised liturgical Use of Sarum (see Salisbury, §2, (i)). Rather than the variety at Canterbury and Lincoln, a form of pilier cantonné and quadripartite vaults are consistently applied at Salisbury, yet the potential of the former to unify the elevation vertically was ignored. The attached Purbeck shafts, set against the light stone of the cylindrical core, would have worked with the stained glass to create a sparkling, coloured interior, as at Canterbury, and the truncation of vault shafts in the manner of Wells maintained the English emphasis on horizontality.

The expansive triplet windows of the Salisbury clerestory and especially the elegant eastern Lady chapel reveal the English interest in spaciousness and luminosity. In its hall-church format, the Lady chapel resembles a miniaturized version of St Serge, Angers. The open interior and reduction of supports to attenuated bundles of shafts throws primary emphasis on the almost continuous glazing of the exterior wall. This multiplication of windows, the most conspicuous example being the Five Sisters in the north transept (c. 1220–55) of York Minster, set the stage for the architectural developments following the reception of bar tracery at Westminster Abbey (see §(c) below).

Salisbury and Wells also demonstrate the English taste for screen façades, developed in some Anglo-Norman buildings, with the concomitant reduction in the size and importance of the western towers. At Salisbury tiers of sculpture-filled niches and passages that featured in liturgical performances dissolve the solidity and coherence of the wall. Wells Cathedral presents the most spectacular west façade of its age. Although the portals remained characteristically small, the expansive wall and square flanking towers became the stage for the display of figures set in delicate tabernacles. Wells, no less than the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, monumentalized the effects of metalwork to lend a transcendent image to the church structure.

(c) Westminster Abbey and its impact, 1245–1300.

The king emerged as a major patron and influence on church architecture only with the rebuilding of Westminster Abbey (from 1246) by Henry III. As a royal abbey, the king’s burial-church, place of coronation, shrine of St Edward the Confessor and reliquary for such sacred treasures as the Holy Blood, Westminster thus looked to the analogous churches in France at Reims, Royaumont Abbey (1227–36), Saint-Denis and the Sainte-Chapelle (see London, §V, 2, (i)). Precise models were identified and their combination was meant as an assertion of English parity with the French.

Superficially the plan and elevation are strikingly French. The plan, including an ambulatory with polygonal chapels and an aisled transept, the aisle window passage, the piliers cantonnés, the main vessel tracery and the two-tiered flying buttresses can all be found at Reims. The pattern of the triforium and the slight restriction of the windows resemble Royaumont. Richly coloured materials and the painted and gilded diaperwork of the wall surfaces imparted a splendour to the building that must have been inspired by the Sainte-Chapelle. Finally, the narrow proportion of the main vessel in relation to its width and the treatment of the wall as a flat, perforated plane broke decisively with current English practice. Structurally and in detail, however, the building is English. The contrast between the spindly piers and the thick, moulded arcades they support counters the unifying tendency of the ascending vault respond. With the absence of linkage of the triforium, which in fact masks a deep, vaulted tribune, and the clerestory, the liberal use of Purbeck ‘marble’ shafting and a prominent longitudinal ridge rib, Henry of Reyns (dc. 1253) systematically tempered the elevation’s verticality with an insistent horizontal sub-theme.

The introduction of bar tracery at Westminster and the treatment of the wall as a panelled framework were the basis of essential elements in the succeeding styles (see §II, 2 below; Decorated style; Perpendicular style), but the building’s spatial and structural premises had little influence. The French type of plan reappeared only at the royal abbeys of Hailes (1246–51; destr.; Glos), sponsored by Henry III’s brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall (1209–72), and Battle (destr.; E. Sussex). Work directly influenced by Westminster, such as the north transept (c. 1255) of Hereford Cathedral or the Lichfield Cathedral nave (c. 1265), has to be carefully distinguished from its more general stimulus in furnishing a fresh catalogue of forms that led to the adoption of Rayonnant elements in other projects.

The new choir (begun 1258) of Old St Paul’s Cathedral (destr. after 1666; see London, §V, 1, (i), (b)), which was probably built to rival Westminster, featured flying buttresses and large traceried windows in patterns that can be found in the most modern Parisian works of the 1250s. The rose-in-square above a glazed passage in the flat east wall was clearly based on the transept façades of Notre-Dame. The rose may mark the first appearance of the Ogee curve that was to form a leitmotif of the Decorated style over the next century. Moreover, the vertical buttresses and tracery mullions and horizontal transom articulate the east wall in a proto-Perpendicular grid. The premises inherent in St Paul’s were taken further in St Stephen’s Chapel in the Palace of Westminster (see London, §V, 3, (i), (a)). Begun under Edward I in 1292 and destroyed by fire in 1834, St Stephen’s incorporated the latest Rayonnant tracery patterns in an elaborate rectilinear network that framed dynamic, ogee-headed forms.

In the Angel choir (1256–80) of Lincoln Cathedral, bar tracery, sculpture, Purbeck ‘marble’ and stained glass were, as at Westminster, assembled as a sumptuous setting for a shrine, but the flat east wall with its huge eight-lancet window and the low, boxy section of the building were thoroughly English, repeating the disposition of the presbytery and nave, and possibly reflecting a patronal demand for interior harmony (see Lincoln, §2, (i), (c)). Tracery patterns, most immediately derived from Westminster Abbey and its chapter house, were laid on to this traditional thick-wall frame in a felicitous blending of intense rippling surfaces and three-dimensional wall zones.

The building that came closest to Rayonnant was the nave (begun 1291) of York Minster, which included such up-to-date elements as composite piers with unbroken vertical vaults and a gabled triforium linked with the flat clerestory windows. Stylistic elements have been connected variously to Saint-Denis Abbey and the cathedrals of Troyes, Clermont–Ferrand and, most recently, Cologne (begun 1248), but York can best be appreciated as an original work composed of ideas derived both directly and indirectly from French sources, shaped to fit with the existing sections of the minster and seasoned by an English sensibility for dense linear textures. That French architecture was not copied slavishly at York is demonstrated by the chapter house (begun c. 1280). Huge traceried windows, following on those of Westminster Abbey or Salisbury chapter houses, combine with a deep dado arcade and wooden tierceron vault hung from a hidden roof structure to produce an interior in which the space and walls achieve a full, three-dimensional unity. Tracery patterns and individual ornamental motifs may have derived from France (compelling parallels have been drawn between the York chapter house vestibule and St Urbain, Troyes), but their assembly and context reveal, as much as Lincoln or Wells, England’s architectural independence.


  • J. Bilson: ‘The Architecture of the Cistercians with Special Reference to Some of their Earlier Churches in England’, Archaeol. J., 66 (1909), pp. 185–280
  • J. Bony: ‘French Influences on the Origins of English Gothic Architecture’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes [prev. pubd as J. Warb. Inst.], 12 (1949), pp. 1–15
  • F. Nordstrom: ‘Peterborough, Lincoln, and the Science of Robert Grosseteste: A Study in Thirteenth-century Architecture and Iconography’, Art Bulletin, 37 (1955), pp. 241–72
  • G. Webb: Architecture in Britain: The Middle Ages, Pelican Hist. A. (Harmondsworth, 1956)
  • P. Brieger: English Art, 1216–1307 (Oxford, 1957, rev. 1967)
  • R. Branner: ‘Westminster Abbey and the French Court Style’, J. Soc. Archit. Historians, 23 (1964), pp. 3–18
  • P. Kidson, P. Murray and P. Thomson: A History of English Architecture (Harmondsworth, 1965, rev. 1979)
  • J. Bony: The English Decorated Style: Gothic Architecture Transformed, 1250–1350 (Oxford, 1979)
  • M. Dean: ‘The Angel Choir and its Local Influence’, British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions. Medieval Art and Architecture at Lincoln Cathedral: Lincoln, 1982, pp. 90–101
  • M. Hearn: ‘Ripon Minster and the Beginning of the Gothic Style in England’, Trans. Amer. Philos. Soc., 73/6 (1983), pp. 1–196
  • P. Fergusson: Architecture of Solitude: Cistercian Abbeys in Twelfth-century England (Princeton, 1984)
  • N. Pevsner and P. Metcalf: The Cathedrals of England, 2 vols (Harmondsworth, 1985)
  • P. Draper: ‘Recherches récentes sur l’architecture dans les Iles britanniques à la fin de l’époque romane et au début du gothique’, Bulletin monumental, 144 (1986), pp. 305–28
  • C. Wilson: ‘The Cistercians as “Missionaries of Gothic” in Northern England’, Cistercian Art and Architecture in the British Isles, ed. C. Norton and D. Park (Cambridge, 1986), pp. 86–116
(iv) Holy Roman Empire.

The following section is limited to the core of the Empire, covering present-day Germany and Austria.

(a) Isolated experiences, c. 1170–1230.

German architecture was characterized by a strongly entrenched tradition closely associated with imperial court patronage. Before c. 1230 Gothic elements, drawn from a variety of external sources, were essentially added to a Romanesque base (see Romanesque, §II, 2, (ii)). The western choir (after 1171) at Worms Cathedral continued the double-ended plan, the structure of heavy walls decorated with pilasters, dwarf galleries, corbel tables and grouped towers of Ottonian and, ultimately, Carolingian origin (see Worms, §1). Contemporary architecture was acknowledged in such details as window forms, but did not significantly alter the building’s Romanesque demeanour. Ribbed vaults may have appeared in the Mainz Cathedral nave and east chancel by 1137 (rebuilt c. 1200) but derived probably from Lombardy rather than France.

The Cistercians were again instrumental in creating simplified, understated architecture that offered an alternative to the majestic secular cathedrals, yet could be assimilated with German practices. Around 1200 a series of churches began to marry Cistercian traits with both the indigenous Romanesque and a variety of approaches that indicates a broad spectrum of external connections. The three-storey elevation of Bonn Minster, for example, includes a triforium and screened clerestory passages inside that most plausibly looked to neighbouring Switzerland or Burgundy for inspiration. Despite more light from the larger window area, the vertical accents of the continuous vault respond of the clustered piers, and the coherence of its armature of shafts and ribs, the consistent use of round arches, broad interior volumes and general heaviness of detail at Bonn produce a palpably Romanesque air.

Bamberg and Münster cathedrals also emphasized cubic bays using rather different elevations. Although Münster (c. 1225–64) has sometimes been linked to Angevin sources, its primary features of domical vaults with ridge ribs and triplet windows seem to have originated around Cologne. At Bamberg (after 1211, completed 1237; see fig.) Cistercian architecture was adapted to imperial expression, with ‘Gothic’ elements limited to such details as pointed arches and ribbed vaults (see Bamberg, §2, (i)), but its superficially French appearance was not a deliberately symbolic emulation of French models. German ecclesiastical architecture at the turn of the century was otherwise notable for its strongly defined personality that accepted, but was not fundamentally altered by, external influences. More consciously French forms appeared at Limburg an der Lahn Cathedral (begun c. 1190–1200), which combined a four-storey elevation, often associated with Laon Cathedral, with an exterior that remained Romanesque in appearance despite the incorporation of flying buttresses. The decagon (1219–27) at St Gereon, Cologne, also adopted a four-storey elevation (see Cologne, §IV, 2, (i)) and influence from Laon has been thought responsible for the transformation of Bamberg’s towers from closed boxes at the east to open aediculae at the west.

The most striking demonstration that imperial German architecture was not a static or closed system was offered by Magdeburg Cathedral (begun 1209; see Magdeburg, §1, (i)), on which work continued through the first half of the 13th century. Its design displays a balance between a preservationist sensibility and the search for a modern aristocratic language. Architectural relics from the mid-10th-century cathedral were incorporated into the new fabric to establish a tangible link with the Ottonian past. The unmoulded arcades and gallery not only recall the palatine chapel at Aachen but may also indicate the survival of Carolingian imperial ritual practices. Despite the radiating chapels around the rib-vaulted ambulatory, the exterior remains a collection of massive independent blocks akin to Basle Minster (c. 1185–c. 1200). Conversely, the narrow central vessel of the choir and the tall clerestory windows are apparently French in inspiration, recalling 12th-century structures in the Ile-de-France, such as at Senlis and Mantes, although it is possible that the remodelled Notre-Dame, Paris, influenced this royal cathedral at the eastern edge of the Empire.

(b) German architectural modernism, 1230–1300.

In the 1230s German builders, perhaps stimulated by new demands from their patrons, began to adopt not only the superficial formal vocabulary of French Gothic, but its linearity and lightness as well. In the centralized Liebfrauenkirche (c. 1235–60) at Trier diagonally turned chapels, like those at St Yved, Braine, or St Nicaise, Reims, were set between the main vessels’ cruciform arms to produce a complex polygonal plan. The slim columnar supports and the adoption of the pilier cantonné and bar tracery from Reims formed a skeletal frame closed by membranes of glass rather than masonry.

At the cathedrals of Strasbourg and Cologne an even greater intimacy with French architecture was achieved, for in many ways these edifices were full participants in progressive developments rather than followers. The Strasbourg nave (c. 1240–75) was conceived as a fully Rayonnant work, essentially based on the new work at Saint-Denis Abbey (see Strasbourg, §III, 1). The façade, inaugurated in 1275 and evolved through a sequence of design stages of which some elevation drawings survive (Strasbourg, Mus. Oeuvre Notre-Dame), was a virtuoso performance in bar tracery as a trellis of openwork gables and free-standing mullions was slipped over the actual structure of the portals and towers. While the metalwork-like character of the architecture points ultimately to the Paris transept façades and the brittle cages of tracery parallel St Urbain in Troyes, Strasbourg attained a level of true originality in the composition of individual patterns and in the use of tracery to unify and dematerialize the façade.

Cologne Cathedral was the most elaborate realization of Gothic architecture in 13th-century Germany (see Cologne, §IV, 1, (i)). Begun in 1248, the choir (h. 47.5 m) was the project of Konrad von Hochstaden (reg 1238–61), the ambitious Archbishop and imperial Elector. The design of the first master mason, Gerhard, and his successor, Arnold, has been discussed frequently as a direct transplantation to German soil of French architecture, as embodied by Amiens and Beauvais cathedrals; this explanation in terms of French sources alone, however, ignores Cologne’s individual nuances and, more importantly, the reasons behind the adoption of French style.

Cologne Cathedral, interior of the nave looking east, begun 1248; Photo credit: Vanni/Art Resource, NY

Cologne incorporated the full range of modern forms: tracery akin to Amiens, a glazed triforium like the Amiens or Beauvais choirs, statuary attached to the interior chevet piers and an exterior bristling with gables and pinnacles in the manner of the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris. Its builders, however, were not content merely to ape French models, for the innovative oval cores of its piers were to appear in France only in the 1260s at St Urbain, Troyes. The relentlessly consistent use of gables, tracery and pointed-arch windows on the west front, designed c. 1300 by Master Michael, achieved perhaps the most harmonious façade composition of its time. The three-storey elevation’s ABA scheme has led to speculation that Cologne, along with Orléans Cathedral (begun 1287; destr. 1568; rebuilt 1601), represented something of a ‘revival’ of the dignified High Gothic elevation of Chartres or Reims (Kurmann). In spite of the thorough awareness of contemporary French forms, Cologne was fabricated according to local Rhenish stone-cutting methods that had changed little since the Romanesque period.

Cologne, like the nearby Cistercian house of Altenberg (c. 1255–80), which drew heavily on the French royal abbeys of Saint-Denis and Royaumont, was not created by a francophile patron. Contemporary writers made German antipathy towards the French abundantly clear and Archbishop Konrad consistently opposed candidates backed by Louis IX during the struggle for the imperial throne after the death of Emperor Frederick II in 1250. While elaborate tracery, sculpture and high, light space may have embodied the opus francigenum to the clerical patrons at SS Peter und Paul (1269), Wimpfen-im-Thal, the abbey church at Altenberg, and Cologne and Strasbourg cathedrals also reveal that the German nobility and bishops recognized the Rayonnant style as an international language of royal grandeur and spiritual transcendence.

Apart from these few exceptional aristocratic structures, German churches of the mid- to late 13th century tended towards a characteristic interior spaciousness and ornamental restraint. The two-storey elevations of Freiburg im Breisgau Cathedral (nave begun c. 1250), Halberstadt Cathedral (nave c. 1260), and the Marienkirche (chancel c. 1260–90), Lübeck, represent variants of the three-storey basilica adopted by middle-class patrons and in smaller dioceses that find close parallels in monastic architecture. Recent Cistercian buildings, such as Ourscamp (c. 1245; Oise) or Chorin (begun 1270–72), and the new mendicant foundations, for example the Franciscan Ste Marie-Madeleine (c. 1255–62; destr.) in Paris or the Dominican St Paul (after 1233) at Esslingen, eliminated the triforium, perhaps as a sign of humility, but these houses offered easily imitated and economic prototypes couched in light, linear structural terms.

The Hall church, formed by three vessels of equal height, assumed a particular importance in 13th-century Germany. The Elisabethkirche (begun 1235) at Marburg was the most notable early example (see Marburg, Elisabethkirche, §1). The details of the nave resemble those of the Liebfrauenkirche at Trier and the individual elements of the structure have obvious French sources, but the elegant simplicity of both the structure and spatial handling had no counterpart in the great churches of northern France. Although Angevin sources have been proposed for the German hall churches, the mechanism of transmission is not clear. It is more likely that the hall church was developed from the simplified elevations of monastic architecture. The Marburg scheme was to cut across ecclesiastical divisions and appeared in the Cistercian foundations of Haina (begun 1228) and Heiligenkreuz (choir consecrated 1295; see §II, 2, (iii) below), the Severikirche (1278–1330) at Erfurt and the cathedrals of Minden (c. 1270), Verden an der Aller (1274–1313) and the choir (1304–40) of the Stephansdom, Vienna (see Vienna, §V, 1, (i)).

German architecture of the later 12th century and the 13th, if evaluated according to French criteria, appears conservative and (until Strasbourg and Cologne) indecisive in its assimilation of the Gothic style. Viewed on its own terms, however, German building was conditioned by its own charged historical tradition and the accommodation of Gothic form operated on distinctly different levels depending on the edifice and the patrons’ aims. Nevertheless, the period of greatest inventiveness was yet to occur: by the series of Expertises in Milan at the end of the 14th century (see Mason, §IV, 3, (iii)) architectural modernity was epitomized by the maniera tedesca not the opus francigenum.


  • R. Hamann and K. Wilhelm-Kästner: Die Elisabethkirche zu Marburg und ihre künstlerische Nachfolge, 2 vols (Marburg, 1924–9)
  • R. Krautheimer: Die Kirchen der Bettelordern in Deutschland (Cologne, 1925)
  • H. Eydoux: L’Architecture des églises cisterciennes d’Allemagne (Paris, 1952)
  • H.-J. Kunst: ‘Die Entstehung des Hallenumgangeschores der Domchor zu Verden an der Aller und seine Stellung in der gotischen Architektur’, Marburg, Jb. Kstwiss., 18 (1969), pp. 1–104
  • L. Grodecki: ‘Les Arcs-boutants de la cathédrale de Strasbourg et leur origine’, Gesta, 15 (1976), pp. 43–51
  • U. Schröder: ‘Royaumont oder Köln? Zum Problem der Ableitung der gotischen Zisterzienser-Abteikirche Altenberg’, Köln. Dombl., 42 (1977), pp. 209–42
  • P. Kurmann: ‘Köln und Orléans’, Köln. Dombl., 44–45 (1979–80), pp. 255–76
  • M. Davis: ‘The Abbey of Altenberg: Cistercian Simplicity and Aristocratic Iconography’, Studies in Cistercian Art and Architecture, ed. M. Lillich (Kalamazoo, 1984), i, pp. 130–60
  • R. Nussbaum: Deutsche Kirchenbaukunst der Gotik: Entwicklung und Bauformen (Cologne, 1985)
  • D. von Winterfeld: ‘Zum Stande der Baugeschichtsforschung’, Der Dom zu Limburg, ed. W. Nicol (Mainz, 1985), pp. 41–84
  • W. Sauerländer: ‘Style or Transition: The Fallacies of Classification Discussed in the Light of German Architecture, 1190–1220’, Archit. Hist., 30 (1987), pp. 1–13
(v) Scandinavia.

The Gothic style in Denmark, Norway and Sweden appeared primarily in monastic foundations and cathedral architecture. Unlike in England or Germany, Scandinavian architecture did not develop a strongly defined personality through sustained experiment. The Cistercians were again foremost in importing new ideas that established an alternative to indigenous traditions and their finely cut stone buildings offered technical models to an area where wooden churches were built into the 12th century. Alvastra (ruined), Nydala (both 1143) and Roma (1164; ruined; Gotland) carried Bernardine formulae of planning and structure into Sweden. In Denmark, square quadripartite vaults set on massive walls at Sorø (1165–1240) and Holme (1180–1250), near Arhus, reflect continental examples represented by Bebenhausen (Tübingen) and Marienfeld, and seem to indicate German influence. Varnhem (c. 1200–50; Västergötland) was laid out with a circular ambulatory that appears to be distantly related to the new choirs of Clairvaux III and Pontigny II. Finally, the two-storey elevation at Løgum (c. 1200–70), which may derive from the Cistercian mother houses, is an early example of the type discussed in connection with Freiburg im Breisgau (see §(iv)(b) above). That the Scandinavians kept abreast of developments in France was partly due to the annual general chapter meetings, which served as forums for the exchange of architectural ideas.

The stylistic choices in Scandinavian cathedral-building were heterogeneous and connected to lines established by trade and through ecclesiastical and educational contacts. Trondheim Cathedral was begun after 1140 in an Anglo-Norman style (see Trondheim, §2, (i)). After Archbishop Eystein (reg 1157–88) returned from England in 1183 plans were changed to reflect the impact of contemporary projects. The vast octagonal choir chapel (c. 1190–1200) sheltering the tomb of St Olaf was possibly inspired by the Corona of Canterbury Cathedral or the octagon of Lincoln Cathedral. Roskilde Cathedral was built during the tenure of bishops who had studied in Paris (for further discussion and illustration see Roskilde, §1). Its plan, with an ambulatory (c. 1175) and the apse elevation with vaulted tribunes and triplet openings (c. 1200), suggests that these prelates sought to emulate the architecture of northern France. A strong German flavour informs the cathedrals of Linköping (begun c. 1230; see Linköping, §1), Strängnäs (consecrated 1291) and St Maria, Visby. These were all hall churches, but instead of the light, vaulted canopies of Marburg, these churches’ domical quadripartite vaults separated by heavy arches and supported by severe, square piers recall the early 13th-century German examples of Bamberg or Münster.

French influence, apart from the Cistercians, was not altogether absent from Scandinavia, for in 1287 the Parisian master Etienne de Bonneuil was hired by the Uppsala chapter to head the cathedral workshop. The Swedish ecclesiastical élite would have had direct knowledge of architecture in Paris through the presence of scholars at the university, but the act of hiring a Parisian master also testifies to the prestige that French architecture and its builders enjoyed on an international level. Work on the cathedral had started c. 1280 and the extent of Etienne’s work is unknown, but Uppsala has a taut, two-storey structure and a plan composed of an ambulatory, a continuous suite of pentagonal chapels and a projecting transept (for further discussion and illustration see Uppsala, §2). While the plan shares some features with Reims Cathedral, the elevation is characteristic of later 13th-century Germany. Uppsala closely resembles the Marienkirche, Lübeck, and underscores the importance of the Hanseatic city as a centre of architectural influence in the Baltic region.


  • J. Roosval: Die Kirchen Gotlands: Ein Beitrag zur mittelalterlichen Kunstgeschichte Schwedens (Leipzig, 1912)
  • T. Paulsson: Scandinavian Architecture (London, 1958)
  • P. Héliot: ‘La Cathédrale de Roskilde et l’influence de l’architecture française en Danemark vers 1150–1220’, Bulletin monumental, 122 (1964), pp. 233–59
  • I. Swartling: Nydala Abbey: An Outline of its Architecture from Foundation to Dissolution (Stockholm, 1967)
  • I. Swartling: Alvastra Abbey: The First Cistercian Settlement in Sweden (Stockholm, 1969)
(vi) Spain.

Until the late 13th century and the formation of a Catalan school, seen in the churches of Barcelona and later at Girona Cathedral (east end begun 1312), Gothic architectural styles were imported to Spain variously from south-west France, Burgundy and the Ile-de-France. These external influences were transmitted along the pilgrimage routes, through the architectural activity of the Cistercians as they established foundations throughout the Christianized parts of the peninsula, and by royal imitations of prestigious French models. A number of currents coexisted by the last third of the 12th century, but none engendered a school of building.

In Cistercian circles, the monastery of Santes Creus (c. 1174) continued the Bernardine plan of Fontenay, while the second church (begun c. 1170) at Poblet Abbey, S María la Real, Fitero, and S María, Moreruela (both c. 1170–90), adopted a Clairvaux III configuration and were at least partially rib vaulted. Cistercian influences probably lay behind the two-storey elevations of the cathedrals at Ciudad Rodrigo (begun c. 1170; see Ciudad Rodrigo, §2) and Lleida (begun 1203; see Lleida, seu vella ), while their domical ribbed vaults recall Angevin structures (see §(ii)(a) above). Ávila Cathedral (begun c. 1175; see Ávila, §2, (i), (a)) adopted a plan and elevation derived from Suger’s Saint-Denis Abbey, Ste Madeleine, Vézelay, and Angers Cathedral. Finally, the Pórtico de la Gloria and crypt (from 1168) of Santiago de Compostela Cathedral mingled mouldings, capital types and semicircular diagonal ribs characteristic of Burgundy with such northern French motifs as rose windows. Despite the acceptance of certain French plan types and technical features or the insertion of northern ornament, these edifices ignored the overall image of expansive spaciousness and glazed walls. Instead they retained the heavy interior structure with small windows, to reveal the continuing strength of Romanesque traditions.

The decisive victory over the Almohads at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, which dramatically extended Christian control in southern Spain, seems to have inaugurated a new building phase. Castile was the primary beneficiary and direct connections with France were established through the marriage of Blanche of Castile to Louis VIII (reg 1223–6). Every aspect of the French Gothic structural system was adopted at the cathedrals of Toledo, Burgos and León, together with the associations of the Church Militant and Triumphant. Given the indigenous taste for broad interior spaces and compact plans, it is not surprising that the influence of Bourges Cathedral should be felt, most clearly in the five-vessel plan, pyramidal massing, pier and window designs of Toledo Cathedral (begun c. 1220). Yet the inclusion at Toledo of a non-projecting transept and Y-shaped flying buttresses betray an apparent awareness of Notre-Dame in Paris; the three-storey choir aisle with a lit triforium and clerestory oculi drew on the inner aisle (1225–32) of the Beauvais transepts and ambulatory. Decorative elements of Islamic and Mudéjar heritage were added, such as the interlaced arches of the triforium.

Burgos Cathedral (begun 1221) also looked to Bourges, although its three-aisled plan eliminated the possibility of measured, stepped elevation, and Paris was the probable source of the traceried gallery of kings on the north transept façade (c. 1240). León Cathedral (begun c. 1255) embodied the most purely French work of the 13th century in Spain. It was based on churches intimately associated with the French monarchy, setting a 13th-century Saint-Denis superstructure, composed of composite piers with continuous vault responds, a glazed triforium and bar-traceried clerestory, over a Reims-type plan (see León, §II, 1, (i)). The example of León was not followed, however, and, apart from an abortive project for the enlargement of the chevet (1258–76) at Santiago de Compostela, French influence remained the exception rather than the rule in Spanish architecture. León Cathedral, like Westminster Abbey in London, represented a deliberate break with existing traditions and a selection of new royal models to underscore the prestige of its aristocratic patron.


  • E. Lambert: L’Art gothique en Espagne aux XIIe et XIIIe siècles (Paris, 1931)
  • L. Torres Balbás: Arquitectura gótica, A. Hisp., vii (Madrid, 1952)
  • R. Branner: ‘The Movements of Gothic Architects between France and Spain in the Early Thirteenth Century’, Acts of the XIX International Congress of the History of Art: Paris, 1958, pp. 44–8
  • J. Puente Migeuz: ‘La catedral gótica de Santiago de Compostela: Un proyecto frustrado de D. Juan Arias, 1238–1266’, Compostellanum, 30 (1985), pp. 245–75
(vii) Italy.
  • Michael T. Davis

Italy is perhaps the most problematic area for the discussion of Gothic architecture. The absence of a powerful aristocracy and centralized monarchy, the prominence of the monastic orders and the political fragmentation, with the lead in building within the individual city-states assumed by the secular governments, led to a strikingly different pattern of development from the rest of Europe (see Italy, §II, 2). Italian builders and patrons generally showed little interest in the structural complexities or ornamental elaboration that animated French and English building in particular. Integrated into an approach that maintained its Early Christian and Romanesque identity, Gothic features were limited to window designs and pointed arches that produced a slightly more linear and vertical emphasis. Italian communes were indeed motivated by intense rivalry in the creation of impressive structures, but they tended to manufacture their images in terms of civic monuments and the Roman past rather than the royal models of the north.

The spread of the Cistercians into Italy during the 12th century introduced the Order’s familiar architectural formulae. Fossanova Abbey (1187–1208), with cruciform piers, a two-storey elevation and groin vaults, reproduces features from mid-12th-century French Cistercian churches, such as the nave at Pontigny. Chiaravalle Milanese (completed by 1196) and Casamari (1203–17) are exclusively rib vaulted, but their structures remain Romanesque in character. S Andrea (1219–25) at Vercelli, although it has French-style crocket capitals, perpetuates the local rib-vaulted Romanesque traditions of northern Italy into which Cistercian elements were easily assimilated.

Italian architecture was transformed in the 1220s by the mendicant orders’ structural repertory of ribbed vaults and pointed arches that produced a truly Gothic spaciousness in which the interior is suffused with light and walls are reduced to taut membranes (see Dominican Order, §III; Franciscan Order, §III). Yet the Dominican and Franciscan churches continued Cistercian methods of planning and were laid out to simple plans on a geometry of square units. The mendicants’ architectural legislation strengthened many of the Cistercians’ restrictions, seeking a monumental poverty that was the antithesis of northern cathedral complexity and continued the spirit of understatement of the Early Christian tradition.

Yet, unlike the Cistercians and despite the extensive building prescriptions, neither the Franciscans nor the Dominicans developed an identifiable style of their own, apart from the provision of an open congregational space suited to preaching, and a shared tone of restraint. Few churches were based on S Francesco (1228–53), Assisi, the most important church of the Franciscan Order. The continuous responds supporting quadripartite vaults, the wall passage, bar tracery, west rose window and crocket capitals have led scholars to propose connections with Burgundian Gothic and the cathedrals of Reims and Angers. The two-level structure even recalls the long-standing tradition of aristocratic chapels, which, together with the traceried and glazed windows and elaborate wall painting cycles, creates a ‘mendicant Sainte-Chapelle’ intended to display St Francis’s tomb. The squat, rather heavy proportions, however, and the balanced tranquillity of its hall-like interior reveal the translation of these northern features into a dialect that spoke directly with the Roman past.

The diversity of Franciscan architecture is demonstrated in examples with distinctly different plans and elevations. S Francesco (1236–50), Bologna, has a two-storey basilican format over a plan with an ambulatory and radiating chapels. The similar arrangement in the choir (1270–90) of S Lorenzo, Naples (see Naples, §IV, 2), surely reflects the French-inspired patronage of the Angevin court. Il Santo (begun 1230s) at Padua has a suite of Venetian domed compartments (see Padua, §4, (i)), while S Francesco (begun by 1239) in Gubbio and S Fortunato (begun 1292) in Todi were built as hall churches. The Dominicans were no less energetic builders throughout the 13th century, producing such important edifices as S Maria Novella, Florence (nave and transepts begun c. 1277; see Florence, §IV, 6), and S Maria sopra Minerva (c. 1279), Rome. In both of these a minimalist structure, consisting only of slim piers that support wide, rounded arches, square, domical ribbed vaults and pointed transverse arches, achieved a maximal spatial expansion.

Episcopal edifices in 13th-century Italy remained conservative, even retrospective. Within the basilican framework, buildings incorporated such features as ribbed vaults and pointed arches, already present in Romanesque architecture, and added bar tracery and gables as isolated ‘modern’ details. Each cathedral seems to be the result of a conscious search for a distinctive individualism that would set it apart from those in other cities. Siena Cathedral, completed in the early 1270s, can be seen as a vaulted version of Pisa Cathedral (begun 1063), its interior dominated by the crossing lantern, its piers and walls faced with alternating bands of white, pink and dark green marble (see Siena, §III, 1, (i)). The façade, the lower level of which is attributed to Giovanni Pisano and was partially built from 1284 to 1297, may reflect the impact of such French designs as Reims Cathedral or the Paris transepts in the emphasis on portal gables and the display of a populous sculptural programme. The screen-like character of the Siena façade, however, as at Orvieto Cathedral (begun 1290; see Orvieto, §2, (ii), (a)), departed decisively from French models. The simplicity of Arezzo Cathedral (begun 1277–8), apart from its slightly larger windows and more elaborate tracery patterns, is hardly distinguishable from mendicant architecture (see above). The structure and elevation of the central vessel are nearly identical to those of S Maria Novella in Florence.

The independent character of Italian ecclesiastical architecture at the end of the 13th century and the importance of both imperial Roman and Early Christian architecture are best seen at Orvieto and Florence. While Orvieto Cathedral was a slightly medievalized version of an unvaulted basilica, the cathedral of S Maria del Fiore (see Florence, §IV, 1, (i), (a)) was an original hybrid. The initial scheme (begun after 1294), which has usually been attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, appears already to have envisaged a timber-roofed nave with a dome above the crossing of a triconch choir, which would have surpassed those at Pisa and Siena and produced an impressive antique image that compensated for the city’s lack of an important Roman past (see §II, 2, (vi) below).


  • J. White: Art and Architecture in Italy, 1250–1400, Pelican Hist. A. (Harmondsworth, 1965)
  • A. Busignani and R. Bencini: Le chiese di Firenze (Florence, 1982)
  • J. Krüger: S. Lorenzo Maggiore in Neapel: Ein Franziskanerkirche zwischen Ordensideal und Herrschaftsarchitektur (Werl, 1986)
  • D. Gillerman: ‘S Fortunato in Todi: Why the Hall Church’, J. Soc. Archit. Historians, 48 (1989), pp. 158–71
  • C. Bruzelius: ‘Ad modum Franciae: Charles of Anjou and Gothic Architecture in the Kingdom of Sicily’, J. Soc. Archit. Historians, 50 (1991), pp. 402–20
  • M. Trachtenberg: ‘Gothic/Italian “Gothic”: Toward a Redefinition’, J. Soc. Archit. Historians, 50 (1991), pp. 22–37

2. late 13th century–the 16th.

(i) Introduction.

Most aspects of Gothic architecture after c. 1300 can be defined as either a radical refashioning or a fundamental rejection of the essential character of French Rayonnant: its systematic and ubiquitous application of bar tracery. These responses correspond to a broad north–south divide, Italy, southern France and eastern Spain tending to favour mural simplicity and enlarged interior spaciousness, while in the north Rayonnant underwent a series of subtle but radical modifications, starting in England and spreading to Germany and France itself, to the Low Countries and then to central and southern Spain, and to Portugal. The de luxe character of Rayonnant was intensified, its tracery and decorative nichework extended to all aspects of the structure.

These two broad strands often overlapped, and equally they contained within them divisions and alignments in the geography of style. Around 1300 various social and religious trends emerged that affected all the arts and influenced architecture in ways that transcended the boundaries just described. There was a shift in the balance of authority away from the Church towards secular rulers, with the declining moral force of the Papacy (exiled in Avignon 1308–78 and weakened by the Schism 1378–1429), and the rise of royal and aristocratic court cultures not only in such centralized kingdoms as France and England but in Lisbon, Naples, Florence, Prague, Kraków and Malbork—places that, once on the fringe of both Europe and the Gothic style, now became politically and artistically central. The cult of the secular ruler was embodied in the new palace–castles that now enjoyed the stylistic priority once given to churches, with secular influence accordingly becoming manifest in ecclesiastical buildings. The type of palace chapel based on the Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, became an important model for church choirs of all ranks, although the only new genre of church building in this later period was the light, open structure developed by the mendicant orders. Mendicant influence was such a strong unifying factor in Late Gothic, however, that it underlay church designs, especially in towns, right across Europe.

Planning and church interiors were also affected by new forms of lay piety: the new doctrine of Transubstantiation and the feast of Corpus Christi, with their emphasis on the altar and on the real presence of Christ, encouraged the development of exquisitely ornate sacrament houses and other liturgical furnishings, the micro-architectural forms of which were reflected not only in the monumental architecture but also in the votive and funerary chantry chapels and side chapels that now clustered in and around the church building proper, and in the elaborate screens that increasingly separated the liturgical spaces and the clergy from the laity.

These, then, were among the factors unifying the architecture that developed as Paris declined as the architectural centre of Europe. Yet the emergence of ‘nation states’ in England, France and the Iberian Peninsula encouraged the growth of autonomous regional or national styles, many of them generated by royal patronage based in new, fixed centres of government. To set out the history of Late Gothic architecture under national headings reflects a genuine shift in artistic power from northern France to its immediate neighbours at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries.


  • W. Gross: Die abendländische Architektur um 1300 (Stuttgart, 1948)
  • W. Swaan: The Late Middle Ages: Art and Architecture from 1350 to the Advent of the Renaissance (London, 1977)
  • M. Untermann: Der Zentralbau im Mittelalter (Darmstadt, 1989)
(ii) British Isles.

English royal patronage made a more significant contribution to the formation of Late Gothic than that of any other European monarchy. The three enterprises begun under Edward I in the 1290s did much to promote the language of Late Gothic ornament (see Plantagenet, House of family, §3). All three were clearly intended to surpass their French models: the Eleanor Crosses (the montjoies of St Louis; see Cross, §II, 2), the tombs of Edmund Crouchback, Earl of Lancaster (d 1296) and his wife Aveline in Westminster Abbey (the royal tombs in Royaumont and Saint-Denis abbeys), and St Stephen’s Chapel (the Sainte-Chapelle); in addition to their unprecedentedly rich surface finishes, however, they undermined the fundamental aesthetic principles of French Rayonnant with a new repertory of decorative effects, handled with a hitherto unknown freedom. In particular, the two-storey St Stephen’s Chapel (begun 1292; see London, §V, 3, (i), (a)) embodied radical innovations: in the upper chapel (destr. 1334) a dominant horizontal crenellated cornice, a quotation from contemporary carpentry (perhaps screens or tournament podia), which ran above the main windows and severed the elevation from the vault, denied the fundamental French principle of the self-sufficient bay unit; in the lower chapel the integrity of the bay was also compromised by the first known English appearance of lierne ribs, the linear patterning of which conceals the vault structure.

The second main tenet of French Rayonnant, the extension of clear geometric tracery over all adjacent surfaces to become the organizing principle of the interior (see Tracery, §2, (ii)), was partly subverted by the use of sinuous ogee arches in the window tracery (the first examples of curvilinear tracery in Europe); here, however, it was fundamentally undermined by the use of a miniature, tracery-backed canopy, hitherto confined to French portals and buttresses (although a version had appeared in the chapter house at York Minster in the 1280s) in a way quite consistent with the traditional English preference for treating walls in depth, as the major component in the elevation. Released from the systematic discipline of Rayonnant tracery, the repetition at different heights of such decorative elements as the cornice, the niche and tracery grids re-established all-over unity by sheer accumulation.

The splendour and originality of Edward’s chapel made it a fountainhead of the later phase of the English Decorated style (c. 1250–c. 1360). The influence of St Stephen’s was felt most strongly in the north and east of England, in the flame-like tracery windows (1330s) of York and Beverley minsters, and in the niche-encrusted interior of the Lady Chapel (1321–49) at Ely Cathedral; and bulbous ogee arches and seaweedy foliage appeared in a series of elaborate interior furnishings, for example at Lincoln Cathedral, Beverley Minster, Southwell Minster, All Saints, Hawton, St Andrew, Heckington (for illustration see Easter sepulchre), and Exeter Cathedral. In the West of England, where architects showed a comparable interest in disguising structure (e.g. Bristol, St Mary Redcliffe, north porch; c. 1325), the search for the exotic and the unexpected took a more spatial turn. The choir (begun 1298) of St Augustine’s, Bristol, is a stone version of contemporary wooden-roofed secular halls, combined with an array of lierne and net vaults clearly elaborated from St Stephen’s.

From c. 1320 the remodelling of the east end of Wells Cathedral (see Wells, §1, (i)) relaxed the traditional rigidities of English ground-plans with a sequence of distinct spaces, each covered with vaults of almost Islamic elaboration, and each tailored to its separate functions and associations: an octagonal Lady chapel, which evokes the traditional connection between the Virgin and centralized buildings; a low retrochoir in the shape of a hall crypt, and a taller, net-vaulted choir. The latter’s chapel-like forms, containing clear quotations from St Stephen’s, underscore the self-contained, collegiate character of the space. This ingenious adaptation to the exigencies of a local liturgy occurred also at Ely Cathedral, where the monks’ choir was rebuilt from 1322 with a programme of images in all media celebrating the monastery’s Anglo-Saxon benefactors and the cult of its patron, St Etheldreda (see Ely Cathedral, §1, (iv)). The crossing itself was appropriately conceived as a vast martyrium-like octagon crowned by the unique wooden vault and lantern, possibly by William of Hurley, which confirms the ancient status of the cathedral priory in the most spectacular fashion.

Even while Decorated ornament was still flourishing, the Rayonnant notion of tracery as the organizing principle of the interior was restated in the remodelling of the south transept and choir (1331–67) of Gloucester Cathedral (see Gloucester, §1). This adumbration of the Perpendicular style, which was to dominate English architecture for the following two hundred years, rejected the lavish particularity of Decorated in favour of a comprehensive visual unity based on the constant repetition of similar tracery panels. The remodelling of the nave of Winchester Cathedral by William Wynford after 1394 consisted of similar tracery panels disguising a Romanesque core (see Winchester, §III, 1, (ii)). The nave (1378–1405) of Canterbury Cathedral by the king’s chief architect, Henry Yevele, showed how successfully the suave recessions and delicate gradations of Perpendicular moulded stonework could be applied to a type of basilican structure, rare in English great church architecture, with such tall side aisles and arcades that it approximates to the hall-like interiors of contemporary friars’ and parish churches (see below).

It is an indication of the decorative conservatism of Perpendicular that the elevations of Gloucester and Canterbury served as the models for the royal chapels at Windsor, Cambridge and Westminster Abbey that were the crowning architectural achievements of the 15th century. The basilican St George’s Chapel (1475–1506; see Windsor Castle, §2), founded by Edward IV, is little more than a ceremonious amalgam of Canterbury’s piers and Gloucester’s tracery panels, while Henry VII’s Chapel (c. 1503–9) in Westminster Abbey (see London, §V, 2, (i)) and, particularly, the box-like King’s College Chapel (1448–1515; see Cambridge, §2, (i)) recall, behind their Tudor decorative pomp, the grid-like homogeneity of Gloucester. What separates the latter two from their distant prototype is the adoption of large-scale fan vaults. This feature was unique to England and perhaps the single most original component of Perpendicular, extending the old Rayonnant identity of masonry and window tracery to its logical conclusion. Each rib cone, decorated with regular spokes of bifurcating tracery, exactly resembles in plan a bisected rose window.

