Cathedral - architectural type definition


The cathedral is one of the most important religious buildings in Christian architecture. It is characterised by its imposing size, majestic appearance and rich internal decoration. Here is some information about cathedral architecture, the precursors and the most popular buildings of this type.


Cathedral architecture

Plan: Cathedrals are usually built on a Latin cross plan, which consists of a nave and a transept forming the crosspiece of the cross. They may also have additional side aisles and chapels.

Facade: It is often imposing and ornate, with a portal or portraits of saints. It often features towers or spires.

Vaults: Cathedrals often have high vaults, such as cross vaults, collector vaults or ribbed vaults.

Stained glass windows: Cathedrals are famous for their colourful stained glass windows, which let the sun's rays through to create spectacular lighting effects inside the building.


Cathedral precursors

Roman basilica: Christian cathedrals developed from Roman basilicas, which were used as places of assembly and court.

Basilicas usually had a nave plan with a transept.

Palaeo-Christian basilicas: Early cathedrals were inspired by Palaeo-Christian basilicas such as St Peter's Basilica in Rome.


The most popular cathedrals

Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, France: one of the most famous Gothic cathedrals, built between 1163 and 1345.

Chartres Cathedral, France: Gothic cathedral, known for its unique stained glass windows and majestic appearance. It was built between 1145 and 1220.

Cologne Cathedral, Germany: Built in the Gothic style, it is famous for its unusually tall tower (known as the Kölner Dom) and rich interior design. It was built from 1248 to 1880.

Salisbury Cathedral, UK: A 13th century cathedral, notable for having the tallest medieval tower in England and one of the oldest surviving clocks in Europe.

St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, Russia: A unique cathedral with onion domes and colourful, ornate decoration. It was built in the 16th century.


These are just a few examples of cathedrals that stand out for their architecture and historical significance. There are many other cathedrals around the world that are stunning in their beauty and are important religious centres and tourist attractions.

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