Gothic Style Is Born; The Abbey Church of St. Denis, France, Part Four

by bria4123 on February 19, 2012


In this next to final post on the birth of Gothic style at the church of St Denis, we’ll proceed towards the end that had the most impact on history.

The great bronze doors are open (I’m standing between them in the above photo), so let’s walk in. Even the first few steps will bring us into an artistic revolution.

The narrow room that precedes the nave is called the narthex. This room, and the choir at the far end, are the two interiors that Abbot Suger transformed into Gothic style.

In the above picture, I’ve taken a few steps into the middle of the narthex, and I’ve turned towards the left. On the left side of the photo is the north end of the narthex. On the right is a brilliant transformation of the simple Romanesque pillar. This, and the three other pillars that surround me, have many indentations. This opens the church’s entrance to the 3rd dimension.

So, after viewing the bronze doors and the sculpture of the Last Judgment on the west facade, and realizing that the church’s architecture embodies the journey to salvation, the 3 dimensional narthex makes the first steps in the process living and breathing. The walls expand from the flat 2 dimensionality of Romanesque style, and give room to the people proceeding towards Jesus, the Savior. Just like the sculpture on and over the doors, the narthex opens the perspective to include humanity.

But the greatest work is at the other end. The west facade and the narthex build towards it, and we’ll explore it in the final post on the abbey church.

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