Their expense and structural indeterminacy confined fans at first to such small enterprises as porches, towers, cloister walks (the earliest extant examples are in the east cloister walk (c. 1351–64 at Gloucester; see fig.) and small micro-architectural chantry chapels. The earliest surviving examples in a high vault are at Sherborne Abbey (begun c. 1425), Dorset, before their belated royal adoption in the side aisles (c. 1480) at Windsor, and their monumental deployment at King’s and Westminster. The King’s vaults, by John Wastell, articulate a monumental vista, while those at Westminster, of unsurpassed technical brilliance, combine fan vaults with pendant bosses to suggest not only the masonic equivalent of wooden pendant roofs but a fantastically enlarged version of the ‘toy’ vaults of chantry chapels.

More austere variants of Perpendicular were found principally in secular and utilitarian structures, and most obviously in parish churches. The spacious town and parish churches of the later Middle Ages, of simple rectangular plan, with slender pillars supporting wooden roofs, owed nothing to great churches except perhaps their window tracery and their scale.

The inspiration of secular halls cannot be discounted, although the real catalyst in the change seems to have been the architecture of the friars, particularly the great London churches (first half of the 14th century) of the Augustinian friars (destr. 1940; rebuilt) and Franciscans (destr.), which set the pattern for the grandest friars’ churches (most destr.) outside the capital and in turn became the ultimate model for the great ‘wool’ churches of East Anglia (e.g. SS Peter and Paul, Lavenham; Holy Trinity, Long Melford) and the Cotswolds (e.g. St Mary, Fairford; SS Peter and Paul, Northleach). Architecturally their interiors were treated as showcases for elaborate furnishings and scaffoldings for the support of bright new clerestories and ornate and expensive timber roofs (e.g. St Wendreda, March; St John the Baptist, Needham Market).

Many of these churches were dominated by single western towers. The later Middle Ages was the age of great steeples, which were applied to parish churches in an ingenious variety of forms, such as the regional groups that can be isolated in Somerset, Yorkshire and East Anglia. By the end of the 14th century, however, spires had mostly been abandoned in favour of the characteristically English flat-topped, battlemented silhouette. In great churches the steeple became a compelling ideal with the construction at Salisbury Cathedral of the central tower and spire (begun c. 1300), certainly a monument to institutional pride and architectural extravagance, but also, like all steeples, a symbol of heaven. The unpopularity of the French two-tower west façade in England meant that most of the greatest cathedral steeples rise over the crossing, and all of them give to the prevailing horizontality of the church a contrasting vertical élan. Salisbury was followed quickly by Lincoln, Hereford and Wells, and the series extended into the Perpendicular period at Worcester, York, Durham and Gloucester, finishing with John Wastell’s majestic Bell Harry (completed by 1509) at Canterbury. Although sometimes conceived with a cavalier disregard for structural soundness, these great steeples belatedly brought into the open an unexpected audacity, a talent for structural improvization, lacking in the churches they crowned.

Owing to different historical and political circumstances, Late Gothic did not become an established tradition in Scotland and Ireland (see Scotland, §II and Ireland, Republic of, §II). The abbey church at Melrose, rebuilt in the 15th century, displays a striking mixture of influences from 14th-century Yorkshire, French Flamboyant detailing, a star vault and Perpendicular windows; in Lothian a more coherent design appears at the richly ornamented Roslin Chapel. In Ireland, Late Gothic motifs appeared in the 15th-century Franciscan convents, where curvilinear tracery was used in both tomb gables and windows, for example at Rosserk Abbey (1440s), Co. Mayo.


  • H. M. Colvin, ed.: The Middle Ages (1963), i–ii of The History of the King’s Works, 6 vols (London, 1963–82)
  • J. Harvey: The Perpendicular Style, 1330–1485 (London, 1978)
  • J. Bony: The English Decorated Style: Gothic Architecture Transformed, 1250–1350 (Oxford, 1979)
  • W. C. Leedy: Fan Vaulting: A Study of Form, Technology and Meaning (Berkeley, 1980)
  • C. Platt: The Castle in Medieval England and Wales (London, 1982)
  • F. Woodman: The Architectural History of King’s College Chapel and its Place in the Development of Late Gothic Architecture in England and France (London, 1986)
  • N. Coldstream: ‘Le “Decorated Style”: Recherches récentes’, Bulletin monumental, 147 (1989), pp. 55–80
(iii) Holy Roman Empire, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

German architectural patronage reflected the politically fragmented nature of the Empire. The intense rivalries of small courts, powerful Elector–archbishops and virtually autonomous Free Imperial Cities (Reichstädte; the most powerful artistic patrons in later medieval Germany) discouraged the growth of dominant architectural language and promoted a stylistic diversity without parallel in Europe. This thriving multiplicity contrasted with the large and relatively homogeneous territories in the east: the territory of the Teutonic Knights, the kingdom of Bohemia and the Habsburg duchy of Austria. Further east lay the emerging nation-states of Poland and Hungary. Some of the most original experiments in Late Gothic architecture were made in these eastern principalities in the 14th century, generating new currents of influence, westwards, across the older sections of the Empire.

(a) Backsteingotik and Rhenish Rayonnant.

A division that cuts across this political and artistic patchwork is that between the stone building areas of the south and the brick architecture (Backsteingotik) of the north German plain and the Baltic coastal cities (see Brick, §II, 3, (i), (b)). Brick Gothic provided unique opportunities for architectural colour, not only in its gaudy interior finishes (e.g. Lübeck, Marienkirche; c. 1260–91), but in the vivid constructional polychromy of its exteriors (e.g. Brandenburg, St Katharinen; c. 1401–34). It owed its finest achievements to the patronage of the Baltic Hansa, with its capital at Lübeck and its networks extending as far east as Estonia. The internationalist ambitions of Backsteingotik and its civic pretensions were set out in the Marienkirche (see Lübeck, §2), a colossal brick version of an up-to-date Franco-Flemish cathedral, dwarfing the city’s own cathedral. It was followed by a series of close imitations, all in brick, many of them in the coastal cities founded from Lübeck (e.g. St Nikolai, Stralsund; Marienkirche, Rostock; St Marien, Wismar), but some extending into Sweden (e.g. Malmö, St Peter; c. 1300) and Denmark (e.g. Vor Frue Kirke, Copenhagen; destr. 1728). The model was also accepted outside the areas of Hansa patronage, for example for the abbey church (1291–1336) at Doberan and for Schwerin Cathedral.

Early 14th-century Rhenish architecture continued to be dominated by the cathedrals of Strasbourg and Cologne, and in particular by the aesthetic problems posed by new types of towers and façades (see §II, 1, (iv), (b) above). The great west façades of Strasbourg and Cologne (1275 and c. 1300, respectively) mark, like Edward I’s enterprises in England, the emancipation from French Rayonnant, with tracery in eccentric and dynamic forms (propellers, panels, mouchettes) extended to every surface of the façade, standing in front of it like harp-strings. In Cologne, perhaps for the first time, the solid faces of the spire are dissolved into geometrical openwork. The French notion of the harmonized façade gave way to an overwhelming concentration on enlarged towers, reducing the residual façade element between them to a narrow connecting panel; at Cologne, indeed, the traditional rose was abandoned in favour of an upright window like those in the adjoining towers. The accumulation of attenuated tracery motifs, particularly the repetitive gables that overlap all the horizontals, magnifies the vertiginous height of the steeples and generates throughout an overpowering verticality.

Almost inevitably the followers of Cologne and Strasbourg separated altogether the idea of the tower and the façade. The show façade on the south side of the nave of the Katharinenkirche (begun 1317) at Oppenheim was transformed into a three-tiered display of the latest Rhenish tracery patterns. At Freiburg im Breisgau Cathedral the single western spire (1300) in the old German Romanesque tradition was so brilliantly dissolved into tracery that it quickly became the archetype for all the great steeples of southern Germany.

German 14th-century architecture offers many instances of the incorporation of Rhenish Rayonnant tracery into simpler and more distinctly local forms. Most paradoxical was the use of giant screens of ‘harp-string’ tracery to decorate the great east gables of mid-14th-century hall churches in Mecklenburg (Marienkirche, Prenzlau; St Marien, Neubrandenburg), all executed in the unlikely material of coloured brick. The high side aisle walls of hall churches, the most popular of German ‘local’ structures, provided perfect surfaces for tracery displays. Almost simultaneously, in Westphalia and Lower Austria, where the Hall church had appeared early, large halls, with open interiors, subdivided by slender and widely spaced pillars, were enclosed in diaphanous skins of tracery, for example at Heiligenkreuz Abbey (consecrated 1295) and St Maria zur Wiese (begun 1313) in Soest.

The churches of the friars and the Cistercians, orders whose architectural contribution was stronger in Germany than anywhere in Europe outside Italy, show a greater tendency to reduce and simplify Rayonnant. The mendicant development of the ‘long choir’ (the Sainte-Chapellian chancel with attenuated windows), particularly under Habsburg encouragement in Austria, as shown in the Dominican Neukloster at Wiener Neustadt, and by the Carmelites (Zu den neun Engelschören; 1386–1403) and Augustinian friars (1330–38) in Vienna, profoundly influenced the design of mendicant and parish church choirs in Bohemia, Silesia and southern Poland, and ensured its popularity even at the cathedrals of Erfurt (c. 1350) and Passau (begun 1405). Mendicant naves were equally influential. The Dominicans’ double-nave hall church at Imbach (c. 1270; now Mariae Geburt), Lower Austria, triggered a lasting fascination in eastern Europe for axially placed pillars, drawing on the double-nave format or its variants for some of the most ingenious examples of spatial manipulation in Austrian, Bohemian and Polish Late Gothic. The mendicant basilica, with much blank walling between arcades and clerestory (e.g. Erfurt, Franciscan church; 14th century), provided a starting point for a host of parish churches and a few less ambitious great churches (e.g. the choir of Freiburg im Breisgau Cathedral); while the slender columns without capitals in the naves of a group of early 14th-century mendicant halls in the Upper Rhine, including the Dominican churches at Guebwiller and Colmar, prepared the way for similar columns in the 15th-century hall churches of Lower Bavaria (e.g. Heiliggeistkirche, Landshut).

Contemporary Cistercian churches in southern Germany, such as those at Sedlec (begun c. 1280), Salem (begun 1299) and Zlatá Koruna (rebuilt 1663), adopted the same spare and elegant language, although their inclusion of fashionable Rhenish tracery patterns (Salem) and their grand scale made them the obvious models for the modest cathedral architecture of 14th-century Poland (e.g. Gniezno; Kraków; the nave at Wrocław), and for the great basilican churches in Lower Silesia, including SS Stanislas and Wenceslas, Świdnica, SS Peter and Paul, Strzegom, and, in Wrocław, St Mary Magdalene and St Elizabeth. What gave these Cistercian churches a more than provincial importance was their very early use (1330s) of decorative vaults, such as in the chapter house at Maulbronn, at Salem and in the summer refectory (1335) at Bebenhausen, exactly when similar star and umbrella-shaped vaults were proliferating in the territory of the Teutonic Order. The inspiration there, particularly in the earliest vaults, such as those in the brick Cistercian church of Pelplin (begun 1276; for illustration see Pelplin Abbey) and in the chapter house and Great Refectory (c. 1320–40) at Malbork Castle, may have come from Lincoln and Lübeck; but by the third quarter of the century large areas of Eastern Europe, from Prussia through Silesia and Poland to southern Bohemia, had begun to experiment with decorative vault patterns. In some cases they were the main indicators of a regional style, as in the jumping vaults (see Vault) of Lower Silesian hall churches, for example in Wrocław (St Mary-on-the-Sands and Holy Cross) or the ingenious series of double-nave hall churches erected by Kasimir III in Little Poland, including St Mary, Wiślica (for discussion and illustration see Wiślica, §1; see also Piast, House of family, §1). From 1356 they were to become the characteristic feature of Late Gothic architecture in Prague.

(b) The Parler legacy.

Many of these strands were brought together by Peter Parler (see Parler family, §3), whose artistic partnership with Charles IV (see Luxembourg, House of family, §3) in the reconstruction of Prague was the closest Germany came to the centralized and metropolitan patronage of contemporary French and English architecture. Peter’s completion of the choir (1356–85) of Prague Cathedral amounted to a transformation of German Rayonnant, as exemplified at Cologne, in a spirit of radical and empirical freedom comparable only to the work at St Stephen’s, Westminster. At Prague the rigidities of Cologne were softened and invigorated, with some of the earliest examples of dynamic curvilinear tracery on the Continent; and the verticality and flatness of the Cologne elevation was undermined by the strongly longitudinal triforium balustrade, the strange zigzagging depth of the triforium and clerestory, and by the net-like barrel vault that subverted the bay structure.

Whether this assault on Rayonnant orthodoxy owed its inspiration to the decorative vaults and set-back clerestories of English Decorated architecture (see §II, 2, (i) above), to Peter Parler’s deft synthesis of more local traditions or even to the Emperor’s Italo-Byzantine taste, it was executed with such inventive bravura that Prague Cathedral became the source of German Late Gothic styles. The dynasty of Parler architects and sculptors, still acknowledged reverently in late 15th-century architects’ manuals as the ‘Junkers of Prague’, worked in an area extending from the Rhine to Vienna, Košice and Milan, and Peter’s influence was felt beyond their circle, even in the Parlerian details introduced by Hinrich Brunsberg in the gabled frontispiece of St Katharinen, Brandenburg. Peter’s decorative inventiveness, all especially evident in the south transept and south tower of Prague Cathedral), was most ingeniously developed in the tracery-encrusted giant steeples that dominate much of German Late Gothic: at the Stephansdom (only properly under way c. 1400), at Frankfurt am Main Cathedral (begun 1415; see Gerthener [Gertener], Madern) and in the prodigious spires of Ulm (1392) and Strasbourg (1399; see Ensinger family, §1), although structurally, as single steeples, they all followed Freiburg im Breisgau.

The more spatial aspects of Peter Parler’s legacy—the play with decorative vaulting and the unorthodox manipulation of apsidal polygons, for example at St Bartholomew, Kolín (see also Kutná Hora, §1; Schwäbisch Gmünd, Cathedral of the Holy Cross, §1, (ii))—were taken up in the Lower Bavarian hall churches of Hans [Hanns] von Burghausen and their Swabian offshoots (for discussion see Dinkelsbühl and Nördlingen, §1). These mid-15th-century halls, with their closed, cubic exteriors surmounted by vast roofs, and their smoothly flowing interiors crowned with variations on net and star vaults, are the equivalents of the contemporary ‘Soft’ style in the figural arts.

A new dynamism and angularity was introduced in the late 15th century by Arnold von Westfalen and Benedikt Ried, whose seminal works are the ‘representative’ interiors of large palaces. Arnold’s idiosyncratic interiors in the Albrechtsburg (begun 1471) at Meissen fragmented both the linear and the spatial language of German Late Gothic. By drawing buttresses into the interior he obscured the real limits of the space and its light sources; by discontinuing ribs halfway across the vault he made their terminations arbitrary, and separated them visually and conceptually from the vault surface. His adoption of a form of cellular vault pushed the free shaping of the vault structure to the limits of fantasy. The decorative dissonances of the Meissen lodge had a wide following in Eastern Europe: their portal designs reappeared in Kraków and Transylvania, and cellular vaults spread into Bohemia and as far north as Gdańsk and Lithuania.

Ried’s contribution also centred around vaulting, through the structurally audacious application of curving ribs across wide or unorthodox spaces to create a sense of unlimited spatial extension, and of weightless and supercharged energy, as in the Vladislav Hall (completed 1502) in Hradčany, Prague, and the galleried nave of St Barbara, Kutná Hora (vault designed 1512). Similar petal vaults were constructed in Upper Austria at the turn of the 16th century (e.g. Mariä Himmelfahrt, Königswiesen; St Stephan, Weistracht), possibly under the influence of Anton Pilgram, but it was Ried’s achievement that caught the imagination of George, Duke of Saxony (1471–1539), and his architects, and triggered the invention of the last and most monumental series of German hall churches, in Upper Saxony and northern Bohemia. At the Annenkirche, Annaberg (begun 1499), and the parish church of the Assumption (begun 1511; moved 1975) at Most, the combination of Prague-like curving vaults and Meissen’s internal buttresses defines a vibrant and luminous space, where the celestial and the organic are merged in seamless movement.


  • A. Lindblom: Sveriges konsthistoria från förtid til nutid [Swedish art history from early times to the present day], i (Stockholm, 1944)
  • M. Meyer: Schweizerische Münster und Kathedralen des Mittelalters (Zurich, 1945)
  • K. H. Clasen: Deutsche Gewölbe der Spätgotik (Berlin, 1958)
  • T. Paulsson: Scandinavian Architecture (London, 1958)
  • G. Fehr: Benedikt Ried: Ein deutscher Baumeister zwischen Gotik und Renaissance (Munich, 1961)
  • K. M. Swoboda, ed.: Gotik in Böhmen (Munich, 1969)
  • L. Gerevich: The Art of Buda and Pest in the Middle Ages (Budapest, 1971)
  • R. Recht: L’Alsace gothique de 1300–1365 (Colmar, 1974)
  • G. Entz: Gotische Baukunst in Ungarn (Budapest, 1976)
  • Die Parler und der Schöne Stil, 1350–1400: Europäische Kunst unter den Luxemburgern (exh. cat., ed. A. Legner; Cologne, Schnütgen-Mus., 1978)
  • W. Braunfels: Die Kunst im Heiligen Römischen Reich, 6 vols (Munich, 1979–89)
  • T. Mroczko: Architektura Gotycka na ziemi Chelminskiej [Gothic architecture in the Chelmno region] (Warsaw, 1980)
  • N. von Holst: Der deutsche Ritterorden und seine Bauten (Berlin, 1981)
  • E. Ullmann, ed.: Geschichte der deutschen Kunst, 1350–1470 (Leipzig, 1981)
  • C. Meckseper: Kleine Kunstgeschichte der deutschen Stadt im Mittelalter (Darmstadt, 1982)
  • E. Ullmann, ed.: Geschichte der deutschen Kunst, 1470–1550 (Leipzig, 1984)
  • P. Crossley: Gothic Architecture in the Reign of Kasimir the Great: Church Architecture in Lesser Poland, 1320–1380 (Kraków, 1985)
  • N. Nussbaum: Deutsche Kirchenbaukunst der Gotik: Entwicklung und Bauformen (Cologne, 1985)
  • H. J. Böker: Die mittelalterliche Backsteinarchitektur Norddeutschlands (Darmstadt, 1988)
  • F. Möbius and H. Sciurie, eds: Geschichte der deutschen Kunst, 1200–1350 (Leipzig, 1989)
  • G. Brucher: Gotische Baukunst in Österreich (Salzburg and Vienna, 1990)
  • W. Krassowski: Dzieje budownictwa i architektury na ziemiach Polski [History of architecture and building in Poland], ii and iii (Warsaw, 1990)
(iv) France.

French patrons were naturally reluctant to abandon the elegance and logic of Rayonnant, as is shown by Philip IV’s foundation (1298) of Poissy priory church in a style of mid-13th-century Parisian Rayonnant. In the second half of the 14th century the French kings and the royal dukes devoted most effort and inventiveness to palace architecture, and signs of the last phase of Gothic in France, the Flamboyant style, first appeared in royal palaces. Initial efforts consisted of deploying curvilinear tracery, seen in Guy de Dammartin’s work for Jean, Duc de Berry, in his castle chapel (1382) at Riom and the fireplace in the great chamber (1390s) of the ducal palace at Poitiers, and in the La Grange chapels (c. 1375) at Amiens Cathedral, where the sculpture-framed windows may reflect the façades of contemporary loggia staircases in the royal castles at Saumur and, perhaps, the Louvre, Paris. The Dammartin tracery suggests English inspiration, a connection quite consistent with his patron’s imprisonment in England (1360–67); but the Amiens tracery looks more Parlerian (see §II, 2, (iii), (b) above).

The flickering mouchettes and soufflets that gave rise to the term were not the only characteristics of the Flamboyant style, which was as much a reinterpretation of Rayonnant as the experiments a century or so earlier in England and Germany. Tracery-dominated surfaces were sometimes replaced by an almost pre-Gothic murality and simplicity, or developed to an unprecedented intricacy and richness. The continuity of Rayonnant surfaces was broken with effects of depth, plasticity and movement; the orthogonal regularity of Rayonnant ground-plans was undermined with new kinds of polygonal chevets and porches; ambiguous elisions were made between hitherto separate forms. Capitals were often omitted so that arch mouldings thread together, or die into walls and piers, and for the first time in French Gothic decorative vaults enjoyed widespread popularity. These changes extended throughout the regions, beyond the Capetian circles based on Paris.

The Valois kings encouraged with tax concessions the completion of the great churches at Reims, Senlis and Troyes, and endowed masterpieces of the style, from Charles VII’s foundations at Cléry-Saint-André (1449–85) and St Aignan (1439–1509; part destr. 1568), Orléans, to Margaret of Austria’s at Brou (1513–32), near Bourg-en-Besse (see Brou, priory church). Their impoverishment in the Hundred Years’ War, however, and their reluctance to carry out their officially acknowledged duties as patrons of church architecture restored much architectural initiative to the provinces and the higher clergy. Like Rayonnant, however, Flamboyant was historically conservative: nostalgia for the great church played a crucial part in the continued dominance of the basilican format in France to the end of the Middle Ages, although in some cases this reflected the need to complete older basilicas in a properly sympathetic style. The Flamboyant naves of the cathedrals of Auxerre (see Auxerre, §1, (i)), Troyes, Orléans (rebuilt from 1601) and Metz, or St Ouen at Rouen, maintained the proportions of their earlier choirs, revealing their period only in details of tracery and mouldings. Yet throughout the northern half of France—in Normandy, (Nantes Cathedral, begun early 15th century), Lorraine (Saint-Nicolas-de-Port) and southern Champagne (the ultra-conservative elevation of Notre-Dame-de-l’Epine, begun c. 1410)—the basilican plan was commonly retained.

Many of these trends emerged intermittently in 14th-century Valois palace architecture. Their conservative chapels were all paraphrases of the Sainte-chapelle form, but many of the royal palaces adopted features—simplified wall surfaces, intersecting shafts with bases—hitherto associated with low-status architecture (cellars, undercrofts etc). These were assumed into the realm of the high art at the Salle des Gens d’Armes beneath Philip the Fair’s Grand Salle in the Palais de la Cité (1299–1323), Paris, and the ground-floor interior of the Tour Maubergeon (c. 1390) of the ducal palace in Poitiers. Such features could easily be transferred from here to an ecclesiastical context. The Flamboyant juxtaposition of bare wall and intricate passages of tracery was anticipated in Guy de Dammartin’s synthesis of an austere military substructure and an ethereal Rayonnant superstructure at Mehun-sur-Yèvre Castle (begun 1367; ruined).

From these tentative intimations, mature Flamboyant eventually emerged in the 1430s and 1440s along the Loire and the lower Seine. Notre-Dame, Cléry, and St Aignan, Orléans, highlighted the aesthetic possibilities of juxtaposing sharply linear elements (English-looking flowing tracery and richly profiled arcade arches) with plain wall surfaces (polygonal piers and much blank walling between arcade and clerestory), and then allowing them to interpenetrate by removing all capitals. The result, an interior of understated elegance enlivened by piquant contrasts, was to inspire such Parisian churches as St Séverin, St Gervais-St Protais and St Germain-l’Auxerrois at the end of the century. More conservative, but no less influential, was the elevation of the choir (begun 1436) of St Maclou, Rouen, the steep, three-storey interior of which, with a typically Norman ‘grill’ triforium and capital-less, deeply moulded arcades (see Rouen, §IV, 3), may have inspired a distinguished sequence of Norman and Vexin basilicas, including the south transept (?first third of the 15th century) of Notre-Dame, Le Grand Andely; Notre-Dame (c. 1430–40), Vernon; and, with simple columns, the choir (1450–87) of Notre-Dame, Caudebec-en-Caux; Notre-Dame (begun 1477), Alençon; and St Michel, Pont-l’Evêque.

Some of the details at St Maclou were seemingly borrowed from Germany. Although some German influence might be expected in the border territories of Alsace and Lorraine, such as the star vaults of Saint-Nicolas-de-Port (begun 1481) and the west façade (begun 1460) of Toul Cathedral, which may reflect knowledge of the two-towered plan for the façade (c. 1410) of Regensburg Cathedral, nothing in Rouen, apart from the Parler-like pendant bosses in the late 14th-century south porch of St Ouen, anticipates the Parlerian placing of the eastern choir pillar on the axis of the church at St Maclou and the consequent diagonality of the apse and its disalignment with the chapels behind it. This inspired the axial choir pillars of St Paul, Le Neubourg, Notre-Dame, Caudebec-en-Caux, and St Pierre, Caen, and a general loosening of chevet plans from the 15th century, by pulling the western half of the Lady chapel into the ambulatory, as at St Etienne (begun 1505), Bar-sur-Seine, and La Madeleine (1498–1501), Troyes, or pushing the apse eastwards into it, as in Martin Chambiges’s St Etienne (from c. 1502) at Beauvais. St Maclou’s façades may also be German-inspired. The earliest precedents for the tiers of diagonal-facing, ogee-topped niches and clusters of tapering and rotated pinnacles on the transepts are the steeples of Prague, Vienna and Ulm; for the projecting, three-sided west porch, Maria am Gestade in Vienna, St Martin at Landshut, and the triangular west porch of Regensburg Cathedral. This again prefigured a group of late 15th-century projecting porches in Normandy at Notre-Dame, Alençon, La Trinité, Falaise, Notre-Dame, Louviers, and St Vincent, Rouen.

The reconciliation of a three-dimensional and essentially miniaturistic vocabulary of pinnacles and niches with the flat and monumental character of the traditional great church façade was one of the principal achievements of Martin Chambiges (see Chambiges family, §1), the most prolific French architect between c. 1480 and c. 1530, when economic recovery led to the late revival of the Flamboyant. Chambiges endowed his façades for the cathedrals of Sens, Beauvais and Troyes (see Troyes, §3, (i), (a)) with micro-architectural elements to create a new mobility and depth. The portal zone spreads outwards by extending its niches into the flanking buttresses, which at Beauvais and Troyes take the form of staircase turrets, their polygonal sides splayed back towards the portals and the rose window. The transformation of the portal buttress into a niche-encrusted polygon was taken up by Jacques Le Roux and Roulland Le Roux in the central portal of the west façade (begun 1508) of Rouen Cathedral and in the north transept façade of Evreux Cathedral, with staircase turrets based on those by Chambiges. The increasing diagonality and mobility of the façade was most fully developed in the design for the uncompleted west façade (c. 1500–20; destr. 1845) of St Ouen, Rouen. To enlarge the miniature forms of altarpieces and screens to the scale of a High Gothic façade was prohibitively expensive: the cheaper stone-cutting needed for the new Renaissance aesthetic and its antique-based ornament, as in the grotesquely inflated details of Pierre Chambiges’s south transept façade (1530–38) of Senlis Cathedral, was among its many advantages.


  • L. Schürenberg: Die kirchliche Baukunst in Frankreich zwischen 1270 und 1380 (Berlin, 1934)
  • M. M. Tamir: ‘The English Origin of the Flamboyant Style’, Gazette des beaux-arts [suppl. is Chron. A.], 6th ser., 29 (1946), pp. 257–68
  • R. Sanfaçon: L’Architecture flamboyante en France (Quebec, 1971)
  • A. Villes: La Cathédrale de Toul: Histoire et architecture (Toul, 1983)
  • U. Albrecht: Von der Burg zum Schloss: Französische Schlossbaukunst im Spätmittelalter (Worms, 1986)
  • M. Bideault and others: Ile-de-France gothique, Monuments de la France Gothique, 2 vols (Paris, 1987–8)
  • M.-C. Burnand: Lorraine gothique, Monuments de la France Gothique (Paris, 1989)
  • A. Erlande-Brandenburg: La Cathédrale (Fayard, 1989)
  • J. Gardelles: Aquitaine gothique, Monuments de la France Gothique (Paris, 1992)
(v) Low Countries.

The architectural history of the late medieval Low Countries reflects less its position between Burgundy and the Empire than traditional ties and local allegiances. The real benefactors of church and civic architecture were the towns, in particular the newly rich towns of Brabant and the coastal cities of Zeeland and Holland rather than the giant Flemish metropolises of Ghent, Bruges and Ypres. Flanders was to play no formative role in the creation of Netherlandish Late Gothic.

As in northern Germany, distinctions of patronal wealth were registered in the broad division between the hall church and the basilica, the latter reserved only for the ambitions of the urban patriciate. Hall churches figure most prominently in the coastal areas of Flanders and in the eastern provinces bordering on German lands. The Flemish group are all in brick, usually with three parallel wooden roofs (e.g. Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, Damme; c. 1300; partly destr. 1725), while the ‘eastern’ halls are usually vaulted, and by the early 15th century the St Jacobikerk, Utrecht, St Michaelskerk, Zwolle, and particularly St Martinus, Venlo, had achieved a spacious elegance comparable to the later Westphalian hall churches (see §II, 2, (iii) above).

In contrast, the collective achievement of Netherlandish great churches forms a noteworthy episode in European Late Gothic architecture. The series opened with three colossal choirs, all begun within a generation (c. 1340–70), at St Rombouts, Mechelen, Antwerp Cathedral and St Janskerk, ’s Hertogenbosch (see ’s Hertogenbosch, §2). The last in the line was the colossal chevet (uncomplete) at Antwerp Cathedral, begun in 1521. At a time when great church building in northern Europe had almost ceased, towns in the Netherlands, mainly in Brabant and what is now southern Holland, which previously had little or no experience of Gothic architecture, produced more than 30 great churches, many of cathedral scale. The initiative sprang from the ideal of ‘cathedral Gothic’ as the highest expression of civic virtue, although other inducements included civic rivalry, phenomenal industrial and commercial wealth and the promotion of many town parish churches to collegiate status with the consequent need to extend or rebuild choirs.

Netherlandish Late Gothic began in Brabant with the foundation of the choir (begun ?1342) of St Rombouts, Mechelen, and Antwerp Cathedral (begun 1352; see Antwerp, §IV, 1). Their slim, elegant, tracery-clad elevations introduced the refinements of northern French late Rayonnant, although Antwerp’s two-storey elevation, with its interior clerestory passage and elaborately moulded, almost capital-less, arcades, was to have a less immediate impact than Mechelen’s three-storey format with simple arcade columns and tall ‘grill’ triforium. The latter, reminiscent of the most sophisticated Norman Rayonnant (e.g. Rouen Cathedral, nave clerestory), was part of the fashionable repertory that made Mechelen’s Picard architect, Jean d’Oisy, and his principal successors, the brothers Jacob van Tienen (fl 1377–1405) and Hendrik van Tienen, so successful in Brabant in the second half of the 14th century. Jean d’Oisy’s Onze Lieve Vrouw ten Poel (1358–75) at Tienen has a chapel choir in a Netherlandish tradition that goes back to Notre-Dame (1311–77) at Huy, but its Sainte-Chapelle-like delicacy must have encouraged the continuation of the format in Brabant and the Meuse Valley into the early 16th century, for example at Onze Lieve Vrouwe, Tongeren, Notre-Dame du Sablon, Brussels, and St Martin, Liège. Similarly the set-piece essays in Rayonnant decoration by the van Tienen brothers, separately or in partnership, at St Sulpitius, Diest, Brussels Cathedral, the choir clerestory of St Janskerk, ’s Hertogenbosch, or the portal to the old belfry of Brussels Hôtel de Ville, show the extent of their infiltration into the leading Brabant workshops.

The choir of Mechelen inspired a prolific series of Brabant great churches, extending into the early 16th century, and modifying the Mechelen elevation format only in details: St Janskerk (begun c. 1370), ’s Hertogenbosch, Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk (begun c. 1400), Breda, St Pieterskerk (begun 1409–10), Leuven, which has some of the earliest flowing tracery in the Low Countries, Ste Waudru (begun 1450), Mons (Hainault), and St Gummarus (choir complete in 1515) in Lier. The conservatism of these churches is made explicit in the documented deliberations over the design of Ste Waudru (Mons, Archvs Etat), when prospective local architects were sent by the nuns to visit and report not only on the churches of Leuven and Mechelen but also the much older cathedrals at Tournai and Brussels (Philipp).

The spread of the Mechelen type outside Brabant was paralleled by its rapid assimilation in the 15th century into southern Holland, at St Bavo, Haarlem (see Haarlem, §3), the Grote Kerk, Dordrecht, the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft, the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, and the Pieterskerk, Leiden. These giants were all built in brick with a few stone dressings, on cruciform ground-plans of ‘cathedral’ amplitude, but with a reduced Antwerp-type elevation of two storeys, with an arcade of round columns, and a small balustrade running in front of a tall clerestory passage. A number of the most important churches were directed by Antwerp architects as well as those based at Mechelen: Evert Spoorwater (d 1474) and Herman de Waghemakere, both from Antwerp, worked variously at Haarlem, Dordrecht, St Willibrordusbasiliek, Hulst, and St Gertrudiskerk, Bergen op Zoom.

Despite its stylistic introspection, Netherlandish great church architecture was occasionally sensitive to the achievements of its neighbours. The choirs of St Nicolaaskerk (begun 1369), Kampen, and Hal, Notre-Dame-de- (1399–1409) owe their drum-like exteriors to the simplified chevets by Peter Parler. The vaults (?1440s) in the transepts of St Janskerk, ’s Hertogenbosch, are Parlerian nets and the south porch displays the motif of large, crossed ogee arches modelled on those that crown the octagonal storey of the Strasbourg Cathedral spire. Yet these German influences were wholly isolated. This separation is all the more surprising since Germany and the Low Countries were the only areas to develop a consistent Late Gothic tradition of very elaborate prodigy towers.

As in Germany, single western towers were consistent with both Romanesque traditions and civic hubris. The great sequence of Netherlandish steeples, among them some of the most impressive tours de force of Late Gothic architecture, began with the single axial tower (1321–82) of Utrecht Cathedral. With its two clearly defined storeys and short crowning octagon, it established the general format of all Netherlandish steeples, although its block-line silhouette was followed only at St Janskerk, Maastricht (almost a pastiche), Onze Lieve Vrouwe (all but tower destr. 1787), Amersfoort, and the Martinikerk, Groningen. A more sophisticated design, with smoother transitions and more complex surface effects, appeared simultaneously in the north tower of Antwerp Cathedral and the west tower of St Rombouts, Mechelen (both extended above the square stage in the 1480s); the intended design of the latter’s spire (unexecuted) is preserved in an accurate mid-16th-century drawing (Brussels, Bib. Royale Albert 1er, B.R. 11 1354 (6453)). It is an indication of the priority given in the Netherlands to civic architecture that the novel feature of both these towers—their sophisticated transition between square lower storeys and a delicately buttressed polygonal lantern and spire—was anticipated by Jan van Ruysbroeck’s great steeple (1449–55) for Brussels Hôtel de Ville.

Many of the tower designs that followed Antwerp and Mechelen were by the Keldermans family, such as St Lieven, Zierikzee, St Jacobskerk (begun 1525), Antwerp, St Gertrudiskerk (most destr. 1747), Bergen op Zoom, and St Katharinakerk, Hoogstraten; only the latter was completed, probably because it was in the cheaper material of brick. The colossal, three-spired westwork (begun 1507; destr. 1612–30) for St Pieterskerk, Leuven, built by Joost Massys (1463–1530), suffered both demolition and collapse; but the original three-towered design by Matheus de Layens is echoed in the tabernacle (c. 1450; h. 12.2 m) in the church itself and in the three-towered gable façades of Leuven Stadhuis (1448–63). In the Netherlands flamboyant steeple ornament was applied, with no sense of indecorum, to the façades of some of the finest town halls of the early 16th century, such as those designed by the Keldermans or the Antwerp cathedral architects at Middelburg, Ghent and the first design for Mechelen. It is perhaps fitting that the urban patriciate, who funded so many unfinished towers, ensured that their ornamental splendours should at least survive in the centres of civic government.


  • D. Roggen and J. Withof: ‘Grondleggers en grootmeesters der Brabantse Gothiek’, Gentsche bijdragen tot de kunstgeschiedenis [Ghent contributions to art history; cont. as Gent. Bijdr. Kstgesch. & Oudhdknd.; Gent. Bijdr. Kstgesch.], 10 (1944), pp. 83–209
  • M. D. Ozinga and R. Meischke: Gothische kerkelijke bouwkunst (Amsterdam, 1953)
  • H. E. van Gelder and J. Duverger, eds: Kunstgeschiedenis der Nederlanden, 1 (Utrecht, 1954)
  • E. Haslinghuis and C. Peeters: De dom van Utrecht (The Hague, 1965)
  • R. Hootz, ed.: Kunstdenkmäler in den Niederlanden: Ein Bildhandbuch (Berlin, 1971)
  • A. J. L. van der Walle: Gothic Art in Belgium (Brussels, 1971)
  • J. H. van Mosselveld, ed.: Keldermans: Een architectonisch netwerk in de Nederlanden (The Hague, 1987)
  • K. J. Philipp: ‘Sainte-Waudru in Mons (Bergen, Hennegau): Die Planungsgeschichte einer Stiftskirche, 1449–1450’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte [merger of Z. Bild. Kst with Repert. Kstwiss. & with Jb. Kstwiss.], 51/3 (1988), pp. 372–413
(vi) Italy.
(a) Introduction.

Late medieval architecture in Italy responded flexibly to the diverse cultural influences (Byzantine, Moslem, northern Gothic and Classical) and the country’s developing patchwork of conflicting political systems: the tyrannical governments of Lombardy, Emilia and Piedmont in the north; the largely republican city-states of Tuscany and Umbria; the Angevin kings of Apulia and Naples in the south; and the maritime republics of Genoa and Venice. After 1308 the Papacy ceased to be a source of architectural patronage. Internal rivalries guaranteed further diversity, particularly among the city-states of central Italy. Even in a single city the stylistic contrasts between the fortress-like Palazzo Vecchio, the choir of Santa Croce, influenced by the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, and the marble-encrusted exterior of Florence Cathedral, all associated with Arnolfo di Cambio, testify to the differing needs of distinct, often competing, urban institutions (see §(c) below).

The results of this fragmentation are obvious in the eclecticism of Italian Gothic, which was compounded in the 15th century by the more fundamental antagonism between a flourishing Late Gothic in Lombardy and the Veneto, and the revival of antique forms in Tuscany. Any common factors in Italian later Gothic (except in Angevin architecture) can be found in a distrust of modernity. The Italians were profoundly historicist, proud of their inheritance as the guardians of the Classical past. Gothic was identified as something essentially alien, and even at the height of its brief popularity in the 14th century the Early Christian traditions of polychromatic stone cladding, free-standing bell-towers and spacious wooden-roofed basilicas were never wholly abandoned. The rediscovery of antiquity in 15th-century Florence may be considered only the most systematic and successful of a long series of attempts to recover a style that the Italians could call their own. Continuity with the Roman past centred principally on wealthy towns and developed civic life. The 14th century was the golden age of the Italian city-state, especially in Tuscany, where inter-civic architectural rivalries and the growth of communal urbanism flourished within the precepts of Roman civitas.

In contrast, the proliferation and relative poverty of the Italian bishoprics, and the transfer of much of their architectural power, including the construction and upkeep of cathedrals, to civic governments, meant that there are fewer great churches in Italy than in France, Spain or England: cathedrals and their construction, especially in central Italy, were revered as the heart of a city’s religious and communal life. As a corollary to this civic pre-eminence, the architectural power of the friars, the urban leaders of Italian spirituality, was greater throughout Italy than elsewhere. In the 13th century they had been the principal missionaries of Gothic in the Italian peninsula (see §II, 1, (vii) above) and they continued to create the most refined syntheses between local Romanesque traditions and northern Gothic.

(b) The south, the Veneto and Lombardy.

The Angevin kings showed the same fashionable generosity towards the mendicants as their royal contemporaries in France and England (see §II, 2, (ii) above), and imported French architects to Naples as part of a pro-Papal and anti-Imperial policy. The pattern of Neapolitan mendicant, and mendicant-influenced, architecture had been set at S Lorenzo (see §II, 1, (vii) above) c. 1270. The modification of the contrast between its Rayonnant chevet and its wooden-roofed nef unique of Romanesque simplicity became the main theme of several early 14th-century Neapolitan friars’ churches: the naves of S Pietro a Maiella and S Domenico Maggiore (1283–1324), for example, resemble a 12th-century Apulian basilica, while the Sainte-Chapelle-like choir of S Maria Donnaregina (founded 1307) is the purest transplant of French Rayonnant anywhere in 14th-century Italy. Only in S Chiara (founded 1310) was the choir’s identity finally absorbed into a barn-like nave, wooden-roofed, single-aisled and articulated by the Romanesque and Cistercian device of in-drawn buttresses between low side chapels.

The mendicants in Venice and the Veneto in the first half of the 14th century also developed a refined but simplified synthesis of local Romanesque and northern Gothic. The gradual transformation of a traditional Lombard brick basilica, with cylindrical columns and exterior pilasters and corbel tables, into a Rayonnant system of sharply delineated vertical spaces, terminated in transepts and choir by brilliantly glazed polygonal apses, was marked in an impressive sequence that had led from S Lorenzo (founded 1280), Vicenza, developing through S Anastasia (begun c. 1290), Verona, and S Nicolò (early 14th century), Treviso, to maturity in Venice in the Dominican SS Giovanni e Paolo and the Franciscan S Maria Gloriosa dei Frari (both begun 1330s). Yet the product was still local in character, especially the high, polylobed, wooden roof of S Nicolò, Treviso, an example of the ingenious roof carpentry that constituted one of the Veneto’s main contributions to Italian 14th-century architecture.

It is indicative of the shift in interest towards secular architecture that the largest single-span roof in medieval Europe was built, like a vast upturned hull (c. 1306; destr. 1420; rebuilt 1756), over the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua. The Doge’s Palace (begun 1340; see Venice, §IV, 6, (i)) is a traditional north Italian palazzo comunale with ground-floor arcaded loggias and a main council-chamber above, but it is made typically Venetian by the delicacy of its marble arcades, the flat textile-like polychromy of its upper walls, its Islamic cresting and the general emphasis on light, colour and movement. The structurally subversive idea of a palace façade composed largely of open tiers of delicate Gothic arcading dominated Venetian architecture to the end of the Middle Ages, for example in the Ca’ d’Oro (1422–40) and the Ca’ Foscari (1452).

Ca’ d’Oro, Venice, façade, 1422–40; Photo credit: Timothy McCarthy/Art Resource, NY

Outside the Veneto, the initiative in secular architecture lay with such increasingly powerful local families as the della Scala and Visconti, who secured their positions through conventional land-based or town castles and also through a new type of urban fortress. The Castello Visconteo (c. 1360; part destr. 1527) in Pavia, for example, blends the town palace with the monastic cloister, within the town fortifications but planned as an isolated and moated symmetrical block round a courtyard reinforced by four corner towers (see Visconti family, §3).

