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Gothic Art and Scholasticism

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Gothic art

Gothic art has always played an integral role in world art hereditary as its architecture, paintings, and sculptures amazed not only medieval people but also contemporary art critics and visitors. The appearance of Gothic style was more than evident in architecture whereas in paintings, sculpture, or other kinds of artistic works, it is not demonstrated vividly enough. The beauty and artistic value of Gothic architecture are known to be impacted by various trends as the Gothic architectural style is considered not to emerge as one unity; it experienced the fungal development and only then, it appeared to become a system. Scholasticism was one of those philosophical perspectives which influenced Gothic art more than considerably.

The Gothic architecture at first “continued as a system of the vaulted basilica, as it has been developed in the Romanesque period” (Charles, Karl 11). In most cases, Gothic architectural style was peculiar for medieval churches. In spite of the fact that Gothic art appeared, and an abundance of changes in architecture became evident, the ground plans of sacred buildings remained the same. The Gothic architecture varied much; this phenomenon was dependent on the country where Gothic art began to appear and on the period of construction. This is the reason why Gothic buildings are determined chronologically; they are categorized into Early, High, and Late Gothic. For instance, in France, Early Gothic lasts from 1140 to 1800, the High Gothic lasts from 1200 to 1350, and the Late Gothic from 1350 to 1520. In other countries, the situation was quite different: in England, the Gothic architecture was peculiar only for narrow lancet arches, and the so-called “Early English” lasted from 1170 to 1250. In Italy, Gothic style appeared only in 1200 whereas, in Germany, Early Gothic lasted during a short period of time: from 1220 to 1250. Then, it was followed by High Gothic (from 1250 to 1350), and the Late Gothic lasted from 1350 to 1530. Making a profound analysis of all intervals which were peculiar for Gothic style, it is evident that it appeared in the mid-twelfth century and ended in the beginning of the fifteenth century.

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Scholasticism became one of the new philosophical concepts and critical thoughts, which appeared in European universities from 1100-1500 as this method dominated in academics teaching; this is the reason why both gothic art and scholasticism became novelties in the same period of time. Being a result of some views of Christian monastic schools and one of the most significant methods of defending orthodoxy, scholasticism was more than likely to interrelate with Gothic architectural style of cathedral construction and to put an enormous impact on this sacred architecture.

Harmony in scholacticism and Gothic architectual style

Moreover, scholasticism was a method of harmonization among medieval Christian philosophers. This became a way of harmonization of an abundance of different authorities of the tradition of scholasticism and searching for a proper combination of the Christian method of thinking with those of classical and late antiquity philosophers such as Aristotle. The similar kind of harmony was sought by Gothic architecture as although the so-called “final harmony” was not achieved entirely, Gothic builders “disclosed beauties which answer to some of the deepest searchings of the human heart – the urge towards the unknown which will complete what is wanting on the mandane plane” (Short 167). The search of harmony both in the human soul and among different philosophical and theological methods is present in scholasticism and Gothic architectural style so that the philosophical view became an intellectual impetus of Gothic art.

One more issue which proves the intellectual impetus of scholasticism on Gothic art is the desire of builders to create a new architectural style without being oblivious to the previous architectural works as they not only were inclined to demonstrate a new vision of architecture in their art but also to reconcile the previous techniques with new ones. For instance, in one of his works, Kenneth Clark wrote, “That was the age which gave European civilization its impetus. Our intellectual energy, our contact with the great minds of Greece, our ability to move and change, our belief that God may be approached through beauty, our feeling of compassion, our sense of the unity of Christendom – all this, and much more, appeared in those hundred marvelous years” (Bausch, Cannon, Obach 161). On the other hand, although the Gothic cathedrals were similar to Greek temples, which followed the Greco-Roman tradition, Gothic architecture was dominated by the vertical line (not horizontal line as in Greek buildings). In addition, the Gothic arch was pointed but not flat or semi-circular as it was in Ancient Greece whereas the walls were broken by windows in order to make the room larger and lighter. This search for new ideal forms and using previous experience was inspired by the advocates of scholasticism.

Philosophical system of scholasticism 

Furthermore, scholasticism was a philosophical system which focused on the solving of an abundance of new philosophical problems such as the spiritual analysis of intellect and will, reason and faith, and the proof of existence of God. These issues became one more kind of intellectual impetus for the Gothic architectural style as the saturation of the intellectual and spiritual content is obvious even in every pillar or column of Gothic cathedrals. The whole building seemed to be absorbed with the animated discussion on the existence of God and the importance of faith as the spiritual character and not only stone walls became important for the construction of the cathedral. Stone walls had to obtain a spiritual meaning and to make a visitor create his own inferences concerning one of the philosophical issues of scholasticism in particularly. This goal had to be achieved by scholasticism.

Because of the fact that walls did not use to play such an integral role, they were relatively narrow; this is the reason why Gothic paintings had to be quite small. However, in spite of the small size, paintings had their own eminent meaning. Scholasticism, which defended Orthodoxy and Christianity in particularly, influenced this kind of Gothic art. Allegorical paintings as well as sculptures were created in accordance with the traditional idea at the same time being more naturalistic and aesthetic. Moreover, paintings became more vivid, and they had to stimulate the watchers to make a spiritual analysis. Fantastic animals appeared in the paintings quite often; that were the peculiarities of the artistic works which appeared earlier. This is the reason why another evidence of the intellectual impetus of scholasticism is obvious.

In conclusion, it is necessary to notify that the fungal development and the overwhelming success of Gothic art trace back to the 12th-15th century. Scholasticism had a considerable influence on the Gothic architectural style as well as paintings and sculptures. First of all, it happened because of the simultaneous evolvement of both Gothic art and scholasticism. Moreover, the philosophical perspective made Gothic builders take into account not only new architectural forms but also those which were peculiar for Ancient Greece; this was one of the major methods to develop tolerance in different architectural styles. The spiritual aspect of construction became more than significant due to scholasticism as well. A personality needed to dispute on the issue of existence of God rather than to make going to the cathedral just a habitual action. In order to popularize Christianity and Orthodoxy at the same time, paintings and sculptures became more realistic by the hmeans of the intellectual impetus of scholasticism. This is the reason why this philosophical view can be considered to be a powerful weapon of Gothic art.

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