The illumination of Gothic architecture at the end of XII century brought in a revolutionary change in the constructive possibilities in Western Europe. For instance- Romanesque style was more about low elevated buildings, and Gothic took a jump to what today is the urban style – with everything large, tall and gigantic.
Speaking of Gothic, brings in the idea of a handful of beautiful cathedrals and palaces. Within no time, Gothic gained world attention by becoming the favorite style for the designing of all types of buildings of the most different nature.
In few years it became the crucial part of designing methodology of great palaces, new universities, bastions, bridges, hospitals, bell towers, and shipyards. This is what we call Civil Gothic.
Gothic is neither a style, nor an element of artistic appeal. It is more than an element of beautification. Today the Gothic architecture has evolved into Civil Gothic, and became a way of life. No construction practice today skips this style.
Without taking much time, I’ll introduce to you the list of 12 different types of works where civil Gothic architecture had a huge rooting.
Have a great read!
1 DOGE’S PALACE, VENICE
A majority of the palaces that were raised from the end of the 12th century used Gothic as an artistic style. An important element of the Gothic style is the construction of larger, taller and robust palaces.
Doge, ruler of the Republic of Venice, lived in The Doge’s Palace. The construction was lasted since the Xth century but had been remodeled in the middle of XIIth century. Considered as the masterpiece of Venetian Gothic, this Palace is peculiarly ornate.
Gothic elements like large patios, and beautiful and decorated windows embellish the beautiful palace. In addition, tracery is used in the galleries on the first floor of the facade and much more color is used than the one used in the Gothic of the rest of Europe.
2 UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, UNITED KINGDOM
The time between the XII and XV centuries marked the rise in the number of European education centers, thus impelling the creation of university for studies. For this, it was necessary to build buildings that are large enough to accommodate a community of teachers, students, and university residents.
This is the possible reason why most of the Middle Ages universities have a design that remind of monasteries, with classrooms and dormitories surrounding large cloisters.
Several of the University of Oxford ‘s colleges have this disposition and are among the most beautiful examples of the civil Gothic style. The most paradigmatic example is of Christ Church, the most famous of Oxford colleges.
3 CASTLE OF MALBORK, POLAND
With the arrival of Gothic, castles and fortresses can also be much taller, larger and more robust than those built in the High Middle Ages. The Castle of Malbork, in Poland belongs to the Teutonic Order, and is one of the many Gothic castles that are scattered throughout Europe.
However, there are some characteristics that make it different from the civil Gothic of southern Europe and links it with other castles of Eastern Europe, such as that of Trakai in Lithuania.
It is the brick, which makes the material distinguished and almost unique for the construction of this castle. It is known as the Baltic Gothic, which can be found in other Gothic works such as the church of St. Anne of Vilnius.
However, also in the castle of Malbork, we can recognize many of the usual characteristics of the Gothic such as the use of the ribbed vault in many of the rooms as well as in the galleries that surround the courtyards, pointed arches dominating doors and windows or the use of tracery in part of the windows of the courtyards.
4 BELFRY OF BRUGES
The bell towers in southern Europe used to be an almost exclusive religious building. However, in the north of France, Belgium and Holland, the civil authorities were in charge of the construction of the bell towers. They were the well-known ones like Belfry Of Bruges, that so much abound in this zone of the Old Continent. The importance is such, that many of them have the recognition of World Heritage.
Perhaps the most beautiful of them all is that of Belfry Of Bruges. This masterpiece of civil Gothic was revived from a previous one that had succumbed to fire. The reconstructed Bruges rises to 83 meters in height. The civil bell towers were in charge of “singing the hours” in an era in which there were no personal clocks. Also the balcony of Belfry Of Bruges was used as a platform to proclaim the laws that governed the city.
5 BRIDGE OF BESALU, SPAIN
The advent of Gothic artistic style catalysed the construction of large bridges.The arches of the Romanesque bridge are made small so that it could save narrow riverbeds.
There is no denying that the Besalú Bridge is one of the most beautiful bridges of the time. It was built from the end of the 11th century, and since then it has been remodeled several times. The eight sections of the bridge save the widest part of the river and the slightly pointed arc solves this aspect. The bridge has an irregular layout, thus making it as a perfect aesthetic.
6 HOSPITAL DE LA SANTA CRUZ, BARCELONA
Civil Gothic style has had a significant influence on many aspects of daily life. And health was nowhere to be left out of it. The most important and notable hospital in Medieval Barcelona was the Hospital de la Santa Cruz. Located in the Raval district of Barcelona, this is the most popular civil architecture with Gothic tinge. Today the former hospital functions as the Library of Catalonia.
The motive behind building this 15th century hospital was to bring the 6 most important hospitals in the city under a single umbrella. It is highly recommended to go for a quick stroll through the artistic patios and departments that were once occupied by beds.
