GOTHIC style, in architecture. The characteristics of this mannner of building are pointed arches, greater height than breadth in the proportions, and profuse ornament, chiefly derived from an imita tion of the leaves and flowers of plants. The word gothic, by which it has long been distinguished in England, has lately been considered by its admirers as a term of reproach, applied by architects who were at a loss how to imitate its excel lence, in order to bring it into disrepute ; the former therefore now call it the point ed style. If we were to judge wholly from the complete oblivion which in voices the origin of gothic architecture, it must follow, that architects were held in as little estimation about the time of Henry III. as common masons are at pre sent ; but this inference is doubtful, and the cause that the names of the most emi nent have not reached us may be more correctly attributed to the then and sub sequent neglect of literature. Writing was almost exclusively confined to the cloister, yet the monks, who could best inform us of their architects and the changes in their styles, were unaccount ably silent on the subject ; an instance may be cited from Malcolm's " Londini urn Redivivum," in which that author in troduces a legend of the building of the priory of St. Bartholomew, Smithfield, written immediately after the death of Rahere, the founder, by a monk resident there. This person describes the man ner in which the money was raised, and many miracles performed, but not a word occurs relating to the architect : Rahere died in 1174, and the monk adds, " and with moor ampliant buildings were the skynnys of our tabernaculys dylatid ;" we may therefore suppose that the arches under the tower, which are partly circular in the Saxon style, and partly pointed, were some of the first essays in the new mode of building, and erected about 1200.
Westminster Abbey was begun by Hen ry III. in 1245 ; this beautiful edifice is a complete and regular specimen of the purest pointed style ; it is consequently perfectly fair to suppose, that the inter val between the above dates was the pe riod when gothic architecture superced ed its heavy and tasteless predecessor. That it soon became the favourite mode may be concluded, from its adoption in all the additions made to old churches at that time, which is discoverable in an in stant by the total disagreement of the proportions and ornaments. There is
every probability that the first principles of the style in question were derived from the eastern nations, now partially under the dominion of the East India Company, where there are many build ings dedicated to their mode of worship that might almost be called gothic, and those are certainly very ancient. The Romans had explored the coasts of those countries, and their remote descendants may have been representations of the structures alluded to, left by their ances tors, and adopted them with alterations in some few of the earliest specimens of Christian churches. When a people of so much importance in the history of the world, as the successors of its conquerors, introduced any peculiarity in their man ners or buildings, it is reasonable to sup pose that they were eagerly imitated throughout Europe ; hence we find that a few centuries produced a vast number of churches, in the pointed style, in the Italian states, Germany, France, Spain, &c. &c. though it must be admitted that the latter country being conquered by the Moors may have, in some measure, operated to introduce an imitation of their mosques, which are very like gothic ar chitecture.
Such are the conjectures which natu rally follow the consideration of this sub ject, and yet they may be altogether er roneous, as much might be said to induce a supposition, that the pointed style was gradually invented by the abberration of the pencil and compasses, or similar in struments of ingenious architects, who, having observed intersected arches in some very ancient Roman buildings, of Grecian architecture, admired their effect, and followed them as fundamental princi ples in new designs. This speculation may be supported by referring to an en graving by Marco Sadeler, representing the ruins of the Terme di Diocletiano, which shows the perspective of a long passage, very similar to the aisle of a church, where the roof is made com pletely and decidedly gothic by the inter section of arches throughout.