Illustrated Architecture Dictionary .......... Styles of Architecture

Gothic / Gothic Revival in Buffalo, NY
1150-1500 / 1830-1860 / 1860-1890

Table of Contents, on this page, below:

See also:

Gothic - Middle Ages

12th-century France and lasting into the 16th century

The Goths were a Scandinavian tribe that was only one of several tribes who invaded the crumbling Roman empire. In 410, the city of Rome fell to plundering Northern Goths. They were prodigious woodworkers who made trade routes from the Baltic to the Black Sea.

"Gothic" was first used as a term of derision by Renaissance critics who scorned its lack of conformity to the standards of classic Greece and Rome. In effect, "Gothic" means barbarian.

The Gothic style was initiated by Suger who, in 1122 was elected abbot of St. Denis monastery, just north of Paris, and within fifteen years was at work rebuilding the old monastery, which had been in use for almost three hundred years. Workers and artists were summoned from many regions. St. Denis was one of the last great monastic churches to be built; and it is known as the cradle of Gothic art.

Gothic architecture was dominant in France and the western half of Europe in the 12th through the middle of the 16th centuries.

Gothic Architecture Defining Features:

Gothic - Middle Ages - France

"Each French cathedral tends to be stylistically unified in appearance when compared with an English cathedral where there is great diversity in almost every building. They are compact, with slight or no projection of the transepts and subsidiary chapels. The west fronts are highly consistent, having three portals surmounted by a rose window, and two large towers. Sometimes there are additional towers on the transept ends." - Wikipedia (April 2012)

4 subtypes:

  • Early Gothic
    Begun in 1140

    To heighten the wall, builders divided it into four tiers: arcade (arches and piers), gallery, triforium, and clerestory.

    To support the higher wall builders invented the flying buttresses, which reached maturity only at High Gothic during the 13th century. The vaults were six ribbed sexpartite vaults.
  • High Gothic
    13th century
Three tiers:   arcade, triforium, and clerestory.

The clerestory windows changed from one window to two windows united by a small rose window. The rib vault changed from six to four ribs.

Example: Notre Dame de Paris
  • Rayonnant
From the French word meaning "to radiate"

Describes the radiating spokes of the rose windows which flourished during this period. Example: St. Denis Basilica

More of the wall surface than ever before was pierced by windows, including band windows. Example: Sainte Chapelle

Feature: Gables and crocketed  pinnacles

Feature: Foils (trefoil, quatrefoil, cinquefoil, sexfoil, multifoil)

Feature: Bar tracery
  • Flamboyant
    14th to the early 16th century

    From French flamboyant, "flaming." The name derives from the flame-like windings of its tracery and the dramatic lengthening of gables and the tops of arches. A key feature is the ogee arch.

    A version spread to Spain and Portugal during the 15th century

    The equivalent stylistic period in English architecture is called the Decorated Style, and it is contemporary with the Perpendicular


Gothic - Middle Ages - England
  • Early English (Lancet Gothic)
    C. 1180-1275

    The arched windows are usually narrow by comparison to their height and are without tracery.

    The Lancet openings of windows and decorative arcading are often grouped in twos or threes.
    Example: Salisbury Cathedral

  • Decorated
    C. 1275-1380)

    Subdivisions: the "Geometric" style (1250-90) and the "Curvilinear" style (1290-1350).

    Characterized by its window tracery, typically including trefoils and quatrefoils.

  • Perpendicular (International Gothic, the Rectilinear style, or Late Gothic)
    C. 1380-1520

    Crenelated towers/battlements.

    Windows very large, sometimes of immense size, with slimmer stone mullions than in earlier periods, allowing greater scope for
    stained glass, including decorated transoms.

    Pointed arches were still used throughout the period, but ogee and four-centered Tudor arches were also introduced.

Gothic - Middle Ages - Italy

"In Italy the true Gothic never made substantial inroads, though prominent exceptions like Milan's cathedral stand out.

