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• Gothic architecture was imported into Italy, just as it was in many other European
countries. The Benedictine Cistercian order was, through their new edifices, the main
carrier of this new architectural style. It spread from Burgundy (in what is now
eastern France), their original area, over the rest of Western Europe.
• This kind of architecture had in fact already included most of the novelties which
characterized the Gothic cathedrals of Ile-de-France, but with a more subdued, and
somewhat "ascetic", formal approach. Figurative decorations are banned. The
stained glass windows are reduced in size and colorless. The verticalism is reduced. In
the exterior bell towers and belfries are absent.
• Always present, however, are oval rectangular groin vaults and clustered piers,
composed by an ensemble of smaller columns, which continue with engaged pillars
to the vaulting ribs The capitals have very simple decorations, usually not figurative.
The stone-dressing is very accurate as well. The result is a quasi-modern cleanness,
lacking embellishments.
• The first Italian Gothic edifices were Cistercian abbeys. They spread throughout
Italian territory, often adapting construction techniques to local traditions. There
were in fact brickwork edifices in the Pianura Padana, while stone prevailed in central
Italy and Tuscany.
• 12th Century – The most important edifices include the Chiaravalle Abbey in
northern Italy and the Casamari Abbey in central Italy.
Groin Vault Chiaravalle Abbey

Casamari Abbey Decorative Tudor Brick Chimneys

• Gothic came late to Italy, and although the style was practiced for more
than two hundred years it never took root there in quite the way it did
everywhere else in northern Europe.
• Gothic had to contend with flourishing Romanesque tradition and was
identified as something essentially alien or at any rate not quite Italian.
• Educated Italian purged their architecture of what they affected to regard
as the solecisms of the barbarous Gothic north.
• The Renaissance tends to obscure the fact that there was a period
between 1200 and 1400 when Gothic was accepted without question in
Italy simply because it was the architecture which commanded the
general approval of the Church.
• Its architectural inheritance was Mediterranean, with Byzantine and Arab
influences in construction.
• Frederick II (1196-1250) owed his German throne to French arms, and he
shared something of the contemporary vogue for everything French.
• His Apulian castles have many Gothic features as well as their more
publicized Classical details.
Frederick II of Swabia Sea-front castle in Trani, Puglia

Castello Svevo in Bari Castel del Monte, iin Puglia

• The town hall and great town houses are as much a feature of Gothic Italy
as the great church.
• Italian tastes in masonry predisposed them to stand apart from
mainstream northern Gothic.
• They were prepared to indulge in florid ornamental sculptures, and they
loved the smooth surfaces and chromatic effect that could be achieved
with marbles.
• But they have no liking for the fussy encrustation that enliven the more
expensive Gothic churches of France, Germany or England.
• Most of their masonry is plain to the point of austerity and often
deliberately done for it to be painted.
• 13th Century – This century saw the construction of numerous Gothic
buildings for the Mendicant Orders
• 14th Century – Around the late 13th century several important Gothic or
Gothic-like edifices were begun, which were to be completed in the
following century.
• 15th Century – In the 15th century no new major Gothic edifices were built
in Italy, while the construction of large basilicas and cathedrals begun
Milan Cathedral
• In 1386, the ancient double cathedral was
replaced by a single building.
• The original height imagined for the main
vault at that time was going to be more or
less 116 Milanese braccie (67m), but there
were doubts to the feasibility of the project.
• The height was later reduced to 76 braccie,
about 43 m (145 Ft)
• There were five aisled in echelon.
• The principal decorative effects were
reserved for the exterior, which was covered
with the extensive display of Gothic
architectural ornament to be found in Italy.
• The exterior was a gleaming mass of white
marble with lofty traceried windows,
paneled buttresses, flying buttresses and
pinnacles crowned with statues
The Certosa, Pavia (1396-1497)S
• In plan it is a Latin cross and similar to many
German churches in the triapsidal terminations to
sanctuary and transepts, but the nave is square and
the aisled in oblong bays, in the Italian manner.
• In the south are two cloisters, richly wrought in
• The exterior is a fascinating instance of Lombard
transitional Gothic-Renaissance style with arcading
and terracotta ornament, while the monumental
façade is wholly Renaissance character.

S. Antonio, Padua (1232-1307)

-A seven-domed pilgrimage church resembling
S. Mark, Venice.
-The nave is in square bays covered with
domes on pendentives
-The exterior has an arcade of pointed arches
and an upper arcaded gallery.
Arezzo Cathedral
• Was influenced by the nave of S. Maria
Novella at Florence, though less elegant and
• This illustrated the prestige which friars’
churches enjoyed in Italy
• Its most distinguished feature is the three
tall windows of the polygonal apse, which
run the full height of the building and
emphasize the hall-like unity of the interiors.

S. Francesco, Assisi

• It was canonized in 1228.

• A two aisle less churches one above
the other.
• The lower church is dark, cavern-
like with heavy ribbed vaults, the
upper church high, spacious and
The Cistercian Church at
Fossanova (South Lazio) (begun 1170)
• The first bes preservec of a series of
Cistercian churches.
• The interior is entirely shaped by
pointed arches and groined vaults.

SS. Giovanni e Paolo, Venice


• The Latin cross of the plan is

elaborated by pronounced transepts
with eastern chapels, and a polygonal
apse to the choir.
• The enterior is essentially Italian
S. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari,
Venice (1250-1338)
• Six eastern transept chapels
• The interior has lofty stone cylindrical
piers tied together by wooden beams,
supporting an arcade of pointed arches
and brick vaulting square abys with
massive ribs resting on shaft rising from
the capitals.
• The exterior is fine coloured brickwork.

S. Anastasia, Verona (1261-)

• With its delightful portal and brick
campanile, is a beautiful expression
of Italian Gothic.