The Cistercian and Early Gothic tradition of Piedmont, Emilia and Lombardy was reworked in the 14th century. Wide, low proportions were retained for a group of Lombard hall churches, headed by S Lorenzo in Mortara, but the only hall church to reflect any interest in the attenuated spaciousness of contemporary German halls was Asti Cathedral (1323–48) in Piedmont. The screen façades of Crema (c. 1341) and Cremona (c. 1350) cathedrals might, but for a few decorative details, belong to the early 12th century. Even the ambitious S Maria del Carmine (begun 1370) in Pavia has an archaic Cistercian plan, a Romanesque screen façade and a Lombardic double-bay system. The short-lived creativity of Lombard architecture around 1300 was concentrated on brick bell-towers, for example at the Cistercian abbey of Chiaravalle Milanese, the Torrazzo of Cremona Cathedral and the elegant fusion of Lombardic multiple arcading and Gothic verticality at S Gottardo (1336) in Milan.

Only at the end of the 14th century did Lombard architecture look beyond the Po Valley. Milan Cathedral (founded 1385) was the most ambitious attempt to come to terms with northern Late Gothic (see Milan, §IV, 1, (i), (a) and Visconti family, §4). French and German masons were imported to work alongside Italians, provoking inevitable conflicts regarding taste and building practice (see Mason, §IV, 3, (iii)), and Milan became the principal channel for northern Gothic influence in Italy until the end of the 15th century. The structure, however, remains Lombardic, especially its five-aisled nave, which recalls S Tecla (4th century ad) in Milan, the three-aisled transepts with projecting end chapels (e.g. Piacenza and Parma cathedrals), the domed crossing (Como Cathedral) and the contrast between an exceptionally dark nave and a choir accentuated by enormous windows. Over this cautiously traditional framework, the stability of which caused much unjustified northern misgiving, was laid a fancy dress of the latest northern details that echoed and even anticipated some of the liveliest caprices of French and German Late Gothic, but was to have no lasting influence.

(c) Tuscany and its influence.

North of the Papal states, northern Rayonnant was radically accepted and understood only in Tuscany and Umbria. Civic oligarchies ensured that experiments in the new style were concentrated on towers and façades to which were applied combinations of Rayonnant tracery ornament and monumental statue cycles with traditional Tuscan polychromatic marble incrustation and mosaic decoration. The design (Siena, Mus. Opera Duomo) attributed to Giotto for the campanile of Florence Cathedral presents a typically Florentine format of cubic body and progressively increasing fenestration, incongruously crowned by an octagonal openwork spire (unexecuted; see Florence, §IV, 1, (iii), (a)) modelled directly on Freiburg im Breisgau Cathedral. The executed west façade (begun 1310) of Orvieto Cathedral and its preparatory drawings (see Orvieto, §2, (ii), (a)) show experimental adjustments of mosaic and sculpture to linear and geometric motifs borrowed from the west front of Reims Cathedral and the south transept façade of Notre-Dame, Paris. The common factor in this synthesis may have been metalwork, for the Orvieto façade resembles an enlarged version of the cathedral’s reliquary of the Holy Corporal (1337–8; for discussion see Ugolino di Vieri) and betrays close knowledge of Plan B for the façade of Strasbourg Cathedral (see §II, 1, (iii), (a) above). Tuscan infatuation with German Rayonnant may also have owed much to Sienese goldsmiths’ work, for a goldsmith, Lando di Pietro (d 1340), was appointed capomaestro of Siena Cathedral in 1339, and the façade of the baptistery (begun 1316) is both a Tuscan paraphrase of Plan B and the closest approach in Italy to a northern Rayonnant façade.

Throughout the 14th century shrine buildings, furnishings, reliquaries and portals were decorated with extravagant displays of Rayonnant ornament combined with coloured marbles and inlays, for example at S Maria della Spina (after 1333), Pisa, the tabernacle (begun 1352) in Orsanmichele (see Cione family, §1) and Simone Talenti’s marble nave portals for Florence Cathedral. Yet the main body of the church remained dependent on Romanesque and Early Christian traditions, as in the continued use of striped polychromatic cladding. Early Christian pretensions were given a new Roman authority in Florence from the 1290s by the arrival of Arnolfo di Cambio. At Santa Croce (begun c. 1292; see Florence, §IV, 4) a Cistercian and local mendicant system of raised choir and eastern chapel arches (e.g. S Francesco, Cortona) was combined with a lightweight wooden-roofed nave derived from Orvieto, but on a scale that emulated the largest Early Christian basilicas of Rome. Not surprisingly, the project for the new cathedral in Florence, begun in 1294 and only partly realized, had the same gravitas, with a façade reminiscent of a Roman theatre’s scaenae frons and an unvaulted nave in the style of Santa Croce. This contrasted with the enormous trefoil-plan east end, slightly smaller than the present choir, radiating from a domed octagonal crossing, which spanned the whole breadth of the nave and aisles. Perhaps intended to outclass the earlier dome at Siena, Florence’s main municipal adversary, the Florence cupola, which was based on the octagonal plan of the Baptistery, slightly enlarged in the later 14th-century and triumphantly realized by Brunelleschi (see fig.; see also Dome, §1), became the model for the centralized churches of the Renaissance (see Florence, §IV, 1, (i)).

Italy, Florence Cathedral, nave by Francesco Talenti, interior looking towards the apse, from 1357; photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY

The sheer scale of Arnolfo’s projects in Florence initiated a Tuscan taste for gigantism that frequently exceeded its architects’ structural knowledge and experience, especially when some were primarily painters or goldsmiths. The walls of the campanile of Florence Cathedral, which Giotto had designed as only 1.5 m thick to support a shaft more than 100 m tall, were hastily thickened after his death. The extensions of Siena Cathedral (begun 1339; abandoned 1348; see Siena, §III, 1, (i)) were designed to outshine Orvieto (see §II, 1, (vii) above) and Florence by combining their ‘Early Christian’ size and lightweight spaciousness with more up-to-date rib vaults. At Florence work on the nave restarted in 1357 to a new design by Francesco Talenti that was more successful in supporting colossal rib vaults over a gigantic space (only 4 m lower than the choir of Beauvais Cathedral), but only after tie-bars had been introduced to remedy alarming cracks. The design combined elements from the masterpieces of Florentine church architecture (see fig.): the piers from Orsanmichele, the corbelled balustrade from Santa Croce, the oculi and square-vaulted bays from S Maria Novella. Its impact in Tuscany, however, was limited to the Loggia dei Lanzi (from 1376) in Florence and the reconstruction of Lucca Cathedral (from 1372).

By the end of the 14th century the great church enterprises and the civic, communal independence that had financed them were everywhere in decline. Paradoxically the growing power of absolutism and single-family oligarchies in 15th-century Lombardy, just when Florence was abandoning its Gothic past, inspired a spectacular afterglow to the achievements of 14th-century Tuscany. The façade of Monza Cathedral (completed 1396), for example, is clearly Tuscan. In Bologna Matteo Gattapone introduced Florentine forms in the Collegio di Spagna (1365–70), while Antonio di Vincenzo’s S Petronio, begun in 1390 but never finished, is Lombardy’s culminating tribute to 14th-century Tuscan architectural sophistication. The quotations from Florence Cathedral seem only fitting for the leading church of the commune: the form of its pillars, its vast spaciousness and the (unrealized) dome over a prominent crossing. A typically Lombard gigantism was added to this, however, in the shape of a brick-built corpus with five aisles (the outer in the form of chapels), staggered in height and clearly derived from Milan Cathedral, which was intended to outstrip Milan and Florence in both length and height. The many disparate strands of Italian Gothic were finally drawn together at S Petronio with elegant clarity and soaring spaciousness.


  • A. M. Romanini: L’architettura gotica in Lombardia, 2 vols (Milan, 1964)
  • H. Dellwing: ‘Studien zur Baukunst der Bettelorden im Veneto’, Kunstwissenschaftliche Studien, 43 (1970)
  • E. Arslan: Gothic Architecture in Venice (London, 1972)
  • W. Braunfels: Mittelalterliche Stadtbaukunst in der Toskana (Berlin, 1979)
  • G. Lorenzoni: ‘L’architettura’, La Basilica di San Petronio in Bologna, ed. L. Bellosi and others (Bologna, 1983), i, pp. 53–124
  • J. White: Art and Architecture in Italy, 1250–1400, Pelican Hist. A. (Harmondsworth, 1987)
(vii) Spain.

By 1300 the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which had linked Spanish culture to the achievements of northern Europe, was no longer an effective channel of French influence; while the sensitivity to Parisian-based culture shown by the 13th-century rulers of Castile had been replaced by introversion and stagnation. The Spanish climate favoured cool, dark interiors; it encouraged a characteristically flat exterior silhouette by allowing vaults to be covered by flat roofs and it rendered obsolete the tall, gabled frontispieces of northern Gothic façades. Liturgically, the 12th-century practice of giving over the whole of the eastern arm of the church to the sanctuary (capilla mayor), and removing the choir (coro) into the eastern bays of the nave, separating the two spaces by a prominent crossing, sometimes dramatically crowned by a lantern tower (cimborio), became the standard arrangement for ambitious Spanish churches to the end of the Middle Ages. More than any other French-inspired cathedral of the 13th century, Toledo exercised a continuing fascination for Late Gothic architects, partly owing to its metropolitan status, and partly because its slow building progress made it a continuously prestigious foyer for architectural talent well into the 15th century (see §II, 1, (vi) above; Toledo, §IV, 1).

(a) Catalonia, to c. 1450.

It was in the coastal cities of Catalonia and Levante that a new Gothic—at once civic, royal and distinctly Spanish—first emerged in the early 14th century. Catalonia was the commercial heartland of the kingdom of Aragon and the headquarters of a maritime empire stretching from the Balearic islands to Naples and Athens. As in Hanseatic Germany, central Italy and the other leading centres of late medieval urban patronage, architects in Catalonia fashioned a distinctive regional style by fusing mendicant simplicity with French ‘cathedral Gothic’, which produced a style not dissimilar to Backsteingotik or Italian civic architecture, in which unarticulated wall surfaces were combined with bold handling of vast interior spaces.

This Catalan version, however, owed much to royal intervention. The formative buildings, the Dominican and Franciscan churches of Barcelona (both mid-13th century; destr.), were sponsored by James I (reg 1213–76). The design, a luminous choir opening directly on to a darker, very wide, single-aisled nave, the vaults of which were buttressed by the internal walls of cellular chapels, proved remarkably flexible for both secular and ecclesiastical purposes. The unvaulted version of the scheme, in which the wooden roof rested on large diaphragm arches, a system already common in local Cistercian dormitories at Poblet Abbey and Santes Creus, was preferred by the Carmelites and taken up by James II (reg 1291–1327) in his palace chapel of S Agata (1302–6) in Barcelona. It was then adapted for the giant halls of a series of ambitious Catalan civic and royal buildings, notably in Barcelona, of a grandeur and richness without parallel in Spain: the main chamber (Saló dels Cent; begun 1369) of the town hall, the hospital of Santa Creu (begun 1401) and the grandiose reception hall (Saló del Tinell; 1359–70) in the Palau Reial Major. In a royal context the vaulted type could be combined with exquisite and judiciously placed Rayonnant tracery, as in the Clarissan church at Pedralbes (founded 1326–7), Barcelona, or its choir could be embellished with a ring of radiating chapels, as in Palma de Mallorca at S Francesc (begun 1314) and S Jaume (begun c. 1320). On the grandest scale, for example at S María del Pi (begun c. 1322; see Barcelona, §IV, 3), the format acquired a particular dignity.

No great church in Catalonia could escape the legacy of this royal-sponsored and largely mendicant architecture. Barcelona Cathedral was begun in 1298: its cellular side chapels, attenuated transept and the prominence of its main transverse arches, resembling diaphragm arches, all echo local mendicant patterns (see Barcelona, §IV, 1). These are ingeniously interwoven with ‘cathedral Gothic’ references, some derived from the southern French cathedrals associated with Jean Deschamps (the chevet is based on Narbonne, the clustered piers on Clermont-Ferrand and Limoges), but most still followed Bourges and Toledo. In particular, the Bourges principle of spatially bringing together the separate elevation systems of the inner aisles and main vessel was used to mingle the largely ‘cathedral’ references in the central space with the ‘mendicant’ character of the side elevations.

The spatial, and specifically Catalan, aspects of this accomplished synthesis were highly influential, but its concessions to French Rayonnant attracted few followers: an exception was the almost identical chevet (1312–47) of Girona Cathedral. Similarly the quotations from Toledo Cathedral found little favour, although the device of vaulting a chevet in alternating square and triangular bays was adopted in the choir chapels of Tortosa Cathedral (begun 1346) and the ambulatory of S María de la Seu (begun 1328), Manresa. In most Catalan great churches, however, French decorative veneers were discarded in an effort to distill the cathedral’s spatial and structural power. In Barcelona, for example, S María del Mar (begun 1329; see Barcelona, §IV, 2) borrowed the cathedral’s plan and stepped section, but otherwise developed Catalan mendicant traditions in its provision for 33 cellular chapels and in the interior’s austerity and structural audacity, with the vast central vault seeming to float over wafer-thin walls and attenuated columns.

The last and most ambitious Catalan churches seem to have been intended to push the structural system of Gothic architecture to its physical limits. The nave of Palma de Mallorca Cathedral (revised c. 1350) has a prodigious series of stepped-up spaces, rivalling the dimensions of the largest Gothic churches, such as those with similar five-part sections at Bourges, Milan, Cologne and Beauvais, and it exceeds them all in void-to-masonry ratio, for its walls were built thin, and its bare, octagonal piers are the most attenuated supports in any Gothic basilica. This astonishing sense of weightlessness is matched by a luminosity unprecedented in Catalonia. Although Palma was never completed, its visionary fusion of light and space may have influenced the deliberations in 1416 over the nave design of Girona Cathedral (see Mason, §IV, 3, (ii)). The single span (w. 22.25 m) that was approved required the construction of the widest of all Gothic vaults. It also guaranteed greater luminosity, for many of the advisers insisted on large rose windows in the eastern gable wall.

The austerity of much Catalan Late Gothic was often relieved by concentrating elaborate Rayonnant and Flamboyant decoration on the portals, cloisters and towers. The Portal del Mirador (1390s) at Palma de Mallorca Cathedral displays some of the earliest Flamboyant tracery in Catalonia. In secular architecture, the façade (from 1399) of Barcelona Town Hall dramatically contrasts stretches of unadorned wall with lavish portals and window tracery in a manner later adapted in 15th-century Castilian churches. The luxuries of ecclesiastical Gothic spilled over into the most characteristic of Catalan civic spaces, the Llotja (market-exchange): at Barcelona (1380–92) the hall-like arcades resemble those of the cathedral and at Palma (begun 1425) Guillem Sagrera combined spiral columns and exquisite Flamboyant window tracery.

In particular, cloisters provided an opportunity for virtuoso tracery design, which might be of a conventionally French Rayonnant cast (e.g. Pamplona Cathedral, north walk; 1317–55; see Pamplona, §2), geometrically more intricate and capricious (e.g. Vic Cathedral; 1324–1400; rebuilt 1806), reflective of the latest trends in English curvilinear tracery (e.g. Santes Creus Abbey; 1332–51) or on a scale worthy of the general Catalan taste for gigantism (see Lleida, seu vella ). Towers were often unadorned prismatic shafts, for example at S Feliú (1368–92), Girona, and in Barcelona at Pedralbes and S María del Pi, but they could also sport the most elaborate and advanced tracery. At Valencia Cathedral, for example, the crossing cimborio (c. 1330–60) displays tracery of Rhenish complexity, while the architect of its free-standing, richly traceried belfry (El Miguelete; begun 1381) was sent to Narbonne, Lleida and elsewhere to learn from their towers.

(b) Castile, Aragon and Andalusia, to c. 1570.

The audacity and openness of 14th-century Catalan architecture contrasts sharply with the artistic stagnation of Castile. The friars never played a formative role in Castilian architecture, and the completion of its great 13th-century cathedrals kept alive a certain conservatism, for example at Palencia Cathedral (begun 1321) and S María, Castro-Urdiales. Many later 14th-century churches reverted to the old Cistercian-based elevation of heavy arcades and a short, dark clerestory separated by large stretches of bare wall, such as at the old cathedral (now S María) of Plasencia and S María la Antígua, Valladolid. The former sensitivity of northern Spain to French culture was regained only under Charles III, King of Navarre (reg 1387–1425). French artists were brought to work on the imposing Olite Castle (begun 1399) and the ingeniously planned chevet of Pamplona Cathedral (begun 1397), which shows the influence of Bayonne Cathedral, the collegiate church at Uzeste and even St Maclou, Rouen.

Elsewhere in northern and central Spain, especially under the Trastamara kings of Castile (1369–1474), there was a flourishing tradition of Mudéjar craftsmanship. Gothic was either wholly suppressed or transformed into an Islamic brick vernacular of extraordinary decorative complexity, for example in the cloister (1402–12) of the Hieronymite monastery at Guadalupe (see also Brick, §II, 3, (i), (h)). Nearly all architecture in Aragon was in brick and Mudéjar dominated to the virtual exclusion of Gothic, such as in the ribbons and bows of geometrical laceria patterns on the portal and apse of S Domingo, Calatayud, in ribs and keystones carved with stalactite ornament, and in repetitive brickwork trellis patterns (ajaracas). Mudéjar appears most prominently in the numerous detached, minaret-like, brick belfries, which at first were square in plan (e.g. Teruel Cathedral) and later, under the influence of the stone bell-towers of Catalonia and Valencia, octagonal, for example the Torre Nueva (1504; destr. 1894) in Saragossa.

Seville Cathedral (begun 1402; see Seville, §IV, 1) was to have a great impact on the extraordinary revival of great church architecture in central Spain in the early 16th century (see below). From the first its design was coloured by the triumphalist megalomania that usually inspired the most ambitious Gothic churches, especially those, such as the cathedrals of Cologne, Prague and Milan, built in a style that had been imported into a traditional and potentially resistant cultural context. It was intended to be, and is, the largest of all medieval cathedrals: a colossal rectangle (11,020 sq. m) formed by five aisles and two rows of outer cellular chapels, which resembles the generous breadth of Toledo Cathedral rather than the low mosque that it replaced. Its cross-section, however, ignores the precedent of Toledo in favour of double side aisles of equal height, more closely resembling the tallest Gothic structures, such as the choirs of Reims, Beauvais, Amiens and Cologne, and Heinrich von Gmünd’s suggested cross-section for Milan (see Mason, §IV, 3, (iii)), all of which are distinguished from the Bourges group by their giant clerestories. Seville’s disappointingly low clerestory, and the consequent awkward flattening of the trajectories of its flyers, suggests that originally a much taller central vessel was intended, topped by the highest vaults in Christendom.

The employment at Seville of Norman and Breton craftsmen in the 1440s and 1450s tallies with the very early appearance in Spain of north-west French Flamboyant mannerisms, including overshooting mouldings in the piers and a balustrade beneath the clerestory. A similar influx of foreign craftsmen, largely from northern France, the Low Countries and the Rhineland, revived Castilian architecture and sculpture from the mid-15th century, particularly in the cathedral workshops at Palencia, León, Burgos and Toledo, which provided long-term employment. Although these churches offered little opportunity for structural innovation, there was scope for the application of flowing tracery and decorative vaults to steeples, cloisters and the characteristically Iberian mausoleum chapel, a large, semi-independent, centralized structure that opened loosely off the aisles and ambulatory, and joined with other chapels to form a cluttered and picturesque fringe around the body of the church.

German, Flemish and north French architects and sculptors set the tone for this new Castilian Flamboyant at Toledo and Burgos cathedrals. Flowing tracery had appeared sporadically in Spain since the mid-14th century (e.g. Santes Creus Abbey), and had flourished in Catalonia, for example on the high altar (1425–33) of Tarragona Cathedral and on Marc Safont’s façade for the chapel of S Jordi (completed 1434) in the Palau de la Diputació General, Barcelona. In Castile it was first used lavishly by Hanequin de Bruselas in completing the funeral chapel of Alvaro de Luna (1440s) in Toledo Cathedral (see Egas family, §1), which influenced many other memorial chapels in Castile, ultimately Burgundian in their lavish heraldic and tracery decoration, but traditionally Spanish in their vaulting and ground-plans. The chapel’s triradial vault, its straight sides made polygonal by squinch-like triangular bays, connects it to the most inventive aspect of Castilian 13th- and 14th-century architecture, perhaps inspired by the ingenuities of Islamic vaulting, the distinguished series of centralized and star-vaulted chapter houses (e.g. Burgos, Palencia and Salamanca) and chapels (e.g. Barbazana Chapel, Pamplona Cathedral; S Ildefonso Chapel, Toledo Cathedral).

Lierne vaults, however, seem to have been introduced in the Visitation Chapel (1440–42) at Burgos, built by the German Juan de Colonia, whose Rhenish origins are plain in the openwork western spires (1442–58) of Burgos Cathedral. More consistent with local usage was his cimborio (1457–95; destr. 1539; replaced 1540–68) over the crossing, which was much praised for its delicacy and scale, and triggered a splendid series of crossing lanterns, in which Muslim-influenced vaults merged perfectly with the Spanish fascination for tall, luminous and semi-independent centralized spaces; examples include those of S Juan de los Reyes (by Juan Guas; see below) in Toledo, Orense Cathedral (1505; by Rodrigo de Badajoz), Saragossa Cathedral (1520) and the replacement lantern at Burgos itself (see Burgos, §2, (i), (a)).

(c) Hispano-Flemish style and the last Gothic cathedrals, c. 1475–1593.

The creative dominance of the Toledan and Burgalese workshops, their preference for florid surface ornament, elaborate vaulting and well-lit polygonal spaces continued into the later 15th century to shape the most inventive period of Spanish Late Gothic, the Hispano-Flemish style that flourished under Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, and the higher nobility and prelates of their household. Decoratively, it contrived to reconcile Gothic and Mudéjar–Muslim forms; structurally, it added nothing to older conventions of space and planning. Its masterpieces are often façades, cloisters and centralized mausolea. It was devised to promote a rampant and predominantly sculptural decoration, combining figural carving, ostentatious heraldry and flamboyant Gothic tracery with clear references to Islamic ornament, sometimes to specific Mudéjar patterns, but often to the general Islamic preference for counter-curving arches and repetitive, small-scale motifs.

The focal point of this ornamental and devotional aesthetic was the gigantic wooden retablo mayor, a Spanish peculiarity of an unprecedented size that was bound to have a unique influence on the surrounding architecture (see Retable, §1). It made any ambulatory invisible, and at Seville, Astorga and Plasencia cathedrals the traditional chevet plan was rejected in favour of a simple, polygonal capilla mayor. The choirs of Zamora and Tuy cathedrals, for example, were remodelled in the late 15th century to accommodate the retablo, while the new cathedral at Salamanca (see below) had a flat east end. Unlike contemporary Netherlandish and German altarpieces, the retablos were not free-standing, but structurally and visually part of the architecture, devised with the closest cooperation between architect and sculptor (sometimes the same individual). The aesthetic and liturgical possibilities of transferring their profuse figure-carving and lavish micro-architecture to other symbolically distinctive parts of the church, particularly its thresholds, were dramatically exploited by Alonso de Burgos, Bishop of Palencia (reg 1485–99) and Queen Isabella’s confessor. In both form and position the trascoro (completed 1519) at Palencia Cathedral, perhaps by Simón de Colonia, is halfway between a retablo and a façade. The façade of the Colegio de S Gregorio (1487–96) in Valladolid is a reredos in stone (for illustration see Valladolid), across which the achievements of the Catholic monarchs are trumpeted by woodwoses, proto-Renaissance putti and an ostentatious heraldry.

Hispano-Flemish Gothic is best exemplified in the work of its two leading exponents, Simón de Colonia (see Colonia, de family, §2) representing the Burgalese origins of the style, and Guas, Juan, representing the Toledan. Guas’s masterpiece was S Juan de los Reyes (founded 1476) in Toledo. Its expansive east end, reminiscent of an enlarged, centralized mausoleum chapel, is encrusted with an indescribably rich blend of heraldic sculpture, Flamboyant tracery and Mudéjar decoration, including stalactite capitals, broken ogees framed by alfices, and an Islamic net vault over the cimborio. Like the Muslim chains hung as trophies around the exterior, the Islamic quotations inside the church celebrate the appropriation of a conquered culture. No other Spanish Gothic interior surpassed this profligate richness, although Juan also used similar idiosyncratic details in other commissions: broken ogees, which became almost his trademark, dominate the upper arcades of the cloister of S Juan; distinctive lierne vaults were deployed in Segovia at Santa Cruz (begun 1482) and El Parral (eastern parts c. 1480). His secular flirtations with a Mudéjar vernacular (see Guadalajara, Palacio del Infantado) also employed diamond-studded walls, stalactite corbels and artesonado ceilings. Significantly, Enrique Egas’s design for the Capilla Real (1506–21) at Granada used a simplified version of the plan of S Juan, and ornament was restricted to a lavish exterior portal and lierne vaults with curving ribs.

The restrained elegance and preference for contrasts of bare wall and intricate surface ornament in Egas’s work set the tone for the 16th-century cathedrals of Spain, the last cathedrals of the Middle Ages. The ideal of the Gothic great church persisted in Spain when it had ceased to have any real value elsewhere, and Gothic continued to be thought appropriate even after secular architecture had adopted Mudéjar forms and the Plateresque style. This can be explained only by the higher clergy’s continuing dominance over Spanish life, coupled, perhaps, with an implicit feeling that Gothic embodied an essential Spanishness and evoked a glorious past that had been lost after the kingdom’s incorporation into the Habsburg Empire in 1516. The earliest, Plasencia Cathedral (1497–1578; unfinished; see Plasencia), is also the most impressive. Egas laid out the choir as a vastly enlarged forerunner of the Capilla Real, but the driving force behind the cathedral’s final form was probably Alava [Ibarra], Juan de, who, in the closest approach in Spain to the intricate vistas devised by Benedikt Ried and his followers (see §II, 2, (iii) above), conceived the transepts, crossing and (unfinished) nave as an extraordinarily wide hall church, with slender, finely moulded piers from which a delicate net of curving ribs spins out across a space as wide as Notre-Dame, Paris.

The more conventional system of Seville Cathedral was reverted to at Salamanca and Segovia cathedrals, with cellular chapels and an elevation marked by very strongly scanned bays, articulated by tall and bulky compound piers, supporting a low, balustraded clerestory. At Salamanca (begun 1513), however, various proposals were suggested before the final design was fixed, including lower side aisles than at present and, more surprisingly, a hall church. This solution had never been popular in Spain, but now it was chosen for the new cathedrals of Plasencia and Saragossa. The latter’s seven-part section and short nave (1540s–50s) is the most extreme example of the Spanish preference for lateral extension. The basilican final form of Salamanca was rescued from ponderousness by the fantasy of the curving vaults devised by Juan Gil de Hontañón (i) (see Gil de Hontañón family, §1), who also designed the last of the Spanish cathedrals, Segovia (begun 1522; see Segovia, §2, (i)). This is a slightly refined version of Salamanca, but with the significant addition of a capilla mayor with a proper radiating chevet, instead of Salamanca’s unsatisfactory flat east end. The completion of the choir (1563–93) marked the end of almost three centuries of Late Gothic ingenuity.

For bibliography see §II, 2, (viii) below.

(viii) Portugal.
  • Paul Crossley

No single dynasty played such a decisive role in the formation of a country’s Late Gothic architecture as the Aviz kings of Portugal. Between the accession of John I (reg 1385–1433) and the death of Manuel I in 1521 (see Aviz, House of family, §6), all the most creative strands of secular and ecclesiastical architecture in Portugal owed their lavish decor, ambitious scale and symbolic power, not to episcopal or middle-class patronage, but to the monarchy’s fierce nationalism and ostentatious display of new riches. The rich upper bourgeoisie of Portugal’s coastal towns, despite their comparable maritime economies and colonial ambitions, were not prepared to divert their resources into the cathedral-like town churches that distinguished the coastal cities of Holland, Catalonia and the southern Baltic. Whereas the Spanish episcopacy remained the leader of great church architecture until well into the 16th century, in Portugal the bishops preserved most of their 12th-century cathedrals (e.g. Coimbra, Évora and Oporto; see also Portugal, Republic of, §II, 1), and only exceptionally, and then under the pressure of Spanish fashions, rebuilt the choirs in an advanced Gothic idiom, for example at Lisbon (before 1345) and Braga (under construction 1511). On the rare occasions when a complete rebuilding was undertaken, for example at Guarda Cathedral (1504–17), the results were modest when set beside the lavishness of contemporary royal foundations, particularly those by Diogo Boitac (see below).

Like their Spanish counterparts, the Portuguese bishops encouraged the late 15th-century influx of predominantly German and Flemish craftsmen into the Iberian Peninsula, but most were metalworkers and sculptors, not architects, and the influence of their micro-architectural extravagances (see Portugal, Republic of, §IX) on masonry construction is difficult to elucidate. As nearly all important buildings were royal commissions, Portuguese Gothic was an extravagant but superficial phenomenon—a number of brilliant tours de force that were fuelled by a short-lived prosperity and that stood out against a background of thinly spread and unpretentious Muslim- and Romanesque-influenced buildings.

Portuguese Late Gothic found its first distinctive idiom in the royal necropolis at Batalha, begun for the Dominicans in 1388 by John I. Huguet, who completed most of the monastery and church with a structural audacity and decorative eclecticism that characterized Portuguese architecture to the end of the Middle Ages. The English-looking tracery that enlivens the chapter house, west façade and adjoining Founder’s Chapel suggests a specific knowledge of the work of William Ramsey and of late Decorated and early Perpendicular decoration in East Anglia (see §II, 2, (ii) above), perhaps derived through John’s wife Philippa (1360–1415), daughter of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (1340–99). Huguet’s structural imagination also rose to the challenges of centralized planning. The Capelas Imperfeitas, the colossal octagonal mausoleum (for illustration see Batalha) laid out to the east of the church by King Edward (reg 1433–8), ranks with the most ambitious centralized buildings of the Gothic period, such as St Marien (1476–92) at Ettal Abbey and the Karlov Church (1351–77) in Prague, and is the most impressive Gothic version of the archetypal mausoleum of Christendom, the church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.

Architecture in the reign of Manuel I reflected Portugal’s colonial expansion and its prodigious increase in prosperity, celebrated in architecture of ostentatious vitality known, appropriately, as the Manueline style. Its exuberance was partly derived from its eclectic mixture of Spanish Late Gothic (both Hispano-Flemish and Plateresque), Flamboyant motifs from France and the Low Countries, dense carpet-like ornament (vaguely but suggestively reminiscent of Indian decoration) and, perhaps most significantly, naturalistic ornament (shells, corals, fish, rope etc), which amounted to an iconography of Portugal’s maritime achievement, and armillary spheres and heraldry that symbolized her world domination.

The earliest indications of the new style appeared simultaneously in the work of Mateus Fernandes at Batalha and in one of Boitac’s earliest projects, the Franciscan monastery of Jesus (c. 1494–8) at Setúbal. The dynamic rope-like quality of the ribs, twisted corbels and plaited spiral piers at the latter (for illustration see Boitac [Boytac], Diogo) established much of the vocabulary of the Manueline style for the next quarter of a century. The style appeared in buildings of varied symbolic significance: Belém Abbey (begun 1502) and its military counterpart, the Tower of Belém (1515–20), built by Francisco de Arruda at the approaches to Lisbon as both a military bastion and a symbolic overture to Portugal’s maritime glory (for discussion and illustration see Belém); and the church of the Order of Christ at Tomar, which celebrated the Portuguese union of empire and chivalry (see Tomar Abbey). In the west façade at Tomar (see Manueline style), the heraldic and naturalistic strains of European Late Gothic are carried to a sensational extreme. The cross of the Order of Christ, armillary spheres, the royal arms and even an enormous buckled garter are woven into an iconography of oceanic adventure: stone carved to resemble seaweed, algae and barnacles; string courses masquerading as ropes, chains and corks; windows dripping and oozing with voluptuous aquatic ornament. Like the contemporary branchwork of German Late Gothic, all these dissolutions of Gothic architecture’s conventional and specific vocabulary into the generalized and universal language of nature seem to be associated with ideas of nationhood, history and myth. The Italian Renaissance was to find a new artistic language to embody these constructions of national mythology.


  • G. E. Street: Some Account of Gothic Architecture in Spain (London, 1865, rev. 2/1869/R 1912)
  • P. Lavedan: L’Architecture religieuse en Catalogne, Valence, et Baléares (Paris, 1935)
  • M. T. Chico: Historia da arte em Portugal (Oporto, 1948)
  • R. dos Santos: O estilo Manuelino (Lisbon, 1952)
  • L. Torres Balbás: Arquitectura gótica, A. Hisp., 7 (Madrid, 1952)
  • J. Harvey: The Cathedrals of Spain (London, 1957)
  • J. M. Azcárate: La arquitectura gótica toledana del siglo XV (Madrid, 1958)
  • M. Durliat: L’Art dans le royaume de Majorque: Les Débuts de l’art gothique en Roussillon, en Cerdagne et aux Baléares (Toulouse, 1962)
  • R. C. Smith: The Art of Portugal, 1500–1800 (London, 1968)
  • P. Dias: Historia da arte em Portugal, 2 (Lisbon, 1986)
  • E. Cooper: Castillos Señoriales en La Coruña de Castilla, 4 vols (León, 1992)

III. Sculpture.

Whether architectural, monumental or free-standing, sculpture played a central role in Gothic art. The article below discusses sculpture mainly in stone and wood (see also Alabaster, §1). Chronologically, Gothic sculpture is defined conterminously with the architecture, and is held to begin in the 1130s and extend into the 15th century or the 16th, depending on location. Stylistically, the term is arbitrary. The definition depends closely on French developments, which provide a standard by which other areas may be assessed. As in architecture, however, in most regions outside France, French influence was one among many, with strong local traditions and developments. Styles in general were close to the figurative arts in other media, and the direction of influence is not always clear. The Romanesque style continued alongside Gothic for up to a century or even longer (see Romanesque, §III), with closely related iconography and even aspects of style: over the earliest phase, division between them reflects scholarly perceptions rather than any genuine distinction.

1. Stone.

Stone sculpture was used copiously, as architectural ornament both inside and outside buildings, on tombs and liturgical furnishings, and for statues. It was often painted: figures in particular were given naturalistic colouring (see Polychromy, colour pl. V, fig. ), and were often embellished with such metal or wood attachments as crowns, swords or censers; draperies could be studded with gemstones. The sculptor, as a craftsman distinct from other workers in stone, appears in the records from the late 13th century (earlier in Italy), when forms of employment such as tomb-making became an established alternative to great church workshops. In the geographical and chronological stylistic survey that follows, France, where the style developed and remained dominant until the 14th century, is discussed first. Discussion of the rest of Europe includes both the relation of each region to France and local and indigenous developments.

(i) France.
(a) Introduction.
  • Dany Sandron

In the last four centuries of the Middle Ages sculpture was a major art form in France, from the great church portals of the 12th and 13th centuries to the dramatic free-standing Entombment groups of the 15th. Increased lay patronage also ensured that it appeared frequently in secular contexts. Architectural sculpture continued to predominate, but it became less obviously a substitute for the architectural members, while at the same time the architecture became more of a setting for sculpture. With the gradual acceptance of naturalistic modes of expression, forms went through various phases of idealization. From the 13th century Paris dominated both production and styles, but following the political, military and economic disturbances that shook the capital in the 15th century, centres of production became widespread across the country. While these still felt the influence of former Parisian art, it was not until Italian influences arrived in the 16th century that styles once again became more homogeneous.


  • M. Aubert: La Sculpture française du moyen âge (Paris, 1947)
  • R. Jullian: La Sculpture gothique (Paris, 1965)
(b) 12th and 13th centuries.

The displays of statuary that adorn the portals of the great French cathedrals of the 13th century arguably represent the apogee of medieval stone sculpture. The expense and ambition reflected by the west doorways of Chartres (see fig.), Amiens and Reims were seldom matched throughout the medieval period, yet much of northern France had been an artistic backwater only a century before. Few new churches were being built and few local masons were adept in the art of stone sculpture. This situation began to change during the 1120s and 1130s, as the power and prestige of the Capetian dynasty increased. New wealthy patrons emerged, now based in the cathedrals rather than the monasteries, and skilled architects, masons and sculptors were attracted to the area by the prospect of fresh commissions.

Most surviving French Gothic sculpture was carved for church doorways, but on the great cathedrals this was often extended to buttresses and the upper façades. Internal sculpture, with the exception of capitals, was less common. Figural capitals were eschewed in favour of foliate designs, with crockets giving way to naturalistic foliage at Reims in the mid-13th century. The figural panels on the inner west wall of Reims Cathedral (c. 1250–60; see Reims, §IV, 1, (ii)) and the Apostles (1241–8) of the Sainte-Chapelle (see Paris, §V, 2, (ii)) are both unusual, if not unique, ensembles. Surviving cloister carvings date mainly from the 12th century and include a small column statue (c. 1145) and a lavabo (c. 1200) from Saint-Denis Abbey, fragments from Châlons-sur-Marne (c. 1175–80; see Châlons-en-Champagne, Notre-Dame-en-Vaux) and the chapter house façade (c. 1160–65) of the former abbey church of St Georges at Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville.

Most non-architectural sculpture was also produced in an ecclesiastical context. Many church furnishings were destroyed during the late 18th century, but fragments of choir-screens are preserved at Chartres (c. 1230–40) and Bourges (c. 1260; see Bourges, §II, 1, (ii), (c)). More funerary sculpture survives, including the idealized effigies on the tombs of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard I (early 13th century; see Fontevrault Abbey) and Robert the Pious and Constance of Arles (c. 1264; Saint-Denis Abbey). Surviving tomb-chests are usually carved with weepers or funeral processions (see Weeper). Tomb recesses include that of c. 1180 reset in the north transept of Reims Cathedral.

French sculptors in the 12th and 13th centuries were anonymous, itinerant laymen. They would have designed iconographic programmes with the help of pattern books, none of which survives, and through consultation with their patrons. Elements of doorways were carved separately in workshops and then assembled as the building progressed, the sculptor always working ahead of the builders. Although few traces survive, it is probable that all carvings were painted and gilded while the scaffolding was still in position.

The revival of stone sculpture in the north.

The new churches built in and around Paris in the mid-12th century are regarded as the first manifestations of Gothic architecture (see §II, 1, (ii), (a) above) and their carved decoration can be viewed similarly as the embodiment of a new aesthetic. As in Romanesque buildings, it was concentrated on the main doorways, but the first Gothic doorways neither slavishly imitated those produced by the well-established regional schools of Burgundy and south-west France (see Romanesque, §III, 1, (ii), (f)), nor did they break completely free from the past. Instead they borrowed elements from diverse sources and presented them in innovative combinations.

This is illustrated clearly at Saint-Denis in the central of the three west portals (c. 1130–35; see Saint-Denis Abbey, §II, 1, (i)). An established theme, the Last Judgement, was selected for the tympanum, but the supernatural energy of Romanesque representations such as those at Conques (see Conques, Ste Foy, §1) and Autun Cathedral (see Autun, §2, (ii)), was subdued. Heaven and Hell were relegated to the inner archivolt, while the three outer archivolts were carved with the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse, now arranged tangentially rather than radially. Sculptors in Burgundy and western France had experimented rather awkwardly with tangential voussoir figures, for example at Anzy-le-Duc Priory and Angoulême Cathedral, but at Saint-Denis the form was adopted with a new assurance. Not every feature of the Saint-Denis doorways was necessarily derived from Burgundy, Languedoc or western France. There are close parallels in Italy for the decoration of the doorjambs and the sculptural style has been compared with Mosan metalwork. The column statues at Saint-Denis, however, may have been the first such use on portal embrasures.

In a sense the Column statue was merely the last and most successful in a series of experiments from c. 1125 into the application of large-scale sculpture to the jambs of doorways (see Moissac, St Pierre, §2; Vézelay, Ste Madeleine, §2, (ii)). It was to become the most distinctive element of French Gothic portal sculpture and the most liberated from its architectural context. Together, column statues and tangential voussoir figures created continuous carved bands that visually unified portal compositions. Their potential to carry figures and themes that elucidated the important central image on the tympanum was to be explored throughout the following century.

The Early Gothic phase.

The Saint-Denis portals must have made a great impression on visiting dignitaries and certainly contained intimations of future developments, yet their direct influence cannot be detected in surviving monuments. The Royal Portal (c. 1145) of Chartres Cathedral, on the other hand, is the supreme example of a formula that proved extremely popular throughout the royal domain (see Chartres, §2, (i)). While the three Saint-Denis doorways had separate identities, those of Chartres were unified by horizontal bands of sculpture, which ran across the embrasures and over the slender buttresses that defined each bay. At Chartres the aesthetic impact of the pointed arch on doorways is evident for the first time: a comparison between the tympanum compositions of Saint-Denis and Chartres draws attention to the former’s horizontality and the latter’s verticality, enhanced by the division of the tympanum area into registers.

No triple portal scheme survives from the decades immediately after the Royal Portal, but many single doorways betray its influence. The Christ in Majesty (Maiestas) of its central doorway, an abbreviated version of the Apocalyptic vision that first became common on portals in Burgundy in the early 12th century, proved especially popular. The choice of subsidiary themes varied: Elders of the Apocalypse at the cathedrals of Angers (c. 1155; see Angers, §2, (i), (b)) and Bourges (1160s; see Bourges, §II, 1, (ii), (a)), as at Chartres; saints at Le Mans Cathedral (before 1158; see Le Mans, §1, (ii)) and Saint-Loup-de-Naud (1167); and scenes from the Last Judgement at Ivry-la-Bataille Abbey and St Ayoul (c. 1160), Provins.

The enthroned Virgin and Child adored by angels on the south doorway of Chartres revealed a new interest in Marian iconography, appropriate to the foremost shrine of the Virgin in France. A further development in the iconography of the Virgin occurred c. 1165 at Senlis Cathedral, north of Paris. The Coronation of the Virgin on the tympanum of the west doorway is accompanied by the Tree of Jesse on the archivolts, the Death and Assumption of the Virgin on the lintel, and Old Testament figures on the embrasures bearing attributes that enable them to be identified (see Senlis, §1). After Senlis, Marian iconography grew in popularity, while the Maiestas was largely abandoned.

Twisted poses and convoluted draperies lend a restless energy to the figures at Senlis, particularly those on the archivolts. This lively style, ultimately derived from Mosan metalwork (see Romanesque, §VI, 3), can be seen in a modified form at Châlons-sur-Marne (see above) and on the central west doorway (c. 1175–80) of Mantes, Notre-Dame. More popular towards the end of the 12th century was a restrained classicizing style characterized by soft draperies, which can be seen on the doorways (c. 1185–1200) of Sens Cathedral (see Sens, §1, (ii)), the Virgin and Child (c. 1180) reset over the north transept doorway at Reims Cathedral and the Saint-Denis lavabo. Portal embrasures underwent certain structural changes around this time. At Senlis, and to a greater degree at Sens, plinths were now treated as a suitable field for low-relief sculpture. A further modification was introduced at Sens by replacing the stepped recession of embrasures with a smooth, sloping wall surface. This encouraged a more three-dimensional treatment of column statues, which now occupied a less rigidly defined space: at Chartres column statues had been surmounted by separate architectural canopies and capitals, but at Sens these elements were integrated.

