THE history, the features, and the most famous examples of European architecture, during a period extending from the rise of the Gothic, or pointed, style in the twelfth century to the general depression which overtook the Renaissance style at the close of the eighteenth, form the subject of this little volume. I have endeavoured to adopt as free and simple a mode of treatment as is compatible with the accurate statement of at least the outlines of so very technical a subject.
Though it is to be hoped that many professional students of architecture will find this hand-book serviceable to them in their elementary studies, it has been my principal endeavour to adapt it to the requirements of those who are preparing for the professional pursuit of the sister arts, and of that large and happily increasing number of students who pursue the fine arts as a necessary part of a complete liberal education, and who know that a solid and comprehensive acquaintance with art, especially if joined to some skill in the use of the pencil, the brush, the modelling tool, or the etching needle, will open sources of pleasure and interest of the most refined description.
The broad facts of all art history; the principles which underlie each of the fine arts; and the most precious or most noteworthy examples of each, ought to be familiar to every art student, whatever special branch he may follow. Beyond these limits I have not attempted to carry this account of Gothic and Renaissance architecture; within them I have endeavoured to make the work as complete as the space at my disposal permitted.
THE architecture generally known as Gothic, but often described as Christian Pointed, prevailed throughout Europe to the exclusion of every rival for upwards of three centuries; and it is to be met with, more or less, during two others. Speaking broadly, it may be said that its origin took place in the twelfth century, that the thirteenth was the period of its development, the fourteenth that of its perfection, and the fifteenth that of its decline; while many examples of its employment occur in the sixteenth.
In the following chapters the principal changes in the features of buildings which occurred during the progress of the style in England will be described. Subsequently, the manner in which the different stages of development were reached in different countries will be given; for architecture passed through very nearly the same phases in all European nations, though not quite simultaneously.
It must be understood that through the whole Gothic period, growth or at least change was going on; the transitions from one stage to another were only periods of more rapid change than usual. The whole process may be illustrated by the progress of a language. If, for instance, we compare round-arched architecture in the eleventh century to the Anglo-Saxon form of speech of the time of Alfred the Great, and the architecture of the twelfth century to the English of Chaucer, that of the thirteenth will correspond to the richer language of Shakespeare, that of the fourteenth to the highly polished language of Addison and Pope, and that of the fifteenth to the English of our own day. We can thus obtain an apt parallel to the gradual change and growth which went on in architecture; and we shall find that the oneness of the language in the former case, and of the architecture in the latter, was maintained throughout.
For an account of the Christian round-arched architecture which preceded Gothic, the reader is referred to the companion volume in this series. Here it will be only necessary briefly to review the circumstances which went before the appearance of the pointed styles.