Venetian Gothic Architecture

Ca' d'Oro facade overlooking the Grand Canal.

Introduction

Venetian Gothic is a term given to an architectural style combining use of the Gothic Lancet arch [a type of pointed arch] with Byzantine and Moorish architecture influences. The style originated in 14th century Venice with the confluence of Byzantine styles from Constantinople, Arab influences from Moorish Spain and early Gothic forms from mainland Italy.  Chief examples of the style are the Doge’s Palace and the Ca’ d’Oro in Venice.

The Gothic period erupted in Venice during a time of great affluence, when the upper class was funding the building of new churches as well as new, opulent homes for themselves. At the same time, monks were beginning to bring the Gothic style to Venice’s churches from mainland Italy. The most striking examples of this new architectural fashion can be seen in Santi Giovanni e Paolo and Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. However, these churches were still very similar to those found in the rest of Italy, the main difference being the building materials. It was not until the increase in palace construction that Venetian Gothic became a distinct style in itself. Influenced by the Doge’s Palace, the creators of this new style meshed Gothic, Byzantine, and Oriental themes to produce a totally unique approach to architecture. This Venetian Gothic style lasted well into the 15th century because of the city’s love of ornate decoration and pointed arches.

Characteristics of Venetian Gothic Design

Unique to the Venetian Gothic architectural style is the desire for lightness and grace in structure. While other European cities often favored heavy buildings, Venice had always held the concern that every inch of land is valuable, because of the canals running through the city. Therefore, the Venetian Gothic, while far more intricate in style and design than previous construction types in Venice, never allowed more weight or size than necessary to support the building. This is an interesting concept because, while the window traceries in Northern Gothic construction only supported stained glass, the traceries in Venetian Gothic supported the weight of the entire building. Therefore the immense weight sustained by the traceries only alludes to the extreme weightlessness of the buildings as a whole. Architects favored using intricate traceries, similar to those found on the Doge’s Palace. [A tracery is the ornamental intersecting work in the upper part of a window, screen or panel, or used decoratively in blank arches and vaults.]

One major aspect of the Venetian Gothic style change that came about during the 14th and 15th centuries was the proportion of the central hall in secular buildings. This hall, known as the portego, evolved into a long passageway that was often opened by a loggia with Gothic arches.

The Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti is an example of Venetian Gothic architecture.

Gothic Revival

In the 19th century, the writings of John Ruskin and others spurred a Gothic Revival movement in Victorian architecture.

A later post will discuss tracery in more detail.

(The above summary is from Wikipedia. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.)

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