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  1. Cathedral of Christ the Light (Oakland, California)
  2. Cologne Cathedral resplendent in new light – Helvar
  3. The Gothic Cathedral: Height, Light, and Color

Devout Christians often undertook several pilgrimages in a lifetime; because hordes of pilgrims paid homage to these relics the numbers of worshipers entering those churches increased intensifying the need for a greater amount of interior light and space. The use of light as a factor in worship and in understanding the mystical paralleled another chief goal of the medieval cathedral builder: the pursuit of greater and greater interior heights.

At a time when religion dominated everyday life and when the faithful spent an average of three days a week at a worship service, church leaders sought an architectural style which created a sense of awe, a sense of the majesty and power of God for anyone who entered the church. Waging a constant battle against gravity, master masons, who both designed and built these cathedrals, wanted to create as much uninterrupted vertical space as possible in their stone structures.

These soaring heights provided a dramatic interior which served to reinforce the power of the church. Medieval master masons used three architectural devices to create the Gothic style: the pointed arch, the ribbed vault, and the flying buttress. The pointed arch, a style that diffused to the West from the Arabic world, permitted the use of slender columns and high, large open archways.

These stone arches were essential in the resultant stone bays that provided the basic support system for a Gothic cathedral freeing the area between arches from supporting the building. For the church's interior, these "curtain walls" added to the delicacy, openness, light and verticality of the space. The curtain walls on the building's exterior were filled with glass, often stained or colored glass, conveying some Biblical or other sacred tales.

The use of ribbed vaults for cathedral ceilings complemented the pointed arch as an architectural element.

Cathedral of Christ the Light (Oakland, California)

By carrying the theme of slender stone members from the floor through the ceiling, ribbed vaults reinforced the sense of height and lightness in the building. In a visual and structural sense, these vaults connected several stone columns throughout the building, emphasizing the interconnected stone elements which produced a skeletal frame that was both visually dramatic and structurally elegant. The flying buttress completed the trio of unique Gothic design elements. In essence, this kind of buttress, typically used on the exterior of a church, supplemented the structural strength of the building by transferring the weight of the roof away from the walls onto these exterior elements surrounding the edifice.

Often added as a means of addressing a problem of cracking walls in an existing building, these buttresses were incorporated so artfully into the exterior design of the cathedral that they became a hallmark of the Gothic style. By freeing the walls from supporting much of the weight of the cathedral roof, the flying buttress allowed medieval architects to pursue their goal of reaching ever greater interior heights. The combination of these new architectural elements, which defined the Gothic style, along with the Church's interest in increased interior light, space, and height, resulted in a new technology heavily influenced by religion.

Religion's goals provided the impetus for a daring empirical technology; at the same time, technological methods allowed the church to achieve an innovative awe-inspiring space within a new architectural style.

Cologne Cathedral resplendent in new light – Helvar

The Abbot Suger of St. As the leading French cleric of his time, Suger headed the mother church of St. When he sought to transform that church into an impressive center for pilgrimages and royal worship, he turned to the emerging Gothic style.


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Gothic elements would allow him to create a building with soaring heights, with curtain walls to fill with stories and lessons in glass, and with a display of light used to represent mystery and divinity. For Suger, the Gothic style created a transcendental aura, a theology of light and he hailed it as "[the]ecclesiastical architecture for the Medieval world. His notion that architecture could serve as theology appealed to the Church with its great influence over a mass of illiterate believers.

The Gothic Cathedral: Height, Light, and Color

The Gothic cathedral became a huge edifice of stories, signs, and symbols filled with church teachings and lessons for any who passed by or entered these churches. For many people of the Middle Ages , the cathedral became the poor man's Bible. The cathedral itself was a citadel of symbols. The orientation of the building usually positioned the altar facing east toward the Holy Land with the floor plan in the shape of a cross.

Exteriors contained sculptural elements representing both sacred and secular themes. A depiction of the Last Judgment often adorned the west portal so all who entered were reminded of their ultimate fate. Usually, the west portal also consisted of three entry-ways to mirror the doctrine of the Trinity.

Interiors contained rose and other stained glass windows with the same mix of the sacred and the secular scenes present on the exterior. Rose windows themselves served as representations of infinity, unity, perfection, and the central role of Christ and the Virgin Mary in the life of the Church. The interplay of geometry and light in rose windows and the special qualities of changing color tones and glowing window glass in all of the stained glass windows created a visual experience with mystical and magical qualities that transported a viewer into a world far different from his or her mundane medieval surroundings.

Sculptures within, along with paintings, tapestries, and geometric patterns in columns and walls, added to the teaching environment; inside a cathedral one could not escape being exposed to lessons or stories. Add to these the awe one felt by the great interior heights and the cathedral's impact was overwhelming, reinforcing the church's power and influence in the medieval world. In addition to its role as a center of church lessons, the cathedral served as a source of community pride.

Often the largest structure in a city or town, the church served as community center, theater, concert hall, circus ring, and meeting place.

The Lichtdom was the brainchild of Albert Speer, who was commissioned by Adolf Hitler to design and organise the Nuremberg Parade Grounds for the annual celebrations. The location of the rallies was the Zeppelinfeld, built for more than , participants as part of a massive complex specifically made for those events. William L. Hitler overruled him, suggesting that it was a useful piece of disinformation.

When the war began the lights were used for highlighting enemy airplanes so that the flak could easily shoot them down at night. Being spotted by such a searchlight usually was a death sentence for an allied bomber. Those used at this event had a range of about ten to twelve kilometers. Technical aspects of the lights : Developed in the late s, the Flak Searchlight and used centimeter-diameter parabolic glass reflectors with an output of million candelas.


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  6. The system was powered by a kilowatt generator, based around a horsepower 38 kW 8-cylinder engine, giving a current of amperes at volts. The searchlight was attached to the generator by a cable meters long. The system had a detection range of about 8 kilometers for targets at an altitude of between 4, and 5, meters.