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Spanish Gothic - Architectural Character

( Originally Published 1921 )



The character of Gothic architecture in Europe, which gives the general principles common to all countries, has already been given (p. 300). The salient aspect of Spanish Mediaeval architecture, which in this chapter includes the Romanesque and Gothic periods, dating approximately from A.D. 1000 to 1500, is the evident influence of Moorish art, which spread from the south and more especially from the Moorish capital, Toledo. The Gothic style followed the Romanesque, of which little remains, and was most highly developed in Catalonia where, though mainly on French lines, the grand scale of the single-span vaulted interiors gives it, as at Gerona (p. 536), a specifically Spanish character, and the same may be said of Leon Cathedral, which surpasses its French prototype at Amiens both in the expanse of window openings and the tenuity of the piers. Moorish influence made itself felt in such Saracenic features as the horseshoe arch and pierced stone tracery, and notably in rich surface decoration of intricate geometrical and flowing patterns (pp. 537, 538), for which Saracenic art is remarkable, as in the Sinagoga del Transit), Toledo (A.D. 136o-66), while the early Spanish churches seem to have been the work of Moorish craftsmen. Church exteriors are flat in appearance, owing to the chapels which are so frequently inserted between the buttresses (p. 536). Unlike French Gothic, large wall surfaces and horizontal lines are conspicuous, and generally there is excessive ornament, due to Moorish influence, without regard to its constructive character (p. 524 B). The cloisters of many cathedrals, as Barcelona, Toledo, Segovia (pp. 530 C, 537 A), and Lerida are characteristically ornate. In the later period the grafting of Classical detail on Gothic forms produced most picturesque features, transitional in style, but they come under Renaissance rather than Gothic architecture (p. 677).



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