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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote The developed Castilian Gothic architecture


The developed Castilian Gothic architecture.]

[Sidenote: Mud?jar architecture.]

Gothic architecture had its most brilliant expression in the early part of this period, degenerating later largely through an exaggeration of its elements. At the end of the thirteenth century Castilian Gothic may be said to have differed from that of the other European countries in the following respects: its maintenance of classical proportions, with scant difference between the length and width of an edifice, reducing the height; less development in the use of windows; greater robustness of walls, columns, and piers, diminishing the importance of buttresses; more nearly flat roofs; and the general use and ample size of cloisters in convents and churches. The structural basis and sober character of early Gothic began to be lost sight of in the fourteenth century, and, in particular, ornamentation was used without any relation to structural needs. The corruption of Gothic became more and more marked in the fifteenth century, when proportions and structural ideals were forgotten, and adornment, notably in the use of pinnacles, was employed in excessive degree. It was at this time that the choir of Spanish cathedrals was moved to the centre of the nave, in front of the high altar. This was the greatest age of Gothic civil and military art, especially of the latter. Castles were more solidly and more richly built, with handsome towers

and other exterior defences and with embattled walls. Towers and battlements also appeared on the walls of cities. Mud?jar architecture continued to develop, notably in Toledo and Seville, in both religious and civil edifices, and some of the best specimens of this art date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It was especially employed in the interior decoration of palaces and private houses,--in panelling, handsomely worked wooden roofs, painted and sculptured friezes, and the use of tiles. On the outside it appeared in eaves and beams of brightly colored woods.

[Sidenote: The lesser arts.]

Sculpture remained, as before, an adjunct of architecture, but was employed more than formerly in the ornamentation of buildings. In form it became more and more affected by Italian influences. The comparative wealth and luxury of the era, as well as the needs of religion, led to an advance in metal work and the making of jewelry and rich embroideries. The illumination of manuscripts reached a higher level than before, but declined before the end of the period, partly because of the invention of printing. The painting of windows in cathedrals attained to a greater richness and variety in scene, and wall painting acquired an independent position. The Italian influence of Giotto was apparent in the fifteenth century, although it did not get beyond the point of mere copying. The Flemish influence was more important, dating from Van Eyck's visit to Spain in 1428, after which date paintings in the Flemish style abounded in Castile, especially altar-pieces. Music turned upon singing, usually of one part, although occasionally other parts were sung. Musical instruments were employed solely for accompaniments of songs and dances.

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