Gothic architecture is a style that began in France during the 12th century. It was particularly associated with cathedrals and other churches. In Florence, Italy, the Gothic style became widespread in the 15th century AD. England could see a series of Gothic revivals in the mid 19th century and it spread across other parts of Europe. Across America, in the 20th century, this style was largely used for ecclesiastical and university structures.
Gothic style emphasizes the vertical plane and features largely skeletal stone structures. Gothic architecture structures have large stained-glass windows that allow more light to pass through. These windows are usually the point of focus to design other structures of the building. Usually, buildings have extensive glass windows, sharply pointed spires, cluster columns, flying buttresses, ribbed vaults, pointed arches using the ogive shapes, and inventive sculptural detail. Flying buttresses were used as a means to support higher ceilings and slender columns.
Building materials used in Gothic architecture are usually native stones. But in Northern Germany, Scandinavia, and Northern Poland, where native stones were unavailable, simplified provincial Gothic churches were built out of bricks. Gothic brick buildings were associated with Hanseatic league, an alliance of trading cities of Northern Europe. There are over a hundred brick Gothic castles across Northern Poland built by the Teutonic Knights.
The French Gothic style has different sub-styles, including Rayonnant and Flamboyant styles. The Gothic cathedrals of France are highly decorated with statues on the outside and paintings on the inside. They are built over several successive periods and the dominant architectural style changes throughout a particular building. In England, Gothic style was more widely revived as a decorative, whimsical alternative.
The Gothic style that prevailed in the 20th century, known as Neo-Gothic, is found mainly in modern churches and college buildings. Although it was considered inappropriate, Gothic style was used for early steel skyscrapers, jailhouses, and towers.