"Instead, a kind of mixed style evolved. This so-called Italian Gothic or Romanesque Gothic was essentially an updated interpretation of the Romanesque favored by diocesan sees as well as the religious orders such as the Franciscans. Despite the addition of a few Gothic details, there wasn't much 'Gothic' to it. No external buttresses, narrow naves, high towers, large windows or gargoyles."   -- Carlo Trabia, Sicilian Romanesque Gothic  (2002)

The Italian churches favored murals, especially frescoes, over stained glass windows.

Venetian Gothic: Architectural style combining use of the Gothic lancet arch with Byzantine and Moorish architecture influences. The style originated in 14th century Venice with the confluence of Byzantine styles from Constantinople, Arab influences from Moorish Spain and early Gothic forms from mainland Italy.  Example: Doge's Palace, Venice

See also: Venetian Gothic arch

Gothic - Middle Ages examples on Buffalo Architecture and History:

Gothic Revival - Britain  (Victorian Gothic; Neo-Gothic)
Late 1840s - early 20th century

The British High Victorian style grew out of revivals of the past. Fashionable Victorian town-dwellers were bored by the monotonous classical terraces/rows of plain Georgian houses, by now encrusted in soot and grime. They wanted color and animation. Such feelings were not peculiar to the landed gentry. In a period of industrialization there was a new generation of nouveaux riches, self-made industrialists, boastful of their success, who in the architecture of their houses advertised their achievements in tangible form. Many favored the mock Gothic style as a romantic fantasy that implied ancient lineage.

The Gothic Revival had developed from the 18th century, and was boosted in the 19th by the chivalric writings of Sir Walter Scott, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Thomas Love Peacock. Diligent archaeological researches were carried out and published with measured drawings of medieval remains, in the manner of the surveys of classical ruins of one hundred years before.

The influential theorist and designer A.W.N. Pugin (1812-52) and some of his contemporaries tried to encourage architects to adopt accurate Gothic detailing. Striped polychromatic brickwork popularized by G.E. Street in his Brick and Marble from Northern Italy and by John Ruskin in The Stones of Venice, added color to the Gothicized exterior.

The vogue for Gothic left its mark not only on many country houses and villas but also on whole suburbs, such as those of north Oxford. It also brought great controversy -- the so-called "battle of styles" -- to major public building projects such as the the new
Houses of Parliament (Gothic) and the Foreign Office (classical).

See also: Gothic and Gothic Revival Stained Glass Windows

Gothic Revival -
19th century
The Eastern equivalent of the Neo-Gothic/Gothic Revival movement.

The Russian Revival style arose within the framework the renewed interest in the national architecture, which evolved in Europe in the 19th century, and it is an interpretation and stylization of the Russian architectural heritage.

Historical Museum in Red Square, Moscow

Gothic Revival - US

During the second half of the 19th century, architects in the United States began to lose interest in Greco-Roman Classicism, and to adopt new domestic styles based loosely on medieval and other non-classical forms of building.

The first post-classical styles, beginning in the 1830s,were the Gothic Revival and the Italianate.


Alexander Jackson Davis was the first American architect to spread the Gothic gospel. He published floor plans and three-dimensional views in his 1837 book, Rural Residences. His design for Lyndhurst, an imposing country estate in Tarrytown, New York, became a showplace for the Gothic Revival style.

Davis's friend and fellow architect Andrew Jackson Downing also promoted the Gothic Revival in his books on "cottage villas" published in the 1840s. The Hudson River Valley, where Downing resided, was the perfect setting for the kind of picturesque, rambling "irregular" designs he endorsed. It was chiefly Downing's book that led to the flowering throughout rural America of some very picturesque wooden Gothic architecture.

Downing partnered with English immigrant Calvert Vaux (who, after Downing's tragic drowning, later partnered with Frederick Law Olmsted).

Downing and Vaux popularized country Cottages and Villas with their publications. Sometimes, Gothic Revival Cottages are referred to as Carpenter Gothic, named after anonymous carpenter builders. Defining Features:


Gothic Revival Churches: Gothic Revival architecture came to America from England about 1830. Its most famous practitioner, English born Richard Upjohn, a cabinet maker and draftsman, arrived in this country as a young man in 1829. Upjohn's best known work is Trinity Church in New York City, consecrated in 1846. He designed St. Paul's Cathedral in Buffalo, completed in 1851. His churches, and those illustrated in publications like his Rural Architecture (1852), served as patterns for countless buildings throughout the country.

