During this period in the history of architecture and human civilization, religion and social hierarchy  played a great part in shaping and influencing the development of architecture. Christianity became the unifying force that influenced the development of church architecture throughout Europe, especially on areas and countries that were under the Roman Empire. Conflict between states became aggressive due to the desire for expansion of interest resulting to feudalism. Feudalism was  a way of structuring society around relationships derived from the holding of land in exchange for service, labor or military protection. Military architecture facilitated dwelling and provided the protection needed during the feudal periods in history. Forts and castles were normally built on top of hills or surrounded by moats. Windows were kept small and walls were thick to give the impression of stability and strength, the recognizable character of Romanesque architecture applied to military buildings conveying fear, domination and power.

In the height of man’s profound faith to Christianity and the desire in seeking ways to become closer to God, man developed ingenious design and construction methods that became the reflection of his aspiration to greater height. Gothic architecture became dominant producing never before seen and used structural innovation that made building higher structures possible. Pointed arch, flying buttress, and vaulting were employed pushing the height of churches to unimaginable reach producing great cathedrals.

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Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France
Notre Dame de Paris, Paris, France




Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress. The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to occur as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern. The total surface area is 5,500 m² (interior surface 4,800 m²).

Many small individually crafted statues were placed around the outside to serve as column supports and water spouts. Among these are the famous gargoyles, designed for water run-off, and chimeras. The statues were originally colored as was most of the exterior. The paint has worn off. The cathedral was essentially complete by 1345. The cathedral has a narrow climb of 387 steps at the top of several spiral staircases; along the climb it is possible to view its most famous bell and its gargoyles in close quarters, as well as having a spectacular view across Paris when reaching the top.




Photo by Kaci Baum on Unsplash








Gothic architecture became very famous during 1300’s reflecting the church’s power and influence, acting as a symbol of people’s aspiration and faith to Christianity. Religion became one of the main elements that dictated the social structure and people’s way of life. Pilgrimage and crusades became tools in rapidly spreading Christianity bringing with it its architecture and beliefs.  But during the 14th century at the height of Gothic culture and church’s power, a killer plague emerged that tested human faith. Black Death became one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people in Eurasia and peaking in Europe from 1346 to 1353. The plague created a series of religious, social, and economic upheavals, which had profound effects on the course of European history. This event had caused a shift in human interest and rattled the foundation of human faith to Christianity testing its teachings and ideologies.

After the black death, a new idea called humanism was formed, focused on earthly fulfillment rather a preparation for paradise. This new thinking became manifest in art, architecture, politics, science and literature. It was a response to the utilitarian approach and what came to be depicted as the “narrow pedantry” associated with medieval scholasticism. Medieval crusades and the inquisition were replaced by a calculated economic interest without denying the existence of God. Human faith was challenged, man focused his efforts in discovering new ideas that seek to improve his way of living rather than concentrating his efforts in becoming a faithful follower of Christianity. Science and mathematics, literature, music and other form of arts became the manifestation of man’s “rebirth”, exploring ways on how to make the most out of his life. As this “exploration” of life’s new purpose, architecture became an extension of man’s intent in reflecting his new found significance.   

Renaissance or “rebirth” became a widespread idea. Architecture during the Renaissance was no longer the continuation of a practical tradition, handed on through mason’s lodges, it was a literary idea and the architect was not just putting up building; he was following a theory. Designers were no longer craftsmen but creative and versatile artists who assumed the role of scientist and cultured men. The architect was considered a divinely inspired genius. Buildings were no longer confined in designing of religious buildings, though Christianity stills hold firm in its influence seen in the increase of even more number of religious structures, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s cathedral in England, but expanded into other different building types such as libraries, Laurentian Library by Michaelangelo, palaces, Palace and Parks of Versailles, and other structures following the idea of humanism as the basis of design and scale. 

The return to Classical style while highly considering human scale, became the major characteristic of Renaissance architecture. Arches, Classical columns, pediments, domes and repetition of elements such as windows, were frequently applied to various building types such as palaces, museums and civic buildings. 

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