From The Conversation:
If you want foreboding old buildings that dark lords and werewolves are bound to frequent, look no further than Britain’s enviable Gothic architecture. From Strawberry Hill in London with its twisting corridors and glaring pinnacles, to ruined abbeys and cathedrals such as St Andrews and Jedburgh, darkness seems to thrive in these places – the perfect location for a Halloween party if you’re lucky enough to be invited.
What is often not appreciated is that this style had two distinct periods of glory, with a long time out of favour in between. And it’s not just their tall spires and endless corridors and gargoyles that brought these structures supernatural associations. The dark reputation they gained in their wilderness years helped, too.
Gothic was in its pomp in medieval and Tudor Britain. Famous examples include Salisbury cathedral in southern England, Caernarfon castle in Wales and Melrose castle and Brodie castle in Scotland. The style was used by church, state and universities, Oxford and Cambridge especially.
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Gothic waned in the 17th century, replaced by the round-arched and rationalised style of Classicism.
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Classicism continued to spread in the 18th century, while Gothic came to be seen as barbaric. It was intentionally connected with the Goths by critics who favoured Greek and Roman architecture. These included the Renaissance artists Raphael and Vasari, and Georgian intellectuals such as John Evelyn and architects like Isaac Ware (Ware would later introduce certain Gothic elements into his work). These people often argued that when the Goths sacked Rome in the fifth century, they destroyed “proper” Classical architecture and introduced a backward, coarse style – Gothic – in its place.
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Gothic’s grim associations meanwhile found an outlet in its other notable form in Georgian Britain, the Gothic novel. Horace Walpole was again a pioneer. The Castle of Otranto (1764) tells of incest, brutality and deceit and is set within what we can only interpret as a Gothic structure. Subsequent authors from Ann Radcliffe to Bram Stoker also located terrifying scenes and ghastly encounters in and around such buildings.
The form became so popular that an anonymous letter published in The Spirit of the Public Journals for 1797 proposed a satirical “formula” for writing a Gothic novel. It highlights the centrality of Gothic structures to the genre:
Take — An old castle, half of it ruinous.
A long gallery, with a great many doors, some secret ones.
Three murdered bodies, quite fresh.
As many skeletons, in chests and presses.
An old woman hanging by the neck; with her throat cut.
Assassins and desperadoes quant suff.
Noise, whispers, and groans, threescore at least.
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Then in the 19th century, Gothic made a stylistic comeback. This was helped by antiquaries in the mid-Georgian period who had studiedGothic works and treated them as part of Britain’s architectural heritage.
By the time the Palace of Westminster was almost completely destroyed by fire in 1834, fashions had come full circle. For a competition to commission a new building, the brief said it had to be “either Gothic or Elizabethan”. It had to preserve “those venerable and beautiful remains of [Gothic] antiquity, the cloisters and the Crypt of St. Stephen’s Chapel”.
Link to the rest at The Conversation and thanks to Nate for the tip.