Laon and Chartres.

The west doorways (c. 1195–1205) of Laon Cathedral are more expansive than any previous example and are integrated within the overall façade design to a hitherto unparalleled degree (see Laon, §1, (ii)). They are preceded by intercommunicating porches bearing figural scenes in their gables, thus challenging the supremacy of the tympana. Sculpture extends on to the upper storeys of the façade, including cycles of the Creation and the Liberal Arts around the two lancet windows and, on the aediculae of the towers, sixteen oxen. Much of the surviving figure sculpture reveals a more intimate knowledge of antique sculpture than earlier monuments, with fine drapery sensitively delineating rounded limbs. Two of the doorways are devoted to the Virgin, with the Coronation of the Virgin in the centre and the Adoration of the Magi on the north, while the Last Judgement is depicted on the south. The Adoration of the Magi is accompanied by the Virtues and Vices, and prefigurations of Mary’s virginity.

The main themes of Laon reappeared on the six transept portals (1205–10) of Chartres Cathedral, but were augmented by numerous subsidiary scenes. On the Last Judgement doorway, in the centre of the south transept, the Apostles were removed from the tympanum on to the embrasures, where they carry the instruments of their martyrdom. This increased the importance of the intercessors, the Virgin and St John, on the tympanum; the warnings of 12th-century representations were replaced by a more hopeful message. The archivolts were carved with choirs of angels and the programme was expanded by flanking doorways dedicated to martyrs and confessors. The two Virgin portals on the north transept were accompanied by a third, carved with Old Testament scenes. On the Adoration doorway the Annunciation and Visitation were enacted by column statues. Sculptors from Laon seem to have been employed at Chartres, but the relaxed poses of the Laon figures had now stiffened and draperies thickened. The sheer scale of the programmes may have necessitated different working methods at Chartres, and stylistic uniformity crept in.

Amiens, Paris and Reims.

A new figural style that appeared c. 1220 on the west doorways of Notre-Dame (see fig.), Paris, is characterized by voluminous drapery, which falls in broad folds and conceals the limbs (see Paris, §V, 1, (ii)). The figural pose is no longer described by the drapery and attempts at contrapposto are more superficial. This style was favoured by the workshop responsible for the west portals (c. 1220–35) of Amiens Cathedral, where it became increasingly mechanical, suggesting mass production (see Amiens, §1, (ii)). It can be seen in its simplest form on the column statues of the prophets Zephanaiah and Habakkuk. The doorways were conceived on a massive scale. The distinction between the portals and their porches was blurred, as the embrasure sculpture flowed on to the sides of the gabled porches and over the buttresses. Higher up the façade was a gallery of kings, a feature perhaps inspired by the aediculae of the Chartres porches and also adopted at Paris. Contrasting with the vast proportions of the architecture, the portal sculpture of Amiens appears precious rather than monumental. The steeply pointed tympana were subdivided into horizontal bands, leaving relatively little room for the focal images of the programmes. Archivolts and voussoir figures were multiplied and, by continuing the embrasures laterally, it became possible to introduce extra column statues.

Tympanum showing the Death and Coronation of the Virgin, Coronation Portal, west façade, Notre-Dame, Paris, France, c. 1225–30; Photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

The High Gothic style of Paris and Amiens spread rapidly and can be found on provincial monuments, such as the doorways of Notre-Dame (c. 1240), Villeneuve-l’Archevêque and Rampillon (c. 1245). In Paris in the 1240s this was developed into a more elegant so-called court style, which spread to all artistic media (see also §IV, 5, (ii) below). The Apostles (1241–8) inside the Sainte-Chapelle are more attenuated than the Amiens column statues and demonstrate a renewed interest in movement and posture, overlaid by weighty, angular draperies. This can also be seen at Notre-Dame, on the north transept portal (c. 1250), the Rayonnant south transept portal (c. 1260) and the Porte Rouge (c. 1260; see Paris, §V, 1, (ii), (b)). At Reims Cathedral it appears side by side with strongly classicizing figures (c. 1245–55). This can be seen most clearly on the right embrasure of the central doorway of the west façade, where the ‘Court’ style Annunciation (see Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I, ) contrasts sharply with the ‘antique’ style of the Visitation.

The vast amount of sculpture carved for Reims Cathedral in the mid-13th century represents the culmination of High Gothic sculpture. The design of the west doorways developed tendencies implicit in those of Laon, Chartres and Amiens, but took them to the boldest of conclusions. The previously separate entities of portal and porch become totally fused in a composition that seems to stand proud of the façade itself. The tympana, still supported by lintels and trumeaux, are glazed and traceried, and the focal images of the programmes now occupy gables over the archivolts. The logical relationship between the tympanum image, the surrounding archivolt and the embrasure sculpture has been disrupted, and the impact of the main scenes (Coronation of the Virgin, Last Judgement and Crucifixion), now distanced from the viewer, has been drastically reduced.

Glazed tympana were not taken up elsewhere and there was soon a return to stone tympana, which might be divided into numerous horizontal registers, for example on the south transept portal (c. 1260–79) of Amiens Cathedral and the west portal (c. 1260) of Auxerre Cathedral, or compartmentalized by tracery, as on the west portal (after 1268) of Sens Cathedral. In the mid-12th century the format of Amiens spread beyond northern France and High Gothic portals were produced at the cathedrals of Bourges (1240–60; see Bourges, §II, 1, (ii), (b)), Poitiers (c. 1250; see Poitiers, §2, (i), (a)), Bazas (c. 1250), Dax (1250–75) and elsewhere. This phenomenon was partly due to a decline in lucrative commissions in the royal domain, where every major cathedral had recently been rebuilt, and an increase elsewhere. Regional versions of High Gothic, for example c. 1250 at St Seurin, Bordeaux, were often of such a high quality that sculptors trained in northern France must have been directly involved.


  • W. Vöge: Die Anfänge des monumentalen Stils im Mittelalter (Strasbourg, 1894)
  • E. Mâle: L’Art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France (Paris, 1898, rev. 6/1925; Eng. trans., London, 1913)
  • A. Lapeyre: Des Façades occidentales de Saint-Denis et de Chartres aux portails de Laon: Etudes sur la sculpture monumentale dans l’Ile-de-France et les régions voisines au XIIe siècle ([Paris], 1960)
  • W. Sauerländer: Gotische Skulptur in Frankreich, 1140–1270 (Munich, 1970; Eng. trans., London, 1972)
  • W. S. Stoddard: Sculptors of the West Portals of Chartres Cathedral (New York, 1987)
(c) 14th century.

In the 14th century sculpture emerged as an art form in its own right, and was less subordinate to architecture. Apart from some portals at the cathedrals of Rouen and Auxerre (see Auxerre, §1, (ii)), the era of encyclopedic sculptural programmes was over: no 14th-century façade can rival the scale of those at the cathedrals of Reims and Amiens (see §III, 1, (i), (b) above). Instead sculptors tackled new genres or those that hitherto had been poorly represented, for the production of works that were portable, carved in the round or secular in purpose. The sculpture of recognizable likenesses was also rediscovered. The names of a few artists have been recorded; they and others explored the new possibilities arising from a growing interest in individualism.

Religious sculpture was still dominant, but no longer monopolized the output. There was a decline in monumental religious sculpture, although the upper levels of façades and naves and the springers of the vaults provided a setting for architectural sculpture that was more welcoming and less restraining than before. An increasing freedom in statuary is shown in such works as the Martyrdom of St Stephen in Limoges Cathedral and the Apostolic colleges that peopled the chancels of many churches, including St Jacques-de-l’Hôpital, Paris (figures now in Paris, Mus. Cluny). The same tendencies appear in the interior decoration (fragments in Toulouse, Mus. Augustins) commissioned between 1333 and 1344 by Jean Tissendier, Bishop of Toulouse, for a chapel in the chevet of the Franciscan church (destr. 1871), Toulouse. This avoids the academicism that afflicted sculptural programmes of the first third of the 14th century in southern France, including those in Bordeaux and Carcassonne cathedrals, which were confined merely to reproducing the previous century’s formulae for monumental sculpture. This liberation of form may also be seen in the decoration of vault bosses and consoles, for example in the Sainte-Chapelle in the château of Vincennes. The relief sculpture on liturgical furnishings, including altarpieces, became more narrative in tone. The triumph of sculpture as an art in its own right, however, may be seen most clearly in the development of sculpture in the round for devotional statues of saints and, especially, the Virgin and Child, of which more than a thousand examples survive.

Patronage and the court.

One of the most important innovations of the 14th century was the increasing diversity of lay patronage. The resulting demand for secular statuary developed alongside the production of higher quality religious sculpture. The example was set from above, since the initiatives of Philip IV (reg 1285–1314) and Charles V (reg 1364–80) were decisive as each sought to promote the French monarchy and the person of the king. Philip, for example, commissioned a life-size, painted series for the Gallery of the Kings in the Grand’ Salle of his palace on the Ile-de-la-Cité, Paris (see Evrard d’Orléans), and the representations of Louis IX, Margaret of Provence and their children (now in Poissy, Notre-Dame) for the collegiate church of St Louis at Poissy (see Capet family, §3). Charles V almost systematized this expression of political will half a century later, ensuring that he was represented on every major project with which he was connected. The portals of churches that he founded, such as the church of the Célestins (destr. 1770s), Paris, or enlarged, including the Augustinian church (destr.), Paris, were decorated with the figure of the King, while in the Louvre his statue also formed the focus of the series of figures on the staircase built by Raymond du Temple (see Valois, House of family, §2; see also Jean [Hennequin] de Liège). Royal tombs were also made for the King’s body (1364, by André Beauneveu) at Saint-Denis Abbey, his entrails (1374; now Paris, Louvre) at Maubuisson Abbey and his heart (1368, by Jean de Liège; destr.) in Rouen Cathedral.

The royal promotion of sculpture could not fail to influence other patrons’ commissions. Enguerrand de Marigny (d 1315), Superintendent of Finances to Philip IV, placed life-size figures of himself and his wife (both destr.) in the portal of Ecouis, Notre-Dame, shown presenting the church to the Virgin. Mahaut, Countess of Artois, commissioned a gallery of sculpted portraits of her ancestors for her château (destr. 1553) at Hesdin (Artois). Charles V’s brothers followed his example during the second half of the 14th century, notably Jean, Duc de Berry, who had himself portrayed above the monumental chimney (Belle cheminée; c. 1380) in the great chamber of his palace (now the Palais de Justice) at Poitiers, alongside his nephew Charles VI and their wives. A sculpture of Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, appears on the embrasures of the portal at the Charterhouse of Champmol (see Dijon, §IV, 1, (ii); see also Sluter, Claus, §1). Cardinal Jean de La Grange commissioned the so-called Beau pilier on the north side of Amiens Cathedral, on which are represented Charles V, his two sons and his most prominent counsellors, one of whom was naturally the Cardinal himself (see Amiens, §1, (ii)).

In the 14th century artistic production was directly associated with the king and his immediate followers. Princes, lay and ecclesiastical aristocracy and the king’s counsellors were all active patrons, favouring materials and styles that reflected their wealth. The taste for fine materials, such as black and white marble and alabaster, the refined use of polychromy and gilding, the elegance of the figures’ characteristic déhanchement posture, with the weight shifted slightly to one side, and the play of the draperies, with superimposed cascades of scrolling folds, created a mannered effect that was very different from the idealizing styles of the previous century. Yet the paths it followed were diverse. Some works, for example the Virgin and Child (early 14th century) in the parish church at Mainneville, Eure, appear almost classical in the balance between the overall composition of the figure and the handling of ornament. The realism present in others, however, betrays an anxiety that belies a definition of 14th-century art as mannered; the latter may be applied only to those works that repeat the elaborate formulae of the beginning of the century, pushing ever further the penchant for detail.

Most significant of all was the rediscovery of sculpted likenesses, which had not been made since antiquity. A comparison between the reclining figures in Saint-Denis Abbey of Philip III (d 1285; see Jean d’Arras) and Charles V (1364; see Beauneveu, André) illustrates well the development from the former’s idealized features to the latter’s prematurely aged, but still alert, expression. The figure of Charles V was made during his lifetime and may be considered more as a portrait from life, yet funerary sculpture was still subject to formal conventions and the weight of tradition. The psychological dimension that is the true mark of the portrait is more discernible in the statue of Charles V as donor (Paris, Louvre) and that of Charles VI in Poitiers (see fig. above), in which the early stages of his madness may be sensed in a strange, lascivious melancholy. There is a startling contrast between the King’s expression and the seductive frivolity seen in the accompanying statue of his wife, Isabeau of Bavaria.

The influence of Paris.

These changes benefited from the matchless creativity arising from conditions in Paris. While the French monarchy prospered, the capital attracted artists from far afield, such as Evrard d’Orléans and Jean Pépin de Huy during the reigns of Philip IV and his sons, or Jean de Liège and André Beauneveu under Charles V. The city was in a perpetual state of agitation and commissions tailed away during crises, forcing artists to emigrate to provincial courts and centres of production at Avignon, Dijon, Bourges and Poitiers, or abroad to Prague and Cologne, all of which show strong Parisian influence. Many of the finest works are unattributed, and will probably remain so, but the few artists known by name and the sculptures associated with them are an eloquent testimony to the continual cross-fertilization of styles at the French court.

Almost every great sculptor passed through Paris. This phenomenon is typified by Beauneveu, who worked in Paris for Charles V from 1364 to 1366 (see above). From at least 1374 he was active in the south Netherlands, where his patrons included Louis de Mâle, Count of Flanders, while from 1386 he was in the service of Jean, Duc de Berry, at Bourges and Mehun-sur-Yèvre. Beauneveu benefited from the high regard in which artists were held and was given flattering titles, such as ymagier (figure sculptor) to the King, anticipating the cult of the individual artist that appeared in Renaissance Italy. This phenomenon can also be observed in the parallel career of Claus Sluter, whose trenchant and visionary style was to fascinate sculptors in the early 15th century. His work at Dijon, for example on the Well of Moses (begun c. 1396), the portal (1390–93) of the Charterhouse of Champmol and the tomb of Philip the Bold (Dijon, Mus. B.-A.), has a refinement and elegance that appear to constitute a homage to French art and its diffusion into secular art, and was to offer a real alternative to the Soft style that prevailed throughout Europe at the end of the century (see §III, 1, (iii), (c) below).

(d) 15th century.

The sculptural themes of the previous century (see §III, 1, (i), (c) above) were taken over with a few modifications in the 15th, but scarcely any new ones were developed. The tombs of royalty and the nobility display an even greater determination to impress. Such common themes of the Passion as Christ Carrying the Cross, the Agony in the Garden, the Man of Sorrows, crucifixes, Pietàs, the Virgin and Child, Apostles, prophets and saints were all represented in monumental form and on altarpieces. A characteristic new development was that of the Entombment with numerous fully rounded, barely life-size figures placed in a chapel-like area. Increasingly sculptors began to set up their own workshops in the towns, supplanting the dominance of the great building works. More artists are known by name from various documentary sources, but it is often difficult to assign the surviving works. The international trend represented by the Soft style (see §III, 1, (iii), (c) below) persisted into the middle of the century, although a gradual hardening and dissolution of the unified form may be seen from the second quarter of the century. Some sculptors adopted Renaissance forms towards the end of the 15th century, but medieval attitudes may often be detected until well into the 16th. It is often difficult to distinguish precisely between individual, regional and period styles, since important artists sometimes worked in several areas, but a regional approach provides the clearest indication of the varying influences and developments throughout the century.


Until the second quarter of the century, when power shifted to Flanders, Dijon was the seat of the duchy of Burgundy and an important artistic centre. Claus Sluter was succeeded as tailleur d’ymages et varlet de chambre by Claus de Werve, who had collaborated with his uncle since 1396. The appointment of the younger man by Duke John the Fearless was intended to ensure the completion (by 1411) of the marble and alabaster tomb of Philip the Bold (Dijon, Mus. B.-A.). By Sluter’s death little more than the rough form of the tomb had been completed. Most of the finely polished alabaster figures (see Weeper) and the recumbent figure of the Duke (destr. 1793) were by the younger sculptor, who had assimilated Sluter’s pathetic, expressive style to such an extent that it is difficult to determine the contributions of the two artists and their various collaborators. A large seated Virgin and Child (New York, Met.), formerly in the church of the Poor Clares in Poligny (Jura), retains its original rich polychromy and should be attributed to Claus de Werve. The Virgin’s majestic regularity is lacking in the figure of Jean Chousat (c. 1420; Poligny, St Hippolyte) and other items made for the same church, and this raises the question of the role played by workshop assistants.

Guillaume Chandelier (attrib.): tomb of Philippe Pot, from Cîteaux Abbey, France, c. 1480–83 (Paris, Musée du Louvre); photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Claus de Werve’s successor, Juan de la Huerta (see also §III, 1, (viii) below), who is first mentioned in Dijon in 1431, may already have worked as one of Claus’s assistants at Baume-les-Messieurs Abbey, not far south of Poligny. In 1443 Juan was commissioned by Philip the Good to complete the tomb of John the Fearless and Margaret of Bavaria (Dijon, Mus. B.-A.); the contract stated that the work was to be ‘equal to or better than’ the earlier ducal tomb at the Charterhouse of Champmol. Juan, however, left Dijon in 1456 before completing the project. His work tends to be somewhat conservative, although some very beautiful figures of the Virgin and Child have been attributed to him, including that made for Cardinal Jean Rolin II (now in Autun, Mus. Rolin) and others in Notre-Dame, Auxonne, and the parish churches at Saint-Jean-de-Losne, Rouvres-en-Plaine and Chalon-sur-Saône. The tomb was completed in 1470 with the two recumbent figures and some of the weepers by Antoine Le Moiturier, a nephew and pupil of Jacques Morel (see below). Other sculptors of varying significance active in Burgundy have been identified by Camp. The tomb of Philippe Pot (c. 1480–83; Paris, Louvre), which originally stood in Cîteaux Abbey and can be attributed to Guillaume Chandelier (d before 1502), may be regarded as a further development of the early Burgundian type of tomb represented by those at Champmol.

Berry and Bourbonnais.

There were several important centres of production in this region. André Beauneveu and Jean de Cambrai, both of whom originally came from the south Netherlands, had been active in Bourges and its surroundings from 1386–7, working mainly for Jean, Duc de Berry. Although they lacked Sluter’s innovative greatness, both may be described as individual and original. Some attributions, however, remain controversial. The only authenticated work of Jean de Cambrai is his collaboration on the tomb of Jean, Duc de Berry (1422–38; Bourges Cathedral), which was based on that of Philip the Bold. A Virgin and Child in Marcoussis Church has been identified as that made c. 1408 as a gift from the Duke to the Celestine monastery near by; the linear flow of the vertical, parallel folds in low relief and the figure’s unified outline would appear to be typical of Jean de Cambrai. Soon after he also worked on the tomb of Louis II of Bourbon (d 1410) and Anne of Auvergne (Souvigny, St Pierre).

Sculpture in Bourges seems to have declined perceptibly after Jean de Berry’s death in 1416. Unfortunately very little has survived of the work commissioned by Jacques Coeur. Three prophet consoles and three reliefs on the façade of the Palais Jacques-Coeur (1443–51), Bourges, are reminiscent of the forms used by Beauneveu. Three remarkable sculptures of St John the Baptist, a courtier and the Virgin and Child (second quarter of the 15th century; Morogues Church), which are believed to have come from the Sainte-Chapelle in Bourges (see Bourges, §II, 2), differ markedly from the formal severity of Beauneveu and Jean de Cambrai. In his work on the tomb of Charles I, Duke of Bourbon, and Agnes of Burgundy (1448–53; Souvigny, St Pierre), Jacques Morel (see Morel family, §2) countered Burgundian verism with a new ideal of relaxed beauty. Michel Colombe, who was possibly born in Bourges and has been termed the ‘last Gothic’ French sculptor (Pradel), worked at the court of the dukes of Bourbon from 1484 (see Colombe family, §1).

Loire Valley.

The most important centres in the Loire region were Tours, Loches and Angers. Jean de Cambrai’s influence may be detected in Tours in the first half of the century. Some writers have attributed the tomb of Agnès Sorel (d 1450; Loches Castle) to Morel. Nine sculptors are documented as working for René I, Duke of Anjou (see Anjou, House of family, §II, (4)). Morel, Jean Poncet (d 1452) and his son Pons Poncet (fl 1450–60), for example, were employed to make the wall tomb of René I and his first wife Isabella of Lorraine (begun 1450; Angers Cathedral; destr. French Revolution), which was in the Angevin and Italian tradition (see §III, 1, (iv), (h) below; see also Delf, Coppin) rather than that of the dukes of Burgundy and Berry. Early Renaissance motifs were introduced by Francesco Laurana and Pietro di Martino da Milano, who were in the Duke’s service from 1461. Michel Colombe lived in Tours from at least 1496 until his death in 1514; his many disciples were active until the mid-16th century.


Saint Margaret, alabaster, traces of gilding, 15 3/8 x 9 5/8 x 6 9/16 in. (39 x 24.5 x 16.7 cm), c. 1475 (New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Anthony and Lois Blumka, in memory of Ruth and Victoria Blumka, 2000, Accession ID: 2000.641); photo © The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The important centres of production were Avignon, Rodez, Toulouse (see fig.) and Albi. Only fragments have survived of three monumental tombs to cardinals Guillaume II d’Aigrefeuille, Jean de La Grange and Nicolas de Brancas, which were installed in St Martial, Avignon, around 1400. The second of these (see La Grange, Jean de, Cardinal) was originally at least 15 m high. The interplay of the wide, undulating, feather-edged folds indicate links with Champmol. The Belcastel workshop, which has been named after the crude and stocky figures on the tomb of Alzias de Saunhac (d 1418; Belcastel Church), was also responsible for reliefs of the Entombment (Rodez Cathedral) and the Pietà (Grand-Vabre Church). During the second quarter of the century Morel worked successively in Avignon, Rodez and Toulouse: at Notre-Dame-de-Grasse, a seated Virgin and Child (Toulouse, Mus. Augustins) from a Presentation group, has an appealing delicacy that was long influential. His workshop also worked on the south portal of Rodez Cathedral, in which town Pierre Viguier’s workshop was active in the second half of the century. The superb Flamboyant rood screen made for Albi Cathedral during the first decade of the episcopacy of Bishop Louis I of Ambroise (reg 1474–1503), complete with a parclose screen featuring a cycle of apostles and prophets, carries echoes of the realism of such sculptors as Sluter and marks the final resistance to Renaissance ideas (see Albi, §1).

Lorraine and Champagne.

Sculptors in Lorraine and Champagne were open to influences from Burgundy and the Rhineland. Some 70 items, especially reliefs for altarpieces and tombs, statuettes and architectural sculpture, such as keystones, are known from a workshop active in the region of Joinville and Vignory during the first half of the 15th century, for example at St Etienne, Vignory. Their graceful outlines and stereotyped faces are indicative of the long survival of the Soft style until about the middle of the century. The Entombment (c. 1420) in St Martin, Pont-à-Mousson, is one of the earliest treatments of the theme. Towards the end of the century Troyes developed into an important centre of production in southern Champagne, with artists from the Colas, Jubert, Gailde-Halins and Bachot family families (see Troyes, §2). The progressive acceptance of Renaissance forms may be seen in later works, such as the choir-screen (c. 1508–15) in the Madeleine, Troyes, by Jean Gailde.

Paris and the north.

The artistic decline of Paris (see §III, 1, (i), (c) above) was fully evident by c. 1420. The tomb of Anne of Burgundy, Duchess of Bedford (d 1432; Paris, Louvre), carved by Guillaume Vluten for the monastery church of the Célestins, is one of the few examples made for Parisian churches and is striking more for the detailed reproduction of the clothing than for the facial expression. The most outstanding work made in northern France (probably Lille) in the early 15th century is the alabaster Crucifixion altar (c. 1430; Frankfurt am Main, Liebieghaus), formerly in S Maria delle Grazie, Rimini (see Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I, ). Northern sculptors were sometimes strongly influenced by contemporary painters. The Master of Rimini, for example, shows the influence of the Master of Flémalle, while the hard, broken folds of the Virgin and Child (mid-15th century; Lille, Mus. B.-A.) originally in St Sauveur, Lille, are reminiscent of Rogier van der Weyden.

Epitaphs in relief that are particularly notable for their content include those of Guille Lefrançois (1446; Arras, Mus. B.-A.), Canon Jean Lamelin (d 1470; Tournai Cathedral) and Guillaume Dufay (d 1474; Lille, Mus. B.-A.), formerly in Cambrai Cathedral. Entombment groups in Normandy (e.g. Notre-Dame et St Laurent, Eu; Notre-Dame, Louviers; La Madeleine, Verneuil-sur-Avre) mainly date from the beginning of the 16th century. The most characteristic sculptural type in Brittany comprises large wayside shrines representing Calvary. One of the finest early examples (c. 1450–70) is at Notre-Dame-de-Tronoën, near Pont l’Abbé; it is of granite and has two registers carved with scenes from the Infancy of Christ and the Passion.


  • M. de Bévotte: La Sculpture à la fin de la période gothique dans la région de Toulouse, d’Albi et de Rodez, 1400–1520 (Paris, 1936)
  • G. Troescher: Die burgundische Plastik des ausgehenden Mittelalters und ihre Wirkungen auf die europäische Kunst, 2 vols (Frankfurt am Main, 1940)
  • P. Pradel: Michel Colombe: Le Dernier Imagier gothique (Paris, 1953)
  • P. Quarré: ‘La Collégiale Saint-Hippolyte de Poligny et ses statues’, Congrès archéologique de France, 118 (1960), pp. 209–24
  • H. D. Hofmann: Die lothringische Skulptur der Spätgotik (Saarbrücken, 1962)
  • Statuaire autunoise de la fin du moyen âge (exh. cat., ed. P. Quarré; Autun, Mus. Rolin, 1968)
  • H. D. Hofmann: ‘L’Atelier de sculpture de Joinville-Vignory, 1393–14420’, Bulletin monumental, 127 (1969), pp. 209–22
  • W. H. Forsyth: The Entombment of Christ: French Sculptures of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (Cambridge, MA, 1970)
  • G. Bou: Sculpture gothique en Rouergue (Rodez, 1971)
  • S. K. Scher: ‘Un Problème de la sculpture en Berry: Les Statues de Morogues’, Revue de l’art, 13 (1971), pp. 11–24
  • G. Bou: Sculpture gothique albigeoise (Rodez, 1972)
  • J. Boccador: Statuaire médiévale en France de 1400 à 1530, 2 vols (Zug, 1974)
  • La Sculpture bourguignonne à la fin du XVe siècle (exh. cat., ed. P. Quarré; Dijon, Mus. B.-A., 1974)
  • P. Quarré: La Sculpture en Bourgogne à la fin du moyen âge (Fribourg, 1978) [Fr., Eng. and Ger. text]
  • F. Baron: ‘Collèges apostoliques et couronnement de la Vierge dans la sculpture avignonnaise des XIVe et XVe siècles, Revue du Louvre et des musées de France, 29 (1979), pp. 169–86
  • M. de Bévotte: La ‘Nostre Dame de Grasse’ du Musée des Augustins de Toulouse et le rayonnement de son art dans les régions voisines à la fin de l’ère gothique (Rodez, 1982)
  • J.-L. Biget, Y. Carbonell-Lamothe and M. Pradalier-Schlumberger: ‘Le Choeur de la cathédrale d’Albi’, Congrès archéologique de France (1982), pp. 63–91
  • F. Robin: La Cour d’Anjou-Provence: La Vie artistique sous le règne de René (Paris, 1985)
  • J. Baudoin: La Sculpture flamboyante en Champagne-Lorraine (Nonette, 1990)
  • P. Camp: Les Imageurs bourguignons de la fin du moyen âge, Cah. Vieux-Dijon, 17–18 (Dijon, 1990)
  • J. Baudoin: La Sculpture flamboyante en Normandie et Ile-de-France (Nonette, 1992)
  • M. Beaulieu and V. Beyer: Dictionnaire des sculpteurs français du moyen âge (Paris, 1992)
(ii) British Isles.
(a) Introduction.

Most Gothic sculpture in Britain is found in England, and little was produced in Scotland or Wales. Much destruction has been wrought by time and iconoclasm, but the surviving evidence indicates that, while the French type of portal programme as such was never popular, sculpture was deployed in profusion across both interiors and exteriors. Interior sculpture included large- and small-scale figure sculpture, foliage and ornamental work. The main foreign influences were from the Ile-de-France area and the Low Countries, the latter especially in the 15th century.


  • E. S. Prior and A. Gardner: An Account of Medieval Figure-sculpture in England (Cambridge, 1912)
  • A. Gardner: English Medieval Sculpture (Cambridge, 1951, rev. New York, 1973)
  • L. Stone: Sculpture in Britain: The Middle Ages, Pelican Hist. A. (Harmondsworth, 1955, rev. 2/1972)
(b) Late 12th century and the 13th.
  • Pamela Z. Blum

English figure sculpture between 1190 and 1300 is characterized by a diversity despite the relative scarcity of surviving examples. Classicizing influences present in Mosan metalwork during the 12th century, especially in the work of Nicholas of Verdun from c. 1180, had transformed French figure sculpture by the end of the century (see §(i)(b) above). These aesthetic impulses were slower to affect English sculpture and, when received, were translated into recognizably English statements. The new French style was characterized by idealized faces and proportions, controlled animation of the body, and classicizing drapery flowing in closely repeated folds over the well-expressed body beneath. In England these concepts first appeared in ten life-size column figures from a Christophores cycle (c. 1200 or later; York, Yorks Mus.) intended for a portal (destr.) in St Mary’s Abbey that was also formally and iconographically indebted to France (see York, §III, 2). The statues appear stiffer and more heavily proportioned than French versions, with weightier drapery in active patterns formed by deeply channelled, parallel and catenary folds.

Other English sculptors continued to draw upon earlier conventions. The figures, for example, in the wine harvest and other secular scenes on the capitals in the south transept (c. 1200) of Wells Cathedral retain Romanesque proportions, with short, flexible legs and squat bodies that are too small for their large heads. The emphasis on facial expression, which verges on caricature or reflects a preoccupation with likeness, gathered momentum throughout the century, for example on a limestone head (c. 1240; Salisbury, Salisbury & S. Wilts Mus.) from Clarendon Palace, and on corbel heads from Salisbury Cathedral and its chapter house (1220–80) and the transepts (c. 1250–58) of Westminster Abbey. In contrast, the relatively unrestored secular and biblical scenes in the spandrels of the blind arcades in the south-east transept (c. 1220) of Worcester Cathedral used a different Romanesque vocabulary. Diminutive, agile, often spidery figures with summary faces gesture broadly as they climb, stride, tiptoe or balance on the springing arches. Draperies patterned to emphasize movements are formed by close parallel folds that terminate in stiff, brittle hemlines.

The French Gothic aesthetic took root in England by 1229 with the formation of a large workshop to execute the vast sculptural programme in white lias across the west façade and towers of Wells Cathedral (see Wells, §1, (ii)). The dominant figure style of two outstanding masters supplied the main directions. The style of the first master is characterized by finely pleated V-shaped and parallel folds evoking the fluid movement of thin fabrics, although in lesser hands such folds became monotonous and the figures excessively elongated and rigid. This artist was responsible for the Old Testament scenes and many angels in quatrefoils, the Virgin and Child in the central tympanum and monumental figures in aedicules, notably several queens on the north tower. The work of the other major master is best exemplified by the central Coronation of the Virgin and the New Testament scenes, where draperies formed by broader sweeping folds and torsion in the upper body animate the figures. A more refined version of the first of these two styles is found at Winchester Cathedral in the so-called Synagoga (c. 1235–40). A billowing mantle frames her swaying torso and her gown, belted tightly at the waist, falls in many folds until it spills generously over and around her feet. This English masterpiece compares with such examples of French figure sculpture of c. 1220–30 as St Modesta on the north transept porch of Chartres Cathedral.

An intermediate stage in the transmission of the Wells style is represented by the greater interplay of sweeping curves on the drapery, concentric V-shaped folds, closely pleated cascades, mannered gestures and stances, evident in the Annunciation group (1253), associated with a payment to William Yxwerth, in the chapter house of Westminster Abbey (see London, §V, 2, (ii), (a)). Within the Abbey, the two censing angels in the triforium spandrels of the south transept and the elegant bosses of the muniment room depart from the Wells tradition. The angel in the south-east spandrel exemplifies the changes with such distinctive characteristics as his delicate facial features, rippling drapery fluttering from his outstretched arm, and the torsion and sway of his body, lightly veiled by drapery forming folds with ridges flattened into shallow bands. This new so-called court style is reflected slightly later at Salisbury Cathedral in the choir-screen (c. 1260; now in the north-east transept).

The style derived from Wells can also be detected on the sculpture on the Judgement Portal (c. 1270s) of Lincoln Cathedral (see Lincoln, §2, (ii), (b)). It would appear that the master who carved the Annunciation figures in the Westminster chapter house may also have been responsible for the figures of Church and Synagogue that flank the Lincoln portal. He achieved effects through intensifying the interplay of highlight and shadow, but insistent verticals still balance the curving folds. Compared with the Coronation figure at Wells, the tympanum Christ has become stiffer, more elongated and the drapery folds flattened, sharp-edged and increasingly calligraphic. The slightly earlier angels in the triforium spandrels of the Angel choir reflect French influences of the 1240s for the first time, including the smile of the annunciate angel at Reims Cathedral. Here sculpture executed in the Wells tradition postdates ponderous, seated figures of the Angel choir with their heavy drapery rendered as broad, smooth surfaces interrupted by deep, crumpled folds.

The influence of a Parisian style of the 1260s and 1270s, which may have been introduced through portable objects, such as ivory-carvings, can be seen in the Old Testament scenes in the chapter house of Salisbury Cathedral (see Salisbury, §2, (ii), (b)). The figures in the spandrels, which were carved by two masters, became increasingly attenuated and mannered, and the simplified draperies more angular and linear in the work of the second master. The figures turn, twist and assume elegant poses that, in typically English fashion, dramatize the narrative. The severely weathered monumental statues (c. 1290–1300; see Salisbury, §2, (ii), (a)) in aedicules on the screen façade are stylistically unrelated to the chapter house carvings. Their fully realized three-dimensional forms are swathed in voluminous, naturalistically rendered drapery. Together with the sculpture of the Eleanor Crosses, they introduced a style that would continue into the 14th century, typified by the contrapposto stance with the figures leaning back slightly and the head turned and bowed; it is possible that they are the work of William of Ireland, who carved some figures for the Eleanor Cross (1291–4) at Hardingstone, Northants. The mantle, like a chasuble, is draped across the body to form cascading clusters of deeply undercut, tubular folds at the side, with hemlines breaking into crumpled folds around the feet. During the 14th century these characteristics were to become more exaggerated, losing the earlier pronounced stability and monumentality. The contemporary statues of Queen Eleanor (on loan to London, V&A) by Alexander of Abingdon from the Waltham Eleanor Cross perpetuated the restraint and elegance of the earlier French court style. Only the cascades of tubular folds formed on both sides of the figures’ mantles reflected the stylistic conceits that enlivened drapery towards the end of the century.

See also England, §IV, 1.


  • W. St J. Hope and W. R. Lethaby: ‘The Imagery and Sculptures on the West Front of Wells Cathedral Church’, Archaeologia, 59 (1905), pp. 125–204
  • A. Gardner: Lincoln Angels, Lincoln Minster Pamphlets, 6 (Lincoln, 1952, rev. 2/1960)
  • P. Brieger: English Art, 1216–1307 (Oxford, 1957/R 1968)
  • W. Sauerländer: ‘Sens and York: An Enquiry into the Sculpture from St Mary’s, York’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3rd ser., 22 (1959), pp. 53–69
  • G. Zarnecki: ‘The Transition from Romanesque to Gothic in English Sculpture’, Studies in Western Art (Princeton, 1963), pp. 152–8
  • The Year 1200 (exh. cat., ed. K. Hoffmann; New York, Met., 1970)
  • P. Tudor-Craig: One Half of our Noblest Art: A Study of the Sculptures of Wells West Front (Wells, 1976)
  • P. Tudor-Craig: ‘Wells Sculpture’, Wells Cathedral: A History, ed. L. S. Colchester (Shepton Mallet, 1982), pp. 102–31
  • Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England, 1200–1400 (exh. cat., ed. J. Alexander and P. Binski; London, Hayward Gal., 1987)
(c) 14th century.
  • V. Sekules

During the 14th century sculpture was used in English churches to give aesthetic emphasis to the main façade and doorways, entrances to chapels, the chancel, altars and other significant parts of the building. This embellishment to heighten the beauty of God’s House did not represent a great change in function from earlier periods, but fashion, especially in the first half of the century, was characterized by a taste for significantly more complex ornament than had been customary earlier. There was also a distinct increase in pedagogy, in maximizing the potential for figures in the round to communicate aspects of the Church’s teachings.

Sculpture was used extensively for ornamentation around altars, particularly in the chancel and on the liturgical furnishings of the high altar. Before the middle of the century, lavishly carved stone altar and chancel furnishings were provided at the cathedrals of Exeter (see Exeter, §1, (ii)), St David’s, Lincoln, Old St Paul’s (destr.) in London and Peterborough, at Beverley (see Beverley Minster, §2) and at Southwell Minster, and in many parish churches, for example St Andrew, Heckington, St Peter, Navenby (Lincs) and All Saints, Hawton (Notts). These included stone altar screens and pulpita, piscinae and sedilia, and special shrine-like furnishings, such as the Easter sepulchres or Tombs of Christ in Lincoln Cathedral, Navenby, Hawton and Heckington (see Easter sepulchre). In addition to this decoration enhancing the central worship of God and of Christ, devotion to the Virgin and the saints was made manifest by vividly carved, painted, gilded and bejewelled images near altars. The cult of saints was further promoted by the elaborate settings for their shrines, many of which were placed on carved stone bases (Coldstream, 1976), including those of St Alban (c. 1302–8; rest.; St Albans Cathedral), St Werburgh (c. 1340; rest.; Chester Cathedral) and St William of York (remains York, Yorks Mus.).

The role of sculpture in bringing spiritual matter to lifelike intensity was of paramount importance. Figure sculpture had an immediate and powerful impact in popular religious instruction, which involved teaching by example and easily comprehensible anecdote. The Yorkshire canon Walter Hilton (d 1396), for example, realized its potential to act as an inspiration to the mass of the populace: ‘they judge of divine things from the analogy of corporeal things’ (Owst). This means of instruction is reflected in the increased predominance of carved figures in 14th-century church decoration. As well as the figures around altars, shrines and screens, numerous exterior decorative schemes in greater and lesser churches involved carved, life-size figures ranked within niches, for example on the west fronts of Lichfield Cathedral (c. 1290–c. 1320), York Minster (c. 1330) and Exeter Cathedral (c. 1350–80), the outer north porch (c. 1325) of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, the east front (c. 1330) of Howden Abbey and the exterior (c. 1320–35) of St Andrew, Heckington. Indeed, if a single feature were to be isolated as characteristic of the period, it would be the figure set within a niche, not because the form was invented in the 14th century, but because it was the main component of nearly all decorative schemes and treated with increased flamboyance and pedagogic intent. It was to the 14th century what the historiated capital was to the 12th.

Whereas in the previous century the niche was a restrained frame with plainly moulded, pointed head and carved foliage capitals, for example on the west front of Wells Cathedral, in the 14th century it was treated much more as miniature architecture and became a vehicle for great sculptural virtuosity, thus more overtly designating its purpose as an appropriate tabernacle for a holy scene or figure. By 1320 the typical form had a projecting (‘nodding’) cusped ogee head, decorated above with frilly leafed crockets and surmounted by a foliate pinnacle (see Decorated style). In more developed examples, including those in St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, and the Lady Chapel (c. 1321–49) of Ely Cathedral, it would be set beneath a triangular-headed gable, similarly ornamented. Fictive pinnacled and lavishly crocketed buttresses separated series of niches, ornamented typically at the level of the springing of the niche head with gablets supported by tiny animal or grimacing human heads. Every part of the niche afforded scope for decorative enrichment and sometimes for carved figures illustrating stories or legends for didactic purposes. This is well exemplified in the Lady Chapel at Ely, where the spandrels of the vast series of ground-level niches form the framework for extensive narrative scenes on the Life and Miracles of the Virgin (see Ely Cathedral, §1, (iv)).

After the middle of the century, although niches were still a major decorative feature, stylistically their execution became less inventive and more formulaic. Canopywork became more angular and nodding ogees flattened, with more rounded cusps and sub-cusps terminating in pendant bosses. On the Neville screen (c. 1375) in Durham Cathedral, for example, pinnacles became more attenuated, decorated with foliate crockets that were much smaller and stiffer than was the custom at the beginning of the century. Sometimes, as at Westminster Hall (as rebuilt c. 1385) and Winchester College (c. 1390), heads of niches were heightened to reveal miniature vaults framing the heads of the figures.

The notable uniformity of figure style during the first half of the 14th century extended to the representations of ecclesiastics and wealthy mortals shown on their tombs, images of the saints and even of Christ and the Virgin. All were represented as idealized ‘counterfeits’, identified by appropriate clothing or attributes of status, occupation or life history. All figures, whether male or female, were represented with the weight slightly to one side, giving them an appearance of leaning in a slightly curved posture, allowing loose garments to fall in elegant drapes (déhanchement). Whereas ‘counterfeit’ representation remained the norm throughout the century, after c. 1350 figures were much less ethereal in appearance. This was partly a result of changing fashion, but may also have reflected an increasing familiarity with the idea of the image as an earthly representative of a spiritual being. Déhanchement became less marked, particularly in those figures that conformed to the current courtly preference for tight clothing and plate armour. The consequent constriction of movement was represented variously by the stylized angularity evident in the seated Kings on the west front (c. 1380) of Lincoln Cathedral or as fleshy solidity, of which the most extreme example, albeit carved by a sculptor from Brabant (see Jean [Hennequin] de Liège), and that closest to portraiture, is the tomb of Philippa of Hainault (1367; London, Westminster Abbey). Even more traditionally and voluminously draped figures, such as the Kings (c. 1385–8) in Westminster Hall and the saints of the upper storeys (c. 1380) of Exeter Cathedral, have a substantial and stocky presence.

Contrasting with the sober images of saints and deceased mortals are peripheral figures such as niche supporters, roof or vault corbels or gargoyles, which are often deliberately grotesque, deformed, unruly creatures intended to illustrate episodes from the moral teachings of the Church. Particularly extensive series of this genre, which is closely related to a similar phenomenon in the borders of early 14th-century manuscripts (see also Border, manuscript), are found at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, and a number of parish churches (before c. 1350) in the region around Sleaford (Lincs). The English delight in semi-hidden imagery in the church is also evident in the fashion for carved roof bosses, which expanded in popularity as vault designs became increasingly elaborate. As with other forms of sculptural enrichment, roof bosses not only added to the beauty of the space, often carved purely decoratively as faces or foliage, but appropriate subject-matter was also used to signal especially holy parts of the church, such as the positions of important altars, shrines or the dedication of chapels.

