Gothic architecture (Latin: francigenum opus) is a style that flourished in Europe during the High and Late Middle Ages. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture. Originating in 12th-century France, it was widely used, especially for cathedrals and churches, until the 16th century.
Its most prominent features included the use of the rib vault and the flying buttress, which allowed the weight of the roof to be counterbalanced by buttresses outside the building, giving greater height and more space for windows. Another important feature was the extensive use of stained glass, and the rose window, to bring light and color to the interior. Another feature was the use of realistic statuary on the exterior, particularly over the portals, to illustrate biblical stories for the largely illiterate parishioners. Some key architectural features, such as the pointed arch and the rib vault, were adopted from outside Europe, probably deriving from Islamic architecture. These features had both existed in Romanesque architecture, but they were used more extensively and in more innovative ways to make Gothic cathedrals higher, stronger, and filled with light.
The first important example is generally considered to be the Basilica of Saint-Denis, near Paris, whose choir was reconstructed with Gothic rib vaults and large stained glass windows between 1140 and 1144.
Gothic architecture was known during the period as opus francigenum ("French/Frankish work"). The term "Gothic architecture" originated in the 16th century and was originally very negative, suggesting something barbaric. Giorgio Vasari used the term "barbarous German style" in his 1550 Lives of the Artists to describe what is now considered the Gothic style, and in the introduction to the Lives he attributed various architectural features to "the Goths" whom he held responsible for destroying the ancient buildings after they conquered Rome, and erecting new ones in this style.