Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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More About Cathedrals

The Abbey of St. Denis
The Abbey of St. Denis, built near Paris in the 12th century was constructed in a new style with outside supports or buttresses for the higher walls. This new Gothic style placed an emphasis on height and grandeur. The larger stained glass windows flooded the cathedrals with divine light. Outside and inside, the houses of worship became repositories of great sculpture and painting. Cathedrals, an important part of medieval religious life, were a form of civic pride as well.

Flying Buttresses
Flying buttresses (A buttress is an architectural support built against a wall and projecting from it. It is intended to resist thrusts from within.) were the key to the towering success of Gothic cathedrals. Previously, Roman architects had buttressed inside walls with thick stone, and church interiors were imposing and dark. The new medieval technology of rib and cross vaults supported high ceilings and allowed wall space to be given to beautiful stained glass panes. Combined with the exterior buttressing of stress points, these innovations helped make Gothic cathedrals works of civic and artistic pride.

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The Middle Ages is inspired by programs from The Western Tradition,
a video series in the
Annenberg Media Multimedia Collection.


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