Although there was a broad consistency of style at any single time, indicating that any skilled mason knew the current fashion and was capable of carving in it, distinct regional schools may be discerned each with their own stylistic variations and specialities, notably in eastern England, Yorkshire, the Midlands and the West Country. Studies of regional workshops (e.g. Coldstream, 1980; Dawton; Sekules) have shown that generally masons seem to have moved about within a restricted area, attached to lodges on site, unless they were ‘impressed’ by the sheriff for the King’s works, in which case they could travel long distances (Sekules; Knoop and Jones; Colvin). There also seem to have been specialist image workshops sending finished work, notably tomb effigies, over a wider area (Gittos and Gittos). Innovation was probably only permissible within strict limitations, and the mason who carved had not necessarily devised the scheme. Masons sometimes worked collaboratively on particularly large or elaborate monuments. In such cases it is not clear whether one of the masons, a supervisory master mason, the proprietor of an image workshop, the patron or a combination of all of these was responsible for control of overall design.


  • D. Knoop and G. P. Jones: The Medieval Mason (Manchester, 1933)
  • G. R. Owst: Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England (Oxford, 1933/R 1961)
  • H. M. Colvin, ed.: The Middle Ages (1963), i–ii of The History of the King’s Works (London, 1963–82)
  • N. Coldstream: ‘English Decorated Shrine Bases’, Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 3rd ser., 39 (1976), pp. 15–34
  • N. Coldstream: ‘York Minster and the Decorated Style in Yorkshire: Architectural Reaction to York in the First Half of the Fourteenth Century’, Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, 52 (1980), pp. 89–110
  • N. Dawton: ‘The Percy Tomb Workshop’, Medieval Art and Architecture in the East Riding of Yorkshire. British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions: Cottingham, 1983, pp. 121–32
  • B. Gittos and M. Gittos: ‘A Survey of East Riding Sepulchral Monuments before 1500’, Medieval Art and Architecture in the East Riding of Yorkshire. British Archaeological Association Conference Transactions: Cottingham, 1983, pp. 91–108
  • V. Sekules: ‘A Group of Masons in Early Fourteenth-century Lincolnshire’, Studies in Medieval Sculpture, ed. F. H. Thompson, Society of Antiquaries Occasional Paper, n. s., 3 (London, 1983), pp. 151–64
(d) 15th century.
  • Phillip Lindley

The highly realistic sculpture of the late Middle Ages, with its emphasis on Eucharistic themes, pietistic narratives and the intercession of saints, aroused the strong antagonism of reformers in the mid-16th century and during the Commonwealth and suffered widespread destruction. At Oxford, for example, all the original imagery was removed from the great reredoses in the chapels of All Souls (c. 1438–42) and Magdalen College (c. 1474–80), which followed the format of that in New College (c. 1380–86). The statuary on the Great Screens of St Albans Abbey (now Cathedral; 1476–84) and Winchester Cathedral (c. 1470–90; see Winchester, §III, 3) was also removed. Most of the period’s chantry chapels, the other major location of interior figure-sculpture, lost their sculpted images even when the tomb effigy itself survived, for example in the chantry of Bishop William Waynflete (reg 1447–86).

Against these losses should be set the nearly intact survival of the imagery from Henry V’s chantry chapel in Westminster Abbey, London (see below; see also London, §V, 2, (ii), (a)), and the partial survival of that in the chapel of Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (begun 1442–3), St Mary, Warwick, as well as isolated images from the chapels of Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester (after 1440) in St Albans Cathedral and Bishop Alcock (1488–1500) in Ely Cathedral (see Ely Cathedral, §1, (i)). These, and the numerous scattered fragments from Winchester Cathedral, St Cuthbert’s, Wells, and other locations make it possible to develop a chronological typology.

The stylistic difficulties of providing such a framework have been highlighted by Stone (‘firmly dated figures on the screenwork of the Divinity School at Oxford, of 1481, show little advance on statues in the east window at Warwick of 1443–7’). The problems of classification have been aggravated by the redating to c. 1450–60 of both the six Kings on the Canterbury Cathedral pulpitum (conventionally ascribed to 1390–1411; Woodman) and the Kings on the choir-screen of York Minster (Harvey). The latter, which are often dated to the late 15th century or the early 16th, are individually characterized within the stylistic boundaries permitted by their coils of curly hair, furrowed brows and lively expressions. A more extreme redating is the head of an ecclesiastic from Glastonbury Abbey from the late 15th century to the mid-13th (1987 exh. cat., no. 296).

It has been widely accepted that the 15th century was a period of aesthetic retrogression. In brass memorials, however, the decline from the level achieved in the brass of Thomas, Lord Camoys (d 1419) and his wife (Trotton, St George; see Brasses, monumental) may reflect the changing status of brass memorials in the late 15th century, rather than any wider malaise in English sculpture. The finest alabaster tombs, such as those of Ralph Greene and Katherine Mallory (1418; Lowick, St Peter; see Prentys, Thomas) and Henry IV and Joan of Navarre (Canterbury Cathedral; ascribed by Stone to a London workshop) were produced in the first half of the century, yet standards were later maintained in the Fitzherbert family tombs (c. 1470–85) in St Mary, Norbury (Derbys), and the tomb of Alice, Duchess of Suffolk (c. 1470–80; Ewelme, St Mary), which includes a cadaver that is also carved from alabaster. Later monuments tend to display a highly developed sense of modelling rather than concentrate on surface embellishment.

There was a considerable market in England and on the Continent for mass-produced tombs and alabaster panels, which might be intended as single items for devotional use, such as the ‘St John’s Head’ (e.g. London, V&A; Stone), or grouped together in large reredoses. As early as 1382 English alabaster images were being exported to Rome, while in 1408 Thomas Colyn, Thomas Holewell and Thomas Poppehowe were commissioned to make the tomb of John IV, Duke of Brittany (destr.) for a church in Nantes. Three main centres for the manufacture of alabaster tombs have been identified at London, Chellaston/Nottingham and York. Although it has generally been alleged that the tomb-sculptors were entirely separate from those responsible for the alabaster panels, this appears unlikely.

The influence of foreign sculpture has been difficult to assess. The pre-restoration state of the Westminster Hall Kings (1385–7; see §III, 1, (ii), (c) above), as seen in Carter’s engravings, do not suggest direct European influence. Imported works of art, manuscripts and foreign travel by patrons probably account for continental influence, particularly Flemish and Burgundian, in mid-fifteenth century sculpture. There is also considerable evidence that continental artists were active in England, especially Netherlandish and German; the former may have been prominent among those responsible for the imagery of the Great Screen of Winchester Cathedral and for Henry VII’s Chapel (c. 1503–9; London, Westminster Abbey).

Woodman’s dating of the Canterbury screen is supported by the stylistic similarity between the weathered figures of Henry IV and Archbishop Chichele from All Souls College, Oxford, where John Massingham was documented in 1438–42, and the six Kings on the Canterbury pulpitum (see Massingham family, §1). He was also active at the Beauchamp Chapel in St Mary, Warwick, although his precise involvement is unclear. The original reredos has been destroyed and all images have been removed from the twelve niches on the side walls, the two large niches at the east end of the chapel and the four above the door to the vestry, but the sculptural programme around the east window remains intact. The jambs and mullions feature the nine orders of angels, SS Barbara, Catherine, Mary Magdalene and Margaret, censing angels, half-length angels bearing shields and, at the apex, God the Father in a radiating aureole. The Purbeck marble tomb-chest, carved in Dorset by John Bourd, is surmounted by a gilt-bronze effigy of the Earl and the side niches contain gilt-bronze weepers, with enamelled shields beneath, and angels holding scrolls. Materials for the construction of the other great mid-century chantry chapel, that of Henry V in Westminster Abbey, were assembled from 1438. Considering its extraordinarily elaborate design, with imagery encrusting the twin turrets that provide access, and statuary and reliefs on the lateral and western screens, it is not surprising that work was still under way in 1450. The reredos has lost its central image of the Trinity, but the flanking Annunciation, SS Edward the Confessor and Edmund and SS Denis and George survive.

In 1471 a contract was signed with John Stowell (fl 1457–71) for the Tree of Jesse reredos in the south transept of St Cuthbert, Wells. It remains controversial, however, whether the damaged imagery from that church, with precisely articulated heads and bodies, and considerable surviving polychromy, should be associated with this or the undocumented north transept reredos. Some of the finest English late medieval sculpture is found among the highly realistic, life-size heads at Winchester Cathedral. It is probable that many of these fragments came from the Great Screen; they are matched in quality by the smaller, damaged, Virgin and Child and the head of God the Father. One sculptural scheme that does survive in situ, albeit with some losses, appears in the Divinity School, Oxford, the statuary of which was installed in 1481. Saints and Evangelists were grouped around a Crucifixion (destr.) at the east door, and there is a Virgin and Child at the west end. The schematic and jagged-edged folds of the draperies, the boneless quality of some of the figures and their odd proportions are much less elevated in quality than the Winchester images, which seem to prefigure the imagery of Henry VII’s Chapel.


  • J. Carter: Specimens of Ancient Sculpture and Painting, 2 vols (London, 1780–87, 2/1838)
  • W. H. St J. Hope: ‘On the Early Working of Alabaster in England’, Archaeol. J., 61 (1904), pp. 221–40
  • E. S. Prior and A. Gardner: An Account of Medieval Figure-sculpture in England (Cambridge, 1912)
  • F. H. Crossley: English Church Monuments, AD 1150–1550 (London, 1921/R 1933)
  • A. Gardner: Alabaster Tombs of the Pre-Reformation Period in England (Cambridge, 1940)
  • L. Stone: Sculpture in Britain: The Middle Ages, Pelican Hist. A. (Harmondsworth, 1955, 2/1972)
  • P. Tudor-Craig: Richard III (London, 1973), pp. 9–10
  • J. H. Harvey: ‘Architectural History from 1291–1558’, A History of York Minster, ed. G. E. Aylmer and R. Cant (Oxford, 1977), pp. 181–6
  • F. Woodman: The Architectural History of Canterbury Cathedral (London, 1981), pp. 188–98
  • F. Cheetham: English Medieval Alabasters: With a Catalogue of the Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Oxford, 1984)
  • Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England, 1200–1400 (exh. cat., ed. J. Alexander and P. Binski; London, RA, 1987)
(iii) Holy Roman Empire.
(a) Introduction.
  • Ulrich Henze

Throughout the geographical area represented by the Holy Roman Empire, the term Gothic is applied to sculpture created between 1220 and 1500. Sculptors in the 13th and 14th centuries mainly worked in the great building workshops, to provide decoration for cathedrals and urban churches. As well as local varieties of stone, the materials used were alabaster, stucco and, from the end of the 14th century, sometimes reconstituted stone. Gothic sculpture, like the architecture of the period, tended to be very much an urban art, centred in towns that had grown rich through trade and in episcopal seats, such as Strasbourg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Bamberg, Ulm, Cologne, Magdeburg, Nuremberg, Prague, Lübeck and Danzig (now Gdańsk), to some extent building on earlier traditions.

The origin and characteristics of Gothic stone sculpture in the Empire were associated with exposure to a great variety of artistic influences about 1200, especially those derived from antique and Byzantine art; at the same time there was a revival of local Carolingian and Ottonian traditions. Between 1220 and 1280 this phase produced within the Empire a vocabulary of form characterized by a high degree of naturalism in the representation of the human figure, which was particularly reflected in the expression of states of mind and feelings. With the onset of the 14th century a new stylization and abstraction conveying heightened expressivity became prevalent, especially in cult and devotional pictures, on which artistic production tended increasingly to be concentrated as work on the great churches began to tail off. The most impressive examples of such statues, poised between the monumental and the small-scale, are the Schöne Madonnen (beautiful Madonnas), which are masterpieces of a stylistic trend based on beauty of line and elegance that affected all centres of European art c. 1400.

In the 15th century, under the influence of Netherlandish painting, sculpture, too, was derived from an interest in the precise, detailed representation of earthly things. Newly emerging pictorial themes, such as the portrait, were in line with this development, as was the increasing social recognition accorded to leading artists, who, as elsewhere, often enhanced their wealth and status by running large workshop-based businesses.


  • H. Huth: Künstler und Werkstatt der Spätgotik (Augsburg, 1923)
  • W. Pinder: Die Kunst der ersten Bürgerzeit bis zur Mitte des 15. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1937)
  • W. Paatz: ‘Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte der deutschen spätgotischen Skulptur im 15. Jahrhundert’, Abh. Heidelberg. Akad. Wiss., Phil.-Hist. Klasse, 2/21 (1956)
  • E. Panofsky: Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (Stockholm, 1960)
  • L’Europe gothique, XIIe–XIVe siècles (exh. cat., Paris, Louvre, 1968)
  • K. M. Swoboda, ed.: Gotik in Böhmen (Munich, 1969)
  • J. Białostocki: Spätmittelalter und beginnende Neuzeit, Propyläen-Kstgesch., 7 (Berlin, 1972)
  • A. Kutal: Gothic Art in Bohemia and Moravia (London, 1972)
  • O. von Simson: Das Mittelalter, II: Das hohe Mittelalter, Propyläen-Kstgesch., 6 (Berlin, 1972)
  • W. Swaan: The Late Middle Ages (London, 1977)
  • A. Legner: Deutsche Kunst der Romanik (Munich, 1982)
  • A. Erlande-Brandenburg: L’Art gothique, L’Art et les Grandes Civilisations, 13 (Paris, 1983)
  • A. von Ulmann: Bildhauertechnik des Spätmittelalters und der Frührenaissance (Darmstadt, 1984)
  • F. Möbius and H. Sciurie, eds: Geschichte der deutschen Kunst, 1200–1350 (Leipzig, 1989)
(b) 13th century.

About 1280 Burchard of Hall recorded recent changes to the abbey church of SS Peter und Paul at Wimpfen im Tal, stating that in 1259 Deacon Richard had called a master from Paris to rebuild the choir and transept in the French style (opus francigenum; see §II, 1, (i) above). Traditional scholarship has retained Burchard’s methodological standpoint and viewed 13th-century German sculpture as a ‘Germanization’ of French works. The chronological priority of the French models has contributed to their perceived primacy, with a consequent secondary status for those works outside Capetian territory. More recent studies of German monuments, however, have suggested that stylistic influences may have travelled both ways (see Bamberg, §2, (ii)), that iconography was chosen in response to a political situation inherently different from that in France, and that biblical and theological subjects were presented in quite a distinct fashion.

Stylistic developments.

The earliest works in Germany in which Gothic influences may be traced belong to an international idiom variously known as the ‘style of 1200’, Late Romanesque or late Hohenstaufen. During the 1210s and 1220s liturgical furnishings in wood, stucco and metal gave way to larger figures in stone, which were incorporated into the fabric of the building itself, on exterior portals and buttresses and inside on choir piers. These developments are well illustrated in Saxony. At Halberstadt Cathedral, for example, the various influences of the local painting tradition (Zackenstil), Byzantine elements and French sculpture, especially that from the transepts of Chartres Cathedral (see Chartres, §2, (ii)), are evident in the stucco reliefs of the choir-screen (c. 1200) and the five figures of the wooden triumphal cross group (1215–20; see also Romanesque, §III, 2, (vi)). The same influences are also apparent in the region’s earliest Gothic architectural sculpture at the cathedrals of Magdeburg (see Magdeburg, §1, (ii)) and Freiberg (see Freiberg, §1). Along the Empire’s western border there were more direct connections with France: sculptors responsible for the north transept at Chartres, for example, also executed the south transept sculpture (c. 1230) at Strasbourg Cathedral (see Strasbourg, §III, 2, (ii)).

Stylistic developments at Reims Cathedral were particularly influential in Germany from c. 1230 to 1260. The work of the younger workshop at Bamberg Cathedral suggests knowledge of several groups of sculptures of the 1230s at Reims (see Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I, ). Acceptance of Winterfeld’s amended date for the Prince’s Portal at Bamberg would move this workshop’s activity from 1225–35 to the mid-1220s, which would necessitate a revision of the sculptural chronology at Reims and a re-evaluation of the direction of influences. A further development in this style may be seen at Magdeburg Cathedral in the Foolish Virgins (1240s or 1260s), which were intended for the choir-screen and installed in the north portal c. 1300.

The direct influence of Reims is also apparent at Mainz, Naumburg and Meissen. At Mainz Cathedral, for example, the soft folds and lively poses on the west choir-screen reliefs (c. 1239; destr. 1682; fragments in Mainz, Bischöf. Dom- & Diözmus.; see Mainz, §2, (i), (b)) draw on the side portal lintels on the west front at Reims. The same qualities are evident on the relief of St Martin and the Beggar (c. 1240; Bassenheim, St Martin), which may come from Mainz Cathedral. At Naumburg Cathedral the sculpture of the choir-screen and the 12 life-size figures (1240s or 1250s) in the west apse is highly expressive and individualized (see Naumburg, §1, (ii)). A member of the Naumburg workshop later executed seven figures in the 1250s for Meissen Cathedral (see Meissen, §2). The work of the Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I, , who was responsible for the final sculptures (c. 1245–55) on the west front at Reims (see Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I, ), is echoed in the Prophets on the central portal of the west façade (begun 1277) at Strasbourg Cathedral.

A later influence on German sculptors was the south transept tympanum (first half of the 1260s) of Notre-Dame, Paris, which appears to have been known by both the erminold master (see Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I), who worked at Basle Minster (c. 1270) and Regensburg Cathedral (1280s), and the sculptor of the jamb figures on the right portal at Strasbourg Cathedral. In these German works dramatic effects were heightened and the expressive character increased through the coordination of drapery, gesture and facial expression.


The west façade of Strasbourg Cathedral was the first example in Germany to adopt the French type with three portals. Until then German sculptors did not have the space to develop the complex iconographic programmes possible in France and sought different solutions. The earliest Gothic figural portal to have survived in Germany, the Golden Portal (c. 1225–40) of Freiberg Cathedral, combines within a single portal the Adoration of the Magi with the Coronation of the Virgin and the Last Judgement. Similar thematic compression can be seen in the south portals at SS Peter und Paul, Wimpfen im Tal (1280s), and Worms Cathedral (1280s; remodelled c. 1300; see Worms, §1, (ii)), and the west portal and narthex (1290s) at Freiburg im Breisgau Cathedral (see Freiburg im Breisgau, §2, (ii)). There was a simultaneous adoption of elaborate narrative programmes. The tympanum and lintel reliefs of the south transept portal at Strasbourg recounted the Death, Funeral Procession, Assumption and Coronation of the Virgin, while the west rood screen at Naumburg Cathedral comprises a detailed sequence of scenes from the Passion. This tendency recurs in the lengthy Infancy of Christ, Passion and Last Judgement narratives on the multi-banded tympana of the west front at Strasbourg.

The prominence given to certain themes that had been of lesser importance on French portals suggests that there was a preference in Germany for literal and moralizing readings of biblical texts rather than subtle theological interpretation. A notable example at Strasbourg is that of the Wise and Foolish Virgins on the embrasures of the south portal. Here the cycle is completed with the Bridegroom leading the Wise Virgins into the church and a non-textual counterpart, the Tempter, luring their foolish companions away from the door. The associated theme of Virtues trampling on Vices appears on the jambs of the north portal. The west façade at Basle Minster was similarly decorated with Wise and Foolish Virgins, while both themes recur in the porch at Freiburg im Breisgau.

Statues of founders and donors were sometimes placed within a context that emphasized an institution’s prestigious origins and important rights. At Bamberg Cathedral, for example, Henry II and Kunigunde appear alongside the cathedral’s patron saints on the tympanum of the Portal of Grace (Gnadenportal; c. 1220) and opposite Adam and Eve on the jambs of the Adam’s Portal. The presence of the latter figures is surprising, but may be compared with the large-scale portrayals at Strasbourg of such anti-models as Synagogue and the Foolish Virgins. As earthly rulers redeemed by Christ, Adam and Eve also served as antetypes for the canonized Ottonians. Within a church the area associated with a particular liturgy might be defined by single figures attached to supports. Apostles and local saints installed in the choir of Magdeburg Cathedral in the 1230s, for example, recall the church’s foundation, its missionary role and the archbishop’s judicial rights conferred by the Emperor and exercised in the choir. Local concerns may have been similarly expressed in the cycle of 11th-century benefactors at Naumburg Cathedral (see above), the founders and local saints (1250s) that may have been intended for a portal but are now installed in the choir of Meissen Cathedral, and the founders of the major monastic orders (1270s) at Wimpfen im Tal. Only the latest of such groups were derived iconographically from French models: the idea of the Apostles as the supports of the Church, as represented at the Sainte-Chapelle, reappears in the nave (1270s) at Freiburg im Breisgau and the choirs (1290s) of Xanten and Cologne cathedrals (see §III, 1, (iii), (c) below).

It is believed that the Rider figures at Bamberg (1230–37) and Magdeburg (1230s; original in Magdeburg, Kulthist. Mus.), both of which may represent Emperor Frederick II, were designed to legitimize conveyed rights. The Magdeburg figure was originally installed on the Alter Markt, where judicial proceedings were held. The south transept of Strasbourg Cathedral was also used for legal purposes, as is reflected in the iconographic selection of Evangelists and angels blowing trumpets beneath Christ the Judge on the Judgement Pillar (c. 1230). The figures of the Three Marys, the guards and the angel within the dodecagon of the Tomb of Christ (1260s or 1280s) in the Mauritiuskapelle of Konstanz Cathedral were also intended to give visible form to ritual settings (see Easter sepulchre). The direct relationship between the sculpture and devotional practice anticipated the role of the Andachtsbilder that became popular later in the century.


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(c) 14th and 15th centuries.

Stone sculpture within this period may be divided into three phases. The first, which was concentrated in the large towns on the Upper and Lower Rhine (Strasbourg, Freiburg im Breisgau and Cologne) and in south Germany, is mainly characterized by a linear, planar style. A clear change may be seen from the mid-14th century, initiated by the work associated with the many branches of the Parler family family. Their powerful idiom was developed especially in the Bohemian capital of Prague and played a direct role in shaping the Late Gothic style about 1400. The true Late Gothic phase of stone sculpture developed in the second quarter of the 15th century, not least under the influence of Netherlandish painting. Sculptors now produced mainly altarpieces, tombs, epitaphs and individualized single works. It was not until the end of the century that increasing receptivity to the new Italian idioms led to a decisive move away from the Gothic tradition.

c. 1300–c. 1350.

The figures made c. 1290–1300 by the workshop of Cologne Cathedral to be attached to the piers in the chancel (consecrated 1322) mark a new stage of sculptural development. The cycle comprises Christ, the Virgin and Twelve Apostles, the latter of which stand beneath canopies bearing music-making angels. The elegant animation and delicate, slender build of these figures and the masterful treatment of the drapery placed them foremost among late 13th-century European sculptures. Their stylistic sources have not been identified satisfactorily. There are certainly links with French art, especially that of Paris, and the influence is apparent of Upper Rhenish sculpture of c. 1280, for example the west portals of Strasbourg Cathedral (see Strasbourg, §III, 2, (i), (c)) and the narthex of Freiburg im Breisgau Cathedral (see Freiburg im Breisgau, §2, (ii)). There may also be stylistic links with 13th-century English sculpture. The polychromy of the figures, which were restored to their original state in 1840–42, gives a good idea of the original painted appearance of High Gothic sculpture.

The capricious style of the chancel figures was imitated elsewhere in the Rhineland, especially in wood-carving (see §III, 2, (iii), (b) below), manuscript illumination, panel- and glass-painting. The Cologne workshops, which had long maintained links with artistic centres on the Meuse and the Moselle, adapted Lotharingian metalworking techniques to the demands of stone sculpture. Accordingly the sumptuous, sparingly gilded statuettes on the cathedral’s high altar (c. 1320; fragments in Cologne, Schnütgen-Mus.) display the somewhat broad build that was to become a typical component of Cologne art in the 14th century. The unbroken tradition of delicate work in precious materials is apparent in the exquisite combination of the light-coloured, partly gilded figures and the black marble of the altar table.

The idiom developed c. 1280 in Strasbourg and Freiburg im Breisgau was further elaborated and consolidated in south Germany during the first half of the 14th century. In Freiburg itself this is seen in the Tomb of Christ (c. 1330–40) built into a chapel on the south side of the nave. The elongated proportions and the unbroken contours of the Three Marys show that stylistically these are late descendants of the Strasbourg Prophets. The rich treatment of the latter’s garments, however, has given way to a very planar style that, owing to its reduced plasticity, emphasizes the incorporeality of the subject. The four figures of about the same time in the St Catherine Chapel of Strasbourg Cathedral show similar stylistic characteristics.

The tympanum (1340s) above the south-east portal of the Frauenkirche, Esslingen, which was begun in 1320, indicates how this tradition was also continued in relief work. The three scenes from the Life of the Virgin directly adopt and further elaborate the ascetic style of the Freiburg figures. Extensive sculpture (some now in Rottweil, Lorenzkapelle) covered the three portals and the two lower storeys of the unusually sumptuous west tower of the Kapellenkirche Unserer Lieben Frau (1330–50) at Rottweil, which was also used as a courtroom and town archive. The sharply drawn, lean, reserved faces of the Prophets (c. 1340) directly recall the figures on the west façade at Strasbourg, although they share the completely two-dimensional nature of the Three Marys on the Freiburg Tomb of Christ. Their bodily presence is only hinted at behind the shallow folds of their thin, insubstantial garments.

c. 1350–c. 1420.

The basic tendencies of the new sense of form that began to be felt rather suddenly about 1350, again in south-west Germany, were to remain effective until the beginning of the 15th century. The new style stood in stark contrast to the tenor of sculpture in the previous half century. The elongated proportions and incorporeal presence of the attenuated, shallow figures were displaced by vigorously modelled bodies that display strong moulding and strikingly vivid facial expressions and movements. The first evidence of the new style appears without any discernible predecessors in the two youngest Prophets from the south porch at Schwäbisch Gmünd (see Schwäbisch Gmünd, Cathedral of the Holy Cross, §2). These figures, produced soon after the middle of the century, display a sculptural treatment quite unlike that of the Rottweil sculptures, which had been made only about 10 years before. Thickset and squat, they stand solidly on the ground and their three-dimensionality is emphasized by horizontal folds and the positioning of their arms. The large, powerfully modelled heads move organically and unfold the figures in their space in a manner quite foreign to the verticality of the Rottweil Prophets. The earliest documented member of the Parler clan, Heinrich of Cologne, was Master of the Works in charge of rebuilding the church of the Holy Cross (see Parler family, §1) and may have designed, and even executed, the sculptures.

The new style was taken further most notably by Heinrich’s son Peter Parler and the latter’s nephew Heinrich von Gmünd (see Parler family, §3) and represented one of the foremost contributions to European art in the 14th century. The centre of the ‘Parler style’ was Prague, to which Peter Parler was summoned by Emperor Charles IV in 1356 to take over direction of the rebuilding of the cathedral of St Vitus. Peter’s extraordinary talent is attested by the Emperor’s willingness to entrust a relatively young artist with such responsibilities. His style suggests that he was trained at various sites in south Germany as well as at Schwäbisch Gmünd. These are likely to have included the alterations to Augsburg Cathedral (see Augsburg, §4, (i)), the chancel of Freiburg Cathedral (rebuilt from 1356; see Parler family, §3) and the Frauenkirche (1355–8) in Nuremberg, where Heinrich was also Master of the Works.

The imperial commission for the building and decoration of Prague Cathedral held a position in the later 14th century comparable to that of the Rhine Valley cathedrals of the high Middle Ages and of Saint-Denis Abbey and Reims Cathedral in the 12th and 13th centuries, respectively. The sculptural programme, for which Peter Parler was responsible, was correspondingly ambitious and expensive (see Prague, §IV, 2, (ii)). A particularly important aspect was the erection of six new tombs (1376–7) for Charles’s Přemyslid forebears, which were arranged in pairs in the ambulatory chapels in the most solemn part of the cathedral as a demonstration of the Emperor’s legitimate authority over Bohemia (see also Czech Republic, §IV). Peter was personally responsible for one of the finest, the reclining representation of Přemysl Ottakar I on the tomb slab (completed 1377). Although the work is slightly damaged, the vitality and dignity of the king are shown with particular poignancy in the powerful treatment of the garments and the parts of the body, especially through the slightly asymmetrical placing of the figure on the cover. The tomb of Ottakar II, which can also be attributed to Peter Parler, shares similar qualities. The other four reclining figures were by other masters, who probably included Heinrich von Gmünd.

Peter Parler must also have been responsible for the design and planning of the cycle of 21 busts in the triforium, above the former openings between the gallery piers, which was produced in parallel with the tombs in the ambulatory. Apart from members of the Přemyslid–Luxemburg dynasty, the busts include the first three archbishops of Prague, the two Masters of the Works, Mathias of Arras and Peter Parler, and the five Clerks of the Works. Iconographically the cycle, which was executed by several members of the workshop, brings together people from different estates who had variously contributed to the welfare of the see of Prague. The bust of Charles IV occupies the most prominent position in the eastern part of the triforium, exactly above the sarcophagus of Borzhivoi I, the founder of Přemyslid rule. The position also corresponds to that of the head of Christ belonging to a cycle of saints that runs around the exterior of the apse. The features of the triforium busts are sometimes strongly individualized, as if resembling a portrait, and bear witness to the new interest in reality that the ‘Parler style’ brought to later 14th-century sculpture. The bust motif was probably also part of Peter’s design, although there was a long tradition of mounting carved heads in churches, especially in England, for example the heads adorning the interior of Salisbury Cathedral.

Heinrich von Gmünd, the second important sculptor from the Parler family, began his career at Prague, where the statue of St Wenceslas (c. 1373) in the saint’s chapel is probably by him. From about 1380 he undertook several commissions in Cologne, including archivolt figures in the St Peter’s portal of the cathedral and a female corbel-head inscribed with the Parler hook (Cologne, Schnütgen-Mus.).

Parler influence was felt in many parts of Europe and was apparently not confined to purely stylistic characteristics. The general rejection of schematic, stylized formulae and the adoption of a realistic, individualized image of man were accompanied by changes in iconography. ‘Portrait’ sculpture had been restricted previously to biblical figures, saints and the idealized representation of donors. The statues of Rudolf IV and his wife Catherine of Bohemia on the Singertor (completed c. 1361), the south portal of the Stephansdom, mark a new departure from accepted forms (see Vienna, §III, 1). Another ‘topical’ sculptural programme appears above the porch of the south transept at St Maria, Mühlhausen, where stone figures of Charles IV, his wife and two attendants peer down from a balcony (see Mühlhausen, §1). This unusual ensemble (c. 1380), the figures of which are linked stylistically to those of the Stephansdom workshop, was possibly intended to commemorate the Emperor’s visit in 1375 and represents visually the ruler’s permanent presence in the town.

Towards the end of the 14th century the Parlers’ powerful sculptural approach merged with the general European phenomenon of Late Gothic referred to as the Beautiful style (Ger. schöner Stil) or the Soft style (Ger. weicher Stil). Common to artistic centres between Paris, London and Prague was a new stylistic sensibility not only in sculpture but also in painting and goldsmiths’ work, characterized by elegant lines and a predilection for costliness in colour and materials. The Parler style was an important catalyst of this refined style at the borders of the Empire, so it is not surprising that Bohemia and the Prague workshops made a decisive contribution to the spread of the most significant Central European artistic phenomenon of c. 1400, the type of statue of the Virgin and Child known as the Schöne Madonna. Those produced between 1390 and 1420 are distinguished by a multiplicity of common features in both motifs and style, but the hypothesis, often advanced, that a single sculptor was responsible for creating the finest examples is untenable.

One of the most significant of such figures, and one of the earliest (c. 1390; Altenmarkt im Pongau, Unserer Lieben Frau), was made in Bohemia; the dating is based on a letter of indulgence issued for the statue in Prague in 1393. The use of Bohemian ragstone, the under life-size format and the octagonal plinth that became characteristic of the type are all present.

More significant, however, are the stylistic and expressive features. The sculpture is animated by an inner movement filled with tension without being capricious. The drapery, with large dished folds and flat areas alternating with intricate cascades, is organized to reinforce the movement of the torso. The material enfolds the figure in soft abundance without sharp edges or angular corners. Everything in the figure’s arrangement aims at harmony and a perfect balance of forms. This is reflected in the Virgin’s noble features and the playful gestures of the naked child Jesus, whom the Virgin supports on her left hip. The way in which her fingers sink gently into the child’s soft body shows an exact observation of nature and the artist’s feeling for the skin’s yielding texture. Although the figure was repainted in the 17th century after considerable damage and restoration, some of the original polychromy survives.

Many of the finest Schöne Madonnen, for example the Krumau Madonna and Child (c. 1400; Vienna, Ksthist. Mus.), which came from Český Krumlov, appear to have been made in Bohemia, probably Prague. Their small size made it possible to export them economically throughout Germany (e.g. Bonn, Rhein. Landesmus.), Austria, Poland (for example that formerly in St Elizabeth, Wrocław, now in Warsaw, N. Mus.; see also Poland, Republic of, §IV, 2) and even to Venice (now in Düsseldorf, Kstmus.). The peculiarities of the style were not confined to statues of the Virgin and Child, although the intimate, charming idiom of the Soft style seems to have found its most suited expression in subjects devoted to the veneration of the Virgin. This is also illustrated in contemporary groups of the Pietà, in which the Virgin’s grief over her dead son is shown with a dignified restraint: one of the finest examples (c. 1400; Munich, Bayer. Nmus.) was originally in Seeon Abbey.

c. 1420–c. 1500.

The course of Gothic sculpture in the 15th century was closely tied to the decline of the traditional associations of church builders and craftsmen and the growing importance of wood-carving. Work was largely abandoned on the new cathedrals at Prague and Cologne and there were fewer commissions to produce whole cycles of figures for porches or to decorate the complete interior of a church. Instead greater attention was paid to the creation of isolated works, such as statues, tombs and altarpieces. Economic and social conditions changed as sculptors and masons, some of whom ran large workshops based in a particular location, organized themselves into urban guilds. This fostered the development of local styles, although the constant spread of different ideas, which were often introduced through a sculptor’s other activities as wood-carver, panel-painter and in painting wood-carvings, ensured that these remained receptive to outside influences.

The period between 1420 and 1500 may be seen as the last phase of Gothic sculpture north of the Alps. Sculpture in the Empire largely clung to traditional forms, although these were developed with bold virtuosity to the highest pitch of perfection. The first moves away from the refined idiom of the Soft style may be seen in the work of the Lower Saxon master Conrad von Einbeck, who was probably trained at the workshop of Prague Cathedral and was in charge of the new church of St Moritz at Halle an der Saale from 1388. His sculpture there, notably a Mourning Virgin from a Crucifixion group (1430s), which has a worldly quality characterized by an astringent naturalism, is far removed from the beauty of line and delicate feeling manifested in the Schöne Madonnen.

Hans Multscher: Man of Sorrows, sandstone, h. 1.68 m, west portal, Ulm Minster, Germany, 1429; photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Although no other artists followed Conrad’s style, his works show the changing perception of reality and form that was emerging in the 1420s. In stone sculpture this was accompanied by an increasing adaptation of the styles developed by André Beauneveu and Claus Sluter in Burgundy and the south Netherlands (see §III, 1, (i), (c) above and §III, 1, (v) below). The advances in panel painting made by Robert Campin and Jan van Eyck were of particular importance and the first German sculptor to adapt these to a sculptural idiom was Multscher, Hans, who was probably trained in the Netherlands and was admitted as a freeman of Ulm in 1427. Even his earliest works in Ulm, for example the group of figures (c. 1427–30; Ulm, Ulm Mus.) made for the east side of the Rathaus and the Man of Sorrows (1429) beside the west portal of Ulm Minster, show a spontaneous and arresting freshness of treatment and an ability to grasp the momentary effect. The latter particularly demonstrates the artist’s concern for anatomical exactitude in reproducing the human body. The delicate slenderness prevalent about 1400 has given way to a naturalistic approach, which is also expressed in the muted animation and the deliberate gestures. These tendencies emerge even more clearly if the Man of Sorrows is compared with a slightly earlier statue on the west portal of St Martin (c. 1420; see Hartmann, Meister; Ulm, §2, (i), (b)), in which the features, posture and treatment of the drapery remain entirely within the Soft style, which here threatens to become a rigid formula.

The outstanding sculptor in the Empire during the second third of the 15th century was Nicolaus Gerhaert, who was also strongly influenced by Netherlandish artists. His most mature surviving works include two heads of red sandstone (Frankfurt am Main, Liebieghaus; Strasbourg, Mus. Oeuvre Notre-Dame), which came from the portal (c. 1465–7; destr. French Revolution) of the New Chancellery at Strasbourg. A bust (Strasbourg, Mus. Oeuvre Notre-Dame), which probably came from the same context and is usually referred to as a self-portrait, is remarkable for its twisted posture, which seems to encompass the surrounding space, and its meditative expression. Other works that were to be influential include a monumental sandstone Crucifix (signed and dated 1467; Baden-Baden, SS Peter und Paul) and the tomb slab of Frederick III (Vienna, Stephansdom), on which Gerhaert worked from 1467 until c. 1473.

The representation of the everyday world that was a notable feature of Netherlandish painting was soon absorbed into stone sculpture throughout the Empire. After c. 1430 closer attention was paid to reproducing the contents of a room or the details of a landscape within the context of late medieval themes. Much of the sculpture showing Netherlandish influence was made on the Lower Rhine in the western part of the Empire, where the workshops sometimes specialized in making sculpture for export. The demand shown by the less wealthy classes for devotional images and artefacts was so great that items were often mass-produced from cheap materials. Such ‘sculpture bakers’, much of whose work comprised small clay figures made in series, were especially active in Cologne and the region around the border between Westphalia and the Netherlands. Workshops on the Lower Rhine, in Cologne, Cleve, Xanten and Wesel, were also influential in spreading Gerhaert’s innovations: the Lower Rhenish variety of Gerhaert’s style is particularly well demonstrated by the group with Christ and the Virgin (c. 1466) in St Maria im Kapitol, Cologne.

The works of Tilman Riemenschneider and Veit Stoss, the two most influential sculptors of the second half of the 15th century, both of whom worked in wood and stone, mark the transition to 16th-century German art. Riemenschneider was trained in various towns in southern Germany, including Strasbourg and Ulm, which introduced him to Swabian sculpture and Gerhaert’s style, and he settled in Würzburg in 1483. Although best known for the production of costly wooden altarpieces (see §III, 2, (iii) below), his work on the tomb of Henry II and Kunigunde (1499–1513; Bamberg Cathedral) demonstrates that he was also the leading Franconian sculptor in stone. The slightly over life-size figures in light sandstone of Adam and Eve (1491–3; Würzburg, Mainfränk. Mus.), which the Würzburg city council commissioned to be placed either side of the south portal of the Marienkapelle, are his earliest documented works in the city. Although these could be considered as architectural decoration that would have been visible from a distance, they are conceived as independent sculptures that create space around them through their playful mobility. The masterful use of stone is seen most clearly in the execution of the highly differentiated faces: the characterization of Adam as a beardless youth, chosen at the artist’s instigation, was a new departure that was permitted only after a resolution by the city council in 1492.

The work of Veit Stoss comes at the end of the Late Gothic tradition, and his last works can scarcely be encompassed within the definition. It is probable that he also encountered the work of Gerhaert while training on the Upper Rhine, although too little is known of his career to identify the precise sources of his style. In his use of the most diverse materials, carving wood and stone, painting panels and statues, and engraving, he was a typical representative of the late medieval artists who attempted to draw together all the various genres into a single homogeneous entity. For many years he was counted among the leading artists in Nuremberg, together with Adam Kraft and members of the Vischer family family. Between 1477 and 1492 he was in Kraków, where his work culminated in the canopied tomb of Kasimir IV (signed and dated 1492; Kraków, Wawel Cathedral). The sumptuous garments of the King’s reclining figure, in mottled red marble, are in stark contrast to his features, which are marked by decay and the agony of death. The tomb represents the most mature and moving expression of the central themes of late medieval iconography, death and redemption.


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  • J. Baum: Die Bildwerke der Rottweiler Lorenzkapelle (Augsburg, 1929)
  • H. Wilm: Gotische Tonplastik in Deutschland (Augsburg, 1929)
  • Europäische Kunst um 1400 (exh. cat., Vienna, Ksthist. Mus., 1962)
  • Schöne Madonnen, 1350–1450 (exh. cat., ed. D. Grossmann; Salzburg, 1965)
  • K. Gerstenberg: Die deutsche Baumeisterbildnisse des Mittelalters (Berlin, 1966)
  • T. Müller: Sculpture in the Netherlands, Germany, France and Spain, 1400–1500, Pelican Hist. A. (Harmondsworth, 1966)
  • A. Legner: ‘Die Hochaltarmensa des Kölner Doms und ihr Skulpturenschmuck’, Rhein und Maas: Kunst und Kultur, 800–1400 (exh. cat., Cologne, Ksthalle; Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist., 1972), i, pp. 371–4
  • K.-H. Clasen: Der Meister der Schönen Madonnen: Herkunft, Entfaltung und Umkreis (Berlin, 1974)
  • W. Hart: Die Skulpturen des Freiburger Münsters (Freiburg im Breisgau, 1975)
  • K. Bauch: Das mittelalterliche Grabbild: Figürliche Grabmäler des 11. bis 15. Jahrhunderts in Europa (Berlin, 1976)
  • Die Parler und der Schöne Stil, 1350–1400: Europäische Kunst unter den Luxemburgern, 3 vols (exh. cat., ed. A. Legner; Cologne, Schnütgen-Mus., 1978)
  • R. Suckale: ‘Die Kölner Domchorstatuen: Kölner und Pariser Skulptur in der zweiten Hälfte des 13. Jahrhunderts’, Kölner Domblatt, 44–45 (1979–80), pp. 223–54
  • R. Didier and R. Recht: ‘Paris, Prague, Cologne et la sculpture de la seconde moitié du XIVe siècle: A propos de l’exposition des Parler à Cologne’, Bulletin monumental, 138 (1980), pp. 173–219
  • E. Ullmann, ed.: Geschichte der deutschen Kunst, 1350–1470 (Leipzig, 1981)
  • J. M. Liebmann: Deutsche Plastik, 1350–1550 (Leipzig, 1982)
  • D. L. Ehresmann: Middle Rhenish Sculpture, 1380–1440 (Ann Arbor, 1984)
  • P. Havel: Schöne Madonnen: Meisterwerke gotischer Kunst (Würzburg, 1984)
  • E. Ullmann: Deutsche Architektur und Plastik, 1470–1550 (Gütersloh, 1984)
  • Verschwundenes Inventarium: Der Skulpturenfund im Kölner Domchor (exh. cat., ed. U. Bergmann; Cologne, Schnütgen-Mus., 1984)
  • Gothic and Renaissance Art in Nuremberg, 1300–1550 (exh. cat., ed. J. P. O’Neill; New York, Met.; Nuremberg, Ger. Nmus.; 1986)
  • N. Jopek: Studien zur deutschen Alabasterplastik des 15. Jahrhunderts (Worms, 1988)
(iv) Italy.
(a) Introduction.

