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Why is Gothic Architecture called skeletal?

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jcreek93 | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted May 6, 2013 at 12:31 AM via web

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Why is Gothic Architecture called skeletal?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted May 6, 2013 at 6:32 PM (Answer #1)

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In biology there are two basic types of bodily structure:  Endosketal, in which the hard forming parts (bones) are connected by muscles, etc. (as in mammals), but not immediately visible: and exosteletal, in which the structure is a series of hard plates with hinges, and the structural elements are outside and visible (as in cockroaches).  In architecture history, the term “skeletal” refers to whether the structural elements are visible, rather than concealed by outer layerings.  Consider a modern house; the structure (2 x4s, beams, etc.) is covered by bricks (rather than actually built with bricks) or siding.  Before Gothic architecture (consider Norman forts), the actual structure was not part of the design that you saw, but when Gothic architects worked on, for example, cathedrals, they used the structural elements as part of the aesthetic design – decorated arches, for example, or flying buttresses.  Here at least partly because these were not defendable fortifications, but rather architectural statements, “prayers” to God and His balance and order, the structural elements are not only entirely visible but also part of the structure’s beauty and grace.  In this sense the form can be called “skeletal.”

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