Gothic is not what you expect

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The phrase “Gothic” often conjures up images of a post-punk subculture. Whether it be music or fashion, the term lends itself to all things dark, morbid, pagan, and probably lacey.

All that goes out the stained-glass window when you stand in a Gothic cathedral.

While the play of light and dark are part of the ambience, the architecture is nothing short of brilliant. What we call “Gothic” was “modern style” in 12th and 13th century France. This “modern style” came about as creative solutions to the engineering problems of heavy earthbound structures were explored. Flying buttresses and rib vaulting made it possible for medieval stonemasons to stack stones to to new and dizzying heights. Thinner walls meant more windows to welcome sunlight through millions of colored panes.

A fun way to learn about the development of church architecture from the Romanesque to the Gothic style is to read Ken Follett’s 1989 novel, The Pillars of the Earth.

But if you really want to experience Gothic for yourself, forget the music, the fashion, and the books. Visit a place like Bayonne, France. In the center of town you’ll find the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bayonne. Stand in the crossing where the transept meets the nave and let your eyes soar!

Buen Camino!


We are getting close to finalizing our Jesus Walk planned for January 2019. If you are interested, have a look at the link here. We’ll be trekking through parts of Galilee, experiencing hills and valleys, churches and ruins. At the end of the walk we’ll also spend time in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Send any questions you might have to me at markziese@gmail.com.