Owing to the strength of the antique and Byzantine traditions in the Italian peninsula, the penetration of French ideas and styles tended to be limited and specific. Sculpture was deployed on façades, although generally not on great portal programmes; but it was more commonly used on capitals and such church furnishings as pulpits, ciboria, shrines and tombs. In contrast to northern Europe many individual sculptors are documented from early on, but although the leading craftsmen were employed over a wide area the political divisions ensured that styles remained strongly regional. For these reasons this section is treated on a regional, rather than a chronological, basis.

(b) Tuscany.
  • G. Kreytenberg

Giovanni Pisano: Isaiah, h. 1.9 m, from the façade of Siena Cathedral, Italy, 1284–97 (Siena, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo); photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY

Gothic stone sculpture was produced in Tuscany during a relatively brief period (c. 1250–1400) and was mainly concentrated on Pisa, Siena and Florence. The movement away from Romanesque in both Siena and Pisa during the mid-13th century (see Romanesque, §III, 1, (vi), (e)) coincided with Nicola Pisano’s arrival from southern Italy, where a synthesis of the Romanesque tradition, an appreciation of antiquity and the influence of French Gothic had developed (see §III, 1, (iv), (a) above); the latter element became increasingly evident in his later works (see Pisano family, §1). More recent French influences may be found in the work of Giovanni Pisano, who was active from the 1270s and developed a dramatic form of personal expression, rich in contrasts, in such works as the statues on the façade of Siena Cathedral (1284–97; see fig.; see also Siena, §III, 1, (ii)). The reliefs on the pulpits in S Andrea, Pistoia, and Pisa Cathedral (1302; see Pulpit, §1), however, were still based on those of antique sarcophagi.

An original style that developed in Siena, even while Giovanni was working there, was inspired by the city’s own painting tradition (see §IV, 5, (v) below) and French Gothic sculpture. Examples may be found in Siena Cathedral on the upper sections of the façade (1300–17) and the Duomo Nuovo (1340–48), in Arezzo, Cortona, Massa Marittima and Grosseto, and beyond Tuscany in Orvieto (see §III, 1, (iv), (f) below), Naples (see §III, 1, (iv), (h) below) and even Messina in Sicily. Among the foremost exponents were Gano di Fazio, Maitani, Lorenzo, Tino di Camaino, Goro di Gregorio, Agostino di Giovanni and Lando di Pietro (d 1340). The production of marble sculpture in Siena ended abruptly at the Black Death in 1348.

Sculpture in Pisa was strongly influenced by Giovanni Pisano until his death, probably in 1314, and Tino di Camaino was active there until 1315. During the following decades of provincial stagnation Giovanni di Balduccio, Giovanni’s only notable Pisan pupil, was active mainly in Sarzana, Florence and northern Italy and did hardly any work in Pisa itself. Sculpture regained its former status after Andrea Pisano returned from Florence, probably in 1341. While his figures draw on Classical ideals, his sons Nino Pisano and Tommaso Pisano continued to adhere to Gothic forms (see Pisano family). About 1370, however, there was a remarkable move, already discernible in Tommaso’s work, away from marble as the preferred material to painted wood, which resulted in a more naturalistic figure style.

The first significant Gothic sculpture in Florence was that associated with the cathedral’s richly sculptured façade (begun after 1294; Florence, §IV, 1, (i), (b)). Tino di Camaino was active there from 1318 to 1323/4 on groups of statues for the Baptistery and the city’s first monumental tombs, and Giovanni di Balduccio was present from 1330 to 1334. Andrea Pisano was engaged as a goldsmith in 1330 to execute the first bronze door for the Baptistery, but from about 1334 he produced marble sculpture of a truly monumental quality (originals now in Florence, Mus. Opera Duomo) that was strongly influenced by Giotto. The tabernacle that Andrea di Cione made for Orsanmichele from 1352 bears a vast array of statues and reliefs that rely on various illusionistic effects (see Cione family, §1, 2).

The strength of Florentine sculpture between 1350 and 1380 is evident in the work of Francesco Talenti, Alberto Arnoldi, Francesco Sellaio (fl 1354–83), Simone Talenti (see Talenti family, §3), Giovanni Fetti (fl 1350–86) and Zanobi di Bartolo (fl 1377). A new generation of sculptors from about 1380 included Jacopo di Piero Guidi (fl 1379–1405), Giovanni d’Ambrogio, Piero di Giovanni Tedesco (fl 1386–1402) and Niccolò di Piero Lamberti (see Lamberti family, §1), all of whom worked on the Porta della Mandorla (1391–c. 1423) of Florence Cathedral during the 1390s. Their works demonstrate an intensive study of antiquities that places them on the threshold of the Renaissance.


  • M. Wundram: ‘Toskanische Plastik von 1250 bis 1400’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte [merger of Z. Bild. Kst with Repert. Kstwiss. & with Jb. Kstwiss.], 21 (1958), pp. 243–70
  • M. Wundram: ‘Jacopo di Piero Guidi’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz, 13 (1968), pp. 195–222
  • A. Garzelli: Sculture toscane nel duecento e nel trecento (Florence, 1969)
  • M. Seidel: ‘Studien zu Giovanni di Balduccio und Tino di Camaino: Die Rezeption des Spätwerks von Giovanni Pisano’, Städel-Jahrbuch, 5 (1975), pp. 37–84
  • G. Kreytenberg: ‘Tre cicli di apostoli dell’antica facciata del duomo fiorentino’, Antichità viva: Rassegna d’arte, 16 (1977), pp. 13–29
  • E. Carli: Gli scultori senesi (Milan, 1980)
  • G. Previtali: ‘Alcune opere “fuori contesto”: Il caso di Marco Romano’, Bollettino d’arte [cont. as Arti: Rass. Bimest. A. Ant. & Mod.; Boll. A.], 22 (1983), pp. 43–68
  • G. Kreytenberg: Andrea Pisano und die toskanische Skulptur des 14. Jahrhunderts (Munich, 1984)
  • A. Middeldorf Kosegarten: Sienesische Bildhauer am Duomo vecchio: Studien zur Skulptur in Siena, 1250–1330 (Munich, 1984)
  • R. Bartalini: Una bottega di scultori senesi del trecento: Agostino di Giovanni e i figli Giovanni e Domenico (diss., U. Siena, 1986)
  • G. Kreytenberg: Tino di Camaino (Florence, 1986)
(c) Lombardy.

Lombard sculpture in the earlier 14th century showed no awareness of the innovations introduced by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano in Tuscany (see §III, 1, (iv), (b) above). Carved tombs in Milan, Brescia and Bergamo were still dominated by the region’s vigorous Romanesque traditions (see Romanesque, §III, 1, (vi), (b)). The sculpture of Giovanni di Balduccio, who introduced the new concepts to the region and was active in Milan from 1334, is marked by the use of Pisan forms, narrative quality and considerable technical ability. A major product of his workshop was the elaborate polychromed marble shrine of St Peter Martyr (signed and dated 1339; Milan, S Eustorgio), which has a sarcophagus carved with scenes from the Life of St Peter Martyr, supported on caryatids representing the Vices and Virtues, with a tabernacle above. Other signed works include the tomb of Guarniero degli Antelminelli (c. 1327–8; Sarzana, S Francesco), the pulpit in S Maria del Prato, San Casciano in Val di Pesa, and the doorway (1347; destr. 1808; fragments in Milan, Castello Sforzesco) from S Maria di Brera, Milan; these, however, incorporate an increasing amount of local Lombard elements.

Balduccio’s influence can be recognized in the work of Giovanni da Campione (see Campionesi, §2), whose workshop was involved in the decoration of the baptistery at Bergamo, signed by him in 1340, and who carved elongated, angular figures of Virtues in Veronese marble for the external niches. The concept of the figures is related to the caryatids of the shrine of St Peter Martyr, but they are interpreted in a more Romanesque manner. Elements of Giovanni Pisano’s style may be recognized on panels with scenes from the Life of Christ inside the baptistery. The free-standing figures that Campione carved for the north portal (c. 1353) of S Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, include an equestrian St Alexander.

The characteristic format of an armoured rider, of which there are many examples in Lombardy, was originally adopted from German Romanesque and Gothic sculpture (see §III, 1, (iii), (b) above), but a more immediate source would have been the series of equestrian statues surmounting the della Scala tombs outside S Maria Antica, Verona (see Verona, §3, (iii)). Tomb sculpture became increasingly ornate, showing the influence of goldsmiths’ work: large tombs were set against church exteriors, making public statements on the status and role of the individual or family commemorated in the changing political organization of the city-states. Among Bonino da Campione’s funerary monuments was an equestrian statue of Bernabò Visconti (1363; Milan, Castello Sforzesco), originally cased in gold and silver, set on a sarcophagus (1380–85) supported on columns. The elaborate tomb of Cansignorio della Scala (d 1375; Verona, S Maria Antica; for illustration see Scala, della family), surmounted by a conventional equestrian figure, is a complex gabled structure, originally polychrome, that echoes contemporary metalwork (see §V, 6 below) and is characteristic of the free-standing tabernacle type.

Much sculpture in Lombardy in the late 14th century and the 15th was carved by French and German craftsmen, rather than in a specifically local style. The late 14th-century marble sculpture of Milan Cathedral, for example, represents a collaboration between imported and Lombard artists (see Milan, §IV, 1, (ii)), but a more local style can be recognized in 15th-century work in the cathedral, particularly that by Alberto II da Campione (fl 1404).


  • C. Baroni: Scultura gotica lombarda (Milan, 1944)
  • F. De Maffei: Le arche scaligere di Verona (Verona, 1955)
  • F. Russoli: Arte lombarda dai Visconti agli Sforza (Milan, 1958)
(d) Veneto.
  • Guido Tigler

From as early as c. 1175–80 elements from the Early Gothic sculpture of Champagne were apparently introduced to the Veneto in the dismantled portal to the sacristy anteroom at S Giustina, Padua (Zuliani), but generally the local production remained faithful to the Byzantine–Romanesque tradition (see Romanesque, §III, 1, (vi), (d)). The influence of any French works that may have been present in the area, and of Mosan goldsmiths’ work in the so-called ‘style of 1200’, remains problematic. In Venice developments towards Gothic appeared first in the sculptural decoration of the main portal at S Marco (c. 1240), although its relationship to the transept portals at Chartres seems to be indirect.

Tuscan artists introduced mature Gothic elements in the 14th century, for example in Giovanni Pisano’s Virgin and Child between Two Angels (1305–6) for the Arena Chapel, Padua. The only certain work of Marco Romano is the St Simeon (1318) in S Simeone Grande, Venice, which displays Sienese traits (Previtali). The Virgin and Child over the tomb of Doge Marco Cornaro (d 1368; Venice, SS Giovanni e Paolo) was signed by Nino Pisano. The dating and attribution of the capitals (most of which are in storage) at the Doge‘s Palace are controversial, as also is the rich civic iconography on the corner reliefs (see Venice, §IV, 6, (i)). Part of the palace was built from 1341 by Calendario [Chalandarjo; Kalandario], Filippo and Pietro Basegio, and further work was executed after 1424 under Doge Francesco Foscari. Wolters’s convincing attribution of some of the palace’s sculptures to the earlier campaign makes them exceptionally modern for their time. The most significant artist of the mid-14th century, although not a revolutionary one, was Santi, Andriolo de’, who is known mainly for tombs in the Eremitani church and the Santo, Padua. Late Gothic forms were introduced towards the end of the 14th century by northern artists present in the area and also by Jacobello dalle Masegne and Pierpaolo dalle Masegne (see Masegne, dalle family).

Lombard sculptors from the Milan Cathedral workshop, such as Matteo Raverti, are documented in Venice in the first quarter of the 15th century working on the Ca’ d’Oro (Paoletti; see fig. above), as well as indigenous artists, including Giovanni Buon and Bartolomeo Buon (see Buon family). Other Tuscan sculptors in the Veneto, some of whom had been pupils of Ghiberti, were Niccolò di Pietro, Piero di Niccolò Lamberti (see Lamberti family, §2), Giovanni di Martino da Fiesole (fl 1423), Nanni di Bartolo and Michele da Firenze. Renaissance elements are evident in the work of the master of the mascoli altar, whose identity has been disputed (see Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I). The finest work of this period appears on the Porta della Carta (1438–42) of the Doge’s Palace; although this was a joint project it was signed by Bartolomeo Buon alone. One of his pupils was possibly responsible for the tomb of Doge Francesco Foscari (c. 1460; see Bregno family, §2) in S Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice.

Some examples of 14th-century sculpture influenced by Venetian models appear in Istria and the Greek islands, but it was not until the first half of the 15th century, when the inland cities of the Veneto, Friuli and Lombardy and the regions along the Adriatic coasts came under Venetian control, that the city’s Gothic sculpture began to influence the surrounding regions.


  • P. Paoletti: L’architettura e la scultura del rinascimento a Venezia (Venice, 1893)
  • G. Mariacher: ‘Appunti per un profilo della scultura gotica veneziana’, Atti dell’Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti [prev. pubd as Atti Reale Ist. Ven. Sci., Lett. & A.], 113 (1950–51), pp. 225–46
  • W. Wolters: La scultura veneziana gotica, 1300–1460, 2 vols (Venice, 1976)
  • A. Markham Schulz: Niccolò di Giovanni Fiorentino and Venetian Sculpture of the Early Renaissance (New York, 1978)
  • F. Zuliani: ‘Il portale maggiore della basilica romanica’, Benedettini a Padova e nel territorio padovano attraverso i secoli (exh. cat. by P. Fassera and others, Padua, S Giustina, 1980)
  • G. Previtali: ‘Alcune opere “fuori contesto”: Il caso di Marco Romano’, Bollettino d’arte [cont. as Arti: Rass. Bimest. A. Ant. & Mod.; Boll. A.], 22 (1983), pp. 43–68
  • G. Tigler: ‘Il portale maggiore di San Marco a Venezia: Aspetti iconografici e stilistici dei rilievi duecenteschi’, Memorie dell’Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti (Venice, 1994)
(e) Emilia-Romagna.
  • R. Grandi

Apart from a few unconnected examples in Modena, Imola, Bagnacavallo, Cesena and Ravenna, the contexts of which cannot be reconstructed precisely, Gothic stone sculpture in Emilia-Romagna is largely confined to Bologna. Much was produced for its churches and civic buildings, although there were some long gaps in the continuity. A characteristic type of funerary sculpture, although not confined to Bologna, is that of the master of the Studio (the University) shown lecturing to his students. These wall tombs were intended to affirm the master’s prestige and are related stylistically to the expressive vivacity and strong facial characteristics of local painting and manuscript illumination (see Bologna, §II, 1). They also, however, show strong links with the sculpture of the Po Valley, particularly that of Lombardy and Verona (see §III, 1, (iv), (c) above). This complexity is evident in the monuments to Bartoluzzo de’ Preti (1318), Michele da Bertalia (1328; both Bologna, S Francesco), Pietro Cerniti (1333), Bonifacio Galluzzi (1346) and, especially, the vivid tomb of Giovanni di Andrea (1348; all Bologna, Mus. Civ. Med.), which Vasari attributed to one Jacopo Lanfrani.

Tombstones and other types became more common during the mid-14th century: that of the knight Colaccio Beccadelli (1341; Imola, S Domenico), for example, signed by Bettino, the only Bolognese stone-carver who has been identified. A few other sculptors are documented, some of Lombard or Venetian extraction. The presence of Tuscan masters is confirmed by the Pisan Giovanni di Balduccio who carved a marble polyptych (destr.; fragments in Bologna, Mus. S Stefano; Bologna, Mus. Civ. Med.; Faenza, Pin. Com.), formerly in S Domenico, Bologna.

The strong revival of sculpture that followed the long depression caused by the effects of the Black Death was mainly linked to the presence of Jacobello dalle Masegne and Pierpaolo dalle Masegne, both of whom signed the monument of Giovanni da Legnano (d 1383; fragments in Bologna, Mus. Civ. Med.; Rocchetta Mattei; see Masegne, dalle family). With a larger group of assistants, Pierpaolo later worked on the high altar (1388–92) of S Francesco. Antonio di Vincenzo, who has been variously connected with the dalle Masegne, gave sculpture considerable importance in the buildings he designed in Bologna, including the Foro dei Mercanti (1391) and the lower levels of S Petronio (1393–1400). The Venetian Paolo di Bonaiuto played an especially important role at the latter, where reliefs of saints and biblical figures show a clear movement towards a style that may have been influenced by Claus Sluter in Burgundy (see §III, 1, (i), (c) above).

By the end of the 14th century tomb stones, such as that of Andrea Manfredi (1396; Bologna, S Maria dei Servi), were frequent, although perhaps more typical were those of Lorenzo Pini (1398) and the large sarcophagus of Bartolomeo da Saliceto (1412; both Bologna, Mus. Civ. Med.), which was signed by Andrea da Fiesole, a Tuscan who was long active in Bologna. Among the works executed by Jacopo della Quercia, another Tuscan, was the monumental Porta Magna of S Petronio (see Jacopo della Quercia, §1, (iii)), which was commissioned by Cardinal Lodovico Alemanno in 1425.


  • R. Grandi: I monumenti dei dottori e la scultura a Bologna, 1267–1348 (Bologna, 1982)
  • R. Grandi: ‘Cantiere e maestranze agli inizi della scultura petroniana’, La Basilica di S Petronio in Bologna, 1 (Milan, 1983), pp. 125–62
  • R. Grandi: ‘Dottori, scultori, pittori: Ancora sui monumenti bolognesi’, Skulptur und Grabmal des Spätmittelalters in Rom und Italien. Akten des Kongresses Scultura e monumento sepolcrale del tardo medioevo a Roma e in Italia: Roma, 1985, pp. 353–65
  • R. Grandi: ‘La scultura tardogotica: Dai dalle Masegne a Jacopo della Quercia’, Il tramonto del medioevo a Bologna: Il cantiere di S Petronio (exh. cat., ed. R. D’Amico and R. Grandi; Bologna, Pin. N., 1987), pp. 127–59
(f) Umbria.

The presence of Nicola Pisano, Giovanni Pisano and Arnolfo di Cambio in Umbria during the 1270s was to have a lasting influence on the region’s sculpture. The first major Gothic sculpture in Umbria appears on the rich decoration by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano on the Great Fountain (1277–8) at Perugia (see Fountain, §IV, 1; Pisano family, §1, 4). Between 1277 and 1281 Arnolfo di Cambio was working in Perugia on a smaller fountain (destr. by 1301). Two writers and three thirsting figures (all Perugia, G.N. Umbria) are notable for the reintroduction of a three-dimensional Cistercian rendering of space and demonstrate a familiarity with contemporary Parisian sculpture and the use of antique models that Arnolfo learnt from Nicola Pisano. For the tomb of Cardinal Guillaume de Braye (d 1282; fragments also in Orvieto, Mus. Opera Duomo) in S Domenico, Orvieto, Arnolfo collaborated with Roman sculptors (see §III, 1, (iv), (g) below), who also worked elsewhere in Umbria.

The figured capitals of Todi Cathedral, which was rebuilt in the second half of the 13th century, show French influence, but the later statues on the façade (especially the Virgin) clearly reveal the teaching of Nicola Pisano. Arnolfo’s influence appears on several statues, for example that of St Prosper (Perugia, S Prospero) and St Peter on the exterior of the Palazzo dei Priori, Perugia. Giovanni Pisano’s influence can be seen on fragmentary works at Spoleto and Perugia. The tomb of Benedict XI (d 1304; Perugia, S Domenico) shows an easy mastery of modern Gothic forms. The sculptor’s origins are disputed, although it is usually accepted that he also worked at Orvieto Cathedral. He, or perhaps a pupil, may also have been responsible for the three saints later set in the lunette over the main portal of the Palazzo dei Priori, Perugia. These are usually dated after the 1320s, although they may be as early as c. 1315, and demonstrate the movement of Umbrian sculpture towards a more definitely Gothic phase, usually known as ‘Orvietan’ or ‘Sienese’.

The cosmopolitan and French-orientated workshop of Orvieto Cathedral was active throughout the 14th century. Its finest work, conceived as a unitary plan, appears on the bas-relief carving on the west façade pilasters (see Orvieto, §2, (ii), (b)), which shows links with France but remains within the Italian tradition owing to the greater flatness of the design. Many names, including Lorenzo Maitani, have been suggested for the two main masters: the work of the first seems to proceed from Nicola Pisano’s plasticism while the second, whose style has a more definite Gothic character, worked in a more narrative and poetic manner and may have carved the Virgin and Child over the main portal. Much has been made of the ‘Sienese’ character of these sculptures and it has been suggested that there was a specifically Umbrian school (Previtali).

The decoration of the basilica of S Francesco, Assisi, brought together the various influences on Umbrian Gothic sculpture. The architectural sculpture of the Upper Church and the portal, for example, demonstrate close links with the cathedrals of the Ile-de-France, especially Reims. The Umbrian Romanesque tradition was not rejected, but mixed with foreign ideas and some Cistercian influence (see §III, 1, (iv), (g) below). Roman marble-workers produced opulent decoration for the liturgical furnishings, and the work of sculptors from Todi has been recognized in the tomb of a member of the Cerchi family.


  • U. Tarchi: L’arte medievale nell’Umbria e nella Sabina, 3–4 (Milan, 1938–40)
  • M. Guardabassi and F. Santi: Il Portale Maggiore del Palazzo dei Priori a Perugia (Perugia, 1953)
  • A. Bertini Calosso: ‘La scultura del ’200 in Umbria’, L’Umbria nella storia, nella letteratura e nell’arte (Bologna, 1954), pp. 273–92
  • V. Martinelli: ‘Arnolfo a Perugia’, Storia e arte in Umbria nell’età comunale. Atti del VI convegno di studi umbri: Gubbio, 1968, 1, pp. 113–30
  • A. Garzelli: Scultura toscana nel ’200 e nel ’300 (Florence, 1969), pp. 207–11
  • F. Santi: ‘Le tre arti dal medioevo all’ottocento’, Umbria (Venice, [1970]), pp. 213–406
  • A. Prandi and M. Righetti: Il Duomo di Todi (Perugia, 1975)
  • Roma anno 1300. Atti della IV settimana di studi di storia dell’arte medievale dell’Università di Roma ‘La Sapienza’: Roma, 1980, pp. 27–72, 141–62
  • Skulptur und Grabmal des Spätmittelalters in Rom und Italien. Akten des Kongresses Scultura e monumento sepolcrale del tardo medioevo a Roma e in Italia: Roma, 1985, pp. 107–28, 257–64
  • M. Semff: ‘Textiler Festschmuck in Stein? Überlegungen zu den Orvietaner Fassadereliefs’, Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, 38 (1987), pp. 83–106
  • G. Previtali: Studi sulla scultura gotica in Italia: Storia e geografia (Turin, 1991)
(g) Lazio.
  • Anna Maria D’Achille

Apart from the localized influence of the Cistercians (see below), the artistic life of Lazio in the 13th and 14th centuries was dominated by Rome, where several diverse influences converged. The Roman tradition of the marble-workers (see Cosmati) remained strong, although some examples demonstrate a closer study of both nature and Classical models that parallels developments in France. Some works indeed, such as the corbel heads in S Maria in Aracoeli (rebuit from 1250), Rome, and the pulpit in S Maria la Rosa, San Vittore del Lazio, may be likened to the ‘Frederician’ sculpture produced by the imperial workshops in Campania (see §III, 1, (iv), (h) below).

Arnolfo di Cambio arrived in Rome c. 1270 and created a personal style, through his combination of French Gothic influences and Classical forms, in which a continuous development can be seen. Among Arnolfo’s collaborators there were also Roman marble-workers. One of these may have been Pietro di Oderisio who may be identified with the Socio Petro who signed the ciborium of S Paolo fuori le Mura. Pietro di Oderisio also designed the tomb of Clement IV (c. 1270; Viterbo, S Francesco), the first canopied tomb with a reclining figure in Italy, an innovation that Arnolfo developed and spread to other areas.

Deodatus Cosmati and Johannes Cosmati (see Cosmatus) were among the few local sculptors to take an interest in modern ideas, perhaps because papal commissions remained very conservative. The Roman tradition died out during the Avignonese captivity after 1309 as some artists left Rome while others arrived from elsewhere. The most important commission of this period, for example, the ciborium (1370) of S Giovanni in Laterano, is by the Sienese Giovanni di Stefano (fl 1366–91). Even after Gregory XI (reg 1370–78) returned, Gothic sculpture was mainly limited to tombs, such as the heavily ornamented double tomb of Francesco Anguillara (d 1406) and Nicolò Anguillara (d 1408; Capranica, S Francesco), which was made by local artists but nonetheless shows the influence of Tuscan art. Elsewhere in Lazio Gothic sculpture is found in church furnishing, fountains and architectural decoration.

Cistercian abbeys, which were numerous in the region from the 13th century, introduced another tradition of architectural sculpture concentrated on keystones and capitals, which were often carved with images of monastic life. At Fossanova Abbey (1187–1208) there appears to have beeen a collaboration between an architectural tradition drawn from Burgundy and Roman craftsmen, as demonstrated by the ‘Classical’ portal and some of the capitals. Similarly local elements are evident in the capitals, the lunettes over the portals and seven panels that formed part of a choir enclosure at Casamari Abbey (1208–17). The Cistercian style spread to the cities, notably Ferentino, where the influence of the Casamari workshop appears in S Maria Maggiore, S Lucia, S Ippolito and S Pancrazio. At Viterbo the nearby abbey of S Martino al Cimino appears to have been influential in the cloister (1266–8) of the Dominican church of S Maria in Gradi, the rich ornamentation of which shows evidence of the ‘realism’, favoured by the Dominicans, that became typical of sculpture in Viterbo, for example on the exterior of the Casa Poscia (early 14th century).


  • L. Ciaccio: ‘L’ultimo periodo della scultura gotica a Roma’, Ausonia, 1 (1906), pp. 68–92
  • L. Filippini: La scultura del trecento in Roma (Rome, 1908)
  • G. Matthiae: ‘Fulcro unificante della civiltà occidentale’, Lazio (Milan, [1975]), pp. 237–492 (277–331)
  • I Cistercensi e il Lazio. Atti delle giornate di studio dell’Istituto di storia dell’arte dell’Università di Roma: Roma, 1978
  • Federico II e l’arte del duecento italiano. Atti della III settimana di studi di storia dell’arte medievale dell’Università di Roma ‘La Sapienza’: Roma, 1978
  • C. Zannella: ‘Ferentino’, Inchieste su centri minori, ed. F. Zeri, Storia dell’arte italiana, 3/1 (Turin, 1980)
  • A. Cadei: ‘Immagini e segni nella scultura architettonica cistercense’, Presenza benedettina nel Piacentino. Atti delle giornate di studio: Bobbio and Chiaravalle della Colomba, 1981
  • M. Righetti Tosti-Croce: La Sabina medievale (Cinisello-Balsamo, 1985)
  • Skulptur und Grabmal des Spätmittelalters in Rom und Italien. Akten des Kongresses Scultura e monumento sepolcrale del tardo medioevo a Roma e in Italia: Roma, 1985
  • P. C. Claussen: Magistri doctissimi Romani: Die römischen Marmorkünstler der Mittelalters (Stuttgart,1987)
  • A. M. D’Achille: ‘La scultura’, Roma nel duecento: L’arte dei papi da Innocenzo III a Bonifacio VIII (Turin, 1991), pp. 146–235
  • A. M. Romanini: ‘Arnolfo di Cambio’, Enciclopedia dell’arte medievale, 2 (Rome, 1991), pp. 504–14
  • S. Fabiano: ‘I capitelli tardo-duecenteschi di S Maria di Gradi a Viterbo’, Arte medievale, 6/2 (1992), pp. 113–35
  • J. Gardner: The Tomb and the Tiara: Curial Tomb Sculpture in Rome and Avignon in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford, 1992)
(h) Campania.
  • Francesco Aceto

Gothic sculpture in Campania developed over two centuries, but there were many gaps in continuity. The new style, which drew on an interest in Classical models and knowledge of developments in France, as well as local Romanesque traditions, spread rapidly across southern Italy in the first half of the 13th century under the influence of Emperor Frederick II, whose antiquarian interests were most prominently demonstrated in the decorative sculpture of the town gate of Capua (1234–40; destr. 1557; sculpture in Capua, Mus. Prov. Campano; for illustration see Hohenstaufen family, §2). Further examples of this ‘Frederician’ sculpture may be found in the abbey of the Trinità di Cava and to the north in Lazio (see §III, 1, (iv), (g) above). The imperial workshops trained some of the most important sculptors of the second half of the 13th century, including Nicola[Niccolò] di Bartolomeo da Foggia, who made the pulpit (1272) in Ravello Cathedral, Melchiorre da Montalbano, creator of the portal (1279) and pulpit of Teggiano Cathedral, Peregrino da Salerno and probably Nicola Pisano himself.

There was a massive injection of the latest French Gothic trends after the Angevin dynasty established itself in 1266 (see Naples, §II, 1). Among the artists who came from north of the Alps were Teodorico and Giletto ‘de Alemania’, who were documented there in 1309 and carved the tomb of Charles II for Naples Cathedral (fragments only in situ). Among the few surviving works from this period are a beautiful royal head (Naples, Capodimonte) and three reclining statues of the Lagonissa family, including Caterina Extendarda Lagonissa (c. 1304) in Montevergine Abbey.

Until the early 14th century French influence ran parallel to that of the Romanesque tradition and Arnolfo di Cambio. This combination is evident in the tomb of Archbishop Filippo Minutolo (d 1301; Naples Cathedral) and in the work of Nicola da Monteforte, for example the St Bartholomew on the façade of Benevento Cathedral. Relations with central Italy grew more intense from the second decade, culminating in the arrival of the Sienese sculptor Tino di Camaino, who remained in Naples from 1324 until his death in 1337 (see Tino di Camaino, §3) and established a well-organized workshop that monopolized all the most important commissions from the court and its circle. This brought a strong Sienese current into Neapolitan sculpture, while two Tuscan followers of Andrea Pisano, Pacio and Giovanni Bertini, were later commissioned to build the tomb of Robert I (1343–5; Naples, S Chiara).

Throughout the second half of the 14th century an army of local craftsmen followed, although not always with equal stylistic rigour, the formal models and monumental projects of Tino di Camaino and the Bertini. The Lazio sculptor Antonio Baboccio da Piperno (1351–c. 1435), who is documented in Naples from 1407, when he carved the portal (rebuilt) of Naples Cathedral, to 1421 (the tomb of Ludovico Aldomorisco in S Lorenzo Maggiore), introduced the French Flamboyant style from Milan, but this marked the end of Gothic sculpture in Naples, for it soon yielded to the progressive spread of the Tuscan Renaissance.


  • O. Morisani: Tino di Camaino a Napoli (Naples, 1945)
  • O. Morisani: ‘L’arte di Napoli nell’età angioina’, Stor. Napoli, 3 (Naples, 1969), pp. 577–90, 620–33
  • F. Negri Arnoldi: ‘Pietro di Oderisio, Nicola da Monteforte e la scultura campana del primo trecento’, Commentari, 23 (1972), pp. 12–30
  • F. Abbate: ‘Percorso di Antonio Baboccio da Piperno’, Il monumento della regina Margherita di Durazzo (Salerno, 1988), pp. 13–23 [with bibliog.]
  • F. Bologna: ‘La Porta di Capua’, Fridericiana, 1/2 (1990–91), pp. 129–53 [with bibliog.]
(v) Low Countries.
(a) 1250–1300.

Although the influence of northern French cathedral sculpture appeared sporadically in the Netherlands in the first half of the 13th century, for example on the Bergportaal (c. 1230) of St Servatius, Maastricht, the new style became pervasive only after 1250. The initial phase (c. 1250–80) appears on several abbreviated and provincial adaptations of French schemes, including the baptistery portal of Notre-Dame, Dinant, and the Last Judgement portal of St Niklaas, Veurne. The best-preserved is the portal of St Jans Hospitaal (c. 1270–80), Bruges, in which elements of French Coronation and Last Judgement programmes are combined in a single tympanum. A Mosan Virgin and Child (c. 1280; Namur, Mus. Dioc.) from Bourseigne-Vieille is closely based on a Parisian formal type and shows greater maturity. A regional, probably Tournaisian style is represented by the monumental Virgin and Child (c. 1280–1300) in the De Potterie hospital chapel, Bruges, and a series of historiated rib consoles in the choir of St Walburga, Veurne. The workshops of Tournai and the Mosan region (see Romanesque, §III, 1, (viii)) continued to specialize in fonts and funerary monuments in blue-grey limestone, such as for the tomb of Thiery d’Houffalize (d 1282; Houffalize, Ste Catherine).

(b) 1300–1350.

The greater autonomy of Netherlandish sculpture in the first half of the 14th century is shown in the appearance of regional schools, of which the most fully studied is that of the Meuse valley. Statues of the Virgin and Child (c. 1330–50; e.g. Antwerp Cathedral, see fig.; New York, Met.) by the Master of the Marble Madonnas, who was probably active in Liège, are among the finest examples of the mannered elegance and decorative linear complexity then favoured across Europe. White marble, associated with the adoption of grisaille techniques, was used by Gilles de Liège for the impressive black and white marble tombs of Archbishops Walram von Jülich (d 1349) and Wilhelm von Gennep (d 1362; both Cologne Cathedral). Their Mosan origin is suggested by comparison with the Porte de Bethléem (mid-14th century) of Notre-Dame, Huy, and the south portal (c. 1330–40) of Notre-Dame, Dinant. The latter is particularly important for an understanding of this regional school’s origins: the Coronation of the Virgin in the gable is based directly on the reliefs on the exterior of the chevet chapels (c. 1320) of Notre-Dame, Paris, while figures in the archivolt surrounding the tympanum appear to be local variants on French formal types.

The Virgin and Child (c. 1310–20) on the west façade of Tournai Cathedral was an important influence on the Scheldt region for more than a century. Among the finest known examples of the Tournai school is the bluestone tomb effigy of a female figure (?Mahaut, Countess of Artois) in the abbey church of Saint-Denis. This work occupies a transitional position stylistically, combining the elongated, triangular facial type of c. 1300 with the planar and linear drapery, arranged in thin, sharply pointed vertical folds, that became characteristic of Tournai c. 1320–50. The tomb of Jacques Castaigne (d 1327; Tournai, St Jacques) and a female gisant (c. 1330–40) in the former abbey church of Cambron-Casteau illustrate the development towards a more graphic surface treatment.

Although the duchy of Brabant remained open to neighbouring influences, its indigenous tradition is apparent in the architectural sculpture, probably made by a single workshop, of the Lakenhal (begun 1317), Leuven, and in the south transept and aisle of St Genoveva, Oplinter. The hair and beards of the male heads have the abundant corkscrew curls that appear in later Brabantine works, such as several corbels in the tower vault (c. 1341–50) of Notre-Dame-de-Hal and the three huge Kings decorating the north tower of the west façade of Reims Cathedral (Schmidt).

(c) 1350–1430.

The tendency towards simpler, more monumental forms and an increasingly realistic treatment of detail soon after the mid-14th century culminated in André Beauneveu’s life-size alabaster St Catherine (1374–7; Kortrijk, Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk; for illustration see Beauneveu, André). His style, which offers the best point of reference for the local development of Late Gothic sculpture, was rooted in the Scheldt regional tradition (e.g. a statuette of St Catherine, c. 1320; Lille, Mus. B.-A.). Beauneveu was active in the Netherlands and France (see also §III, 1, (i), (c) above) and his influence extended to the end of the century, for example on various figures of the Virgin and Child of Tournai origin, including those on the south-west (c. 1380) and north (c. 1400) portals of Notre-Dame-de-Hal, and in Burgundy at St Just, Arbois; it can also be seen in Tournaisian ‘picture epitaphs’ of the early 15th century. From the early 1370s, however, it was gradually superseded by a Soft style tendency characterized by the more ample, expansive draperies and a deeper commitment to realism apparent in the Coronation of the Virgin (1390–1400) at St Jacques, Liège, and the historiated consoles (c. 1379; destr. 1792) from the façade of Bruges Stadhuis (see Jean de Valenciennes).

Stone sculpture in Brabant at this time was associated with a renewal of the lodge tradition led by Jean d’Oisy and his followers, as demonstrated on the west façade portals (?1360) of Onze Lieve Vrouw ten Poel, Tienen, and the sculpture in the choir of St Rombouts, Mechelen (see §II, 2, (v) above). Brussels was increasingly important by the early 15th century, partly owing to the activity of the master of hakendover (see Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I) on the sculpture (c. 1404–5; Brussels, Mus. Com.) for the belfry portal of Brussels Hôtel de Ville and the Apostles and wall tabernacle (c. 1408–9) in Notre-Dame-de-Hal. Although this sculptor’s realistic style has been associated traditionally with the influence of Claus Sluter, it is more closely dependent on Beauneveu’s late manner. Parallel Soft style tendencies are also encountered in the Tournai Entombment group (c. 1400–10; Ath, Mus. Athois) from Mainvault, which is possibly the earliest such ensemble in European sculpture, and the St Anthony (c. 1408) in the chapel of St Antoine-en-Barbefosse, near Mons.

The stylistic transition of the 1420s is exemplified by the monumental Virgin and Child (1422) in the abbey church at Tongerlo, which exhibits an amplitude of form and drapery motifs that anticipate the Grisaille techniques on the Ghent Altarpiece (c. 1423–32; Ghent, St Bavo; for illustration see Eyck, van family, §1). Important examples of small-scale architectural sculpture from this period in the northern Netherlands include figural consoles (early 15th century) in the choir of St Jan, Maastricht, and historiated bosses (c. 1412–20), possibly by a Brabantine workshop, in the choir of the Pieterskerk, Leiden.

(d) 1430–1530.
  • J. Steyaert

Brussels became the artistic capital of the Netherlands during the Late Gothic period and its influence was to extend eventually to most of Europe. The first indications, however, of a new style appear in the work of Jean Delemer, whose Annunciation (completed 1428; Tournai Cathedral) introduced an eminently spatial narrative presentation enlivened by sharply defined, abruptly angular drapery. The new formal vocabulary emerged a few years later in Brabant, for example on the funerary relief of Ditmar de Brême (d 1439; Anderlecht, collegiate church of SS Pierre et Guidon), which is animated by a rhythmic play of lines. These tendencies culminated in the incisive Late Gothic ‘Hard style’ of surface treatment and facial expression found in the Entombment (c. 1440; Soignies, St Vincent). Later works became less intense, showing an expressive linearity disciplined and modified by an elegance similar to that in the paintings of Rogier van der Weyden. About 1500 this style yielded to one displaying greater breadth and ample volumes.

Although portal sculpture declined in importance, Netherlandish workshops specialized in embellishing church interiors with extraordinarily rich sculptural programmes. These sometimes shared the pictorial and anecdotal themes of contemporary wooden altarpieces (see also §III, 2, (v) below), either as direct copies or in a parallel development as, for example, on the historiated consoles (c. 1440–50) on the exterior of Leuven Stadhuis, or on the narrative groups of the choir-screen at Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk, Aarschot. Monumental stone sculpture remained important, but much has been destroyed: notable survivals include an impressive St Adrian (c. 1460; Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist.), sometimes attributed to Nicolaus Gerhaert, three Apostles (c. 1470–80; ex-Ste Gertrude, Nivelles; Nivelles, Mus. Com. Archéol.) and Entombment groups in the chapel of St André, Binche, and Onze Lieve Vrouwhospitaal, Kortrijk. Work executed elsewhere by Netherlandish sculptors, such as the rich decoration of the priory church at Brou (see Meit [Meijt; Meyt], Conrat), helps to provide a more complete impression of their output.

The transition to Late Gothic in the northern Netherlands may be studied in the remarkable spandrel series that decorates the south portal (c. 1430) of St Janskerk, ’s Hertogenbosch; their discontinuous, although still fluid, surfaces may be compared with the contemporary Apostles in the choir of Aachen Cathedral. A head of St Peter (c. 1440–50; Arnhem, Gemeentemus.) shows how the forms became more rigid and austerely linear. Between c. 1430 and 1450 Utrecht developed into a leading sculptural centre with a distinctive regional style typified by the limestone Saints (c. 1455; Utrecht, Cent. Mus.) from the cathedral, now attributed to Jan Nude. Few examples in stone survive, the most notable being a series of ‘picture epitaphs’ and damaged altarpieces; these, however, are of consistently high quality and originality.


  • J. Duverger: De Brusselsche steenbickeleren der XIVe en XVe eeuw: Klaas Sluter en zijn Brusselsche medewerkers te Dijon (Ghent, 1933)
  • R. Bergius: Französische und belgische Konsol- und Zwickelplastik im 14. und 15. Jahrhundert (Munich, 1936)
  • J. Steppe: Het koordoksaal in de Nederlanden (Brussels, 1952)
  • D. Roggen: ‘Prae-Sluteriaanse, Sluteriaanse, post-Sluteriaanse Nederlandse sculptuur’, Gentse bijdragen tot de kunstgeschiedenis en de oudheidkunde [Ghent contributions to art history and archaeology; prev. pubd as & cont. as Gent. Bijdr. Kstgesch.], 16 (1956), pp. 111–87
  • R. Didier, M. Henss and J. A. Schmoll gen. Eisenwerth: ‘Une Vierge tournaisienne à Arbois (Jura) et le problème des Vierges de Hal: Contribution à la chronologie et à la typologie’, Bulletin monumental, 128/2 (1970), pp. 93–113
  • G. Schmidt: ‘Bemerkungen zur Königsgalerie der Kathedrale von Reims’, Wiener Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte [prev. pubd as Jb. Kstgesch.; Jb. Ksthist. Inst.; Kstgesch. Jb. Ksr.-Kön. Zent.-Komm. Erforsch. & Erhaltung Kst. & Hist. Dkml.], 25 (1972), pp. 96–106
  • Rhein und Maas: Kunst und Kultur, 800–1400 (exh. cat., Cologne, Ksthalle; Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist.; 1972)
  • R. Didier: ‘Skulpturen des Maasgebiets aus Jahren 1330–1360’, Westfalen, 55 (1977), pp. 8–29
  • K. Morand: ‘Claus Sluter: The Early Years’, Liber amicorum Herman Libaers, ed. F. Vanwijngaerden and others (Brussels, 1984), pp. 561–84
  • R. Didier: La Sculpture mosane du XIVe siècle (Namur, 1993)
(vi) Portugal.
  • Pedro Dias

Gothic sculpture did not appear in Portugal until the mid-13th century. Development was slow, and until the 14th century its quality lagged behind that in the main centres of France and Germany. The principal centre of production was Coimbra, which was then the main royal residence. The patronage of the court was augmented by that of the bishops and the city’s many monasteries and collegiate churches, which were influential throughout the country. Good quality Ançã stone was readily available and there were excellent facilities for river transport. Although much fine work was also produced after 1340 in association with the court circle of Lisbon, for example the tomb of Lobo Fernandes Pacheco (Lisbon Cathedral), and under the patronage of Bishop Pedro of Évora, including the west portal, the cloisters and the Bishop’s tomb in Évora Cathedral, it has been estimated that nearly three quarters of Portuguese Gothic sculpture was made in Coimbra. Most sculpture was for tombs and single figures. Altarpieces were few and small, and Portuguese taste did not extend to large figured portals: the west façade (c. 1400–c. 1420) of Batalha Abbey, although probably made by a workshop from Coimbra, may owe much to the possible origins of its designer, Huguet, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

The figures on the earliest Gothic tombs, such as those of Bishops Tiburcio (d 1246), Egas Fafes (1286; both Coimbra, Sé Velha) and the Infante Rodrigo Sanches (Grijó, monastery of S Salvador), are more stiffly portrayed than those of the preceding Romanesque style. Greater naturalism, however, was gradually introduced, notably in the historiated capitals in the cloister of the monastery of Celas, Coimbra. Portuguese sculpture in the early 14th century was revolutionized by the arrival of the Aragonese Mestre Pêro, who was responsible for the tombs of St Isabel (d 1336; Coimbra, convent of S Clara), Archbishop Gonçalo Pereira (Braga Cathedral) and the Greek princess Vetaça (Coimbra, Sé Velha). The output of his busy workshop, for example the tomb of Dona Leonor (Santarém, S Clara) and sculpture in Oporto, Lamego (Lamego, Mus. Reg.), and the parish church at Oliveira do Hospital, became steadily more graceful and accomplished. It is difficult to ascribe to any single workshop the limestone tombs of Peter I and Inês de Castro (commissioned 1355) in Alcobaça Abbey (see Alcobaça Abbey, §1), the highest achievements of Portuguese Gothic sculpture. The influence of the best French workshops cannot be excluded, but the basic tradition is that of Coimbra, raised to a peak by the King’s wish to surpass all previous memorials.

