Italian Gothic architecture

Gothic architecture appeared in Italy in the 12th century. The architectural ardite solutions and technical innovations of the French Gothic cathedrals never appeared: Italian architects preferred to keep the construction tradition established in the previous centuries. Aesthetically, in Italy the vertical development was rarely important.

A possible timeline of Gothic architecture in Italy can comprise:

an initial development of the Cistercian architecture
an “early Gothic” phase (c. 1228-1290)
the “mature Gothic” of 1290-1385
a late Gothic phase from 1385 to the 16th century, with the completion of the great Gothic edifices begun previously, as the Milan Cathedral and San Petronio Basilica in Bologna.

Basic Characteristics of Italian Gothic Architecture
Two of the basic Gothic elements paradoxically to Italy were not brought from France but were used here in the eleventh century. The arch arc is an element commonly used by the Arabs in its architecture, and the Normans took it from the end of the eleventh century in Sicily. The ribbed vault was in Italy, or even directly discovered in Lombardy at the end of the eleventh century. Still, many historians have quite seriously asked whether Italian Architecture of the High and Late Middle Ages can count on Gothic architecture.

In Italy, at that time, the architecture of mixed Romanesque and Gothic style with many influences of Byzantine architecture (Venice) was built, a significant influence of ancient architecture and influences of Arabic architecture. Moreover, since Italy was divided into a number of independent states until the nineteenth century, the shape of individual buildings and the degree of use of individual Gothic elements are geographically very different.

The Italian Gothic does not really notice the construction at all. He practically does not know the support system , the cathedral timetable and the skeletal structure. On the contrary, it relies on massive walls broken by relatively small windows. It often respects the basilical arrangement of space and ground plan. Many churches have a main boat covered with a beamed ceiling or directly open to a low roof. Even the height of churches is generally lower than in Île-de-France.

The Italian Gothic is, however, very decorative. It often uses marble or similar high-quality materials, and large areas of masonry are dedicated to painting and mosaics. Many, especially late-gothic buildings have a large number of decorative elements with a very finely-formed form.

Beginnings of Gothic architecture in Italy
Gothic architecture was imported into Italy, just as it was in many other European countries. The Benedictine Cistercian order was, through their new edifices, the main carrier of this new architectural style. It spread from Burgundy (in what is now eastern France), their original area, over the rest of Western Europe.

This kind of architecture had in fact already included most of the novelties which characterized the Gothic cathedrals of Île-de-France, but with a more subdued, and somewhat “ascetic”, formal approach. Figurative decorations are banned. The stained glass windows are reduced in size and colorless. The verticalism is reduced. In the exterior bell towers and belfries are absent.

Always present, however, are oval rectangular groin vaults and clustered piers, composed by an ensemble of smaller columns, which continue with engaged pillars to the vaulting-ribs. The capitals have very simple decorations, usually not figurative. The stone-dressing is very accurate as well. The result is a quasi-modern cleanness, lacking embellishments.

The Cistercian architecture could be easily adapted, with slight modifications, to the necessities of Mendicant Orders such as the Dominicans and the Franciscans, which at the time were expanding rapidly throughout Italy. Both strove for a certain cleanness, when not poverty, in their edifices. They needed large naves and aisles to allow the faithful to follow the sermon and rites without visual obstacles, as often happened in cathedrals, whose interiors contained numerous pilasters and had the choir separated by walls from the nave.

Oldest Gothic architecture

12th century
As previously stressed, the first Italian Gothic edifices were Cistercian abbeys. They spread throughout Italian territory, often adapting construction techniques to local traditions. There were in fact brickwork edifices in the Pianura Padana, while stone prevailed in central Italy and Tuscany. In the latter was sometimes present the by-chrome wall decoration from the local Romanesque tradition.

The most important edifices include the Chiaravalle Abbey in northern Italy and the Casamari Abbey in central Italy. Among the non-Cistercian buildings of this century which were influenced by the Gothic style, though still presenting important Romanesque features, are the Parma Baptistery by Benedetto Antelami and the church of Sant’Andrea in Vercelli, also featuring Antelami’s influences.

San Galgano
An example of such a building is the ruin of the San Galgano monastery church in Tuscany (the beginning of the construction of bicycles in 1224). A large, three-nave church with a basilica layout was equipped with transept. The presbytery was terminated by a straight wall, broken by two trices of lancet windows above each other, over which a large circular rosette was placed. Intersectional arcades carried massive cross pillars with enclosed half-columns that penetrated and rhythmized the entire building, and from which massive inter-martial passports grew. However, the vaults were not yet equipped with ribs.

