How to Recognize Gothic Architecture. One of the most beautiful architectural designs used in churches is the Gothic style. Intended to raise the spirit towards God, it is built in a vertical style that uplifts the eye and the soul. This style was a celebration of the Catholic Church's triumph over paganism and a declaration of the supremacy of the Catholic religion.
Look at the outside of a Gothic Cathedral. One of the first things you will notice is the prevalence of gargoyles surrounding the building. The utilitarian reason for these monstrous sculptures is quite basic; they are waterspouts. As for the frightening appearance of these creatures, the most common conclusion is that they were created to symbolically keep evil spirits away.
Note the building materials used. Gothic churches were made entirely of stone, whereas churches in the former eras used wood for the roofs, which made them susceptible to fire. The weight of the stone was eased by the use of "flying buttresses" or buttresses used to reinforcement the building that are diagonally arched or "flying" in form.
Gaze upward in the interior of the church. The vertical thrust towards a pointed apex is not only spiritual in origin, but it has a structural function as well in connection with the ribbed vaults.
Notice the way the ribbed vaults are spaced and how they meet at the apex of the church. This distributes the weight of the frame, making it more structurally sound.
Look for an abundance of Romanesque décor within the church. Sculptures, paintings and ornate stained-glass windows are notable traits of this type of architecture. The windows are large and the paintings depict scenes from both the Old and New Testament.