Gothic Revival architecture

Sint-Petrus-en-Pauluskerk in Ostend (Belgium), built between 1899 and 1908

Gothic Revival (also referred to as Victorian Gothic, neo-Gothic, or Gothick) is an architectural movement popular in the Western world that began in the late 1740s in England. Its momentum grew in the early 19th century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture, in contrast to the neoclassical styles prevalent at the time. Gothic Revival draws features from the original Gothic style, including decorative patterns, finials, lancet windows, hood moulds and label stops.

The Gothic Revival movement emerged in 18th-century England, gaining ground in the 19th. Its roots were intertwined with deeply philosophical movements associated with Catholicism and a re-awakening of high church or Anglo-Catholic belief concerned by the growth of religious nonconformism. Ultimately, the "Anglo-Catholicism" tradition of religious belief and style became known for its intrinsic appeal in the third quarter of the 19th century. Gothic Revival architecture varied considerably in its faithfulness to both the ornamental style and principles of construction of its medieval original, sometimes amounting to little more than pointed window frames and a few touches of Gothic decoration on a building otherwise on a wholly 19th-century plan and using contemporary materials and construction methods.

In parallel to the ascendancy of neo-Gothic styles in 19th-century England, interest spread to the rest of Europe, Australia, Sierra Leone, South Africa and to the Americas; the 19th and early 20th centuries saw the construction of very large numbers of Gothic Revival and Carpenter Gothic structures worldwide. The influence of the Revival had nevertheless peaked by the 1870s. New architectural movements, sometimes related as in the Arts and Crafts movement, and sometimes in outright opposition, such as Modernism, gained ground, and by the 1930s the architecture of the Victorian era was generally condemned or ignored. The later 20th century saw a revival of interest, manifested in the United Kingdom by the establishment of the Victorian Society in 1958.


The rise of evangelicalism in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw in England a reaction in the high church movement which sought to emphasise the continuity between the established church and the pre-Reformation Catholic church.[1] Architecture, in the form of the Gothic Revival, became one of the main weapons in the high church's armoury. The Gothic Revival was also paralleled and supported by "medievalism", which had its roots in antiquarian concerns with survivals and curiosities. As "industrialisation" progressed, a reaction against machine production and the appearance of factories also grew. Proponents of the picturesque such as Thomas Carlyle and Augustus Pugin took a critical view of industrial society and portrayed pre-industrial medieval society as a golden age. To Pugin, Gothic architecture was infused with the Christian values that had been supplanted by classicism and were being destroyed by industrialisation.[2]

Gothic Revival also took on political connotations; with the "rational" and "radical" Neoclassical style being seen as associated with republicanism and liberalism (as evidenced by its use in the United States and to a lesser extent in Republican France), the more spiritual and traditional Gothic Revival became associated with monarchism and conservatism, which was reflected by the choice of styles for the rebuilt government centres of the Palace of Westminster (holding the Parliament of the United Kingdom) in London and Parliament Hill in Ottawa.[3]

In English literature, the architectural Gothic Revival and classical Romanticism gave rise to the Gothic novel genre, beginning with The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole, and inspired a 19th-century genre of medieval poetry that stems from the pseudo-bardic poetry of "Ossian". Poems such as "Idylls of the King" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson recast specifically modern themes in medieval settings of Arthurian romance. In German literature, the Gothic Revival also had a grounding in literary fashions.[4]

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