1200-1350 in Architecture


Italian Maritime Republics initiated fluid trade relations across the Mediterranean with Byzantines and Islamic ports. Thus, the contact across the Mediterranean affected the development of European taste. The decoration of imported silks, porcelains, and jewelry stimulated the architectural imagination. The arch windows of Byzantine Constantinople reappeared on the facades along the Grand Canal in Venice. On mosques and madrasas, the Ablaq (the alternating bands of contrasting colored masonry) used.

Pisa city’s fortunes soared when it played a key role in the transport and supply so that the constructions of the new cathedral, baptistery, and campanile were financed. Pisa’s Duomo (in Italian cathedral) complex was standing in open space planted with grass and remained outside of the old city limits. The Pisan’s aim was to create it as similar to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Later, they made some additions and the dome was completed as similar to contemporary domes in the eastern Mediterranean area. The Pisan Baptishery had clear reference to the Anastasis in Jerusalem. The Campanile, or Leaning Tower of Pisa were revealing the structural problems of the marshy soil of Pisa. The last significant expression of Pisan patronage came with the tiny chapel of Santa Maria della Spina, located on the banks of the river.

Florence’s major church was the Baptishery of San Giovanni. It had inspirations from the Panteon in Rome with its walls, rose as a thick, hollowed out base to support a double-shelled dome. Later, Florence constructed its second public palace; Palazzo Vecchio at the end of the 13th century. It appeared like a fortress with its heavy, rusticated masonry and high windows.

During the 13th century Mamluk Cairo became a city of domes. Cairo’s first dome, which is built for Shagar al-Durr (woman patron of Cairo) in the 1250s, crowned the funerary monument to her first husband. The monument inspired a series of domed mausoleums. The sultan Qalawun, began his toms as the culminating element of a madrasa complex in 1284. At this time, while the inspirations usuallt taken from the East to the West, it changed and the Windows of Qalawun’s mausoleum appeared like those of Europen cathedrals. Furthermore, the Mamluk emirs of Cairo spent their fortunes on great and showy tombs and religious structures as memorials. The Mamluks had no particular style of their own, and thus they synthesized local craft traditions with ideas taken from conquered or admired peoples. Also, the Mamluks placed domes over the great houses of Cairo. The grandest Mamluk monument; the Madrasa of al-Nasir Hasan. The dome and the sheer elevations of the madrasa of this complex were the most prominents of the age.

Venice’s small islands and network of canals resulted in an extraordinary urban fabric. Ca’ Loredan and Ca’ Farsetti lacked any of the defensive battlements and towers found in the great houses in the rest of Italy at this time. They included more fenestration than wall, with windows raised on the stilted Byzantine arches used in Constantinople. Many of their neighbors preferred the ogive arch with pointed cusps which were common for both North African mosques and Gothic cathedrals. There were great palaces; fontego. After the Arabic fonduk, while the fontego’s layouts differed from he generous courts of the fonduks of Egypt and Syria, Venetian palaces combined commercial functions and warehouses on the gorund floor and living functions above. Also, many of the fontego palaces along the Grand Canal had adaptations of the decorative fenestration of the Doge’s Palace. The Doge’s Palace had an overall cubic shape, with three wings surrounding a large open court. Its facades conveyed the sense of grandeur, transparency, and accountability associated with republican ideology. It had cathedral-like tracery of the second level arcades which suggesting the sacred role of the state and therw were a signified change in the direction of architectural sources, as Venice began to look West. Moreover, The Doge’s Palace along with the palatine church of San Marco, and the elongated piazza repeated the relationship of the Byzantine imperial palace, Hagia Sophia, and the hippodrome. It shows that Venice aspired to the power of Constantinople.


The groundswell of medieval European urbanism went along with the birth of Gothic architectural style. The new prosperity of the cities encouraged the expansion of city walls, gigantic cathedrals, and impressive civic buildings, such as town halls, covered markets, and hospitals.

The building boom in European cities during the 13th and 14th centuries nurtured the new Gothic style in church building, architecture as distinct in its deails as the classical style of Romans. The master builders of the cathedrals greatly advanced the technical possibilities of construction using three structural expedients; pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and flying buttresses. The three were not a new inventions, but together they comprised an architectural theory that served the symbolic nature of light.

Reference: World Architecture: A Cross-Cultural History by Richar Ingersoll.


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