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Gothic art came into existence as a result of the Christian faith. It had its beginnings in France, which was the great intellectual capital of the medieval world and where such thinkers as Thomas Aquinas and Albertus Magnus lived. The Gothic cathedral expressed the highest form achieved in Gothic art. Whole populations participated in the building of the cathedrals, doing penance, forgiving their enemies, singing and praising God as these magnificent churches were being constructed. Gothic cathedrals feature some of the characteristics of their Romanesque rivals: several towers, three portals of the west front, sexpartite intersecting vaults. They differ from their Romanesque counterparts in their spatial unity, where sometimes various segments seem to melt into one another. There are other differences as well. Because the materials used were so heavy, much attention was paid to horizontally articulating the walls, with the use of ascending shafts, vertical ribs and clustered and cylindrical piers. The result was that a feeling of weightlessness was created, with light and energy in constant motion. The towers and facades were the principal exterior features. Gothic architecture soon spread to other countries in Europe, and there are excellent examples of Gothic cathedrals in Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

Gothic sculpture's main aim was to tell the Christian story in stone; it was not intended to be used as mere decoration. Figures show sublime calm and classical perfection. Draperies were curved around the figures in beautiful folds, allowing the artist to experiment and vary the sculpture in a way not seen in Romanesque sculptures. Winged altar pieces came into existence during the Gothic period. Painters and sculptors combined their efforts to create these magnificent pieces, which sometimes extended as high as the roof. Wall painting in France lost its importance as a result of the Gothic architectural movement, Choir screens and vault sections were painted, but the supreme achievement of Gothic painters is seen in their stained glass works. Several cathedrals, most notably Chartres, St. Denis, Canterbury and Sens were built during the 12th and 13th centuries and show the splendor of the rich colors the stained glass painters used. The beauty of style and execution in these windows has never been equaled. In England, wall painting was continued, and there are excellent examples of English artists' works in the Chichester Roundel in the Chapel of the Bishop's Palace at Chichester. Crafts such as the enameling work perfected at Limoges and the development of the textile arts also began during the Gothic period. The first white embroidered pieces used in churches were created, as well as lovely tapestries and hangings. During medieval times, the purpose of art was to show God's glory on earth. The Gothic period marks the end of the era and the emergence a new feeling of individualism, as well as the discovery of nature as a whole new world to be explored artistically.

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