English Gothic Revival Churches:  Usually feature a crenelated tower/battlement and hammer beam ceiling.

Examples of Gothic Revival Churches in Buffalo:

Gothic Revival cabinets with stained glass: Thomas J. McKinney House. Canterbury Tales designed by Nicola D'Ascenzo


Carpenter Gothic in Buffalo

Victorian technology: New steam-powered sawmills provided ample raw materials for vertical board-and-batten siding. Whirring band saws could cut fretwork ornament with previously unheard-of speed and accuracy.

Compared with timber framing, a new system of balloon framing with mill-sawn lumber made possible thinner, lighter walls, and thus more flexibility in design. These houses often ignored the severe, symmetrical massing of classical styles, such as Greek Revival, in favor of off-center forms and complex interior spaces. Inventive and picturesque, Carpenter Gothic led the way to the Stick Style and the full bloom of Victorian houses in the 1880s.

Examples of Carpenter Gothic in Buffalo:

Gothic Revival - US Victorian  (High Victorian)

"The most distinguishing feature of the Victorian Gothic style is the polychromatic exterior finish. Materials of differing colors and texture are juxtaposed, creating decorative bands highlighting corners, arches and arcades.

"Ornamental pressed bricks, terra cotta tile and incised carvings of foliated and geometric patterns also are used to decorate wall surfaces.

"Straight-headed openings are used in addition to traditional Gothic (pointed arch) windows and doors. In timber frame buildings the gable, porch, and eave trim is massive and strong, resembling the structural members. This is in sharp contrast to the lighter curvilinear gingerbread-type trim of the Gothic Revival.

"This later, more freewheeling interpretation of Gothic forms was well suited to the florid decorative approach of the late nineteenth century. Its use of heavy masonry and rich decorative and textural effects contrasts with the simplicity of the earlier revival of Gothic forms."

- Identifying American Architecture, by John J.-G. Blumenson. New York: Norton. 1981, p. 33

Examples from Buffalo architecture:

Examples out of Buffalo:

Illustrated Definitions

Click on any photo to enlarge


A board, often ornately carved, attached along the projecting edge of a
gable roof. Also called vergeboards.

Illustration from the Jewett M. Richmond House

A parapet built on top of a wall, with indentations for decoration or defense.

Illustration from Central Presbyterian Church

A compartment that serve as a unit of division in a building. In a Gothic cathedral the transverse arches and adjacent piers of the arcade divide the building into bays, the design of which is an architectural unit repeated in each bay.

Illustration from St. Louis RC Church

Bay window (From Old French: an opening)
A large window or series of windows projecting from the outer wall of a building and forming a recess within.

Illustration from the Clement House/Red Cross

Board and batten
Siding consisting of wide boards or plywood sheets set vertically with butt joints covered by battens.

Batten - See "Board and Batten"
A small board or strip of wood used for various building purposes, as to cover joints between boards, supports, shingles, or roofing tiles, or provide a base for lathing.

Illustration from Richard Hatch House

One of the compartments of a groin or ribbed vault, in the Romanesque period usually of plastered rubble, in the Gothic period of neatly coursed stones.

Illustration from St. Ann's RC Church

A subordinate or private place of worship or prayer within a larger complex.

Illustration from
St. Louis RC Church

Also "clearstory." (CLEAR story)
The upper part of the nave, transepts, and choir of a church, containing windows.

Illustration from
St. Louis RC Church

A supporting pillar consisting of a base, a cylindrical shaft, and a capital (the head or crowning feature).

Illustration from
St. Louis RC Church

A decorative formation supporting a projection, such as a cornice.

Illustration from Central Presbyterian Church


Illustration from
Central Presbyterian Church

A decorative hook-like spur of stone carved in various leaf shapes and projecting at regular intervals from the angles of spires, pinnacles, canopies, gables, etc. in Gothic architecture.