7 LEUVEN TOWN HALL, BELGIUM
As the medieval society became structured and hierarchical, the need of new buildings for representing the civil powers became necessary. There were palaces and castles of the different counts and monarchs, and the centers of regional institutions and city councils were also added with it.
Perhaps in the region of Flanders, Belgium, we can find some of the most beautiful Gothic town councils. Ghent and Bruges are beautiful, but Leuven is a true masterpiece of the Civil Gothic architecture. The style is used for the Brabantiun Gothic, typical for the lower countries.
Raised in the middle of the XV century, it looks like a reliquary stone design with lots of pinnacles and niches decorated with saints and representatives of the local nobility and aristocracy. The interior is equally overwhelming and demands a visit.
Another city council representative of the civil Gothic, worthy of being included in the list is that of Tallinn, capital of Estonia.
8 BARCELONA ROYAL SHIPYARD
Another influential and remarkable example of Gothic architecture is the Barcelona Royal Shipyard. Currently they are a part of the Maritime Museum of Barcelona, a favorite destination of the whole Mediterranean.
Its construction is a result of Pedro III’s commitment to improve the naval fleet of the Catalonian-Aragonese Corona from the 13th century. The 13th century also marked the arrival of the Catalan troops to as far as Sardinia, Sicily or Mallorca in the middle of the thirteenth century.
The present structure is a summation of different extensions of the first construction and can be observed in the Maritime Museum, dating back to the end of XIV century.
It is designed with eight naves of eighteen sections separated by pillars. The gabled roofs of each of the ships are supported by diagonal arches, which is another characteristic of both civil and ecclesiastical Gothic.
The ships had to be high, as well as the exit gates, as ship’ height is closed to the sea at that time. Since, the ships had to be constructed by keeping the following in mind.
9 LONJA DE LA SEDA, VALENCIA
The star building of Gothic art is the fabulous Lonja de la Seda, which is also a part of the list of World Heritage. At the end of the fifteenth century, the market of Valencia took another building of similar characteristics and that played the same function as the Lonja de Mallorca as they had great similarities.
The market served as an emporium for commercial transactions. Prominent trades included industry, particularly textiles. The hiring hall stands on eight slender helical pillars supported by a beautiful ribbed vault located at high altitude. Three naves of five sections supports one of the moments of greater splendor of the Gothic Civil of the Mediterranean arc.
10 BELEM TOWER, LISBON – PORTUGAL
The end of Gothic era witnessed the construction of Belem Tower of Lisbon. Its construction began in 1516 when the Manueline style of Gothic art had triumphed in Portugal . This style that takes the name of the monarch Manuel I is prodigal in marine iconographic motifs, which reminds us of the importance of the Portuguese crown in its overseas adventures.
Sea shells, anchors, armillary spheres and ropes or knots are typical example of the Manueline art that reaches its zenith in the nearby cloister of the Jeronimos Monastery of Belem.
The Tower of Belem was initially built as a bulwark that could be used as a part of the defense of the Lisbon capital against invaders arriving from the sea front. Subsequently, other functions were introduced, for e.g.- prison and customs. Naturalistic motifs, like rhinoceroses, and Islamic decoration gives this a beautiful bulwark on the banks of the mouth of the Tagus.
11 POWDER TOWER, PRAGUE – CZECH REPUBLIC
Today, it looks like a beautiful secluded tower in the middle of the city of Prague, but the Powder Tower was one of the thirteen gates to the medieval city wall.
Initially built in 1475, it had to be rebuilt after it was devastated in a terrifying fire, in the middle of the fifteenth century. It was once a gunpowder store, this is where it derived its name as Powder Tower.
A large overhang designed with unavoidable pointed arches allowed a way for pedestrians and carriages. The tower was lavishly decorated from the exterior. The door was designed as a tower and culminates with a major spire and four smaller ones located in each of the corners of the roof terrace. If you ever come to Prague, don’t forget to visit the Powder Tower, one of the must see destination in the city.
12 HOSPITELLER FORTRESS, ACRE – ISRAEL
This Civil Gothic construction is the only one that is situated outside of Europe. It is the fortress of St. John of Acre, located in Palestine.
St. Paul was on his journey to Jerusalem when he passed by here. It was thus Europeans selected this place to conquer during the crusades. For two centuries the city had a blind eye with different hands at different times.
This fortress hosted the enormous strength to their witnesses. It is one of the largest civilian Gothic buildings ever built and has performed outstanding functions, like standing for pilgrims and of serve this fortress as a defensive tool.
The huge three-storey building articulated around a 1,200-square-foot patio that also had separate basements and water tanks. The most beautiful room of the fortress is the dining room or Column Room. Three huge columns stand in the center and articulate the ribbed vault that supports the whole complex.