Gothic art emerged in the 12th century and developed until the 16th, from the Iberian Peninsula to Scandinavia, from Ireland to the Middle East, spread by the Crusaders.
The origins of this great artistic revolution can be found in the Paris region, in the Abbey of Saint Denis, thanks to Abbot Suger and his overarching idea: “the contemplation of material beauty allows us to rise to the knowledge of God”.
And this is the key to Gothic architecture: its cathedrals and churches seem to rise and seek the sky with the marked verticality of its towers and its broad, soaring naves.
Behind this aesthetic change was a great technical revolution, which overcame previous constructive limitations.
Ogival, or pointed arches form ribbed vaults, which would gradually become more complex, until they evolved into fan vaults in England.
Outside, a network of flying buttresses, braces separated from the wall, with pinnacles crowning them, bore the pressure of the vaults, which allowed these buildings to be built ever higher and lighter.
In contrast to the sturdiness and darkness of the Romanesque, Gothic churches were suffused with light.
Frescoed walls were replaced with massive, colorful stained-glass windows and rose windows that flooded the buildings with light, favoring a mystical experience.
Paintings on the walls, increasingly scarce, gave way to a new medium: altarpieces, which would become the focal points of the main altars and chapels.
And Gothic sculpture, which came about closely linked to architecture, free-standing, with a hieratic, elongated aesthetic to convey spirituality, would gradually become more naturalistic and realistic, succeeded by portraits.
Gothic art would evolve and adapt in each different territory, which is why today we speak of Classical Gothic and Flamboyant Gothic in France, Perpendicular in England, Manueline in Portugal, and Isabelline in Spain.
A journey through Spain allows one to view brilliant Gothic architecture, such as the Cathedral of Burgos, recently celebrating its 8th centennial, and those of León, Toledo, Cuenca, Palencia and Gerona; the cloister of the Cathedral of Pamplona, the Church of San Pablo, in Valladolid; the Cathedral of Seville, the largest Gothic church in the world, and, for a civil building, the Lonja de la Seda, or Silk Exchange, in Valencia.