By Darla McCammon
Construction can be an art form and certainly uses many principles of art when the creation of a new structure happens. Notre-Dame de Paris is a prime example of French Gothic architecture along with a hodge-podge of styles added over the centuries. Gothic style incorporates innumerable aspects of art in the resulting building. As we noted, there is about a 200 year written history of the construction but history reveals 800 years of activity and interest in this island in the middle of the Seine called ile de la Cité.
By 1250 we would have seen the construction of the famous two bell towers made so well-known by Quasimodo in Victor Hugo’s book about the hunchback. Another style called Rayonnant was added, slightly altering the High Gothic architecture to the familiar French Gothic. Rayonnant is displayed in all the Rose windows, plus some other architectural designs involved in radiating spokes. Rayonnant simply represents designs that radiate outward from a central point.
Another prominent feature was added during the 13th century — the magnificent flying buttresses. These were works of art and also good functionality since they supported the weight of the roof. A buttress is a structure that came into use when it was discovered how it could support the tall masonry wall, especially of large buildings such as palaces and cathedrals. The masonry walls needed support because of their scale and the fact they were expected to reinforce and carry the weight of the entire roof overhead, thus the flying buttress added an architecturally interesting piece to the building while at the same time giving considerable strength and reinforcement to the walls, and ultimately, the roof.
Massive stone cathedrals with space for many of the parishioners down a myriad of aisles, side chapels, and more spaces like choir lofts, created a need for a better way to support the huge roofs on these enormous buildings. The support, called a flying buttress, was both the clever invention and the solution. Notre-Dame de Paris has 28 such supports. These supports, like huge arches, are positioned exterior to the building. They reinforced the tall masonry walls by countering the pressure for a wall to buckle outward in force.
The style of the Gothic architecture period became conjoined with the flying buttress. Having this support outside the building created huge open spaces inside for soaring viewpoints, along with lovely stained glass windows, plus more room for paintings and historical treasures such as the crown of thorns. The technique of the flying buttress also helped define the Gothic style and separated it from the Romanesque style which is very two-dimensional and flat.
With this column we will end our investigation into one of the world’s most famous cathedrals. I hope you have enjoyed learning more about this amazing place and take an opportunity to find out more on your own from your local library or the Internet. Next week, meet two new artists along with the recent spring LAA competition winners, sponsored by The Tucker Family Foundation.
Upcoming and Current Events
If you have an event you would like to mention, please contact Darla at [email protected] or at (574) 527-4044.
- The Dean Jansen photography exhibit at Warsaw City Hall will be on display through May 31.
- The Honeywell Center Clark Gallery in Wabash will have Joel Fremion fabric collages on display through June 3.
- Tona Bondar and Avon Watters will soon have exhibits displayed at Warsaw City Hall.