How I observe a Gothic cathedral

The Gothic architecture flourished in Mid Age Europe between the XII-th and the XVI-th century, leaving behind some of the most beautiful cathedral and abbeys.

Here are the key elements I look for when I visit a Gothic cathedral. All the pictures in this article I’ve taken at St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague, Czech Republic, a gorgeous piece of this style.


Before I enter I look for…

Overall aspect

It stands tall, it’s severe, massive with a light coloured plaster.


It’s majestic, uses the ogival arch and it’s richly decorated with mini statues inside the tympanum.


The gargoyles could be found along the roof and battlements usually looking like little monsters. Their practical purpose is to collect the rain water that is draining off through their mouths to the ground, thus protecting the walls from being damaged.

Their grotesque, exaggerated aspect (you remember Art Nouveau, right?) serves their second, mystical purpose, to protect the church and scare the evil spirits.

Rosetta window

Every Gothic cathedral has one with no exception. It’s made of colourful glass so definitely check it when you step in, it will be more impressive.

Flying buttress

The flying buttress could be found on the sides of the building. It’s role is to support the weight of the vaulted ceiling thought allowing thiner, but higher walls. It’s not only a practical element, it could be a pleasure of your eyes to watch the flying buttress – pinacle pair (Milan Cathedral is an excellent example).


The pinnacle is used in conjunction with the flying buttress to leverage the stress in the walls. It looks like a small turret, being also ornamental. There are many of these on top of the flying buttress as you can see above.


The interior is elegant, the light is coming though the stained glass at the windows, it’s airy with a very tall ceiling.

Rosetta window

Vaulted/ribbed ceiling

Results from the intersection of two or three barrel vaults. It’s one of my favourite key elements of the Gothic style, I could barely take my eyes off it.

Pointed/ogival arch

Stained glass

It’s very colourful, usually depicts religious scenes, but not only. Taking a closer look using a binocular or the zoom of your camera might leave your surprised.

If you are passionate about architecture and about the Gothic style in particular you might also want to see:
United Kingdom: Westminster Abbey (London),  Salisbury Cathedral (Salisbury – stop here on your way to Stonehenge), Gloucester Cathedral (Gloucester – the crazy Cheese Rolling Festival is happening in Gloucestershire county)
France: Notre Dame du Paris (Paris), Reims Cathedral (Reims – the place where the kings of France were crowned), Rouen Cathedral (Rouen – also check Claude Monet’s series here)
Germany: Cologne Cathedral (Cologne)
Austria: St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Viena)
Czech Republic: St. Vitus Cathedral (Prague – bonus: you get a wonderful view over the city without climbing any of its towers; it’s located on a hill)
Belgium: Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula (Brussels)
Italy: Milan Cathedral (Milan), Florence Cathedral (Florence), Saint Mark’s Basilica (Venice)
Spain: Seville Cathedral (Seville), Barcelona Cathedral (Barcelona), Santiago de Compostela  Cathedral (Santiago de Compostela)
Romania: Black Church (Brașov)

One thought on “How I observe a Gothic cathedral

  1. Google este prietenul meu, asa ca mi-a tradus el noul tau articol de pe Sir Butterfly's Blog. Superbe imagini ale monumentelor in stil gotic din Praga si placut surprins de referintele catre alte monumente ridicate in acelas stil din Europa


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