The sheer length of time designated to each suggests a great deal about the excess of resources, man-power and conceit which were reserved for the cite of worship, historical documentation, deference to the shared authority of the Crown and Church and, in the case of St. Denis, the interment of France's Kings. And embodied in this long process would be the incorporation of a host of aesthetic, spiritual and sociological impulses that would ultimately feed into the political and philosophical machinations of the renaissance. Thus, it may be that there is some elevated degree of credit to be given to the French Renaissance architects who ultimately completed these structures so unprecedented in their size.
It must be acknowledged that the construction of the Cathedral at Notre Dame would, in France, represent nothing less significant than the transition from a Roman tradition of building aesthetic values to a distinct manifestation of the Middle Ages in Europe. Begun in 1163 under the aspirations of Roman Catholic leaders in order to replace a cathedral then considered unfit to house the worship of the first French pope. From this origin, by its very admission inclined to augment and elaborate man's house of worship, it had been assured that Notre Dame would attempt to orient a new perspective with regard to the impulses guiding cathedral construction. Quite so, it would help to build the framework for the more classically European styles that would soon become dominant on the French landscape.
To this consideration, we refer to what may well be regarded as the most important structure to be produced during the period known as the French Renaissance. The Loire Valley is home to many of the most remarkable and pleasing structures of the era in question. In particular, we consider such examples as the Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau. A white palace flanked with towers and set on a reflecting body of water, it is the peak of architectural taste and sheer beauty. Its dependency on the use of nature and on the responsiveness of the natural setting to a fundamentally compatible structure are both features of the renaissance tradition in which it was produced. Simultaneously, the palatial impression of the work is unquestionably gothic. Hard stone edifice peaks as spindly towers and the interior appears to demonstrate yet a more refined use of the flying buttress just two centuries hence of its introduction to gothic France.
This convergence of gothic and renaissance influences causes a return to the initial question concerning mannerism. Again, we can consider an array of chateaus in France which may demonstrate some aspect of the tradition. That such artists as da Vinci would bear an influence on France is suggestive of the inevitable impact which such a movement will have had on the country. However, to remark that its architecture was somehow merely a function of the mannerist influence is to disregard the clear evidence of a consistent gothic tradition and a commitment to the principles of the high renaissance in French architecture. Ultimately, we resolve in this discussion that the architectural output of the French Renaissance would be part of a linear tradition in which some of the impulses of the gothic era would be refined and in which the influence of foreign movements -- most specifically that of the Italians -- would have a significant impact on the aesthetic values thereby represented. Therefore, we must argue that even if the tradition of architecture is the sum of its parts, it does represent a fully unique tradition identifiable by its own category.
Art Movements. (2008). Mannerism. Art Industri. Online at http://www.artmovements.co.uk/mannerism.htm
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Crosby, Summer McK. 1970. The West Portals of Saint-Denis and the Saint-Denis Style. Gesta, Vol. 9, No 2.
Cupola Consulting. (1998) Renaissance and Mannerist Architecture. Cupola. Online at http://www.cupola.com/html/bldgstru/renaissa/renais01.htm
Davis, Michael T. Mar. 1998. Splendor and Peril: The Cathedral of Paris, 1290-1350. The Art Bulletin, Vol. 80, No. 1.