From the 14th century tombs in northern Portugal were occasionally executed in granite and decorated with hunting scenes along the sides of the sarcophagus; the most outstanding example is the enormous tomb of Pedro, Count of Barcelos (d 1354) in the former Cistercian abbey church at São João da Tarouca. During the early 15th century individual statues, including figures of the Virgin and Child (e.g. Coimbra, Mus. N. Machado de Castro), display the Burgundian influence that was then current in Spain. The final phase of Gothic sculpture in Portugal was represented by the intricately entwined architectural decoration characteristic of the Manueline style (see also §II, 2, (viii) above).


  • V. Correia: Três túmulos (Lisbon, 1924)
  • V. Correia: ‘A escultura em Portugal nos séculos XII, XIII e XIV’, Biblos (Coimbra, 1929)
  • R. dos Santos: A escultura em Portugal, 2 vols (Lisbon, 1950–51)
  • A. Nogueira Conçalves: Estudos de história da arte medieval (Coimbra, 1978)
  • P. Dias: O gótico (1986), iv of História da arte em Portugal (Lisbon, 1986)
(vii) Scandinavia.
  • Jan Svanberg

Stone sculpture was much less widespread in Scandinavia than it had been in the preceding centuries (see Romanesque, §III, 1, (xi)). This partly reflected the changing iconography of baptismal fonts, which usually were no longer decorated with biblical scenes. Of greater importance, however, was the increasing use of brick as a building material for Gothic churches in Denmark, Skåne and the region of Mälardalen, west of Stockholm. Accordingly there was little demand for architectural sculpture in stone throughout much of Scandinavia and building in cut stone, which was mainly executed by specially imported workshops, continued only where suitable material was easily accessible, for example in Norway and central Sweden. Unlike many of their Romanesque predecessors, Gothic sculptors did not sign their work.

Soft soapstone continued to be worked in Norway, notably at Trondheim Cathedral, which was the main centre for stone sculpture in the 13th century (see Trondheim, §2, (ii)). The most expressive examples are the large statues of Christ, the Apostles and various saints (1260s–1270s) on the west façade, which were carved in a mature French Gothic style of swelling draperies, corkscrew curls and well-balanced contrapposto. With this important exception, Norwegian sculpture was dominated by English influences. The new choir (1272–1303) of Stavanger Cathedral, for example, was decorated with many corbel heads representing the king, duke and bishop. Similarly lively and well-characterized heads (1280s; Oslo, Hist. Mus.) have survived from Oslo Cathedral (destr.). The portal of the church at Eidsberg, decorated with an enthroned St Olav and two atlantids, is a rare example of Gothic stone sculpture in a parish church.

In Sweden sandstone was employed in Västergötland. The development from Early Gothic around the mid-13th century to High Gothic at the end of the century may be traced on portals, corbel heads and two princely tombs in the Cistercian abbey churches at Varnhem and Gudhem, and at Skara Cathedral. English influence may be discerned in the green men, rulers and founders on the corbel heads, some of which resemble portraiture, and on the capitals in the choir of the Nikolaikyrkan, Örebro. About 1320 the blind arcades at the west end of the nave at Linköping Cathedral were richly embellished with sculptural decoration (see Linköping, §1). The figures represented include two wrestlers, someone pulling out a thorn and an elderly half-naked couple, who are shown defecating. These contrast with the courteous expressions, wavy hair and detailed costumes, including chain mail and a veil, that characterize the protruding male and female heads leaning towards each other from the spandrels in five of the arches. Exuberant foliage on the arcade in the Decorated style and contemporary English coins found underneath point to the presence of English artists; the closest parallel to the heads appears in the arch of the blind arcade of the choir screen at Southwell Minster. The same sculptor also carved green men on the roof bosses in the nave vaults, which are by turns frighteningly distorted or sadly beautiful. He was succeeded by a German who set his mark on refined tympanum reliefs of scenes from the Nativity and Passion (c. 1330), which were arranged in several registers, in the German fashion, above the south portal (fragments now inside the church).

In 1287 stone-carvers from Paris under the leadership of Etienne de Bonneuil were summoned to Uppsala Cathedral. Only two of the limestone column statues they made for the portals have survived. There are, however, 24 seated Apostles and Prophets in soapstone on the double archivolt of the south portal and 6 reliefs (some restored) of the Creation on the lintel. All are in elegant French style of well-balanced, harmonizing forms. Construction had originally been in limestone, but the German workshop that took over in the early 1300s worked in brick. Its stone architectural sculpture for a sequence of 12 dramatic corbel reliefs includes Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, the Death of the Virgin and two unusual subjects, the Jewish Sow (an anti-Semitic motif of mainly German origin) and the Swedish tale of Staffan the Stableboy, shown watering his horses under the star of Bethlehem.

Conditions were very different on Gotland, where more than 50 parish churches were decorated with limestone sculpture, especially during the first half of the 14th century. Production was dominated by a large workshop known as Egypticus, which decorated portals with reliefs, churchtowers with imaginative gargoyles and put large masks on interior capitals and corbels. The workshop’s lively narrative style was influenced by the German-inspired reliefs of Linköping and Uppsala cathedrals. The figures are proportionately small with large heads, and hems are represented by a double-lined border. Scenes from the Life of Christ, especially the Infancy of Christ, are most frequently presented, often including elements reflecting daily life on Gotland, for example on the south portal of Stånga Church. One of the finest cycles was carved by Fabulator, the leading sculptor of the Egypticus workshop, on the three portals of Martebo church, one of which contains the Nativity, Presentation in the Temple and the Flight into Egypt.

The only important centre for Gothic sculpture during the later 15th century was Linköping Cathedral, where the choir was completed in two campaigns (c. 1408–20 and 1487–1500), for the second of which sculptors were summoned from Cologne. One known as the Mimic Master decorated corbels and two tabernacles with animatedly grimacing and gesticulating figures. Adam van Düren, who executed some 16 heraldic bosses in the choir, entered the service of the Danish king in the late 1490s; many of his reliefs bear his mark.


  • H. Fett: Billedhuggerkunsten i Norge under Sverraetten [The art of sculpture in Norway at the time of the Sverre dynasty] (Kristiania, 1908)
  • G. Boëthius and A. Romdahl: Uppsala domkyrka, 1258–1435 (Uppsala, 1935)
  • F. Nordström: Virtues and Vices on the 14th-century Corbels in the Choir of Uppsala Cathedral, Acta U. Upsaliensis: Figura, 7 (1956)
  • G. Fischer: Domkirken i Stavanger (Oslo, 1964) [Eng. summary]
  • G. Fischer: Kirkebygget i middelalderen [Church building in the Middle Ages] (1965), i of Domkirken i Trondheim (Oslo, 1965)
  • E. Lagerlöf: Gotländsk stenskulptur från gotiken: En stenhuggarverkstad på 1300-talet [Gothic stone sculpture from Gotland: a stone-carving workshop from the 1300s] (Stockholm, 1975)
  • B. Cnattingius: Studier i Linköpings domkyrkas byggnadshistoria [Studies in the building history of Linköping Cathedral] (Stockholm, 1977)
  • R. Edenheim and I. Rosell: Varnhems klosterkyrka, Sveriges Kyrkor, Konsthistoriskt Inventarium, cxc (Stockholm, 1982)
  • B. Cnattingius and others: Linköpings domkyrka, Sveriges Kyrkor, Konsthistoriskt Inventarium, cc–cci (Stockholm, 1987) [Eng. summary and captions]
  • J. Svanberg: Furstebilder från Folkungatid [Portraits of princes from the time of the Folkungs] (Skara, 1987)
  • Age of Chivalry: Art in Plantagenet England, 1200–1400 (exh. cat., ed. J. Alexander and P. Binski; London, RA, 1987), pp. 324–7
(viii) Spain.

Scholars have devised various terms to describe the new trends that developed in Spanish sculpture in the late 12th century: Yarza, for example, referred to the period as marking the ‘dissolution of the Romanesque’. The Pórtico de la Gloría (c. 1188) carved by Mateo at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral (see Santiago de Compostela, §1, (ii)) belongs to a series of works from the last third of the 12th century in which the sculptors drew on elements imported from south-west France, Burgundy and the Ile-de-France, without abandoning Romanesque traditions (see also §II, 1, (vi) above). The resulting style has been termed ‘proto-Gothic’ (Azcárate) or ‘Early Gothic’ (Ara).

(a) 13th and 14th centuries.
Castile and León.

The evolution towards both a free and elegant form and the idealizing naturalism evident at Santiago was more fully developed by the arrival of craftsmen from northern France early in the 13th century. The earliest examples of Gothic sculpture in Spain appear on the west façade portal (c. 1218–36) of Túy Cathedral in Galicia (see Túy, §1). Two sculptors have been identified, working in a style that draws inspiration from the cathedrals at Laon, Sens and Chartres. To the south in León, the west portal of Ciudad Rodrigo Cathedral has been dated after 1224 by Gómez Moreno (see Ciudad Rodrigo, §2). The figures of Abraham, the Queen of Sheba, Solomon, Moses and David are related to earlier examples at Chartres.

The cathedrals of Burgos, León and Toledo provide the finest collections of Spanish High Gothic sculpture, reflecting the rivalries between their respective provinces of Old Castile, León and New Castile. The earliest, Burgos Cathedral (see Burgos, §2, (i), (b)), was built after 1221 with a donation by Ferdinand III (reg 1217–52), who had combined the crowns of Castile and León and wished to make Burgos his royal city in opposition to León. Since Bishop Maurice (reg 1217–38) had travelled in France and was aware of the latest artistic changes in the neighbouring country, it is not surprising that artists were summoned from France. The Puerta del Sarmental (c. 1235–40) in the south transept, for example, shows the influence of the master responsible for the trumeau Christ (‘Beau Dieu’) at Amiens (see Amiens, §1, (ii)). Whereas for emblematic reasons the representation of the apocalyptic Christ surrounded by tetramorph, Apostles and the elders of the Apocalypse employs archaic iconography that had been typical of Romanesque sculpture but had been obsolete in France from c. 1170, the Last Judgement on the north transept’s Puerta de los Apóstolores (or de la Coronería; c. 1240) draws on the account by St Matthew (24:29–51) and has direct links with work at Chartres. The cloister portal (after 1260) is a harmonious work extolling the coming of Christ as God and Messiah; the figures to the side have sometimes been identified as Ferdinand II and Beatrice of Hohenzollern. Although the three portals of the west façade, dedicated to the Virgin, were destroyed in the 18th century, much of the interior sculpture and the narrative scenes carved on the corbels and capitals of the cloisters has survived.

León Cathedral (begun c. 1255) is a synthesis of various French churches. As work continued throughout the second half of the 13th century, its sculpture varied widely in quality and style (Franco Mata; see León, §II, 1, (ii)). Its architect, Master Enrique, was also Master of the Works at Burgos Cathedral, from where he copied the design of the south transept portal, although the León example is of notably inferior quality. The diaphanous west portals imitate those of the transepts of Chartres Cathedral. Sculptors from Burgos included the so-called Master of La Virgen Blanca, who carved the central figure of the Virgin and Child. Above this are particularly fine figures of the Blessed by the Master of the Last Judgement, who followed French models. The importance of funerary sculpture in León, of which sculptors from the cathedral workshop produced such outstanding examples as the tomb of Bishop Martín Fernández (reg 1254–89; León Cathedral), has been insufficiently recognized.

The innovations at Burgos and León spread to the neighbouring regions. The portals at S María la Real, Sasamón, and S Estéban (late 13th century), near Castrojeriz, for example, were both influenced by sculpture at Burgos, and the south transept portal of El Burgo de Osma Cathedral, which was begun in 1232 but remained unfinished until the following century, shows the influence specifically of the Puerta del Sarmental. The figures on the doorjambs, however, are inspired by such Leonese sculpture as the north portal (late 13th century) of Ávila Cathedral (see Ávila, §2, (i), (b)).

The sculptural decoration of the cloisters at Burgos Cathedral served as a model for others in Castile and León, including those of Oviedo Cathedral (late 13th century–mid-15th). The cloisters of León Cathedral were also begun towards the end of the 13th century and construction continued until the 16th. The decoration includes biblical scenes, Apostles and saints, fables and legends, scenes from daily life, Virtues and Vices, real and fantastic animals, heraldic devices and vegetation.

Similar influences were also exported to the province of Palencia. The so-called Master of the Jambs was responsible for the portal of the Templars’ church of S María la Blanca at Villalcázar de Sirga, which also contains the tombs of Felipe (d 1274), brother of Alfonso X, King of Castile, and his wife. A number of sculptors are documented in Palencia, Valladolid and León, including Pedro Pintor, who carved the tomb of Alvar Fernández Podestat (d 1262; Carrión de los Condes, Convento de S Zoilo), and Roi Martínez de Burueva, who was responsible for the tomb of Rodrigo Gonzáles Girón in the monastery of Nuestra Señora de Benavides, near León. Between 1230 and the early 14th century many tombs were commissioned by members of the Castañeda, Villalobos, Beni-Gómez, Téllez de Meseses and other noble families. The west Puerta de la Majestad (late 13th century) of the collegiate church of S María la Mayor, Toro, combines within its original iconographic programme the influences of the Puerta de la Coronería at Burgos and the León Master of the Last Judgement.

The dense iconographic programme of sculpture, which covers the three archivolts, the tympanum, lintel and jambs of the Puerta del Reloj (1280–1300) at Toledo Cathedral is connected to the Mozarabic liturgy; it includes scenes of the Infancy and Ministry of Christ and others of the Life and Martyrdom of St Ildefonsus (Pérez Higuera). Italian influence, although less extensive in Toledo than in Aragon (see below), became important in the 14th century and may be seen in the treatment of the Deposition. Toledo’s importance in the 14th century is reflected in the funerary chapels and tombs of Cardinal Gil de Albornoz (d 1367) and Archbishop Pedro Tenorio (d 1399, by Fernán González). The city’s pluralist religious nature is well displayed on the 57 reliefs of scenes from Genesis and Exodus placed on the outer panels of the choir-screens. These correspond to the 12 prophesies that appear in the Easter Vigil readings. Medieval legends were also inserted. Adam, in the Creation of Adam, is shown without a navel, a tradition drawn from Jewish texts that indicates a clear connection with the iconography of haggadot, especially the Sarajevo Haggadah (14th century; Sarajevo, N. Mus.)

Although there are fine examples of ‘proto-Gothic’ sculpture in the province of Alava, including those at S Andrés (begun c. 1181), Armentia, and S María (early 13th century), Estíbaliz, it was not until the 14th century that Vitoria became an important political centre. This was accompanied by a frenzied building campaign and the formation of a sculptural workshop of exceptional originality, in spite of the influence of Burgos, Navarre and other nearby workshops. Its work may be seen, for example, in S María (now the cathedral) on the portal of St Anne, which lies west of the transept on the Epistle side, and the scenes from the Life of the Virgin on the more monumental west portal. The exaltation of the Virgin is also the theme of the magnificent portal (late 14th century) of S María de los Reyes, Laguardia, which was then under the control of Navarre.


During the 14th century a splendid artistic tradition developed in the kingdom of Navarre, which had close dynastic contacts with France. This was based on an eclectic stylistic combination of French, Castilian, German and English influences and mainly centred around Pamplona. Bishop Arnaldo de Barbazán (reg 1318–55) was an enthusiastic patron whose commissions included the north and east walks of the cloisters and their associated buildings at Pamplona Cathedral, which constitutes one of the most accomplished ensembles in Spanish sculpture (see Pamplona, §2). The Puerta Preciosa in the cloisters is an extraordinary work decorated with scenes of the Death and Coronation of the Virgin taken from apocryphal texts. Other sculpture includes that on the portal of Nuestra Señora del Amparo and on the pulpit, corbels and bosses in the refectory, which is believed to date from before 1330, while the tombs of Bishop Barbazán, Miguel Sánchez de Asiaín (d 1364) and a princess, perhaps Blanca (c. 1370), the daughter of Charles I, King of Navarre (reg 1349–87), are notable examples of funerary art. Elsewhere in Navarre, the doorway (third quarter of the 14th century) of S María, Ujué, displays a rich sculptural array.


Although French influence was not absent from Catalonia in the 13th century, the distinctively eclectic forms of Catalan Gothic did not develop until the reign of James II, King of Aragon (reg 1291–1327), as a result of cultural and political relations with southern France (Durliat) and southern Italy (Franco; see also §II, 2, (vii), (a) above). Trading relations with Liguria and Tuscany also encouraged artistic contact with those regions. Funerary art was especially sensitive to Italian trends: the royal tombs in Palermo Cathedral, for example, inspired the series in the abbey church at Santes Creus, including those of Peter III (1291, by Master Bartomeu), James II and his first wife Blanche of Anjou (d 1310). The tomb of Archbishop Juan de Aragón (d 1334; Tarragona Cathedral) is closely related to Tuscan sculpture, especially that of Tino di Camaino, Andrea Pisano and Nino Pisano. Pisan influences associated with Giovanni Pisano (Franco, 1988) are apparent in the reliefs of scenes from the saint’s life on the alabaster sarcophagus of St Eulalia (1327; Barcelona Cathedral); the first stage of these was carried out by a pupil of Giovanni Pisano named Lupo di Francesco.

Lleida was also sensitive to the influence of Italian sculpture, generally blended with ideas from southern France, or drawing on the Italianizing Gothic forms that were developing in Catalonia. Italian influence is also evident in such outstanding products of the Girona workshop, which developed in the second half of the 14th century (see Girona, §1, (ii)), as the alabaster retable dedicated to the White Virgin and the tomb of the Blessed Miró in the collegiate church of San Joan de les Abadesses. The influence of English sculpture, alongside that of Italian, may be seen at Huesca and Valencia in the first half of the century. The Puerta de los Apóstoles in Valencia Cathedral, for example, contains Anglo-French elements and has been associated with Nicolás de Antona (or Southampton; fl 1304). It served as the model for the portals at S María la Mayor, Morella, and S María, Sagunto.

Stone retables were characteristic of Catalonia in the 14th and 15th centuries: more than 50 survive, spread throughout the region. They are usually large, dedicated to the Virgin or to saints, and the decoration is strongly narrative in tone. One of the most beautiful examples is the alabaster retable of the Virgin (c. 1345) in S María, Cornellà del Conflent, signed by Jaume Cascalls, who was perhaps the foremost sculptor in Catalonia in the 14th century. He was one of several artists, including Master Aloi (fl 1351), Pedro Guines and, after 1363, Jordi de Deu (fl c. 1361–1418), who were commissioned by Peter IV (reg 1336–87) to work on the royal tombs (fragments in situ) at Poblet Abbey. Various influences may be discerned in Cascalls’s style, including that of his father-in-law, Ferrer Bassa, the most Italianate painter in the region. Cascalls was also Master of the Works at the Seu Vella, Lleida, and collaborated on the retable of St Ursula in S Llorenç, Lleida. The retable (1376) by Bartomeu Robio in Lleida Cathedral is a further demonstration of how Catalan artists in the second half of the century had assimilated foreign influences and developed a personal style.

The sculptor and goldsmith Pere Moragues, who was documented in Barcelona from 1358 and lived in Saragossa from 1379 to 1385, executed several works for Peter IV. The tomb of Archbishop Lope Fernández de Luna (1379–c. 1382) in the ‘Parroquieta’ (parish chapel) of Saragossa Cathedral is a beautiful example of 14th-century Catalan funerary art, with the Apostles on the front of the sarcophagus and the Entombment and saints set below. The tomb of Juan Fernández de Heredia in the collegiate church at Caspe (Saragossa) is also attributed to him.

(b) Early 15th century.

The export of wool to the south Netherlands from the reign of John I, King of Castile (reg 1379–90), enriched many aristocratic families. In the absence of strong royal government, their rivalry sometimes manifested itself in ostentatious displays of wealth. John II (reg 1406–54), for example, left control to the all-powerful Álvaro de Luna (d 1453), who built his imposing castle–palace at Escalona from 1435 and funerary chapel (1440s) in Toledo Cathedral, both of which have lavish heraldic decoration (see Luna family). Even before the end of the 14th century the work of Ça Anglada, Pere displays signs of the Netherlandish influence, introduced from the duchy of Burgundy (see §III, 1, (i), (d) above), that was to be the dominant stylistic trend in Castile, Aragon and Navarre for most of the first half of the 15th century. Features of the style include a characteristic fusing of pathos and melancholy, and the arrangement of heavy folds of thick drapery to produce chiaroscuro effects.


The new influences were soon incorporated into funerary sculpture. One of the most representative examples is the tomb of Bishop Alonso Carrillo de Albornóz (d 1439) in the presbytery of Sigüenza Cathedral. The recumbent figure, shown as if asleep with the head and body turned slightly to one side, and the singing angels that keep vigil at the head and feet are dominated by a sense of movement and naturalness. The biblical figures arranged beneath the arcosolium are elegantly dressed and have individualized expressions. Across the front of the sarcophagus are three narrative reliefs, dated by inscription to 1426, which run together to form a frieze of the Life of St Eustace.

Around Valladolid, Burgundian influence is evident in the tombs of María de Molina (c. 1410–c. 1430; Valladolid, convent of Las Huelgas) and Doña Juana Enriquez (1444; Torrelobatón, SS María y Pedro). The Founder’s Chapel (1430–35) in the convent of S Clara, Tordesillas, is one of the purest examples of the style and contains monumental statues of the Apostles and the tombs of Fernán López de Saldaña, his wife Elvira de Acebedo, their family and Elvira de Portocarrero, the first wife of Don Alvaro de Luna. The alabaster effigies of Gómez de Manrique and Sancha de Rojas (second quarter of the 15th century; Burgos, Mus. Arqueol. Prov.), which were originally placed in their funerary chapel in the Hieronymite monastery of Fresdeval, show French influence, although they are more realistic in approach. The tomb in the church of the Hospital of Simon Ruiz, Medina del Campo, of Fray Lope de Barrientos, Bishop of Segovia (d 1454), is notable for the original manner in which the deceased is shown kneeling at prayer. This pose may have been taken from the statues intended for the tomb of Álvaro de Luna and Doña Juana de Pimentel (c. 1440; destr.; fragments in Toledo Cathedral). The Bishop’s tomb is the first stone example of the type, which became widespread by the end of the century (see §(c) below), for example for the tomb of Peter the Cruel (c. 1450; Madrid, Mus. Arqueol. N.).


There is abundant documentary evidence of connections between Catalan and Mallorcan artists and the south Netherlands, and of northern masters working in Aragon. Pere Ça Anglada’s assistants in the execution of the upper choir-stalls (1394–9) of Barcelona Cathedral included Antoni Canet, Pere Oller and the Picardian Pere de Sant Joan, who was later Master of the Works at the cathedrals of Gerona and Palma de Mallorca. Canet’s alabaster tomb of Bishop Ramon d’Escales (1409; Barcelona Cathedral) incorporates a frieze of weepers that shows close familiarity with Franco-Flemish models derived from the work of Claus Sluter. The presence of Juan de la Huerta in Dijon from the 1430s provides evidence that artistic exchange was not limited to one direction. Another representative, and well-travelled, artist during the first phase of Franco-Flemish influence was Guillem Sagrera, who was active in Perpignan and Naples as well as Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca, where he carved the magnificent St Peter (1422) on the Portal del Mirador of the cathedral, and probably also SS Paul and John.

Pere Johan (d after 1458), the son of Jordi de Deu, provides a link to the Catalan artists of the previous generation who were influenced by Italian sculpture. This continuing tradition, which was further demonstrated by the 12 marble reliefs of scenes from the Old Testament and New Testament (1418–24) carved by Giuliano Fiorentino for the rood screen in the old choir of Valencia Cathedral, is evident in Pere’s roundel of St George (1418) on the balustrade of the Palau de la Generalitat, Barcelona. He executed notably expressive reliefs of scenes from the Life of St Thecla for the retablo mayor (1426–33) of Tarragona Cathedral (see Tarragona, §2). From 1444 until 1450, when he went to Naples, he worked on the retable of Saragossa Cathedral; this was completed (1477–80) by Hans von Gmünd.


Navarre’s close links with France ensured that Sluter’s influence, as introduced through Avignon (see §III, 1, (i), (d) above) and Toulouse, was soon evident in the kingdom. There were also direct connections with Burgundy, since Lome [le Home], Jehan lived in Dijon from 1405 to 1410 and is documented in Navarre from the following year. The hooded weepers and lamenting ladies of the court set in niches along the tomb-chest of his finest work, the marble and alabaster tomb of Charles III and Eleonor of Castile (1413–19; Pamplona Cathedral), are influenced by those processing around the tomb of Philip the Bold (Dijon, Mus. B.-A.; for illustration see Weeper).

(c) Later 15th century and the early 16th.

The most expressive reflection of the realism introduced through the influence of Netherlandish painting towards the mid-15th century is the tomb of Bishop Bernat de Pau (d 1457; Girona Cathedral), the recumbent figure of which recalls that of Cardinal Juan de Cervantes (d 1453; Seville Cathedral) by Lorenzo Mercadante (see below). The former is one of the period’s few important examples of stone sculpture in eastern Spain, since patronage had shifted towards Castile and Andalusia.


The gradual evolution from Castilian Flamboyant towards the last manifestation of Gothic in Spain, the Hispano-Flemish style (see also §II, 2, (vii), (b) above), was led not by Spanish artists but by those who had come from Germany, the south Netherlands and northern France, attracted by the possibility of work or at the request of a prelate: Juan de Colonia, for example, was probably summoned by Alonso de Cartagena, Bishop of Burgos (reg 1415–56). Just as Jorge Inglés introduced the latest trends in Flemish painting to the Castilian court, and as Hanequin de Bruselas brought the most modern architectural styles to Toledo, so Mercadante, Egas Cueman and Juan Alemán adapted northern sculptural techniques to the requirements of Spanish patrons for retables, tombs and religious images, rather than architectural sculpture. Egas Cueman, for example, adopted the recently developed wall-tomb type with a kneeling effigy for the tomb of Alonso de Velasco and his wife (1467–80; Monastery of Guadalupe; see Egas family, §1) but decorated it with a wealth of south Netherlandish detail.

The artists of the next generation integrated these northern Gothic elements with the native Mudéjar decoration to create the exuberance of Hispano-Flemish. In Toledo the surprising results of this combination may be seen in the rich exterior decoration of the apse and the abundant interior statuary at S Juan de los Reyes (founded 1476; see fig. above), designed by Juan Guas. The sculptural tradition that developed in Toledo is particularly well illustrated by the double tomb of Álvaro de Luna and Doña Juana de Pimentel (1489; Toledo Cathedral) by Sebastián de Toledo.

Burgos was the second important artistic centre during the second half of the 15th century (see Burgos, §2). Members of the Colonia, de family family and their extensive workshop were active here for more than six decades after Juan de Colonia’s arrival c. 1442. The increasingly Spanish nature of their later output, such as the decoration devised in Valladolid for the façades of the Colegio of S Gregorio (1487–96; for illustration see Valladolid) and of S Pablo (c. 1492), demonstrates the evolution away from their Lower Rhenish origins to the Hispano-Flemish style. For the last two decades of the 15th century the Colonia workshop’s dominance, now overseen by Simón de Colonia (see Colonia, de family, §2), was rivalled by that of Gil de Siloe. His tombs in the charterhouse of Miraflores, near Burgos, include the alabaster double tomb of John II and Isabella of Portugal (1489–93; for illustration see Siloé, de family, §1) and the wall tomb of the Infante Alfonso (1489–93). The latter is of the type showing the prince at prayer, as is that of Juan de Padilla (c. 1500–03; ex-Fresdeval Monastery; Burgos, Mus. Arqueol. Prov.), in which early traces of French Renaissance influence are discernible, perhaps owing to the presence in Burgos of Felipe Vigarny after 1498.


Córdoba and Seville had passed to Castilian control in the 13th century and until the mid-15th century Andalusian sculpture was closely linked to that of Castile, with an important workshop at Seville Cathedral. From 1454 the Breton Lorenzo Mercadante was active there, working in the most highly developed, austere, Netherlandish–Burgundian style. One of his first works for Seville Cathedral must have been the alabaster tomb of Cardinal Juan de Cervantes (d 1453) and he was to show his versatility as a modeller in the outstanding decoration of the Puerta del Nacimiento on the west façade, most of which was executed in coloured terracotta between 1464 and 1467. This technique imbues the figures with a profound emotional impact. Mercadante was followed in the use of terracotta by Pedro Millán who was active in Seville from 1487 to 1507. His sculpture displays an eclectic combination of Hispanic iconography and south Netherlandish influence, while his later work, for example the tondo of SS Cosmas and Damian (1504) for the portal of S Paula, Seville, incorporates ideas from Renaissance art..


  • A. Durán i Sanpere: Els retaules de pedra, Monumenta Cataloniae, 2 vols (Barcelona, 1932–4)
  • B. G. Proske: Castilian Sculpture: Gothic to Renaissance (New York, 1951)
  • M. Durliat: ‘Sculpteurs français en Catalogne dans la première moitié du XIVe siècle’, Pallas, 8 (1959) pp. 91–103
  • M. Gómez Moreno: Provincia de Salamanca, Catálogo Monumental de España, 2 vols (Madrid, 1967)
  • J. M. de Azcárate: El protogótico hispánico (Madrid, 1974)
  • S. Moralejo: Escultura gótica en Galicia, 1200–1350 (Santiago de Compostela, 1975)
  • A. Franco Mata: La escultura gótica en León (León, 1976)
  • C. J. Ara Gil: Escultura gótica en Valladolid y su provincia (Valladolid, 1977)
  • R. S. Janke: Jehan Lomme y la escultura gótica posterior en Navarra (Pamplona, 1977)
  • J. Yarza: Arte y arquitectura en España, 500–1250 (Madrid, 1979), pp. 249–309
  • A. Franco: Escultura gótica española en el siglo XIV y sus relaciones con la Italia trecentista (Madrid, 1984)
  • T. Pérez Higuera: La Puerta del Reloj en la catedral de Toledo (Toledo, 1987)
  • A. Franco: ‘Relaciones hispano–italianas de la escultura funeraria del siglo XIV’, La idea y el sentimiento de la muerte en la historia y en el arte: Santiago de Compostela, 1988, pp. 99–125
  • J. Yarza Luaces: ‘La capilla funeraria hispana en torno a 1400’, La idea y el sentimiento de la muerte en la historia y en el arte: Santiago de Compostela, 1988, pp. 67–91
  • J. M. de Azcárate: Arte gótico en España (Madrid, 1990)
  • J. Ara: ‘Un grupo de sepulcros palentinos del siglo XIII: Los primeros talleres de Carrión de los Condes, Pedro Pintor y Roi Martínez de Burueva’, II curso de cultura medieval ‘Alfonso VIII y su época’: Aguilar de Campoo, 1992, pp. 21–52

2. Wood.

(i) Introduction.
  • Peta Evelyn, Ulrich Henze and Dany Sandron

Throughout much of western Europe the surviving Gothic wood sculpture gives little indication of its original distribution and the quantities that were produced. In many regions nearly all has been destroyed owing to fire, damage by insects and fungi, iconoclasm or changing tastes: even the mightiest of carved altarpieces in Germany, for example, were sometimes broken up since they appeared to have no place in Baroque church interiors. Wood was used for cult statues, crucifixes, groups such as the Entombment or Calvary, and liturgical furnishings—bench ends, screens and choir-stalls—as well as large altarpieces. Stylistically, the carvers worked in close relation to craftsmen in other media.

Later engravings of sculptors at work and the evidence of some surviving sculptures, for example a Virgin and Child (c. 1220–40; Oslo, U. Oldsaksaml.) from Enebakk Church in Norway, show that the block of wood was supported by clamps or cylindrical shafts at the ends and the sculpture roughed out with an axe or adze. Various chisels and drills, which are represented on a misericord of 1383–92 at All Hallows, Wellingborough, England, were then used to carve the figure, and the surface was smoothed as much as possible to receive a gesso ground, pigment, gilding and even incrustations, in a technique similar to that used in panel painting. In order to prevent the wood splitting as it dried, the backs were often hollowed out.

Jacques de Baerze: Crucifixion altarpiece, wood with gilt and polychromy, h. 1.67 m, from the Charterhouse of Champmol, Dijon, France, begun 1390 (Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts); photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Wood sculpture was always painted until the 15th century, and the surviving works give little idea of its original appearance. Wood was regarded as inferior to precious metals, ivory, marble, alabaster and other stones, which were themselves never painted all over. It was not until about 1400 that wood achieved the same status as other media, and the change came about partly as a result of advances in wood-carving techniques. The carver and the painter were often the same person. In France, for instance, the term imagier can refer to both carving and painting sculptures. Yet the two altarpieces (installed 1399; Dijon, Mus. B.-A.; see fig.) commissioned by Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, from Jacques de Baerze for the Charterhouse of Champmol were expressly required to be painted by Melchior Broederlam. Like sculptors in stone, specialist wood-sculptors seem to have emerged towards the end of the 13th century: if the Livres des Métiers of Etienne Boileau can be trusted, it was at this time that figure sculptors were being distinguished from general carpenters, although the latter continued to produce works that modern scholars would unhesitatingly classify as sculpture.

(ii) Low Countries.
(a) 1240–1300.

Studies have shown the assimilation of French Gothic influence in the Meuse region during the 13th century. The hieratic expression formerly apparent in statues of the Virgin and Child Enthroned was gradually replaced by a greater naturalism, for example in that of c. 1240 in St Leonardus, Zoutleeuw. The fluid, rounded folds characteristic of the ‘style of 1200’ were simplified (e.g. Hamont Church) and then rigidified into angular, sharply broken drapery forms (e.g. c. 1240–50; Huy, St Mort). The earliest local standing Virgin and Child (c. 1240; oak; Tongeren, Onze Lieve Vrouwebasiliek) is somewhat provincial, but later examples (e.g. c. 1260–70; Rotselaar, St Pieter), probably under the influence of French ivories, are closer to French models in style and execution; by the end of the century this type had largely superseded that of the sedes sapientiae. Other figures (e.g. Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist.; Buenos Aires, priv. col.) until c. 1300 were based on the Rotselaar Virgin. Crucifixes show a parallel change, with Christ now represented as the suffering saviour rather than in triumph. In Calvary groups the transition towards hard, more jagged drapery is evident in the example (soon after 1250) in Westerlo Church, while that of c. 1280 in Lauw Church displays a return to more compact, simpler forms and more contemplative expressions characteristic of some Mosan works from about 1300.

It is more difficult to trace the emergence of the style in the Scheldt region. The robustly natural, smiling faces of the Virgin and Child (c. 1270–80) in Stambruges Church display a heightened treatment of the rarefied courtly Parisian style. A youthful king, possibly a Magus (c. 1280–1300; New York, Cloisters), from the St Elisabeth Begijnhof, Ghent, is stylistically related but more tempered in expression. The same regional character appears in decorative sculpture, notably in Ghent on the beam ends of the house ‘De Zwarte Moor’ and on a vault boss with a foliate head from the Dominican church. The finest examples of the style were the head corbels in the Lakenhalle (c. 1300; destr. World War I) at Ypres. This regional style was probably centred on Tournai, from where it spread to Flanders, Hainault and Brabant.

(b) 1300–1350.

The Mosan region again provides the most complete picture of a return to abstract stylization and Gothic lightness in the first half of the 14th century, with a preference for planar compositions and linear surface treatment. Comparison between a statue of St Mark (early 14th century; Liège, Mus. Relig. A. & Mosan), the drapery of which introduces a characteristically local formulation, and the tall, sinuous Virgin from a Calvary group (c. 1330) in Notre-Dame, La Gleize, indicates progress towards a mannered style derived from northern France, for example on the Assumption relief from the chevet exterior of Notre-Dame, Paris. The sculptor of the La Gleize Virgin, who was active in Liège and appears to have directed an influential workshop, has been associated with several statuettes (e.g. London, V&A; Münster, Westfäl. Landesmus.) that belonged to the earliest known Netherlandish wooden altarpiece. This originally included a central Coronation of the Virgin flanked by enthroned saints (another Coronation of c. 1330–40 by the same workshop is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), which was to remain typical of Gothic altarpieces in the region. A Calvary ensemble (c. 1320–30) in Notre-Dame, Louviers (Normandy), is similar stylistically: Christ on the Cross, the soldiers and a swooning Virgin group may have belonged to a monumental altarpiece, now dismantled.

There is documentary evidence that altarpieces were produced in Tournai from at least the 1320s, but its wood sculpture has been little studied. The attenuated forms and graphic drapery of a Virgin and Child Enthroned known as ‘Notre Dame d’Heureux Trépas’ (Tournai, St Nicolas) suggest a date close to 1320. The transition to more elongated proportions and decorative linearity in Hainault is represented by statues of the Virgin and Child from Hautrage (c. 1300; priv. col.) and in Lecelles Church (c. 1320–30), the latter of which was influenced by the stone Virgin and Child (c. 1310–20) on the west façade of Tournai Cathedral.

The half life-size Apostles and bosses (c. 1300–20) in Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, Damme, which form the most extensive cycle of wood sculpture from this time in Flanders, may be attributed to sculptors from Bruges, where several closely related works survive, for example the monumental Virgin and Child in the Begijnhof. In Ghent the naturalism current c. 1300 was transformed into a harsh and sombre expressive stylization most clearly evident in decorative architectural sculpture, for example on vault bosses with heads of Christ and the Apostles (c. 1320–40; ex-Leugemete Chapel, Ghent). The sculptor of the bosses and consoles in the south aisle and transept of St Genoveva, Oplinter, was probably also responsible for an impressive Virgin and Child (c. 1300–20) formerly in a museum at Neder-over-Heembeek, near Brussels. A regional Brabantine style apparent in a later Crucifix (c. 1340; Orp-le-Grand Church) may also be seen in local stone sculpture, for example on the consoles in the apse of Vilvoorde Church.

(c) 1350–1430.

The influence of André Beauneveu is evident throughout the Low Countries in the second half of the 14th century, for example on a Virgin with Writing Christ Child (Bruges, St Janshospitaal) and on figures of the Virgin and Child from Brabant (e.g. Lier, Begijnhof) and the Meuse region (e.g. Sint Truiden, Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk). A few examples of the Schöne Madonna type known from the early 15th century may have been imported (e.g. Maastricht, St Servatius) or, as in a Virgin and Child (Utrecht, Cent. Mus.) from Ankeveen, adapted locally from German models. Pietà groups appeared in great numbers: the Pietà (1365; Leuven, Mus. Vander Kelen-Mertens), originally from Onze Lieve Vrouw van Ginderbuiten, Leuven, is the region’s earliest dated example of a Calvary Pietà type, derived from Italian painting. Rhenish influece may be traced through several typologically similar, simplified versions (e.g. Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig-Mus.; Leuven, Mus. Vander Kelen-Mertens) of the ‘Beautiful Pietà’ (c. 1420–30) in Gräfrath Church, near Cologne.

The earliest wooden altarpieces of Netherlandish origin to have survived intact were made towards the end of the 14th century. These include the two altarpieces (Dijon, Mus. B.-A.; see fig. above) by Jacques de Baerze ordered in 1390 for the Charterhouse of Champmol, Dijon, in which anecdotal narrative is enlivened by genre elements in a manner that became common in later altarpieces. The altarpiece in St Salvator, Hakendover, which was made in a leading Brussels workshop soon after 1400, is more advanced in its use of space, since the figures and scenes were no longer arranged in flat planes. The most important of the many examples elsewhere in Europe, notably in Germany, Spain and Portugal, is the Calvary altarpiece (c. 1415–20; Dortmund, Reinoldikirche) by the master of hakendover (see Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I). This introduced a characteristic Late Gothic format of a rectilinear triptych with a salient central section, shutters painted on both sides and, inside, a miniature chapel-like space created by vaulted canopies and tracery that provided settings for the narrative. It has been more difficult to localize others of Netherlandish origin, although it has been suggested that several closely related altarpieces in the Sankt-Annen-Museum, Lübeck, St Nikolai, Lüneburg, and the chapel at Santo Antão da Faniqueira (Portugal) may be attributed to a Bruges workshop.

(d) 1430–1530.

The Late Gothic style represents a highpoint in the artistic development of the Low Countries. Netherlandish iconographic and formal solutions, marked by the close interaction between painting and sculpture, proliferating detail and narrative elaboration, were spread across Europe through the emigration of artists and the export of works of art, especially altarpieces. Brussels was the predominant centre and its influence extended to all other Netherlandish schools from c. 1450. Wood sculpture was used to enrich church interiors with narrative and devotional images. Several themes that became popular at this time, such as the Trinity Pietà (see Andachtsbild), would appear to be of local origin (e.g. Lille, Mus. Dioc. A. Relig.). A fine example of Christ Seated before his Crucifixion made in Brussels c. 1450–60 and preserved in the Grand’ Salle of the Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune, may be one of the prototypes of this type, which became very common in the Netherlands by c. 1500.


The earliest documented Brussels altarpiece was made by the sculptor Michiel for the high altar of St Bavo, Haarlem, in 1412. The transition from the Soft style to Late Gothic is illustrated in two fragments from a Nativity altarpiece (c. 1420–25; Ramerupt Church, Champagne) by an anonymous sculptor whose work parallels the paintings of the Master of Flémalle and appears to have been very influential in the Brussels school. His direct impact may be seen in the output of the prolific workshop of the Master of the Rieden Retable (c. 1430–50; Stuttgart, Württemberg. Landesmus.) and of Willem Ards, who made the Passion altarpiece (c. 1450) in St Katharina, Schwäbisch Hall. The emphasis on breadth and volume in these works was gradually superseded by the so-called Style of the Long Lines, which was developed in Tournai and transplanted to Brussels during the 1430s by Jean Delemer and Rogier van der Weyden; an important example is an altarpiece dedicated to the Virgin (c. 1440; Laredo, Nuestra Señora de la Asunción).

