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The medieval architecture of France includes many of the most renowned examples of Gothic architecture. Thus you are probably asking  yourself, “Were the French a part of the Gothic revival architecture movement of the 19th century?”


The answer is Oui! Boy were they ever! This is the Chapelle royale de Dreux, the burial place of important members of the House of Bourbon-Orléans (the royal family of France after the revolution).  Its story is interesting.  During the French Revolution, an enraged mob burst desecrated the family chapel of the Duke of Orléans and threw all of the corpses which had been therein interred into a common mass grave at the the Chanoines cemetery of the Collégiale Saint Étienne.  After the revolution was over, the Duke’s daughter arranged for a grand chapel to be built over this new burial site.  Later on, when her son Louis Philippe became King of France, he added substantially to the grand new building which was built to mimic the great ancient structures lost to the revolution.  As a bonus, Alexandre Brogniart, the director of manufacturing for Sèvres porcelain, used his resources to produce huge fired enamel paintings on large panes of glass to go in the chapel.



Based on the ongoing “gothic” thread, it will probably not surprise you that I love gothic architecture.  However, although I naturally esteem the great stone edifices of Medieval Europe, I equally admire small houses manufactured in the nineteenth century Gothic Revival style.  As a first example of these lovely cottages, here is a stock design by Rodney Pfotenhauer, a contemporary architect (or possibly a magical being who lives in the forest).

Rodney Pfotenhauer's design for a Gothic Cottage

With its emphasis on elegant vertical lines, its charming fretwork decoration, and its noble finials, gothic revival architecture is a perfect expression of nineteenth century aesthetic values.  But I think the graceful style has a place in the future as well.  As the great recession finally begins to recede, it seems like builders will at last start picking up their tools to make some new houses.  Hopefully the burgeoning small house movement can look back towards gothic revival work for inspiration.  I’d like to see strange lovely gingerbread cottages sprouting up in place of the charmless Mcmansions which have been in vogue throughout the eighties, nineties, and ‘aughts (or whatever we are calling that crummy decade).

I am already fantasizing about parking my little robot car out front of my green gothic-revival mini house.  I can knock back a future drink (possibly into my regenerated liver) and wonder into my flower garden of glowing transgenic super roses and giant mutant aloes!  Come on already future innovators!  Don’t you guys dream about anything other than stupid PDAs?

Seriously, doesn't anyone get tired of reading about these things?

Oh well, the future will probably end up featuring underground concrete mazes or something equally dystopian (along with increasingly expensive and fragile PDAs hosted on defective AT&T networks).  In the mean time here are some other beautiful small gothic revival houses to help you while away the winter and pretend that dystopia isn’t drawing ever closer.

I’m sorry there was no post yesterday.  I am currently in Chicago for work and I have limited time and computer access.  I promise I will make up for the omission on a future weekend.

Summer Ivy on the University of Chicago Quads

Being in Chicago, specifically being in Hyde Park, reminds me (as though I could ever forget) of how much I love gothic architecture—and indeed all things “Gothic”.   Several of my recent posts have related to gothic art and gothic objects.  I am going to begin a wide-ranging “Gothic” category (to which I will add these older posts) in order to explore the concept and the meaning of the word.  As a starting point I am including some photographs of the University of Chicago.

The Harper Library Reading Room photographed by Justin Kern (I'm actually writing this post from Harper Library during my lunch break)

There has been recent internet buzz about these lovely photographs taken by fellow alum Justin Kern of “Chicagwarts”.  Roger Ebert used the photos to illustrate an opinion piece in which he (Ebert) takes modern architecture to task for ugliness.  Ebert’s article oversimplifies modernism and dismisses the cost and difficulty of making beautiful gothic buildings by hand, however I think he is quite right to prefer the University of Chicago’s eccentric splendor to Mies Van der Rohes’ heartlessness.  Similar sentiments underpinned the origination of the widespread nineteenth century gothic revival movement in architecture—to which the University of Chicago and many other exquisite buildings owe their appearance.

The Theological Seminary Corridor by Justin Kern

Ye Olde Ferrebeekeeper Archives

June 2023