Gothic / Gothic Revival / Neo-Gothic

It was a style widespread in Europe during the Middle Ages, and when revived between 18th and 19th centuries it became a rival to Classical architecture  


St Pancras Hotel and Chambers, London, 1995. © Janet Hall / RIBA Library Photographs CollectionNave vaulting, Canterbury Cathedral, 1971. © Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs CollectionChurch of St Mary, Studley Royal, 1872. © RIBA Library Drawings and Archives CollectionsEly Cathedral, 1958. © Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs CollectionCross section of the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Amiens, 1850s. © RIBA Library Books and Periodicals CollectionsOld Duke of Bedford school, Cambridgeshire, 1958. © Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs CollectionRoyal Courts of Justice and Temple Bar, City of London, 1970. © Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs CollectionRoman Catholic Church of St Giles, Cheadle, 1967. © Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs CollectionStrawberry Hill, London, 1961. © Edwin Smith / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Associated with the Middle Ages in Europe and lasting until the early 17th century, Gothic is the architecture of the pointed arch, the rib vault, the flying buttress, window tracery, pinnacles and spires. Walls are reduced to a minimum by large arcades and there is an emphasis on verticality. Gothic was most commonly used in church architecture during this period, but also in collegiate architecture, notably at Oxford and Cambridge.

Gothic Revival / Neo-Gothic

The Gothic Revival was a conscious movement that began in England to revive Gothic forms, mostly in the second half of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century. The late-18th century examples were often domestic and highly decorative, as seen at Strawberry Hill, which made the style fashionable.  

In the 19th century its main champion was Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin who, among others, took a much more scholarly approach to the revival of past styles. This ultimately led to an ambitious programme of Victorian church building, served by architects immersed in the style. The revival lasted until the 1870s, when other historical revivals emerged. 


What to look for in a Gothic building: 


  1. Pointed arches and or windows
  2. Irregular appearance
  3. Vertical emphasis
  4. Variety of materials
  5. Rich colours and decoration


Article by Suzanne Waters 
British Architectural Library, RIBA


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