Saint Sernin of Toulouse and Notre Dame of ParisWhen one thinks of St. Sernin and Notre Dame, one tends to think of twobeautiful cathedrals, not to churches that portray two totally different stylesof architecture. Those two styles are, of course, Romanesque in St. Sernin andthe Gothic style of Notre Dame. Some characteristics that these two buildingsshare include quest for height, basic floor plan, and artistic flair. Theperiod of Romanesque architecture, which lasted roughly from 1050 A.D. to 1150A.D., concentrated mainly on achieving massive proportions, rounded vaulted bays,the round arch, the wall buttress, cylindrical apse and chapels, and towers.
Early Gothic architecture, which began in 1144 with the dedication of SaintDenis, concentrated more on mastering the idea of an obscenely high ceiling, aswell as ribbed and pointed vaults, the relationship between the structure andits appearance, and perhaps, most importantly the use of light.
One of the most enjoyable things about comparing the two structures ofSt. Sernin and Notre Dame is that there are so many differences as far as theparticulars go, but in general the two cathedrals are very, very much alike.
Through the years, enough architectural and engineering advances had been madeto raise the ceiling to staggering new heights of over one hundred feet. Thematerials remained the same as they had for years before, stone and mortar. Thebasic floor plan remained the same, a cross. The nave had become longer andmore spectacular and the ceiling had been heightened due to recent discovery ofvaulted ceilings, but other than that, it was the same floor plan as ever. Thecathedrals were designed to draw vast numbers of people them, therefore theywere built so that one might not only come to worship, but to see the beauty ofthe structure. Even to this day people are in awe of these building, and comemore to stare at their beauty than to worship God.
Regardless of how many likeness’ we are able to find between theRomanesque style of St. Sernin and the Gothic style of Notre Dame, it is thedifference that make them so amazing. In my opinion there are three majordifferences in Early Gothic and Romanesque styles of architecture. These arethe differences in buttresses, the use of towers, and the use of windows. Fromthe exterior, one of the first differences one would notice is the use offlying buttresses in Gothic architecture. Where in Romanesque buildings,standard buttresses would have been used, the buttresses on Gothic buildingswere detached from the building. This created a more open essence to the churchand in my opinion a more “spiritual” look. As far as the towers go, inRomanesque structure the towers were used as a more central figure, while inGothic construction, the towers were used more as an entrance structure. Mostimportantly though, is the different use of light. In Romanesque structures, asis obvious in St. Sernin, it was realized that in a structure as big as acathedral, much light was needed. Therefore many, small windows were put in tolight up the deep bowels of the cathedral. In Gothic architecture, however, andespecially Notre Dame windows became a major part of the construction process.
They found that by transferring more of the force down the flying buttressesthat the vertical walls did not carry as much stress, therefore more windowscould be added without reducing structural integrity. Therefore windows wereput in on several levels, not only as a source of light, but as a form of art.
Most of the stained glass windows depicted either scenes from the bible orpeople of royalty. The windows pierced through the walls and added to thebeauty of the cathedral. Between the addition of the flying buttresses and theuse of stained glass windows, Gothic cathedrals produced some of the mostbeautiful and enormous works of art known to man. The use of sculptures,stained glass, and gargoyles added to the Romanesque ideas of size, vaultedceilings, and towers made Gothic Architecture some of the most artistic andfascinating buildings ever built. Social Issues