European Architectural Design Series
Flamboyant Gothic Architecture

History, Features, Examples.

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Fan-shaped vaulting in the roof
of the Hotel de Cluny (1485-98)
in the Flamboyant style of Gothic
architecture. The building is now
the Musee national du Moyen Age
(National Medieval Museum) Paris.

Flamboyant Gothic Architecture (1375-1500)


Features and Characteristics
Examples of Flamboyant Gothic Architecture
Articles About Medieval Arts and Crafts

For more about the evolution of architectural design,
see: History of Architecture (3,000 BCE - present).

For the greatest examples of Gothic architectural design,
see: Gothic Cathedrals (1144-1500).



The Flamboyant style of Gothic architecture was a flowery Gothic style which flourished in France during the period 1350-1500, after which it was overtaken by forms of Renaissance architecture - such as those used in the completion of Florence Cathedral and the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi - imported from Italy. It evolved out of the preceding idiom of Rayonnant Gothic architecture (the English Decorated style) and its equivalent in English Gothic architecture is the Perpendicular style, while in German Gothic art its name is Sondergotik ("special Gothic"). A Spanish version of the Flamboyant style was adopted in Spain and Portugal during the 15th century. Flamboyant architectural designs are recognizable by an ever-greater focus on decoration and the use of S-curved tracery.

Features and Characteristics

The fundamental characteristic of Flamboyant Gothic architecture is the embellishment of technical and decorative elements, for it generated absolutely no important structural inventions. The decorative interweaving of ornate tracery forms - already identifiable in the upper part of the west facade of Rouen Cathedral, datable to 1370 - with patterns of double curving, undulating lines that imitate flames (Old French: flambe) gives the style its name. Flamboyant Gothic abandoned the visual highlighting of lines of force along frameworks - the principle that until then had regulated the main phases in Gothic design - in favour of new, completely particular formal criteria. Preference was now given to plant forms or similar shapes, along with similar naturalistic motifs drawn from Gothic illuminated manuscripts and decorative Gothic sculpture of the period. The Flamboyant language found its most successful expression in facades, on which it released with exuberant freedom curving and twisting lines, swirling curvilinear and pointed tracery, canopied niches, richly decorated splayed portals, steep gables, and crockets, all of them positioned freely in space, mirroring and overlapping others behind them to create an overall effect of dynamic movement in which the individual elements play roles that vary according to the viewers point of view. The result of the whole is a scenically mobile vision, a dense multilayered language that tales every opportunity to present the richest and most imaginative decorative themes.

The same style saw the tendency in interiors to devise new and curious solutions for the attachments of ribs, vaults, and columns, whereas interest in devising innovative planar and typological-functional solutions diminished. The pronounced freedom of creativity and the surprising effects that it tended to achieve meant an approach to design that was adopted in different regions and was applied to different kinds of works, but it was most often employed in architecture promoted by the court or by members of the ecclesiastical hierarchy. See also: International Gothic Art (c.1375-1450).

For a comparison with earlier Gothic styles in France, please see: Notre-Dame Cathedral Paris (1163-1345), Chartres Cathedral (1194-1250) and Sainte Chapelle (1241-48). In Germany, an earlier example is Cologne Cathedral (1248-1880).

Examples of Flamboyant Gothic Architecture

Church of St Maclou, Rouen (West Facade) (1500-14)
Among the most important works of the late French Middle Ages, the church of St Maclou reached its highest expressive results in its western facade, designed by Ambroise Havel and built between 1500 and 1514. The curved entrance porch culminates in a steep gable decorated with projecting crockets and internal curvilinear motifs that stand out freely against the wall of the building. Behind this, the angular buttresses of the main nave are rotated out 45 degrees from the plane of the facade, while a series of double rampant arches runs down the side of the facade. Thoroughly freed from their former support functions, the structural elements perform only a formal role, calling attention to their geometric qualities and evoking decorative suggestions entirely similar to those of many other forms of Christian art, from wood carving to goldsmithing and metalwork.

Hotel de Cluny, Paris (1485-98)
The most important expressions of French late Gothic art are found in religious architecture, but there were also important examples in the field of secular building design, both private and public. The Hotel de Cluny, residence of the abbots of the Abbey of Cluny, is striking for the strong Flamboyant accentuation of the detail elements. The chapel, in particular, is distinguished for the originality of its constructive and formal characteristics, which make it one of the most interesting expressions of the Parisian Flamboyant.

Palace of the Duc de Berry, Poitiers (1386)
The magnificent palace of the duke of Berry is an exceptional example of the Flamboyant style applied within the sphere of court patronage. This is most evident in the rear wall of the main salon. Designed by Guy de Dammartin as a stage, the impressive fireplace acts as backdrop, with a gallery for musicians. The large expanse of stained glass art is broken down into mullioned windows and pointed gables located on different planes, creating a highly refined interplay of backgrounds of rare beauty. For other treasures associated with the Duc de Berry, see also: Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (1413), one of the great International Gothic illuminations, created by the Limbourg Brothers (active 1390-1416).

Other important examples of Flamboyant Gothic include the west facade of Sainte-Chapelle de Vincennes (1379-1480); the Cathedral Basilica of Moulins (late 14th century) (except for its Neo-Gothic nave); and the Basilica of Notre Dame in the village of L'Epine, near Verdun, which is regarded as a masterpiece of Flamboyant design.

Articles About Medieval Arts and Crafts

Medieval Christian Art (600-1200)

Romanesque Architecture (c.800-1200)

Romanesque Sculpture (c.1000-1200)

English Gothic Sculpture (1150-1250)

German Gothic Sculpture (1150-1400)


• For more about French architecture in the Gothic era, see: Homepage.

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