It was originally in France that the dark mysterious beauty of the gothic style evolved in the 12th century, lasting until the 16th century (it was then known as the ‘Frankish work’). Although it was also the architecture of many castles, palaces, town halls, guild halls, universities and some private dwellings, it was in the great churches and cathedrals that the Gothic style was expressed most powerfully, its characteristics lending themselves to appeal to the emotions.
The widespread introduction of a single feature, the pointed arch, was to bring about the stylistic change that separates Gothic from the previously dominant Romanesque, and broke the tradition of massive masonry and solid walls penetrated by small openings, replacing it with a style where light appears to triumph over substance. With its use came the development of many other architectural devices, called into service to meet the structural, aesthetic and ideological needs of the new style. These include the flying buttresses, pinnacles and traceried windows which typify Gothic ecclesiastical architecture. In Gothic architecture, a unique combination of existing technologies established the emergence of a new building style. Those technologies were the ogival or pointed arch, the ribbed vault, and the flying buttress.
The Gothic style, when applied to an ecclesiastical building, emphasises verticality and light. This appearance was achieved by the development of certain architectural features, which together provided an engineering solution. The structural parts of the building ceased to be its solid walls, and became a stone skeleton comprising clustered columns, pointed ribbed vaults and flying buttresses.
One of the defining characteristics of Gothic architecture is the pointed or ogival arch. Another characteristic of Gothic church architecture is its height suggesting an aspiration to Heaven.The pointed arch lends itself to a suggestion of height. This appearance is further enhanced by both the architectural features and the decoration of the building. One of the most distinctive characteristics of Gothic architecture is also the expansive area of the windows.
The architectural movement of the Gothic Revival, which is also referred to as Victorian Gothic or Neo-Gothic, began in the late 1840s in England. Its popularity grew rapidly in the early 19th century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of Neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval forms, in contrast to the neoclassical styles prevalent at the time.