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When you think of France you probably get the image of the Eiffel Tower, but when you hear the name Paris, you might, just might, think of the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Notre-Dame Cathedral is also known as Notre-Dame de Paris, which is roughly translated to the Notre-Dame of Paris. This cathedral is one of many located throughout Europe. In France there are a number of cathedrals that are world renowned. The are, for example, the Amiens cathedral, the Beauvias Cathedral, the Chartres Cathedral, the Rheims Cathedral, and the Rouen Cathedral.

France isn’t the only country, though. In fact, there are cathedrals in England, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Sweden. Located in the country of England are the Canterbury cathedral, the Durham Cathedral, the Ely Cathedral, the Winchester Cathedral, and the York Cathedral. The Cologne Cathedral and the Ulm Cathedral are found in Germany. The Lou Vain Cathedral is the only major cathedral found in the country of Belgium. There are two in Italy, the Florence Cathedral and the Milan Cathedral. When in Spain, the Avila Cathedral and the Toledo Cathedral can be visited. On the Scandinavian Peninsula, in the country of Sweden, you could visit the Lund Cathedral and the Uppsala Cathedral, the two main cathedrals.

Churches are buildings designed for the worship of groups of Christians. Churches are built for sacred purposes. All churches worship differently, some with a large, elaborate ceremony. Others with a small ceremony, however, because there are so many branches of Christianity, no single type of church building dominates. A church may be small, barely large enough to hold a neighborhood congregation, or a church may grand and complex, with rooms for many types of religious activities. This would be an example of a grand cathedral. Most of the time, two types of building plans dominate. The way they are structured is the way in which one can tell what type of cathedral it is. The Basilica form, which was dominant throughout Europe in 1050 to 1200, has a long axis running from a centered doorway to the alter. The second type of church is the centralized church. It usually has a circular or polygonal form, covered by a dome shape. These two basic shapes can be combined in many ways. Also, they can both be altered to form a cross like form by adding projecting wings. Large Cathedrals may have separate rooms for various activities. Some may also have subsidiary chapels and more than one alter.

Other cathedrals could have been either Romanesque or Gothic in design. The Romanesque cathedrals are defined by their massive structure. They are domed with heavily vaulted structures like the Basilica form. Once inside you can see that the aisles have narrow sides and are crossed by transepts. The light inside the majestic cathedral comes from the small windows lining the sides. As the centuries came around the cathedrals changed in the building style although some were still built the same way. The 13th and 14th centuries led the way for the Gothic style cathedrals to take place in Europe were cathedrals were not present but were meant to be. These cathedrals were distinctive from their use of ribbed type vaults. Instead of the domed structure there are pointed arches with buttresses on the sides. Buttresses are slender pieces on the outsides of cathedrals for a sort of decoration. The windows are rose window with stained glass. The stained glass on the outsides sometimes also depict beliefs in picture form. With this design there is hardly any real detail to the rest of the structure.

Of the Gothic type cathedrals the Notre Dame de Paris is considered a masterpiece of earlier gothic architecture. However, even thought the cathedral is considered gothic, it has some characteristics of earlier Romanesque style. The cathedrals south side overlooks the Seine River and displays one of the famous rose windows. Its west side features rose window, the portals, and many sculptures. The famous rose window was designed in a rayonnant style. It was called the rose window in description of its radiating spokes. The window was built by Jean de chelles. Featured in the center are the virgin and child, surrounded by a figure of prophets. The second circle shows the 32 old testament kings, while the outer circle depicts 32 high priests and patriarchs. It is one of the many cathedrals dedicated to a Biblical character; it is dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. In fact Notre-Dame is translated from French to be “Our Lady”. The first cornerstone was laid in 1163. Later, in 1183, the high alter was completed. Everything but the roofing was completed in 1196. The cathedral was finally completed in the 14th century. It is still considered Gothic in design for it has pointed arches instead of domed walkways; the roofs are pointed as well. The basic construction of these and the majority of the walls had been completed but it wasn’t until nearly 40 to 60 years later when the buttresses and other such accessories were added.

Even though the old style of churches and cathedrals can still be recognized in old churches, many new churches, bear hardly any resemblance to old designs. By the end of the 19th century, nontraditional churches were built in Europe and America. Plain geometric shapes were being changed into houses of worship bearing no resemblance to earlier design. One reason the old designs are being lost is because of new machines and technology. Steel and concrete made possible shapes that were impossible before. despite all the new designs, the centralized church was revived. Today many church alters are placed in the center of the structure, following the centralized church design. However, by the end of the 20th century, contemporary designs in church building had become more commonplace. Also, the manner in which the mass or service is performed has changed dramatically. Perhaps it has changed the most dramatically in the case of drive in churches.


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