Grand Gothic Architecture
||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 4 to 6
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||abbot, coordinate, entertainment, hunchback, nerd-like, plague, somewhat, spitting, thick-rimmed, unidentified, up-it, vaulted, insurance, occasionally, lifetime, contrast
||Middle Ages, Notre Dame, Saint Denis, Super Bowl, Old Testament, Western Europe, Even Scandinavian, Near East
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Grand Gothic Architecture
By Colleen Messina
1 If you ever visit a Gothic church, you might have the eerie feeling that something or someone is watching you. The hairs on your neck prickle, and the air seems icy cold. Look up-it might be a gargoyle!
2 A gargoyle is a grotesquely carved face or figure projecting from a roof gutter. The word comes from a Latin word meaning throat. It doesn't sound inspiring, does it? Strangely enough, gargoyles were a common decoration on churches in the Middle Ages. They were a fantastic and strange addition to elegant Gothic architecture. We still see them today in movies about the hunchback of Notre Dame.
3 Gargoyles had a practical purpose. They acted as waterspouts for the enormous cathedral roofs. Since many people of that time could not read scriptures, the scary, leering gargoyles also symbolized ideas about good and evil. Some people believe they were used to ward off evil. Others think that architects put them on churches as an insurance policy against the collapse of the building. Still others think that the contrast of ugly gargoyles made the Gothic churches seem even more beautiful!
4 Gargoyles came in many shapes and positions. One long-haired creature with a furrowed brow was picking his nose with a huge, clumsy finger. Another nerd-like creature wore thick-rimmed glasses. When the rain poured down, some gargoyles looked like they were spitting or drooling. At the very least, gargoyles in a rain storm were a good form of medieval entertainment.
5 Grand Gothic architecture does not match its weird gargoyles, but Gothic architects had a lofty goal. They wanted to reach heaven with their cathedrals. Medieval people also wanted to reflect God's light in their places of worship. Walking inside a Gothic church, visitors were awed by its soaring ceilings and huge windows. One cathedral was specifically designed and dedicated to "touching the face of God." The church of Saint Denis in Paris was the first real Gothic cathedral, and it was built in the 1140s. Masons of this church seemed to want to fill the windows with as much glass as they could possibly hold. It became a model for other famous 12th century cathedrals.
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