Reflection on Johann Goethe’s Essay “On German Architecture”

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Christianity began to gain momentum in Europe as the main religion. This called for the European lifestyles to match the momentum created. Buildings had to be bigger, larger, and taller than ever before. This required new architectural techniques in order to fulfill the new demand of exceptional buildings. This new form of architecture of large vertical buildings with intricate detail inside and out was called Gothic architecture. The term “Gothic” architecture can be derived from the Romanesque timeline and there styles tend to have similarities. The similarities between gothic style and Romanesque architecture are the tall large high ceiling and “vertical” structure of buildings. Johann Goethe’s essay “On German Architecture” it is about how through his architecture he was able to express his beloved German culture. Goethe in his essay was known for his buildings, converting to religious buildings and it could have been from his writing style using words that expressed religious beliefs. These building he created converted to large places for people to come together to practice religion. Goethe strived to unify people and let his pieces of work be a place where people can unify for a singular cause, majority of the time for religious practices. Goethe wasn’t only an influential person for architecture but he had a direct impact on German culture, shaping it for the future.

Goethe’s architecture emphasized longevity, these great monumental structures would be around for centuries, and unify people to come together for these “once in a lifetime” pieces.

In Goethe’s essay he states, “It will be a living whole”, what he means by this is when he is finished with his work, people will be able to unify and come together to practice religion, and have a place to safely worship. German history is founded on the basis of religion. The unifying force has always been from religion, from the Germanic Tribes, to the chivalrous days, the crusades, the Roman Empire, the Goths, and all few and in between Goethe’s architecture was a catapult for uniting Christianity across Germany and letting it explode due to the large buildings.

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The term “wholeness” comes from Goethe’s idea of how he was able to unify people extremely well. Also consists of how detailed the buildings well, where ornamentation was a huge characteristic of his work. The intricate detail is what made Goethe’s work so revolutionizing. The inspiration was to create a wholesome, inclusive place to strengthen a population over a central cause. He was a pioneer in his feat of accomplishing that. Wholeness is a key part of Goethe and his work, and has direct ties to Christianity. He didn’t just see these huge structures as buildings, but as art. He intended for the pieces to have a comforting feeling for people and to have a huge impact on the population.

The originality has several meanings when described by Goethe. Gothic architecture was founded on a key characteristic called ornamentation. Intricate detail was able to represent how people are unified behind a singular belief in Christianity, or behind the German culture. Originality can also mean distinction, not like the rest, just as Goethe’s architecture and design was, with his ornamentation, and exceptional details. The art was created to describe the German culture, a since of pride about a culture. A new distinction and proudness of their buildings being made that depicted the culture very well.

The importance of trying to give the German people a voice was vital in the late 18th century. Through Goethe’s architecture they were able to accomplish it, and give a voice to the German culture. The country was in deep need of an identity, so in turn, these large buildings as well as the spark of Christianity lead to a huge rise in German pride. Cathedrals of massive size and exceptional large vertical buildings put a stamp on what it meant to be German and allowed the people to rally behind a singular cause. Goethe’s ideas on “wholeness” and “originality” were the backbone behind his truly remarkable Gothic architecture and his essay truly allows the readers into his mind. He was a pioneer and centuries ahead of his time, his creativity left a legacy for future architects to follow and set the blueprint on revolutionizing building large structures.

The German people back then and still today are directly tied and feel a relationship with the Gothic Architecture. The Vertical aspect to these buildings had a direct correlation to the sense of pride in Germany, and their strength in belief of the Christian faith. You see in today’s age how Gothic architecture has a direct stamp on architecture today from skyscrapers, castles, and even on our campus here at the University

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Reflection on Johann Goethe’s Essay “On German Architecture”. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from
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