Page C2.1 . 03 March 2010                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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Gothic Kaleidoscope

by David Stephenson

The Gothic style flourished in Central Europe during the late Gothic period, with many of the most exciting innovations in vault design found in churches built in the regions of present-day Germany and the Czech Republic.

Especially in Central Europe, the large number of churches built in the late Middle Ages was primarily due to the enormous growth of towns. Affluence and civic pride fueled a competitive surge in the construction of parish churches, sometimes of a scale rivaling the cathedrals.

In England, Late Gothic architects continued to experiment with new vault forms throughout the 15th and 16th centuries.

Late Gothic Architecture in Central Europe (1300-1550): Net Vaults

At both the Church of the Holy Spirit (1407-1461) in Landshut, Germany, and the Church of St. John (1467-1502) in Dingolfing, the apse end has a single pier, maintaining a more constant pier spacing. As with many 15th-century German hall churches, the net vaults with their pattern of closely spaced ribs show a growing sophistication in the experimentation with English-derived forms.

In the Church of St. Martin (1385-1480), in Landshut, the choir was built first by Hanns Krummenauer, with a complex vault. He was succeeded in the nave by Hanns Purhauser, with a vault that is an almost identical copy of Peter Parler's vaults in St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. Purhauser was one of the great German architects of the period, who also designed the main parish church in Salzburg, Austria.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from Heavenly Vaults by David Stephenson, copyright © 2009, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.



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The light-toned gothic vaults of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Landshut, Germany, designed by Hans von Burghausen.
Photo: © David Stephenson Extra Large Image

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A similar vault pattern can be seen at the Church of St. John (Stadtpfarrkirche St. Johannes der Täufer) in nearby Dingolfing, Germany.
Photo: © David Stephenson Extra Large Image


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