Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth: Ch. 2 Annotation – Gothic Windows

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

The lofty roof was indistinct, for the lamps were not fully lighted yet; while through the richly-painted Gothic window at one end the moonbeams fell, many-tinted, on the floor, and mocked with their vividness the struggles of the artificial light to illuminate its little sphere.

I love this quote from Ruth it creates such a strong visual image.

Background

Before Gothic architecture buildings were stodgy and dark; thick walls and small windows.

An exaple of Romanesque architecture Photo © Holly Hayes

Gothic architecture innovations (ie. pointed arch, flying buttresses) brought space (or more accurately height) and an array of windows. They were designed to help the illiterate people of the Middle-Ages enjoy and ‘read’ the Bible through the depicted scenes.

Detail, depicts the Last Supper
The circular window is the "rose" window, the smaller are "lancet" windows Photo © Chris Walton

Different Types of Gothic Windows

  • Rose
  • Lancet

Gothic Window Tracery

Discussion Question

  • What do you think the strong colorful light contrasted with the struggling artificial light might symbolize?

Sources

“Gothic Windows.” ChestofBooks.com: Read Books Online for Free. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2011. <http://chestofbooks.com/architecture/Modern-Buildings-Construction-V5/Gothic-Windows.html&gt;.

“Looking at Buildings:  Gothic Windows and Tracery.” Looking at Buildings:  Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 May 2011. <http://www.lookingatbuildings.org.uk/styles/medieval/walls-and-windows/gothic-windows-and-tracery.html&gt;.

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. EllieNYC says:

    I love both Romanesque & Gothic churches. The Romanesque gives me such an immediate sensation of God’s presence while the Gothic is often so stunningly beautiful that it brings me to a majestic God who is awe-inspiring.

    I had not thought for years of the fact that for the people in the Middle Ages, illiterate & with no access to books before Gutenberg, that the windows gave them access to the stories of the bible. Thank you for reminding me.

    And thanks yet again for the extremely awesome pictures: I sometimes use them for my meditation time.

    1. On a vacation quite a few years back there was a Romanesque-styled church in the area, I remember it that seemed very quiet and down-to-earth. I haven’t had the privilege to be in a Gothic Cathedral but I can image how awe-inspiring it must be.

      It really was a beautiful way to bring the written Word to the illiterate, and for those who could read and knew the full story it must have been beautiful to see it ‘adapted’ into colorful glass.

      My pleasure. 🙂

  2. Diane says:

    I always feel like the light shining through the stained glass is almost like a message from God – like a rainbow after the rain. No matter what kind of internal lighting you have it can’t compete against the colors and patterns that the windows make. Everything seems quieter when bathed in the glow of those colors.

    I work in a large old church with a lot of stained glass and when the lights are off and the only illumination is coming from the windows it almost seems like the characters are alive. Think how that would be for people who used the windows to tell a story – unlike paintings or sculpture the windows breathe life into the stories they tell

    1. Beautifully written, Diane 🙂 What a pleasure to work in church with such windows!

  3. Could you tell me the source of the image titled “Detail; depicts the Last Supper” ?

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