Gothic Art (c. 1100 CE - 1300 CE)

Gothic art grew out of Romanesque art. Art still held an important teaching purpose, but clergy wanted to make God's glory more tangible. New ideas and money from the community led to architectural changes in the building of churches, such as adding height and windows to the structures. The wide open and brightly lit spaces of these buildings became symbols of the divine.

Suger, the abbot of the royal Abbey Church of St. Denis, described the rationale underlying Gothic art when he said, "Through the beauty of material things we come to understand God." In order to help individuals better understand God's majesty, ornate and beautiful works of art taught the way to salvation and depicted the glory of God and his creations.

Look closely at the details of the Processional Cross. Part of the story has been lost, since one side of the cross previously had an image of Christ crucified. Even so, imagine the cross covered in gold, sparkling in the sunlight as a priest carries it to and from the front of the church. How would seeing this cross from far away affect your interpretation of it? After the procession the cross sat on the altar in the front of the church. Over time, the brilliant gold surface wore off and exposed the copper beneath.

Processional Cross, 1300/1325
Artist Unknown, Italian

Metal (copper, iron, gilt), wood, paint
26 inches H; 21 inches W; 3 inches D
Purchase: Friends of the Museum

World Events

1163 Construction begins on Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris.

1180-1192 Third Crusade.

1280 Eyeglasses are invented in Italy.

1337-1453 One Hundred Years War between the French and English.

1347 Black Plague begins in Europe.


Some of the architectural detail of BSU Museum of Art, such as the pointed arch, is reminiscent of Gothic style and is called Collegiate Gothic.


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