Sant ‘Andrea in Vercelli
A similar, but yet knowledgeable, more subtle morphologically- equipped church is Sant’Andrea in Vercelli. The building was consecrated in 1224 , just five years from the beginning of construction in 1219. Bishop Guale, who initiated the construction, had previously resided in England as a papal legate , which is probably why the interior of the church very accurately reflects the North African patterns of that time. However, the facade is solved in an entirely Italian way.

San Francesco in Assisi
Gothic elements in their buildings were also used by Franciscans and Dominicans. However, they are adapted to local conditions. An example of such a building is the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi. The two-storey church was founded in 1228 and consecrated to 1253. It is (in the case of the upper church) a single-nave church with a transept , to which immediately (similar to the Romanesque apse) follows a polygonal conclusion with five sides of a ten-angled. The church is vaulted with crossed ribbed vaults and, thanks to its extensive wall surfaces, is very richly decorated with wall paintings. a skeleton structure with large windows is only applicable in the presbytery.

Other Major Buildings of the 13th Century
An example of the San Francesco church followed many buildings in central Italy. However, the Franciscan Church of San Francesco in Bologna from the same time is based on the French Cistercian tradition, as its “cathedral” ground plan clearly demonstrates. Significant is the enormous Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence , launched in 1246. But even more powerful is the Franciscan Church of Santa Croce in Florence (started in 1294). The most innovative building is also the Church of Sant ‘Antonio in Padua , started around 1290 , which suresently connects perhaps all the influences of the so-called and, in addition, the Byzantine influence of St. Mark’s Church in Venice , which reminds of its dome. Interesting buildings include the Church of San Fortunato in Todi (1292-1328) and San Lorenzo in Naples (1270-1285).

At least mention of the secular buildings deserves mention. Above all, the remarkable fortress of Castel del Monte , built from 1240 for Fridrich II. in the Puglia. Palazzo del Comune in Piacenza or Bargelo in Florence can be seen from the city palaces. From the very end of the thirteenth century, Palazzo Vecchio (later rebuilt) in Florence and the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena.

High Gothic architecture

13th century
This century saw the construction of numerous Gothic buildings for the Mendicant Orders. The most important ones include:

Sienský Dóm

The exterior of the Sieni Dome with a Romanesque bell tower and a fragment of the undersized main boat on the right
The Sienia Dome is a building that is set on the boundary of the thirteenth and fourteenth-century architecture. At first glance, the dome is an enormous impression. It is caused by the use of alternating layers of black and white marble , which gives the dome a completely unmistakable expression. However, the construction itself did not follow a single plan, but rather the opposite.

The rebuilding of the Romanesque Basilica began in the thirteenth century and the Cistercian Church of San Galgano was the model (already mentioned). The church was to be rebuilt to gain a more powerful cross over which a gigantic dome was to be built. However, due to its height it was necessary to change the height of the main ship. It also counted on the extension of the chora and the construction of the new eastern facade in the place where a square baptistery was built in advance, on which the facade of the chorus had to be established. This spectacular plan was changed, however, and it was decided to use the entire dome church as a transept, with the new huge three-aisle standing at right angles to the existing building and a new choir on the other side. Due to construction errors, disunity, and finally due to the great plague , the construction of 1348 was halted and is still unfinished.

Florentine dome
Even in the Florentine dome of Santa Maria del Fiore , there has been a change of plans several times, yet the construction was eventually brought to an end in the first half of the fifteenth century Bruneleskchi dome in the early Renaissance style.

In 1296 the foundation stone of the cathedral was laid. The plans were probably drawn up by the architect and sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio. The church was to be a three-nave basilica with a beamed ceiling in the main ship, and it was supposed to be above the dome crossing. After his death, work slowed down. In 1334, he was named the builder of the Giotto di Bondone , but he was mainly involved in constructing a noble campaign. The construction began again in 1357, according to the plans of Francesco Talenti , who significantly changed the project of Cambi. Its work is the massive cross ribbed vaults in all ships and the plan, creating above the crosses a huge dome with the width of all three ships. The chorus was also extended.

Also in Florence plays a significant role in the artistic effect of the construction of multicolored marble tiles. In addition to white and black, there is still a red porphyry. Interestingly, Giotto’s bell tower and the dome in this solution are directly linked to the nearby Baptisterium San Giovanni , which dates back to the eleventh century, from the period of the highly antiquated Tuscan Romanesque “Protorenesance”. This building was also very inspiring for the early Italian humanists who considered it an antique building. In Filippo Bruneleschi’s works, the prominent influence of this Romanesque building is very noticeable.

