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German Gothic - Comparative Analysis

( Originally Published 1921 )

A. Plans.—Church plans are of varied types, and the larger number were derived from German Romanesque churches with apsidal ends, usually semi-octagonal. They are found not only both east and west, as at Naumburg, but also at ends of transepts, when they are known as triapsal plans, as in S. Elizabeth, Marburg (p. 486 H). Another type of plan is the result of French influence, and has the chevet, as at Cologne, Magdeburg, Lubeck, Freiburg, and Prague. Twin western towers, as at Ratisbon Cathedral (p. 485 c), and single western towers, as at Ulm, are found (p. 485 D) ; while in later buildings a central tower crowns the crossing, as in some English cathedrals. Entrances are often small and insignificant, and are on the north and south instead of at the west, and are formed in transepts and dignified with towers, as in S. Stephen, Vienna (p. 489 A, G).

B. Walls.—Apsidal galleries of the Romanesque style were reproduced over wall surfaces without reference to their origin and purpose. Tracery was employed on both outer and inner wall surfaces, and wall tracery was often carried up in front of inner traceried windows and across gables, as at the Lorenzkirche, Nuremberg. Towers with spires were much used, but the junction of spire and tower was often so little marked as to render the outline, though ornamented, somewhat confused and unsatisfactory (p. 485 c). Open tracery spires (p. 485 D), complicated alike in design and construction, are favourite features and were probably suggested by the numerous turrets with many openings used in Romanesque buildings. The typical examples are Freiburg, Ratisbon (p. 485 c), Cologne (p. 485 A), and Vienna Cathedrals (p. 489 A).

C. Openings.-Nave arcades in " hall " churches were necessarily lofty, owing to the height of the aisles, such as those in S. Stephen and S. Quentin, Mayence, the Frauenkirche, Nuremberg (p. 490 D), S. Elizabeth, Marburg (p. 486 A, E), and S. Stephen, Vienna (p. 489 B, D). Doorways, though frequently unimportant, as at Marburg (p. 492 H), are sometimes elaborated with sculpture (p. 492 F), especially under French influence, as at Cologne (p. 485 A) and Erfurt (p. 492 G). Traceried windows, like the nave arcading in " hall " churches, are of excessive height, as in the choir, Erfurt (p. 492 J), but sometimes in the lofty aisles they are in two tiers, as at Marburg (p. 486 c, D). Clear-story windows, when employed, start almost immediately above the nave arcade so as to provide a great expanse of stained glass. Tracery was much elaborated and double-traceried windows are not uncommon. Rose windows of intricate design were popular, as in the Lorenzkirche, Nuremberg ; while oriel windows to give an additional outlook are much used in domestic architecture, as in the Kaiserworth, Goslar (p. 491 c), S. Sebald's Parsonage, Nuremberg, and the Rathhaus Chapel, Prague (p. 491 H).

D. Roofs.—Vaulting, which was usually employed for churches, was excellent both in proportion and construction. One square nave vaulting bay frequently corresponds with two in the aisle, but vaulting in oblong bays afterwards became general, as at Freiburg, Ratisbon, Cologne (p. 485 B), Oppenheim, and elsewhere. The special German feature is the immense roof of the " hall " church which, in one span, covers the nave and lofty aisles (pp. 489 C, 490 c). The retention of the quaint tower roofs of the Romanesque period was often another distinctive feature in an otherwise Gothic exterior.

E. Columns.—Nave piers, with or without capitals, as at Augsburg, were employed in preference to columns of French Gothic type, and owing to the height of the aisles they assumed the appearance of lofty posts (pp. 486 A, 490 B, D) supporting the spreading vault. Capitals are frequently carved (p. 495 A, B, D, E) and exhibit skill in technique rather than design.

F. Mouldings.—The mouldings, particularly of the later period, indicate a desire for intricacy rather than simplicity, and this found expression, as also to some extent in England and France, in the complicated system of " interpenetration " of different sets of mouldings, which, appearing and disappearing in the same stone, required great skill in stone-cutting for their effective execution (p. 495). The search after effect further led to exaggerating the size of distant features, such as the roof pinnacles at Cologne : thus scale was sacrificed to detail, whereas in England and France the size of features was subordinated to the general proportions of the building.

G. Ornament (pp. 492, 495).—Sculpture was carried out much as in France, and the triangular porch of Ratisbon Cathedral, with its saints on columns beneath traceried canopies, is an instance of the richness of detail occasionally lavished on church porches (p. 485 c). The carving is better in execution than design, and there was a tendency towards the exact reproduction of natural foliage, such as interlaced boughs and branches of trees, "which appealed to the craftsmen, who were adepts at executing interpenetrating mouldings. This idea was even carried into the " branch-tracery of later Gothic windows, where, again, technical skill is more evident than artistic creation and grace of outline. The enforced use of brick in the north eliminated sculpture, and moulded and coloured brick took its place in decoration. Tabernacles or sacrament houses, dating from the time when the placing of the consecrated Host above the altar was discontinued in Germany, gave ample scope for German decorative art. They are lofty, spire-like structures, tapering up in many stages of carved wood or stone with traceried openings, pinnacles, statues, and canopies, all in miniature, to contain the eucharistic pyx. Some are of great height, as at Ratisbon (52 ft.), the Lorenzkirche, Nuremberg (64 ft.) and Ulm (90 ft.) . Stained glass is often excellent, as in S. Sebaldus, Nuremberg, while the delicate and intricate ironwork of Germany, as seen in the fountains of Nuremberg, is famous throughout the world. The choir stalls at Halberstadt (p. 492 E) and Lubeck (p. 495 H), the screens at Oberwesel (p. 492 B), the pulpit, Nuremberg (p. 495 J), the altar and canopy, Ratisbon (p, 495 L), the stall-end, Erfurt (p. 495 F), the tomb at Marburg (P 495 K), the holy well at Ratisbon (p. 492 D), and the triptych, Nuremberg (p. 495 c), are representative specimens of the Mediaeval art of Germany. S. Sebald's shrine, Nuremberg (A.D. 1508–19) (p. 495 G), by Peter Vischer, exemplifies the craze for over-elaboration which characterised German craftsmen. Here twelve snails support the columns and bronze statues of the twelve Apostles who stand under their intricate fretwork canopies, guarding and enclosing the silver sarcophagus of the Saint.

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