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Gothic Cathedrals



Obvious connections between Physics and Calculus, or Physics and Chemistry exist. However, what about Physics and Humanities? Recently, in Humanities class, we continued our Middle Ages unit with a lesson on medieval architecture. We focused on the Gothic Cathedrals built in the Middle Ages, and the advances in architecture which were necessary to build such tall structures.

  • The first major advance was the transition from the rounded arch to the pointed arch. The pointed arch distributed the force of the ceiling and walls down toward the ground, and a bit outward. The old, Romanesque, rounded arch focused too much force outward as the columns grew taller. With the rounded arch, as the columns grew taller, the top of the arch would bow under the extreme force. And, as one arch bowed, the entire cathedral would begin to crack and crumble.
  • As the pointed arch minimized the outward force, the outward force still existed. So, flying buttresses were created as supports for the arches. These supports connected to the arches about where the columns began and the arch ended. The point of connection was very important, because if the buttress was placed too low, the arch would still bow, and collapse. With the flying buttresses, walls could be supported from the outside; and, the force of the walls was aimed even more downward. The flying buttresses allowed the cathedrals to remain in equilibrium, balancing out all forces.

And, what was the result of these advances?...................Cathedrals over 48 meters tall!



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That's really cool. Gothic architecture is my favorite. Did you know that because of the arches strength and stability, they can last longer than any other bridge style? The oldest bridge known on earth is an arch.

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