Medieval Gothic cathedrals shared in the same relative traits. As organized civilizations grouped together in communities gothic cathedrals sprang up to form pillars in the community. They acted in uniting work for a common goal and as a social meeting place. The construction goal of reaching towards the heavens through height and the shaping of illumination with a divine concept displayed the foundation of gothic architecture. The inspiration for these structures came from the observation of Constantinople’s monumental architecture. The latent meaning came about as a response to the Muslim overtaking of the Holy Lands and the failed crusades to retake them.
The most common similarity is the cross shape design of the floor plan with emphasis on axial design. The common design concept was to shape illumination through the height of windows and the colors of stained glass. Elaborately designed mullions shaped light as it entered the window and was cast upon stone displaying the texture and the firmness of the stacked pillars. In order for the height of windows to increase the structure’s height had to increase monumentally. This in turn presented a problem with firmness and adaptations were made. The flying buttress was a reaction to the firmness dilemma and was used to support the height of the cathedrals. The flying buttress and the general buttress were adaptations of the Roman arch. Instead of holding horizontal weight above the arch, as in the Roman aqueducts, the arch is split in halves and propped against vertical elements to diffuse vertical stress from the height of columns. The general history of the buttress can be traced back to the Egyptian columns in Queen Hatshepsut’s temple. Another concept was the large towers used as symbolizations of reaching towards the heavens. A comparison can be made relating the dominance of the towers to surrounding buildings and to the dominance of the wu-wu’s displayed in the Roman Empire. Due to the height dominance of the wu-wu the cathedral can be viewed from every part of the city providing a reminder of the unification of community under faith through architecture.
Organized civilization expanded farther apart resulting in differences between cathedrals. Salisbury cathedral in England stressed horizontal lines through lateral extension. Notre Dame in Amiens focused upon vertical lines. Amiens choir grew in size forcing the transepts towards the center and creating different widths between the nave and the choir. The Salisbury Cathedral had a flat stained glass curtain wall instead of a rounded chapel on the east end. Salisbury is just as long as Amiens but not as wide. The Gothic cathedral at Cologne had two towers at the opening of the nave in contrast with Salisbury which originally had no tower until the end of the fourteenth century when one was added at the central intersection. Notre Dame at Amiens shared both characteristics of a centralized tower and southern towers. The Duomo cathedral in Florence has a tower at the entrance to the nave but differs from the others in that it has a large dome in the center.
The cathedrals mimic Constantinople architecture in different ways. But perhaps draw the emphasis on size from the early medieval towns in that there was a great wall around towns to protect the communal interior from outside predators. Perhaps the size protects the interior space of the cathedral as well as an adaption to the necessity of illumination. The interior space has the importance of communal holiness and the size of structure that defines and protects the space needed to be just as grand and important. The demonstration of hierarchy is noted here in that social organization is of importance to weaving society together.