Van der Weyden’s influence appears in altarpiece sculpture from the second half of the century. The outstanding Brussels sculptor of the Arenberg Lamentation (c. 1460–70; Detroit, MI, Inst. A.) translated the painter’s design in a spirit of trenchant poignancy and austere beauty. The central Calvary of the altarpiece (Vienna, Votivkirche) originally made for Pfalzel Abbey and the Passion altarpiece of Claudio de Villa (soon after 1470; Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist.) display a more popular treatment of the same style. Jan Borman II was the dominant artist at the turn of the century and his altarpiece of St George (1492; Brussels, Musée Royaux A. & Hist.; for illustration see Borman family) introduces ample forms, more aerated spatial groupings and highly differentiated characterizations ranging from youthful idealization to a near bestial ugliness. His many followers in the early 16th century included his son Passier Borman, who made the altarpiece of SS Crispin and Crispinian in St Waldetrudis, Herentals, and Jan Borman III, who was responsible for the Passion altarpiece (1522) in Güstrow Parish Church.

It is more difficult to resolve the chronology of the many free-standing wood sculptures of Brussels origin, which were particularly varied and influential in the mid-15th century. Later developments in north Netherlandish sculpture, for example, may be traced in the refined idealization and elegance of a Brussels Virgin and Child (c. 1440–50; Brussels, Mus. Com.) that resembles a Late Gothic ‘Beautiful Madonna’, while the combination of emotional intensity and a decorative treatment of detail in a Crucifix (c. 1450–70) in the convent of Sacré-Coeur, Mons, suggests the origins of the style of the Lower Rhenish sculptor Master Arnt (see below). The transition from more ample and painterly forms to a crisp and sharpened expression is further illustrated by exported figures of the Virgin and Child, including a walnut statue (1443) in the abbey church at Vadstena, Sweden, and the figure known as ‘Nuestra Señora de la Antigua’ (c. 1480–90) in Granada Cathedral. A Virgin and Child Enthroned in the Augustinian convent at Hérent, near Leuven, is representative of the quality and virtuosity achieved by the Brussels workshops c. 1500, although their extraordinarily numerous statues are often retrospective in character. Two outstanding works attributed to Jan Bormann II are a youthful and serene St Mary Magdalene (Paris, Mus. Cluny) and a St Hubert (Leuven, St Jacob) with realistically moulded, craggy features. In their tempered realism and quiet restraint, these works and their many Brabantine derivatives represent a tendency towards harmonious restraint characteristic of most early 16th-century Brussels sculpture.

Other Brabantine centres were influenced by Brussels, notably Antwerp, where important sculptural workshops were active throughout the 15th century. The earliest altarpieces that may be attributed to Antwerp workshops, such as the Passion altarpieces in the monastery church (c. 1450–60) of S Antonio el Real, Segovia, and in St Michael, Schwäbisch Hall (c. 1470), differ from Brussels examples in their preference for multi-figured, panoramically rendered Calvary scenes, often incorporating continuous narrative groups. Several altarpieces that carry the Antwerp townmarks, for example in the former church (c. 1480) of the Augustinian canons at Klausen and in the Votivkirche, Vienna (c. 1473–80), display a similar approach. Many altarpieces were exported in the first three decades of the 16th century, although their quasi-industrial production often relied on stereotyped formulae. The more creative among the later sculptors included one responsible for figures of Joseph and Nicodemus (c. 1500–10; Beauvais, Mus. Dépt. Oise) and another (fl c. 1520) who is known from an altarpiece in Botkyrka, near Stockholm, whose masterpiece is a figure from a Martyrdom of St Stephen (Baltimore, MD, Walters A.G.). The striking realism and expressive intensity of these figures, which distinguishes them from the more restrained sculpture from Brussels, is also found in statues of Christ Seated (e.g. Binche, cemetery chapel of St André; Burgos Cathedral), which carry Antwerp townmarks.

From the late 15th century workshops in Mechelen specialized in charming statuettes of the Virgin and Child (‘poupées de Malines’) with saints, which were often incorporated in small domestic altarpieces or symbolic ‘enclosed garden’ ensembles. The earliest and finest of these (e.g. c. 1500; Antwerp, Mus. Mayer van den Burgh) are easily confused with their Brussels models, but later examples, including the Virgin and Child with St Anne (c. 1510–20; New York, Met.) and St Margaret (c. 1520; Aachen, Suermondt-Ludwig-Mus.), are more local in character. The plentiful sculpture produced in Leuven, the most fully studied of the lesser Brabantine centres, adheres closely to Brussels models, although motifs and expressive nuances were sometimes varied, for example in a fragmentary half-length Virgin and Child (early 16th century; Paris, Louvre).

Tournai and Hainault.

Although wood sculpture has been less studied in Tournai than painting or stone sculpture (see §III, 1, (v) above), and much in Tournai itself was destroyed in 1566, enough free-standing figures survive in north-west Hainault and the southern tip of Flanders to illustrate local developments. The transition to Late Gothic is evident in various artistic solutions, including simpler, more compact figures, such as those of St John the Evangelist (c. 1410–20; Tournai, St Jean) and a Virgin and St John from a Calvary group (c. 1430–40; ex-Wallez Chapel, Maulde). Traditional types, such as the Virgin and Child, were adapted to the emerging styles (e.g. c. 1430–40; Ath, chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Loreto). A more important trend may be associated with Jean Delemer, whose energetic, linear manner is reflected in a Trinity group (c. 1430–50; Lille, Mus. Dioc. A. Relig.) and a St Michael (c. 1425; Ellezelles Church). Both of these, and perhaps also a Virgin and Child Enthroned (c. 1430–40; Houtaing Church), were probably based on prototypes made by Delemer before he went to Brussels (see above). The influence of such formal types may be seen throughout Late Gothic art: the complex, dance-like, corkscrew pose of the Lille Christ, for example, had a great impact on German art, while the diagonally thrusting movement of the St Michael was similarly influential. These works display a significant relation between sculpture and painting. The Houtaing Virgin resembles the work of the Master of Flémalle, and a comparison may be made between the expressive head of God the Father in the Lille Trinity and the Joseph of Arimathea in Rogier van der Weyden’s Deposition (c. 1435; Madrid, Prado).

While Delemer and van der Weyden introduced this Tournaisian style to Brussels, from where it spread throughout Europe, Tournai itself lost some of its significance, although it remained of regional importance. Later developments still followed Delemer’s legacy: two corbels with a high relief Annunciation (Montreuil-au-Bois Church), for example, which may be dated c. 1450–75 by the more consistent use of incisive triangular and zigzag folds, are a smaller variant on his monumental stone Annunciation (1428; Tournai, Ste Marie-Madeleine). This tendency was developed further in two beam ends with shield-bearing angels (1483 or soon after) in the former Hôpital de la Planque, Tournai, where the draperies are completely dissolved by parallel and criss-cross folds. This mannered version of the ‘Style of the Long Lines’ was dominant in Tournai c. 1500, for example on a Calvary group in the parish church at Rebaix. Many sculptors, however, looked back to the second quarter of the 15th century, as in a figure of St Fiacre (Wannebecq Church), to the earlier Soft style, for example an Entombment (Arc, St Martin), or show the influence of Brabant, such as on a St Nicholas Enthroned (ex-Théodore priv. col., Lille) from Péruwelz.

Many influences were exerted on Hainault. The distribution of Calvary groups (e.g. Chièvres, St Martin) shows the paramount influence of Tournai in the north-west. Brabantine influence appeared elsewhere, especially after 1450, in imported altarpieces (e.g. Renlies Church) and statues, such as a Virgin and Child (Soignies, St Vincent) and Christ Seated (Binche, cemetery chapel of St André; see above). Most works, however, are clearly of local origin. There is documentary evidence for workshops in Mons, Valenciennes and other cities. The most easily identifiable group consists of several early 16th-century altarpieces, including those of the Virgin in Boussu-lez-Mons and La Flamengrie, and of related statues, for example of SS John and Andrew (Rance Church) and of SS Peter and Paul (Avesnelles Church). These are closely based on Brussels models, but their local origin is confirmed by their nervous, curvilinear drapery and extreme facial expressions, and by their stylistic similarity to such local stone-carving as the altarpiece in the church at Horrues.


Although much Late Gothic sculpture has survived in Bruges, it has been little studied. The heads of two Angels with the Instruments of the Passion (c. 1425–35; Madrid, Prado), signed by Tideman Maes (fl c. 1429–52), closely resemble those in the Ghent Altarpiece (c. 1423–32; Ghent, St Bavo; see Eyck, van family, §1). The drapery style of a Virgin and Child (c. 1440; Meetkerke Church) is related stylistically but is slightly later. Although there may have been Tournaisian antecedents for this work, the rather earthy, jovial faces and pronounced features are perhaps typical of Bruges work. The most progressive carvings among the extensive misericord narrative scenes, prophets and saints on the choir-stalls (c. 1440) of St Salvator, Bruges, such as the hand-rest figures of SS Mary Magdalene and Paul, show the distinctively flattened wedge and forked folds characteristic of the Bruges school. These formulae were later sharpened into more brittle, splinter-like forms, as in a St Nicholas Enthroned (?c. 1450) and a Virgin and Child with a Pear (c. 1440–60; both Bruges, Gruuthusemus.).

A particularly happy fusion of a Brussels formal type with Bruges sensibility towards 1500 appears in a Virgin and Child with an Open Book (Bruges, Gruuthusemus.). One of Bruges’s leading artists during the early 16th century adopted a similar style for a Crucifix (Sint-Kruis, monastery of St Truiden); his workshop also produced a half-length Daniel in the Lions’ Den (Bruges, St Salvator) and a Calvary group (Bruges, St Janshospitaal). Altarpiece production in Bruges is recorded but remains largely unstudied, although a few indigenous fragments can be identified, including a Pentecost group in St Salvator and a Nativity (Bruges, Gruuthusemus.).

Few sculptures have survived elsewhere in Flanders, largely owing to the ravages of iconoclasm. The handful of works remaining in Ghent, however, including a graceful St Michael (based on Delemer’s early style) that appears among a stylistically diverse series of saints decorating beam brackets in Het Toreken (Tanners’ House; 1451–2), suggest that at first traditional links were maintained with Tournai. Four similar brackets with the Fathers of the Church (c. 1450–60) in the Music Conservatory (‘Achtersickel’) are more advanced stylistically, with drapery represented by crisply cut, triangular and nested V-folds that appear to be characteristic of Ghent. Other works that exhibit similarly fractured drapery may also have been made locally, including a God the Father Enthroned (c. 1440–60; Ghent, Mus. S. Kst.). The only complete altarpiece traditionally associated with Ghent is one with the Death of the Virgin (London, V&A) said to have come from St Bavo. It is, however, probably of Hainault origin rather than Flemish, and a more plausible case for local manufacture may be made for an Entombment group (Ghent, Mus. Sierkst.) from a Passion altarpiece.

Meuse Valley.

The emergence of Late Gothic in the Mosan region is illustrated by an altarpiece with the Virgin and Child with Saints and the Coronation of the Virgin (c. 1430–40; Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist.) from the Begijnhof, Tongeren. Its statuettes combine local traditions, such as the broad, lateral tufts of hair on the female heads, which represent an updated version of types encountered in early Mosan painting influenced by Jan van Eyck, and more progressive tendencies probably drawing on Brussels. Although rather indifferent in quality, these have allowed other finer works from Liège to be identified, notably a St Barbara (c. 1425–30; Lives-sur-Meuse Church), which may be seen as a Mosan counterpart to Delemer’s Tournai Virgin Annunciate, and a Late Gothic ‘Beautiful Madonna’ (c. 1440; Huy, St Mort). The stern features of a St Leonard (c. 1420; Holsbeek Church) that can be associated with this school are characteristic of an emergent ‘Hard style’ aesthetic.

The greater variety in Mosan sculpture of the later 15th century and the early 16th undoubtedly resulted from outside influences and the development of smaller centres. The impact of Brussels is evident in Mosan altarpieces and free-standing sculpture, for example on Christ Carrying the Cross (c. 1430–40; Namur, Mus. A. Anc.) from a Calvary altarpiece and on a Calvary group (early 16th century; Liège, St Nicolas), although their local character is never in doubt. Sometimes, for example on a Calvary group (early 16th century; Fise-le-Marsal Church), this resulted in a curiously hybrid format. During the early 16th century workshops proliferated in secondary centres, including Dinant, Huy, Marche-en-Famenne and Luxembourg (Didier).

North Netherlands.

Owing to extensive destruction very little sculpture has survived from before c. 1450. The choir-stalls of c. 1430–60 in St Janskerk, ’s Hertogenbosch, and of c. 1440 in Onze Lieve Vrouwekerk, Breda, show direct south Netherlandish influence, combined with an indigenous emphasis on breadth and an impressive monumentality, for example on prophets and saints from the bench-end reliefs in St Janskerk. The creative assimilation of southern influences is especially clear after the mid-century, for example in a self-assured Virgin and Child (c. 1460–65; Paris, Louvre), attributed to Jan Nude, and, to a lesser extent, in another (c. 1470–80; Arnhem, Martinikerk), by the Master of Soeterbeeck, both of which are derived from Brussels models, such as the Vadstena Virgin and Child (see above).

The emergence of Utrecht as the principal north Netherlandish centre of wood sculpture is closely associated with Adriaen van Wesel. The surviving fragments (1475–7; e.g. Amsterdam, Rijksmus.; Berlin, Bodemus) from the altarpiece that was commissioned by the Confraternity of Our Lady for its chapel in St Janskerk, ’s Hertogenbosch, suggest that he was fully aware of Brussels sculpture of the 1440s, for example the standing Virgin and Child (Brussels, Mus. Com.; see above). The highly personal style that he developed from this, however, was suited to intimate genre groups, courtly elegance or a deeply felt but restrained sense of pathos. Other Utrecht works of these years display the same stylistic trends, notably graceful and statuesque figures of SS Agnes and Catherine (c. 1470; Emmerich, St Aldegundis).

The stylized features of a Virgin and Child (c. 1500; priv. col.) from IJsselstein, near Utrecht, with an ovoid, fleshy face, a high, convex forehead, ‘squinting’ eyes and a haughty expression, indicate the renewed influence of the Brussels tradition. This recurs in the work of the so-called Master of the Utrecht Stone Female Head (fl 1500–50), whose prolific workshop produced five altarpieces exported to Norway (e.g. Grip Church; Leka Church). These comprise the largest surviving ensemble from the north Netherlands, but their small size and relatively simple compositions give little indication of local accomplishments. Evidence that elaborate narrative altarpieces were produced that were comparable with southern examples is provided by the original architectural framework surrounding two of van Wesel’s shutters in St Janskerk, ’s Hertogenbosch, and some other small fragments, including the remains of a Passion altarpiece (late 15th century; Amsterdam, Rijksmus.) from Soest.

The outstanding sculptor active in Holland at this time has been named after an altarpiece group of the Meeting of Joachim and Anna (c. 1460–70; Amsterdam, Rijksmus.). The small group of works that may be attributed to the Master of Joachim and Anna display a direct and profoundly human treatment of religious subjects, presented with a formal economy and a rigorous sense of abstraction. This contrasts with the restless, expressive art of the eastern Netherlands, which was linked artistically to the German Lower Rhine. The rhythmic, neo-courtly art of the south Netherlands was introduced by Master Arnt and modified by more incisive detail, more complex poses and heightened emotional intensity, for example on the choir-stalls (1474) of the former Franciscan church at Cleve. This style was elaborated by his numerous successors, such as the Master of Elsloo (fl c. 1500–45), who carved the Virgin and Child with St Anne in Elsloo Parish Church, into a linear movement of fully fledged Late Gothic mannerism.


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(iii) Holy Roman Empire.
(a) Introduction.

In many respects the Gothic wood sculpture of the Holy Roman Empire is richer and more varied than stone sculpture in the region. Wood-carving flourished during the 14th century and, especially, the 15th, partly owing to the gradual decline of the stonemasons’ workshops (see §III, 1, (iii) above). Increasingly wood was used for the sculptural decoration of church interiors, notably for expensive, monumental altarpieces. Many of the wooden figures that have survived originally came from such ensembles, which sometimes comprised extensive cycles. Stylistically the sculpture may be divided into that produced during the 14th century and the early 15th, including that under the influence of the Soft style, and Late Gothic sculpture from after c. 1420. Gothic figure style and ornamentation were superseded by Italianate influences c. 1500.

More important than the changes introduced by stylistic developments, however, was the evolution of new pictorial themes and the creation of new functional contexts for sculpture that often broke with established traditions. The iconography of 14th-century wood sculpture was marked by the development and rapid dissemination of Andachtsbilder (Ger. ‘devotional images’), which drew mainly on themes relating to the Passion, intended to arouse pity in the faithful (see Andachtsbild). These powerful, sensitive and sometimes graphic representations of the sufferings of Christ and the Virgin, as shown in such themes as St John resting his head on Christ’s shoulder, the Pietà and the Man of Sorrows, are a visual expression of the emotional and religious fervour that permeated 14th-century society and displayed itself in a mystical emphasis on Christ the Redeemer.

Apart from free-standing individual statues and groups, however, especially standing figures of the Virgin and Child, which were often placed on altars as cult images, the primary purpose of wood sculpture was for the decoration of large altarpieces. During the 14th century the winged altarpiece (Flügelaltar) evolved into the most important functional frame for wooden sculpture (see Altarpiece, §2, (ii)). This complex structure combined carved miniature architecture with the format of an iconostasis to create a precious shrine that was to become the dominant artistic and liturgical feature within the church. There was a close relationship between sculpture and painting: altarpieces often contain both panel paintings and carved figures, which at first were always painted, and painters therefore had a decisive influence on a sculpture’s final appearance. It was not until c. 1400 that wood was sometimes left unpainted, making the work’s impact entirely dependent on the wood-carver’s skills.

(b) 1300–1420.

Wood sculpture was well equipped to convey both the stylization of court ideals and the pessimism in the face of natural and social disaster that moulded the intellectual tendencies of the 14th century. This ambivalent mood is illustrated by two impressive and nearly contemporary sculptures in Cologne, which also illustrate the changing preferences in iconographic types. The so-called Milanese Madonna (c. 1300; Cologne Cathedral) is one of the finest examples of the standing Virgin and Child figures that evolved during the 13th century into a characteristic Gothic type and supplanted the majestic sedes sapientiae of Romanesque wood sculpture. This reflected the influence of French cathedral sculpture, and there was a conscious reference to the traditional Byzantine variant. The statue is linked stylistically with the figures that the cathedral workshop made c. 1290–1300 for the piers in the chancel and demonstrates the close collaboration between the workshop’s wood-carvers and stone-sculptors (see §III, 1, (iii), (c) above). The refined and elegant manner in which the majestic, dignified Virgin holds out the Christ Child on her left arm, while he gives a blessing, indicates knowledge of 13th-century Parisian art. The appearance, however, of the impressive Gabelkruzifix (Y-shaped Crucifix; 1304) in St Maria im Kapitol presents a complete contrast. It is one of the earliest examples of the type disseminated widely in the 14th century as the Pestkreuz (see Crucifix, §3, (i)). Christ is shown with torn flesh and devoid of all nobility and dignity. This is not the crucified king, but a human being tortured to death, his head sunk lifelessly on to his breast and his emaciated body displaying the ugly marks of the torments he has endured.

The Andachtsbilder demonstrate similar divergences of style and expression. The liturgical function of these intimate, meditation-inducing images, generally small in size, has not been clearly defined. Wood sculpture using these themes first emerged about 1320, especially in the Upper Rhine region and Swabia, and soon achieved widespread popularity. Its dissemination apparently owed much to the courtly love of God cultivated within religious houses as part of the period’s emotionalized piety. Most of the Andachtsbild types may be traced to two-dimensional sources, especially to the extensive thematic range displayed in richly illustrated French manuscripts of the Bibles moralisées, originating in the first half of the 13th century, and to the image veneration associated with Italo-Byzantine art. One of the finest examples represents St John Resting his Head on Christ’s Shoulder (c. 1330; Berlin, Skulpgal.). This was made in south Germany by a wood-carver and painter whose spare but highly sensitive idiom beautifully expresses faith and trust in Christ’s redemption. The so-called Roettgen Pietà (c. 1325; Bonn, Rhein. Landesmus.; see Pietà, §3, (i)) presents a stark contrast. Christ’s body is cruelly disfigured, his head is bent sharply back and outsize drops of blood are shed as a sign of his suffering for the redemption of man.

The creation of wooden altarpieces became increasingly important in the 14th century. These were often monumental in scale and were usually conceived as folding shrines, which could be variously arranged to suit different liturgical requirements. Wooden sculptures and painted panels, usually mounted on the wings, were often combined to create smaller versions of the stone iconostases found mainly on the façades, rood and chancel screens of 13th-century churches. Altarpieces also often served as receptacles for precious relics, the significance of which was generally reflected in the decorative programme. One of the earliest surviving examples (c. 1320), in which the characteristics of a high and Late Gothic reliquary altarpiece are already fully developed, is found in the former Benedictine abbey church at Cismar. Its three-winged structure is enclosed by an architectural frame decorated with pinnacles and triangular gables. Inside, arranged in several registers, are reliefs of Passion scenes that allude to the relics owned by the monastery. Later winged altarpieces, such as the St Ursula altar (c. 1325) in the Cistercian abbey church at Marienstatt and the high altar (c. 1330) of Unserer Lieben Frau, Oberwesel, represent an advanced stage in which the miniature architecture is more richly detailed and forms niches for single three-dimensional sculptures or reliefs. The lower register of the Marienstatt altar also has 12 reliquary busts of a type that was made mainly in Cologne during the 14th century. The Grabow Altarpiece (1383; Hamburg, Ksthalle), which was made by the painter and wood-carver Master Bertram for the Petrikirche, Hamburg, represents an impressive combination of wood sculpture and painting (see Bertram [von Minden], Master, §2, (ii)).

Against this background of near-serial production of small reliquary statues and extensive cycles for altarpieces, it is not surprising that few individual works of stylistic significance were created at this time. Between roughly 1380 and 1420 wood sculpture, together with most artistic genres, shows the influence of the Soft style. Although the most commonly chosen themes remained constant, changes may be found in the artistic idiom and expressive content. This process is displayed especially clearly in crucifixes, on which the exaggerated, expressive rendering of the dead Christ on the Cross gives way to Christ the Redeemer, who is devoid of all harshness and horror (e.g. c. 1425; Gdańsk, St Mary). A similar development may be seen in a Pietà (1380; Münster, Westfäl. Landesmus.), made in a workshop on the Middle Rhine, which concentrates on the Virgin’s quietly intense affection and emotive grieving for her dead son rather than on a frightening representation of the cruelly tortured Christ. This is emphasized by the formal structure and the extensive gilding.

In some respects the period around 1400 may be seen as a turning-point in the development of wood sculpture in the Empire. Small, expensively painted and highly intimate statuettes for private devotion, such as the so-called Virgin in the Sun (Cologne, Schnütgen-Mus.), became an increasingly important aspect of the wood-carvers’ output, rivalling the public commissions. There are also the first signs of a new evaluation of wood’s ability to bear the emotional weight of the subject without concealing its individual qualities behind illusionistic polychromy. This, however, was dependent on the development of advanced wood-carving skills to elaborate the details that previously had been the responsibility of the painter. The large figure of the Virgin and Child (c. 1410–20) in St Foillan, Aachen, is possibly one of the oldest surviving, unpainted, monumental wooden figures of the late Middle Ages.

(c) 1420–1500.
  • Ulrich Henze

During the early 15th century wood sculpture in the German-speaking lands, especially altarpieces, increasingly displays the influence of south Netherlandish artists, such as the master of hakendover (see §III, 2, (ii), (c) above; see also Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I). One of the first sculptors in the Empire consciously to incorporate south Netherlandish elements was Hans Multscher, who lived in Ulm from 1427. His extensive knowledge of Burgundian sculpture, especially that made by the circle of Claus Sluter and his successors, shaped not only his stone sculptures (see §III, 1, (iii), (c) above) but also the wood-carvings produced by his workshop, such as an impressive, life-size standing Virgin and Child (c. 1435; Landsberg am Lech, St Mariä Himmelfahrt), which probably belonged originally to a large winged altarpiece. The statuesque figure, conceived with extraordinary realism, is a far departure from the flowing lines and gentle folds of the Soft style.

Unlike south Netherlandish compositions, which are usually assembled from many small components, Multscher’s work shows a tendency towards monumentality that was to be the dominant feature of south German altarpiece production in the 15th century. His most important work in wood was the high altar (1456–9; destr. 1779; fragments in Basle, priv. col.; Innsbruck, Tirol. Landesmus.; Munich, Bayer. Nmus.; Vipiteno, Mus. Muellscher) made for the parish church of Unserer Lieben Frau, Sterzing (now Vipiteno). The destruction of most of this altarpiece entailed the loss of what must have been an important stage in the development of wood-carving and altar construction in south Germany and the Tyrol during the second half of the 15th century and the early 16th (see Schnitzaltar). Similarly, whereas the stone sculpture of Gerhaert [Gerardi], Nicolaus, who worked mainly in the Upper Rhine region and Austria, is relatively well preserved, many of his principal works in wood have not survived, notably the very influential altarpiece (1465–7; destr. c. 1530) for the high altar of Konstanz Cathedral.

By the 1470s the characteristic features of the south German Schnitzaltar were already present in the altarpiece (1471–81) made by Michael Pacher’s workshop in Bruneck (now Brunico) and assembled in the parish church of St Wolfgang in the Salzkammergut (see Pacher, Michael, §2). This monumental (h. 11.1 m overall; w. 6.5 m overall) winged altarpiece is one of the best-preserved and most mature works of its genre, in which carved figures in the central Corpus, either side of the shrine and in the architectural superstructure above, are combined with panel paintings fitted to the inner and outer wings, which may be opened or closed to reveal different scenes. Whereas the sculpture is still clearly indebted to Multscher and Gerhaert, the paintings demonstrate Pacher’s familiarity with north Italian art, especially that of Padua. The subject-matter includes scenes from the Life of Christ and various saints, some of local significance. There is, however, a particular emphasis on the Virgin as the Mother of God, culminating in the central Coronation of the Virgin, in which God the Father and the Virgin, flanked by SS Wolfgang and Benedict, appear beneath an elaborate ciborium of tracery and pinnacles. Pacher’s mastery as a wood-carver is demonstrated by his use of gilding, rather than polychromy. Various compositional techniques are used to create an extraordinarily dynamic setting for the celestial event, notably the spatially offset arrangement of God the Father and the Virgin, which creates a tension between them. The whole scene is given a circling motion by the placing of angels holding the Virgin’s cloak below and spreading a chalice veil behind and above the main figures. The flanking figures, however, function rather as static spectators.

The principal centres of wood sculpture in south Germany, other than the workshops of the Tyrol, were in Ulm, Nuremberg and Würzburg. The most important wood-carvers in Ulm during the second half of the 15th century were Michel Erhart (see Erhart family, §1) and Jörg Syrlin the elder (see Syrlin family, §1), both of whom were involved in the construction of the choir-stalls (1469–74) of Ulm Minster. The busts of Prophets, Sibyls, Apostles and Martyrs carved on the stall-ends and backs display a striking naturalism that places them among the most impressive of the city’s Late Gothic wood-carvings. The main surviving work attributed to Erhart’s workshop is the high altar (c. 1493–4) in the former abbey church of Blaubeuren (for illustration see Schnitzaltar), in which the picturesquely arranged reliefs of the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi on the inner wings contrast with the static structure of the central shrine, which contains individual figures of the Virgin and Child with SS Benedict, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist and Scholastica.

One of the foremost masters in Nuremberg was Veit Stoss, although no works that might be securely attributed to him have survived from before 1477, when he travelled to Poland. The high altar (1477–9) that he made for St Mary, Kraków, is the largest example to have survived from the 15th century: the almost fully rounded figures in the central shrine’s Death of the Virgin (above which is the Assumption of the Virgin) are up to 2.8 m high. Their features and gestures suggest the direct influence of the painting of Rogier van der Weyden. The wings are decorated with reliefs of scenes from the Life of the Virgin and the Passion (from the Annunciation to Pentecost), which are presented in an austere narrative style that indicates Netherlandish influence, probably mediated through Stoss’s knowledge of Gerhaert’s sculpture.

The wooden altarpieces of Tilman Riemenschneider of Würzburg stand in contrast to the heavy monumentality of Stoss’s work in Kraków. A representative example is the Altar of the Holy Blood (1499–1505; Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Jakobskirche), in which the perforated predella and finely carved superstructure create a floating lightness that is carried over into the Last Supper represented in the central shrine. The clarity of the strictly symmetrical composition is underlined by Riemenschneider’s avoidance of the dramatic effects usually achieved with polychromy, relying solely on the sensitively carved faces and hands and the crystalline folds of the drapery to bring the figures to life.

The standards achieved by south German wood-carvers were rarely matched by those in the north, where the demand for wood sculpture was often met by north and south Netherlandish imports. There were, however, prolific workshops in the Baltic towns, notably Lübeck, and the lands of the Teutonic Order, which exported many works to Scandinavia (see §III, 2, (iv), (c) below). The most prominent sculptor in Lübeck was Bernt Notke, whose creative power is demonstrated in his idiosyncratic and materially lavish triumphal cross (c. 1475) for Lübeck Cathedral and the St George group (1489; Stockholm, Storkyrkan; see Notke, Bernt, §2).


  • RDK: ‘Altarretabel’
  • H. Wilm: Die gotische Holzfigur: Ihre Wesen und ihre Technik (Leipzig, 1923)
  • C. T. Müller: Mittelalterliche Plastik Tirols: Von der Frühzeit bis zur Zeit Michael Pachers (Berlin, 1935)
  • H. Wentzel: Die Christus-Johannes-Gruppen des 14. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart, 1960)
  • Europäische Kunst um 1400 (exh. cat., Vienna, Ksthist. Mus., 1962)
  • W. Paatz: Süddeutsche Schnitzaltäre der Spätgotik (Heidelberg, 1963)
  • H. Sachs: Mittelalterliches Chorgestühl (Leipzig, 1964)
  • P. Bloch: Kölner Madonnen: Die Muttergottes in der Kölner Bildnerei des Mittelalters (Mönchengladbach, 1967)
  • Spätgotik am Oberrhein: Meisterwerke der Plastik und des Kunsthandwerks, 1450–1530 (exh. cat., Karlsruhe, Bad. Landesmus., 1970)
  • R. Haussherr: ‘Über Christus-Johannes-Gruppen: Zum Problem “Andachtsbilder” und deutsche Mystik’, Beiträge zur Kunst des Mittelalters: Festschrift für Hans Wentzel (Berlin, 1975), pp. 79–103
  • M. von Alemann-Schwarz: Cruzifixus dolorosus: Beiträge zur Polychromie und Ikonographie rheinischer Gabelkruzifixe (diss., Bonn, Rhein. Friedrich-Wilhelms-U., 1976)
  • K. Stoll, E. M. Vetter and E. Oellermann:: Triumphkreuz im Dom zu Lübeck: Ein Meisterwerk Bernt Notkes (Wiesbaden, 1977)
  • J. Bier: Tilman Riemenschneider: Die späten Werke in Holz (Vienna, 1978)
  • H. Schindler: Der Schnitzaltar: Meisterwerke und Meister in Süddeutschland, Österreich und Südtirol (Regensburg, 1978)
  • P. Skubiszewski: ‘Der Stil des Veit Stoss: Die Quellen und die Krakauer Periode’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte [merger of Z. Bild. Kst with Repert. Kstwiss. & with Jb. Kstwiss.], 41 (1978), pp. 93–133
  • J. Taubert: Farbige Skulpturen: Studien zu ihrer Bedeutung, Fassung und ihrer Gestaltung (Munich, 1978)
  • Die Parler und der Schöne Stil, 1350–1400: Europäische Kunst unter den Luxemburgern (exh. cat., ed. A. Legner; Cologne, Schnütgen-Mus., 1978)
  • M. Baxandall: The Limewood Sculpture of Renaissance Germany (New Haven, 1980)
  • D. L. Ehresmann: Middle Rhenish Sculpture, 1380–1440 (Ann Arbor, 1984)
  • E. König: ‘Gesellschaft, Material, Kunst: Neue Bücher zur deutschen Skulptur um 1500’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte [merger of Z. Bild. Kst with Repert. Kstwiss. & with Jb. Kstwiss.], 47 (1984), pp. 535–58
  • Gothic and Renaissance Art in Germany (exh. cat., ed. J. P. O’Neill; New York, Met.; Nuremberg, Ger. Nmus.; 1986)
  • U. Bergmann: Das Chorgestühl des Kölner Doms, 2 vols (Neuss, 1987)
  • U. Bergmann: Schnütgen-Museum: Die Holzskulpturen des Mittelalters, 1000–1400, ed. A. Legner (Cologne, 1989)
(iv) Scandinavia.
(a) 13th century.

The first wood sculpture in Scandinavia to show the pronounced influence of northern French Gothic appeared c. 1225–50, although no directly imported French work has been identified. Much 13th-century sculpture has survived in Denmark and some examples, such as the triumphal cross group (Lund U., Hist. Mus.) from Gualöv, Skåne, which then belonged to Denmark, and the Three Marys at the Tomb (Copenhagen, Nmus.) from the Roskilde Cathedral triumphal cross, are of outstanding quality and clearly connected with French work. The distribution of Danish sculpture beyond the kingdom is demonstrated by the triumphal cross group (beech; Visby, Gotlands Fornsal) from Bro Church on Gotland and the fine crucifixes on the Swedish mainland in the former abbey church of Skokloster and at Ununge.

The Danish school also influenced production in southern Sweden and eastern Norway. An oak Apostle (h. 1.89m; Skara, Skaraborgs Länsmus.) from Norra Vånga Church, for example, shows a pronounced French style but it is not certain that it was imported. The wealth of Gotland, its substantial German population and lively contacts with the Continent ensured its continuing importance (see also Romanesque, §III, 2, (vii)), and French influences were introduced via Saxony and Westphalia. The enormous triumphal oak crosses at Lau Church and from Hablingbo (Visby, Gotlands Fornsal), and figures of the Virgin and Child (oak, h. 1.51m; Visby, Gotlands Fornsal) from Hejnum, Tingstäde and St Maria, Visby, all show the clear influence of Saxony: the Hejnum Virgin, for example, resembles that on the Golden Portal (c. 1225–40) of Freiberg Cathedral. A number of works have been attributed by af Ugglas and Roosval to the masters (fl c. 1230–60) identified by their figures at Hejnum and Tingstäde. There are several examples in wood of the ring cross type on Gotland, including an outstanding triumphal cross group (c. 1270–80; h. c. 4.2 m; Öja Church) in which the cross is surrounded by small figural groups and a ring decorated with roses.

Wood sculpture in Norway includes some particularly distinguished figures, which often retain their original bright polychromy in an astounding state of preservation. Although French traits may be identified, English influences are even more evident, combined with distinctly Norwegian woodworking techniques. Regional schools have been identified centred on Oslo in the east, Bergen in the west, which produced the Hove Virgin and Child (U. Bergen, Hist. Mus.), and Trondheim in northern Norway. Many works made in the mid-13th century have been attributed to the so-called Balke Master, who has been named after an oak Calvary group (Oslo, U. Oldsaksaml.) from Balke Church. A particularly well-preserved figure in this style is the St Paul (late 13th century; Stockholm, Nordiska Mus., on dep. Oslo, U. Oldsaksaml.) from Vestre Gausdal (see also Polychromy, §2). An earlier seated figure of St Olaf (h. c. 1.55 m; Stockholm, Nordiska Mus., on dep. Oslo, U. Oldsaksaml.) from Fresvik has individualistic features that, unusually, resemble portraiture. Connections with English art are clearly evident in sculpture from the region of Trondheim, notably the Mosvik St Michael (c. 1250–60; U. Trondheim, Mus.).

Work in the Anglo-Norwegian style was exported to Sweden or imitated there, for example in a pinewood St Michael (h. c. 1.4 m; Östersund, Jämtlands Läns Mus.) from Näskott and a pinewood Virgin and Child at Lillhärdal. It is believed that a small Virgin and Child (Stockholm, Stat. Hist. Mus.) in the English style from Västra Skrukeby was imported. The introduction of direct French influence in the 1280s, for example in a monumental St Olaf or St Erik (h. 2.33m) at Roslagsbro and a seated Virgin and Child (h. 1.19m; Uppsala, U. Kstsamml.) of unknown provenance, is associated with Uppsala, where the cathedral workshop was headed by Etienne de Bonneuil from 1287 (see §III, 1, (vii) above).

Throughout the Middle Ages statues were often placed on a plinth within a wooden shrine with a canopy or ciborium and fitted with carved doors. The backs of the doors have tiers of architectural niches in which are set small figures cut in relief. Most Gothic examples are known from Sweden, such as those at Östra Vram (Skåne) and from Fröskog (Stockholm, Stat. Hist. Mus.), both of which preserve their carved doors; others have survived in Norway, including a pinewood shrine (h. c. 870 mm; Oslo, U. Oldsaksaml.) from Dal, which has lost its doors; in Finland, for example at Urdiala (now Helsinki, N. Mus.) and Kumlinge; and in Iceland at Mule (now Copenhagen, Nmus.). A variant, mostly found on Gotland, has the devotional figure set directly against the backpiece and covered by a gabled canopy; originally this type did not have doors.

(b) 14th century.

Whereas numerous sculptures have been preserved in Sweden from the first half of the 14th century, when production on Gotland was particularly prolific, little from the second half of the century has survived anywhere in Scandinavia. Works attributed to the Bunge Master (fl c. 1310–50), named after a seated figure of St Olaf (Stockholm, Stat. Hist. Mus.) from Bunge Church, are particularly notable. Sculpture was exported from Gotland to the Swedish mainland and Finland, such as the figures of the Virgin and Child at Överselö, on Lake Mälaren, Sweden, and in Nousianinen Cathedral (see Finland, Republic of, §IV, 1). About 15 fixed altarpieces on Gotland also date from this period. Some, including that (Visby, Gotlands Fornsal) from Ala, show links with French or Rhenish art, but even these were certainly made on Gotland. Most have the Coronation of the Virgin or the Crucifixion in a large architectural frame flanked by figures, mainly Apostles (h. c. 400–450 mm), set in an arcade of niches. It is believed that the altarpiece at Skattunge (Dalarna) is the only surviving example made on the Swedish mainland. Figures from lost altarpieces at Hubbo Church and from By (c. 1340s; Stockholm, Stat. Hist. Mus.), which show Rhenish influence, were probably imported. The existence of larger figures (h. c. 700–750 mm), for example at Sigtuna in Sweden, suggests that other forms of altar decoration were also current in the mid-14th century.

The earliest complete winged altarpieces in Scandinavia (mid-14th century) are found on Gotland. At Endre Church, for example, the shutters may be closed but the exterior panels are not painted, a feature that was to appear later in the century at Gammelgarn. The north German style typified by Master Bertram’s Grabow Altarpiece (c. 1380; Hamburg, Ksthalle; see §III, 2, (iii), (b) above) appears in Skåne at Lund Cathedral and in the altarpiece (Lund U., Hist. Mus.) from St Peter, Ystad. Both were made in the 1390s by the same workshop, but it remains uncertain whether this was in Lübeck, Doberan or in Skåne. The central Corpus of these and the contemporary Swedish altarpieces at Munktorp and Evertsberg represents the Coronation of the Virgin or the Pietà.

(c) 15th century and the early 16th.
  • Peter Tångeberg

Production of wooden altarpieces, shrines and sculpture for the whole of Scandinavia was dominated by Lübeck. Altarpieces from c. 1430 in the diocese of Linköping are comparatively small (h. c. 1–1.75 m) and the Corpus is often divided into two registers, the main scene of which is the Coronation of the Virgin or the Crucifixion. From the mid-15th century until the Reformation (1527 in Sweden, 1536 in Denmark) nearly every church in Scandinavia acquired a winged altarpiece. Some of these are of considerable size: Bernt Notke’s altarpiece (1479) in Århus Cathedral, for example, is 12 m high overall, while the Corpus of the early 16th-century altarpiece at Köping is 2.59 m high.

Works were commissioned from renowned Lübeck craftsmen, most notably Notke’s tremendous St George group (1489; Stockholm, Storkyrkan; see Notke, Bernt, §2). Other Lübeck commissions include the altarpiece at Bälinge, near Uppsala, signed by Stenrat [Stenradh; Stenrat of Lübeck; Stenrode; Steynrot], Johannes, in 1471 and an altarpiece by Heide, [Heyde] Henning von der. The altarpiece (c. 1517–22; Odense Cathedral) originally made for the Franciscan church in Odense is the most important work by Claus Berg, who is documented in Denmark from 1507. In Norway an altarpiece (Oslo, U. Oldsaksaml.) from Kvefjord is attributed to another Lübeck master, Benedikt Dreyer (c. 1485–after 1555).

Lübeck was not the sole source, however, for work was also imported from other German Baltic towns. Sculpture preserved in Finland, on Gotland and on the Swedish mainland, for example, was carved in the lands of the Teutonic Order during the first half of the 15th century. It has generally been accepted that the large triumphal cross (c. 1420–30) in Vadstena Abbey was made in Lübeck, but more recent research, especially into the choice of walnut, suggests a more easterly origin, perhaps in the Order’s territories. Altarpieces imported from Antwerp and Brussels (see §III, 2, (ii), (d) above) towards the end of the Middle Ages mostly survive in Sweden. The largest and most important of these (its Corpus measures 2.59×3.44 m) was made in Brussels and forms the high altar (c. 1480) of Strängnäs Cathedral. Five altarpieces (e.g. Leka Church) were imported into Norway from the north Netherlands in the early 16th century.

As well as these imported works, wood sculpture was produced throughout Scandinavia during the 15th century and especially between c. 1500 and the Reformation. Some important sculptors are known by name, notably the prolific Haaken Gulleson (fl c. 1500–30) in Hälsingland; examples of his work, such as a shrine of St Anne (1520) in the Old Church at Enånger, are spread across northern Sweden. These local masters were influenced by continental trends, especially German, but still developed a colourful independent style.


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  • J. Roosval: Medeltida skulptur i Gotlands Fornsal [Medieval sculpture in the Fornsal, Gotland] (Stockholm, 1925)
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(v) British Isles.
  • Peta Evelyn

Cult images, altarpieces and rood screens must have been produced in the British Isles in large numbers between the 13th century and the early 16th, particularly for pilgrimage churches, which would have housed several altars. Even the most humble parish church needed a crucifix, and wood was both comparatively cheap and readily available. Oak was the most popular wood in England, but boxwood and walnut were also used. All wood sculpture was painted, although much has been lost through wear or stripped by later collectors and dealers. The destruction of devotional imagery in the British Isles during the Reformation and under the Commonwealth in the mid-17th century was particularly severe. Larger objects, however, and those that formed part of the church fabric, have survived in greater numbers throughout England. These include tomb effigies, for example those of Robert Curthose, Duke of Normandy (c. 1250; Gloucester Cathedral) and Sir Robert du Bois (c. 1340; Fersfield, St Andrew), choir-stalls (see Choir-stalls, §3, (i); see also Misericord) and roof bosses.

Although itinerant lay craftsmen were more in evidence towards the end of the period, at first medieval wood-carvers and painters frequently belonged to monastic orders, such as the monk shown painting a statuette of the Virgin and Child on the frontispiece of the