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What style of architecture does the Basilica of Saint-Denis represent? What are some of the defining characteristics of that style?

The Basilica of Saint-Denis represents the transition from Romanesque architecture to Gothic architecture. Renovated in the twelfth century by Abbott Suger, this building embodies several Gothic elements like vertical buttresses, pointed arches, and a rose window.

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The Basilica of Saint-Denis in France is a famous example of the Gothic style of architecture. In fact, it is one of the earliest examples of a structure built in the Gothic style, and it is a great building to study to examine the transition from the Romanesque style to the Gothic.

In the twelfth century, the building was falling apart, and Abbot Suger decided to dedicate his time to renovating it so that it would represent the strength of the French church and monarchy. His renovation included many elements of previous styles, like the use of buttresses and vaults, but he used these elements in revolutionary ways. For instance, he used massive, vertical buttresses that extend in a way that was not seen in Romanesque architecture. He also expanded the space on portals for jamb statues, sculptures carved on the jambs of doorways or windows. Suger’s use of detailed jamb statues was an effective way to illustrate religious and political narratives to churchgoers, and they soon became quite popular in Gothic architecture. Also, one of the most distinctly Gothic additions that Suger made to Saint-Denis was the addition of the rose window. Circular windows had been used in churches for centuries, but this stained glass, decorative window in the shape of a rose fills the space with light and symbolizes the gates to heaven. It was later used in many other Gothic churches.

Overall, Suger’s work on Saint-Denis marked the official birth of Gothic architecture in Europe. Gothic style became known for its use of pointed arches, flying buttresses, and ribbed vaults. It also prioritized filling spaces with light in an effort to make the space feel heavenly, which was different from the thick walls and dark atmosphere of previous architectural styles.

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