I stood facing the gothic cathedral and I couldn’t help but gasp at the distinct facade of Saint Patrick’s. At first glance, one would have an impression of ‘heavy layering, a bunch of shapes and lean, heavy pillars’, majestic, extravagant as well as complicatedly structured. However, at a second look, the facade is actually mainly just composed of triangles and rectangles, erected bold and beautiful in the center of the city.
The facade of the Saint Patrick’s cathedral is breathtaking in a different way than that of the Amiens cathedral. The facade of the Amiens cathedral is full of detail and delicate sculptures, however even though Saint Patrick’s is lacking of that, but it is beautiful simply because it has a powerful sense of direction: up. The shape of the cathedral essentially is a rectangle, so why is the ‘upward reaching’ force so strong? This is the effect of the each and every long and lean body of the pillars sunk deep into the ground, but also delicately piercing into the air above with the pointed pinnacles. No matter the pillars, the arches, the windows, or the doors, every aspect of the facade is neatly pointed; already successfully giving a way the distinct characteristics of this particular gothic cathedral: dramatic, upward reaching and aspiring.
The proportion of the exterior of Saint Patrick’s is asymmetrical; admiring the building from the side (51st Street), the two towers stretched out from one side of the body is most eye-catching, especially when there is none to compare on the opposite end. The proportion is interesting because it felt as if all the weight is weighed on one side and the other is simply a buttress or a backbone, acting only as a support. This is very different from the Parthenon. The Parthenon is a completely symmetrical structure, the number of pillars equal on both sides, even the metopes on the friezes are measure carefully to preserve the symmetry.
I’d also like to make a note on the impact the structure had on the landscape. Saint Patrick’s is a gothic structure erected in the center of the radiant and modern New York City- it does not blend in, neither the yellow cabs nor the sky scraper buildings with unified square windows are exactly complimentary to the cathedral. However, I feel that because it is so different from it’s surroundings, it somehow stands out more with confidence. This is similar to both the Parthenon and the Amiens cathedral. All three structures are ancient structures that has a strong character of their own, standing among, but alone on the land.
The cathedral is famous for being ‘built of white marble quarried in New York and Massachusetts’. The significance of the marbles is that it is able to provide the visitor/ passer-by with an adequate impression and ‘tone’ of purity and grandiose. Although white in color, the marble does not radiate with cleanliness and gleam, instead it is aged, mature-looking and ‘dusty-colored’, contributing to the style of being a gothic cathedral.
The rose window cannot be neglected when in discussion of a gothic cathedral. The rose windows of the Gothic era is a representation of the radiance of spirit, ‘a sacred concept of completeness and balance’. And the
Stepping into the cathedral was a separate thrilling experience. It is a dim lit environment, seemed spacious because of the large dome on the ceiling; it created a hollow sense within the cathedral. The proportions of the interior is harmonious, there are identical, thick and heavy columns that stand upright and parallel on both sides. The grooves of pillars extend from the top to the bottom are like drapery, giving off a flowing, accepting and majestic feeling. The dome inside the cathedral is pointing upwards, having the same effect that the exterior had in ‘reaching upwards’. However, the columns are implanted into the ground exemplifying a motion of descending.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral exemplified a combined effort of man’s architectural and artistic stalents determined to induce the minds, hearts and aspirations of mankind to a higher level of knowledge and emotion. The ‘upward reaching’ facade most definitely played a significant role in successfully evoking feelings from the human mind and soul regarding spirituality.
Courtney from Study Moose
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