Abbot Suger: Gothic Architecture & Stained Glass

Instructor: Matthew Helmer

Matt is an upcoming Ph.D. graduate and archaeologist. He has taught Anthropology, Geography, and Art History at the university level.

Abbot Suger is considered by many to be the father of Gothic Architecture. In this lesson, learn about Suger's life, what Gothic Architecture is, and how it revolutionized Europe's built landscape.

Introduction to Abbot Suger and Gothic Architecture

Long before vampire pop culture, Hot Topic, and metal bands, the word 'Gothic' meant something entirely different. During the medieval era, or Middle Ages (500-1500 AD), the word Gothic applied to art and architecture which built on Classic styles of Greco-Roman times. Abbot Suger was one of the first proponents of the Gothic style. Below, you will learn a bit about Abbot Suger based on the few historical sources we have about him, and the history of the Gothic style.

Who was Abbot Suger?

Abbot Suger
Abbot Suger

Suger is best known for the work he did at the Saint-Denis abbey. Saint-Denis is a commune located on the outskirts of Paris, and served as an important religious and trading center. Because monks allowed trading in Saint-Denis, travelers from all over Europe came to do business and worship there. This made the location one of the most influential in France at the time. While Suger was at the abbey, he befriended King Louis VII. Suger was in charge of major renovations at the abbey around 1140. Suger's renovations included classic Gothic elements, including pointed arches, flying buttresses, clustered columns, and most importantly, space for stained glass windows.

Abbot Suger in stained glass
Abbot Suger stained glass
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Stained glass at Saint-Denis

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