Architectural terms: Rayonnant Style

Church of Saint-Urbain, Troyes
Church of Saint-Urbain, Troyes
ca. 1262 - 1270
from History of Art & Architecture
Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin.

In Gothic art and architecture the Rayonnant {ray'-uh-nant} is an architectural style that evolved in the region of Paris during the reign of Louis IX (1226-70). In contrast to the solid sculpturesque character of the previous High Gothic phase of French ecclesiastical architecture, the Rayonnant reduced the masonry structure of the churches to a tenuous skeletal system supporting vast expanses of traceried glass, as exemplified by Louis's Sainte-Chapelle (1241-48). The word Rayonnant itself refers to the radiating stone spokes of the enormous rose windows of the cathedrals.

After 1250 the style spread from Paris to central and southern France, while in the Champagne it produced that perfect expression of the Rayonnant, the Church of Saint-Urbain, Troyes (begun 1262). In Alsace the astounding traceried curtain of the façade (begun 1277) of Strasbourg Cathedral was directly inspired by the Rayonnant transept façades (begun c.1247) of Notre-Dame de Paris. The choir (begun 1355) of Aachen Cathedral, modeled on Sainte-Chapelle, is only one of many German monuments influenced by the Rayonnant. The style even took hold in distant Prague, where the French architect Matthew of Arras began the new cathedral in 1344. In France, however, the style was already waning, soon to be extinguished in the dark days of the Hundred Years' War.

William M. Hinkle, Professor Emeritus of Art History, Columbia University, New York City.
Source: 2001 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, ©2000 Grolier Interactive Inc. — All Rights Reserved.
Bibliography: Jean Bony, French Gothic Architecture of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries (1982; repr. 1985); Robert Branner, St. Louis and the Court Style in Gothic Architecture (1965; repr. 1986).
Relevant publications: Robin S. Oggins, Cathedrals (1996). Otto von Simson, The Gothic Cathedral: Origins of Gothic Architecture & the Medieval Concept of Order (1988). Stan Parry, Great Gothic Cathedrals of France (2001).
Image: Church of Saint-Urbain (Troyes), from History of Art & Architecture, Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin. — All Rights Reserved.