Gothic Culture Timeline

by Marion Phillips - January 5, 2004

::click on the links to jump through the text::
centuries (AD):  5th/6th || 8th    | 12th  15th/16th ||   |18th | 19th | Early 20th | Late 20th | 21st

5th & 6th c. AD - The Goth Invasion - This marks the invasion of the Roman Empire by warriors of the goth, visigoth and ostrogoth peoples. Because of the way they behaved, which the Romans considered barbaric, the names of those people started to be associated with bad behavior and gratuitous violence.

†  8th c. - The Gothic Writing - The gothic calligraphy started to be used in the 8th c., during the rule of the Emperor Charlemagne. In order to write faster and with shorter spaces between the letters, the scribes used to use the pen in an oblique position and this way the style was developed. The more complex kinds of gothic letters only appeared in the 17th c., but before that, in the 15th c., Johannes Gutenberg printed the first books, his Bibles, using this kind of calligraphy. The name was only given to it in the 19th c. by the Romantics who associated it with the monk scribes of the Middle Ages.

†  12th c. - The Gothic Church - In the Middle Ages, the Romanesque architecture, which until then had been much based on the Roman style, gave way to the Gothic style, especially in the Western side of Europe. In these buildings (predominantly in the religious buildings), the ceiling was supported by ogival arches and this way the walls could be higher and have all those marvelous stained glass windows. The first church built this way was the Saint-Denis in France, in 1140.

15th to 16th c. - Ugly Goths - The name Gothic started to be applied to the architecture of the Medieval churches in the Renaissance by the Italian scholars and artists, who thought that those buildings were far from beautiful.

18th c. - Gothic Literature - "The Castle of Otranto", written in 1765 by the English writer Horace Walpole is considered the first Gothic story, although the elements of Gothic Literature can be found in the works of writers as diverse as the ancient Greek Aeschylus, the medieval Italian Dante Alighieri and the Elizabethan William Shakespeare. This literature was identified with the Gothic art, because the first stories usually took place in those old churches, graveyards and castles.

19th c. - The Gothic Evolution - That century was the time when the Gothic literature became a style and a form of expression. From the dark poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley and the cynicism of Lord Byron, to the metaphysical stories of Edgar Allan Poe and the moody poems of Baudelaire, it seemed to have affected almost all the writers and poets of that century, at least in one moment in their careers.

Early 20th c. - The Horror - The first horror movie was the German expressionist "The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari" and then came "Nosferatu", "Metropolis" and several others still in the silent movies period. With the advent of sound, the horror movies became even more thrilling and had actings that are considered classical nowadays, like Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee as Dracula, Vincent Price in the Roger Corman's movies, among others.

In the literature, the first decades also had writers that are considered masters nowadays like HP Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

From the 1940s on, the horror fiction invaded the comics, and one of the most famous of them was "The Tales From The Crypt" magazine, which ended up becoming a TV series in the 1980s.

Late 20th c. - The Gothic Mutation - From the Punk Rock movement of the 1970s sprang one of the best Rock bands, Siouxsie & The Banshees, which some say, created the Goth Rock sound in their album "Kaleidoscope" of 1980. Three of the musical influences of the Goth bands are the 1960s bands Velvet Underground, Doors (which was, probably, the first rock band to be called gothic by the press) and Black Sabbath.

The origin of the name has two versions: some say it was the Joy Division's manager Tony Wilson who started to use the name to define that band's sound, others attribute it to the singer Siouxsie Sioux. Still, another origin of the sound can be the Bauhaus' song "Bela Lugosi's Dead", which appeared first in record in 1979.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, several bands would become famous for their sound and the style would leave Europe and be adopted throughout the world.

In literature and movies, the traditional goth myths were reinvented by writers like Stephen King and Anne Rice and in movies like "Friday 13" and "Fright Hour".

Early 21st c. - Gothic what? - Nowadays it's difficult to define what the Goth style is about. Not even those who consider themselves Goth can define it properly. It may happen in part because a goth isn't anymore just a person who dresses all in black and likes gloomy things.

An example of it is the Japanese goth fans, who dress in almost a Glam style and whose most famous goth rock band, Malice Mizer, has some songs that sound more like old French pop songs. However there are the more traditional bands like Type O' Negative and Midnight Syndicate that are still active.

In other aspects, the gothic tradition also goes on, either in the illustrations of Luis Royo and Dorian Cleavenger, in the books of Nora Roberts and Laurell K. Hamilton or in movies like "Underworld" and "The Matrix".


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Copyright 2004 Marion Phillips