National Styles in Gothic Art
How kings and bishops must have envied the luminous soaring buildings of France! In spite of civil and foreign wars, men like Henry III in England and Alfonso the Wise in Castile tried to compete with Louis IX as patrons of the arts, and they even commissioned French masters to replicate the Gothic splendors of Paris, Amiens, and Reims in London and León. Their own artists and craftsmen from Wells to Cologne, Lincoln to Burgos, accepted the opus francigenum with unabashed enthusiasm, but used local materials and building techniques, to create new regional styles within the Gothic idiom. By the middle of the thirteenth century ducal, royal, and episcopal courts all over Europe emerged as centers of patronage. In an age that began with the futile and vicious Fourth Crusade and ended with the disastrous Black Death, men and women found the courage, resources, and faith to build magnificent churches and to fill them with treasures.
"Lackland" and "Soft Sword," the nicknames of King John, remind us that the thirteenth century did not open auspiciously for England . King John lost his French lands to Philip Augustus, his control over the church to Pope Innocent III, and his royal prerogatives to his own barons. During his reign (1199‐ 1216) the English strengthened the right of self-government and the power of common law over the whim of a monarch. Baronial power culminated in the king's acceptance of the Magna Charta, or the Great Charter of Rights, which remains to this day the basis of English democracy.
Important as it was for political development, King John's unstable reign was not
1. Matthew Paris, map of Britain in the thirteenth century. The British Library, London.