Temple Faces
For a long time, the Italian cathedrals have not been able to solve their problem. The Florentine dome had a facade finished only in the lower third. Definitely it was done in the nineteenth century.

In 1284 he started the construction of the front of the Siena Dome, Giovanni Pisano. He came from the French. The lower part of the facade is divided by three large-sized portals and the upper floor is completely controlled by a huge rosette. The facade is enclosed by a pair of slender, cracked stair towers that are richly decorated with vimperks , filams and other sculptural decorations. Triple triangular shields captured the areas of colorful mosaics.

This front served as a certain precedent. Very soon a very similar facade of the Orviet dome was built, where more space was given to mosaics. The entire front is also dealt with in a clearer and clearer way. Likewise, the unfinished facade of the Sienia baptistery (launched 1339) should look similar.

Cabinet Architecture
Working with noble materials, especially with marble, led the Italian stonecutters to create structures that most remind of small reliquary cabinets or similar gold products. An example of such a building is the tiny church of Santa Maria della Spina in Pisa. Another Orsanmichel Church in Florence. The fineness of the design almost breathes breath and the buildings literally overflow with a number of decorative elements and sculptures.

Late Gothic architecture

14th century
Around the late 13th century several important Gothic or Gothic-like edifices were begun, which were to be completed in the following century. These include;

In the late 14th century two major Italian late-Gothic edifices were begun, the Duomo di Milano and the Basilica di San Petronio at Bologna.

15th century
In the 15th century no new major Gothic edifices were built in Italy, while the construction of large basilicas and cathedrals begun continued. In particular, the realization of Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome of the Florence Cathedral.

Milan Dóm

Milan dome
At the end of the fourteenth century, during the reign of Duke Gian Galeazz Visconti , the importance of the north Italian city of Milan increased. In 1386/7 , Simone da Orsenigo began the planning of a new dome , using a generous scheme of a huge five-poster structure with a trilobal transept , a choir with a massive polygonal chorus and a tower-shaped dome above the cross. The International Commission of Experts was convened to resolve technical issues, including Jan Parler and Henry Parler , descendants of Petr Parler. To date, many drawings , sketches and other papers of this committee have been preserved. The construction eventually proceeded according to the will of the Italian builders. The documents prove their good knowledge of French and German designs.

The very construction of the dome was completed in 1572 , but the finishing of the stone-made facade extended until 1813. While the interior is relatively austere, the exterior is almost tied with a number of sculptures , canopy , purple. The large window frames are framed and all other masonry areas are divided by vertical paneling. Despite the size of the windows, the interior of the building is very dark. This is due to the Italian Masters’ decision not to build the main ship , the transept, and the chorus significantly elevated over the side ships, so that the light penetrates the central parts of the dome only mediatedly.

San Petronio in Bologna
Basilica San Petronio in Bologna was to be a gigantic church, 182.5 meters long, with a transept of 136.8 meters wide and a huge dome in the cross. Yet it was not a bishop’s, but a parish church. The plans were drawn up by Antonio di Vicenza. But he died in 1400. In 1525 the ship was finished and “provisionally” closed with shallow apse. Until today the church is unfinished, but even a fragment of the original structure surprised its size. In the interior of the interior, it was undoubtedly overcome everything that had been created in Gothic architecture.

Ca d’Oro in Venice
The specific situation of Venice gave rise to a special type of city palace. Its main facade is turned towards the water and in the central tract is equipped with arcades equipped with a tracery. On the ground floor there is a large Portego hall, above which the loggia – Sala. Closed Torreselle lateral edges flush and optically close. An example of such a palace is Ca d’Oro from 1421 to 36.

Venetian Palace in Venice
The Venetian palace in Venice is completely original. Its current appearance dates back to 1424. The traditional arcade on the ground floor is also used as a loggia on the first floor. Like the private Venetian palaces, this arcade does not work hard, but thanks to the filigree trajectory it is extremely light. But there is a complex, optically heavy block on the upper two floors. This contrast of matter is not only non-classical but also extremely effective. His designs must be sought in Arabic architecture.

Pienza Cathedral
An overview of Gothic architecture in Italy ends with curiosity. The cathedral is in Pienza. Pope Pius II. he wished to build an ideal city here, according to the theory of Leon Battista Alberti. This task was undertaken by the architect Bernardo Rosellinno , who in 1470 built here a cathedral built on an explicit pope’s wish as the Central European Late-Gothic Hall. However, Rossellino used a completely Renaissance morphology. Nevertheless, the building has a very positive impression and, after its construction, the Italian humanists were also very much appreciated.

Source from Wikipedia