The Gothic style of architecture originated in the north of France during the mid 12th century.
Gothic architecture was able to develop in this region because at this time the Normans who ruled the north of France were wealthy and powerful, enabling them to attract the best architects, engineers and artists from all over France and beyond.
Characteristics of Gothic architecture in France
Gothic architecture in France is characterized by several architectural features. These include ribbed vaults, pointed arches and intricately decorated chapels as well as very large stained glass windows. Gothic architectural technology was able to produce buildings that were much taller than had ever been seen before.
This combination of structural supremacy and architectural beauty led to Gothic architecture dominating the world of architecture in Europe by the mid 1300’s. The Gothic style became in vogue from Germany to Italy to Spain.
All in all Gothic architecture prevailed over France for three hundred years developing through various stages including Radiant Gothic and Flamboyant Gothic architecture by the 15th century, named so because the intricate wavy patterns engraved on the stone work resembled flames.
Examples of Gothic Architecture in France Today
The Basillica in St. Denis is perhaps the first example of Gothic building in France dating back to the mid 12th century. The Cathedrals at Chartres, Reims and Amiens are all good examples of French gothic architecture dating back to the 1300’s.
Probably the best example of Radiant Gothic Architecture in France is the Saint Chapelle in Paris which has marvelously colourful large stained glass windows. Other examples of Gothic French architecture that still stand today include the Clocher Neuf in Chartres, the Eglise St. Maclou in Rouen as well as the Strasbourg Cathedral
Renaissance French Architecture
Renaissance architecture was first introduced to France towards the end of the 15th century when King Charles VII of France began a series of invasions into northern Italy. Renaissance architecture which had originated in the north of Italy had already been established and the French simply decided to carry the ideas back to France.
Renaissance architecture in France can be divided into two historical periods: Early renaissance and Mannerism. Early renaissance architecture in France is charecterised by round arches , domes, tunnel vaults blended with Flamboyant Gothic architecture creating interesting synthesis of styles. An interesting example of this blending of two architectural styles that can still be seen today is the Chateaux de Blois.
Mannerism began in the 1530’s when King Francois I of France employed Italian artists and architects to design and decorate his chateaux at Fontaine Bleaux. This style developed even further in France over the next few decades when many Italian-educated French architects returned to France bringing renaissance architectural concepts with them.