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Venetian Gothic architecture

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Venetian Gothic architecture

Gothic arches adorn the Doge's Palace, Venice

Venetian Gothic is a term given to an architectural style combining use of the Gothic lancet 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.

In the 19th Century, the works of John Ruskin and others drew from the style in a revival, part of the broader Gothic Revival movement in Victorian architecture.


  • History 1
  • Characteristics and examples 2
  • Revival 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • External links 6


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.[1]

Characteristics and examples

The Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti is an example of Venetian Gothic architecture alongside the Grand Canal.

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.[2]

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. Architects favored using intricate traceries, similar to those found on the Doge’s Palace.[3]

The most iconic Venetian Gothic structure, the Doge's Palace, is a luxuriously decorated building that includes traits of Gothic, Moorish, and Renaissance architectural styles. In the 14th Century, following two fires that destroyed the previous structure, the palace was rebuilt in its present, recognizably Gothic form.[4]

Yet another important example of Venetian Gothic architecture is Santa Maria dei Frari, a Franciscan church. First constructed in the 15th century, this Franciscan church was rebuilt in its current Gothic style in the 15th Century.[5]


The style was revived in the 19th century, largely through the influence of British architectural critic John Ruskin and his treatise The Stones of Venice. In North America the style was popularized by architects Charles Amos Cummings, Frank Furness, Norman Shaw, William Robert Ware, Willard T. Sears, and Frederick William Stevens. In Australia, the architect William Pitt was an exponent of the style and Joseph Reed was known to experiment in it also.

See also


  1. ^ "Venetian Gothic." RIBA. Royal Institute of British Architects, 2010. Web. 5 October 2010. .
  2. ^ Ruskin, John. The Stones of Venice. Ed. Jan Morris. Mount Kisco, New York: Moyer Bell Limited, 1989. Print.
  3. ^ Rößler, Jan-Christoph. "A Short Introduction to Palaces in Venice." The Art and Architecture of Venice. Jan-Christoph Rößler, 2007. Web. 3 October 2010. .
  4. ^ "Doges’ Palace." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 12 October 2010 .
  5. ^ "Santa Maria dei Frari." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 12 October 2010 .

External links

  • Media related to at Wikimedia Commons
  • The Stones of Venice (Introductions) at Project Gutenberg
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