The Gothic Revival is an architectural movement that began in the late 1740s in England. Its popularity grew rapidly in the early 19th century, when increasingly serious and learned admirers of Neo-Gothic styles sought to revive medieval Gothic architecture, in contrast to the Neoclassical styles that were prevalent at the time.
In England, the center of the Gothic revival, the movement was intertwined with philosophical trends associated with a reawakening of Christian traditions in response to the growth of religious nonconformism. Ultimately, the Gothic style became widespread in the third quarter of the 19th century (Figure 1).
Paralleling the ascendancy of Neo-Gothic styles in 19th century England, interest spread rapidly to Europe, Australia, South Africa, and the Americas. Indeed, the number of Gothic Revival and Carpenter Gothic structures built in the 19th and 20th centuries may exceed the number of authentic Gothic structures that had been built in Gothic's original era.
The Gothic Revival was supported by medievalism, which had its roots in antiquarian concerns of survivals (practices that continue from earlier times) and curiosities (unique or unusual objects). As industrialization progressed, there was a reaction against machine production and factories. Proponents of the picturesque, such as Thomas Carlyle and Augustus Pugin, took a critical view of industrial society and portrayed pre-industrial medieval society as a golden age. To Pugin, Gothic architecture was infused with the Christian values that had been supplanted by classicism and were being destroyed by industrialization.
Gothic Revival also took on political connotations. With the "rational" and "radical" Neoclassical style being seen as associated with republicanism and liberalism (as evidenced by its use in the United States and to a lesser extent in Republican France), the more "spiritual" and "traditional" Gothic Revival became associated with the monarchy and conservatism, which was reflected by the choice of styles for the rebuilt Palace of Westminster in London and Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Sculpture was also an important component of Gothic Revival structures, including at Cardiff Castle in Scotland and the St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral in Ukraine.