17 Dec

Gothic.  What does the word gothic means?  Before, whenever I hear this word I always thought it only pertains to people who dress like vampires, likes blood a lot, wears dark make up, and listen to dark rock music.  To me, gothic means dark and morbid.  And well I was clueless.

Gothic is the term originally used to describe things pertaining to the Gothic people and then reused in a variety of contexts.  The Goths were traditionally thought to have originated in northern Europe and moved south towards the borders of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century. Eventually they occupied territories in modern Germany, Spain and Italy.


In our history class I realized that Gothic is actually something dark but beautiful.       Our last topic for 2011 is Gothic Architecture.

    Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period.  It evolved from Romanesque Architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance Architecture.  Originating in 12th century France and lasting into the 16th century, Gothic architecture was known during the period as “the French Style,” (Opus Francigenum), with the term Gothic first appearing during the latter part of the Renaissance. Its characteristic features include the pointed arch, the ribbed vault and the flying buttresses.  Gothic architecture is most familiar as the architecture of many of the great cathedrals, abbeys and churches of Europe. It is also the architecture of many castles, palaces, town halls, guild halls, universities and to a less prominent extent, private dwellings.



We are shown with photographs of different examples of Gothic Architecture.  But all of were located in Europe.  Besides the pointed arches, ribbed vaults and flying buttresses a gothic structure can easily be identified with its really tall towers.    The rose window is still present just like in the Romanesque Period.

One of the most popular example of this is the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France.

     Notre Dame Cathedral (full name: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, “Our Lady of Paris”) is a beautiful cathedral on the the Île de la Cité in Paris. Begun in 1163 and mostly completed by 1250, Notre Dame is an important example of French Gothic architecture, sculpture and stained glass.

    But I actually remembered it from the novel The Hunch-back of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo which was made into a disney movie.  And my favorite example from this period is the Westminster Abbey.

     The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, popularly known as Westminster Abbey, is a large, mainly Gothic church, in theCity of Westminster, London, United Kingdom, located just to the west of the Palace of Westminster.  It is steeped in more than a thousand years of history. Benedictine monks first came to this site in the middle of the tenth century, establishing a tradition of daily worship which continues to this day.  The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of seventeen monarchs.

    I first heard it from the wedding of the century, the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (now Princess Catherine).  It’s definitely something.  The interior of this church when I saw it on the television was amazing.  Very regal.

Gothic Architecture also have touched the Philippines.  It is also used in interior design for commercial areas such as bars and clubs.  But mainly seen in churches as well.



There were two very obvious examples of gothic architecture here in the Philippine, the San Sebastian Church and the Iglesia Ni Cristo. Though I really wanted to visit the INC, I was told that I can only get in if I happen to know someone who is a member.  So I decided to just look for photographs of their churches in the net.

Last semester, in my sociology class where our topic is about religion, one of my classmate asked why does the Iglesia ni Cristo Church looks like a sleeping robot.  That was funny to me that time because then again I was clueless.  He finds the lights on the towers to be funny because it makes the church looks like a robot.

       Iglesia ni Cristo (Tagalog for Church of Christ) also known as INC, is the largest entirely indigenous Christian religious organization that originated from the Philippines and the largest independent church in Asia. Carlos A. Santos-Viola is the architect of the main church of the INC. He employed exterior neo-Gothic vertical support columns with tall narrow windows between, interlocking trapezoids, and rosette motifs, as well as tower and spires.

      I still do not know what the lights at the tip of the towers are for.  But I truly appreciate the beauty of the interior of their church.

Since we can’t go inside the INC, we still have one more place to explore and learn from.  The San Sebastian Church.

My first thought about going to this church was “I’m finally going to see it.”  Back then, when I was still studying interior design, our professor mentioned that the San Sebastian Church was rumored to be designed by the French Engineer who also designed the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel.  It got me curious, I was excited to see it.  But every time I would visit my friends who studies at San Sebastian College, which was just adjacent to the church we would always end up going elsewhere (the mall).  They would even tell me that when you look at the keyhole of the main entrance you will see the image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the statue on the main altar.  That even excite me more to visit the church.  But being young and out of focus, years passed I still haven’t see it.  So finally, last monday we came to see it, and it was beautiful as I had always imagine it to be.

    The Basilica Minore de San Sebastián, better known as San Sebastián Church, is an example of the revival of Gothic Architecture in the Philippines, it is the only all steel church or basilica in Asia.  It has also been implausibly reputed to be the first prefabricated building in the world, and more plausibly claimed as the only prefabricated steel church in the world.

     When we got there there was a wedding.  The bride was about to make her walk to the altar.  So we have to wait for her to not make any commotion.

When the wedding ceremony started we started exploring the church (sorry for intruding, congratulations anyway!).  Here is one of the tracery windows with the image of the Last Supper.

  We are told that tracery windows provided a framework for Bible stories to be told in picture because churches and cathedrals serves as a library for illiterate townspeople.  Next is the towering thin columns,

and the star vault,

the dome on top of the altar,

the altar,

Here, even the confessional have pointed designs,

and the wheel or rose window that looks like a snow flake,


It’s weird that I used to think Gothic is scary.  But when I found out that the San Sebastian Church was an example of Gothic Architecture I realized that gothic is actually dark and beautiful.


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Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Uncategorized


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