Illustration from  St. Louis RC Church

A relatively small, usually foliated ornament terminating the peak of a spire or pinnacle.

Illustration from St. Louis RC Church

Flying Buttress
Masonry support consisting usually of a pier or buttress standing apart from the main structure and connected to it by an arch.

Illustration from St. Paul's Cathedral

A lobe or leaf-shaped curve formed by the cusping of a circle or an arch. The number of foils involved is indicated by a prefix, e.g. trefoil, quatrefoil, cinquefoil, multifoil.

Illustration from Asbury Delaware Church

Foliated ornamentation
Ornamented with foils or representations of foliage on an archway, window or other opening.

A triangular wall segment at the end of a double-pitched or gabled roof.

Illustration from
Michigan Street Baptist Church

Gable roofs
A pitched roof having a gable at each end.

A grotesquely carved figure of a human or animal, esp. one with an open mouth that serves as a spout and projects from a gutter to throw rainwater clear of a building.

The illustration, from the Bemis-Ransom House, is not a spout.

Heavily, gaudily, and superfluously ornamented Commonly used in reference to late 19th century Victorian architecture.

Illustration from
Richard Hatch House

Gothic arch
A pointed arch, especially one having two centers and equal radii.

Illustration from
St. Louis RC Church

One of the curved lines or edges along which two intersecting vaults meet.

Groin vault
A compound vault formed by the perpendicular intersection of two vaults forming groins.

Hood mold
A projecting molding to throw off the rain. On the face of a wall, above an arch, doorway or window. Also called "dripstone."

Illustration with label molding from Stephen M. Clement House/Red Cross Building

The keystone at the crown of an arch or at the intersection of two or more vaulting ribs.

Illustration from
St. Louis RC Church

Label mold(ing)
Square arch hood molding. The bottom horizontal section is referred to as a "label stop."

Illustration from Stephen M. Clement House/Red Cross Building

Ogee arch
(OH jee)
A pointed arch, each haunch of which is a double curve with the concave side uppermost. Also known as a Venetian arch.
Introduced c. 1300, it was popular throughout the late Middle Ages and in England especially in the early fourteenth century. Now associated with Venetian Gothic style.

Illustration from
Hotel Touraine

Oriel window
(OR ee il) A bay window on an upper floor. Called an oriel or oriel window.

Illustration from
Stephen M. Clement House/Red Cross Building

A sculptured ornament suspended from a roof truss, vault, or ceiling. Also called "drop."

Illustration from 78 Irving Place.

A small turret-like termination crowning spires, buttresses, the angles of parapets, etc.; usually of steep pyramidal or conical shape and ornamented, e.g., with crockets.

Illustration from St. Louis RC Church

Pointed arch
An arch having a pointed crown, e.g., gothic arch.

Illustration from
St. Ann's RC Church

(CAT ri foil) "four leaf"
An ornamental representation of a flower with four petals.

Cf., foil, trefoil, multifoil.

Illustration from
St. Louis RC Church

One of the curved pieces of an arch

Illustration from St. Ann's RC Church

Rib(bed) vault
A vault supported by or decorated with arched diagonal ribs.

Spandrel (also spandril)
(SPAN dril) The triangular space between the left or right exterior curve of an arch and the rectangular framework surrounding it.

Illustration from Hotel Touraine

Stained glass
Glass colored or stained by having pigments baked onto its surface or by having various metallic oxides fused into it while in a molten state.

Illustration from
St. Ann's RC Church


Illustration from
St. Ann's RC Church

The ornamental intersecting work in the upper part of a window, screen, or panel, or used decoratively in blank arches and vaults.

Illustration from St. Louis RC Church

A small tower forming part of a larger structure, frequently beginning some distance from the ground.

Illustration from
St. Francis RC School

An arched ceiling or roof of stone or brick, sometimes imitated in wood or plaster.

Illustration from St. Ann's RC Church

Verge board
Projecting boards placed against the incline of the gable of a building, hiding the ends of the horizontal roof timbers.; sometimes decorated. Also called "bargeboards."

Illustration from
Jewett M. Richmond House

Main text sources:

Photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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