That the Souls, Bloodborne and Elden Ring they are up to scary and cool churches and cathedrals we all know. If you’ve read the wonderful Design Works for Dark Souls and Dark Souls III, and skimmed the interviews, you’ll also know that most of them are inspired by reality. Anor Londo is based on the Milan Cathedral, and the Burgo de los Muertos on the Church of San Giovanni Parangaricutiro.
When I was studying architecture, one of the things I liked the most to discover is that the architectural typologies of these religious buildings had a meaning in itself. Because they have always functioned, and continue to do so, as a place to meet God, meet with him and give him a home. But the figure of God has never been the same during all the ages. From the late Middle Ages to the High, from the Romanesque to the Baroque, it has gone from being darkness and punishment to light and shelter. Well, those same messages they are also in the architectures of Miyazakiand it is a way of characterizing who inhabits those places in their games, what has happened to them and what the author wants to tell us about them.
The Romanesque arose from the 11th century, and amalgamates many of the architectural styles that appeared throughout the Middle Ages. At this time, God’s teachings were accepted as truth, and there was no room for doubt. God was feared so that it would make no sense to deny his word and, therefore, it is very common to find churches from this period with iron walls, few holes in the facades and forceful plants. Thus the entry of light was limited so that darkness and gloom were queens. Notice that the explanations that I will give about architecture are very summarized, I encourage you to read more about Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque to get to know them in depth.
Miyazaki is not an architect, but he knows how to play with architecture to narrate
gothic is the opposite. This movement was present from the 12th to the 15th century. Gothic cathedrals are all height and light. The Gothic God is bright, luminous and hot, and the buildings in his honor were intended to rise high enough to be able to reach his kingdom, greet him and invite him for coffee. To achieve this, some of the most interesting structural advances in history were developed, such as buttresses. These vertical elements are those auxiliary columns that protrude from the façade, allowing the walls to take load off and insert large holes and colored rose windows, which always bring joy.
We know that Lothric was a prosperous kingdom, it was the light of the world.
And what is the use of knowing all this? Well, it’s worth to know more about one of my favorite characters from Dark Souls IIIto Oceiros. We know that Lothric was a prosperous kingdom., was the light of the world. The queen, in fact, was revered as a fertility goddess to the point that it is suspected that she may be Gwynevere herself from Dark Souls II.
That is why it is a castle loaded with Gothic details. It has large rose windows that allow colored light to pass through, pointed pointed arches on its walls to illuminate the rooms and tall, thin pillars. The surface appearance of Lothric Castle tells us about the splendor of the kingdom in its recent past… But the Romanesque of his guts conveys the opposite.
The cellars of Lothric are consumed by the darkness of the Romanesque
As we descend to the Garden of the Consumed King, we see how the walls grow fatter, how the light disappears, how the ceilings drop in height, and for what? So that we understand the terror of God, of Oceiros, and the most sinister faith. The soul we get from this character when killed reads: “Oceiros went berserk trying to harness his royal blood for a greater purpose, leading him to the heretics of the Grand Archives, where he discovered the twisted faith of Seath the Pale Dragon.” . I read blood and pale in the same Dark Souls III text and my mind begins to make connections with bloodbornebut that gives for another article (ask for it a lot in comments so the boss will let me do it).
Whenever From Software wants us to understand that we travel to the past, it has resorted to ideas taken from Rome and Greece.
The fact is that this cursed and sinister religion is represented not only with the absence of light, but with the way in which architecture hides that light. And the sensational thing about this Dark Souls III exercise is how it connects a setting of Gothic light characteristics with another of Romanesque darkness. Here, Hidetaka Miyazaki I was already beginning to play with the idea of differentiating historical periods through architectural typologies. In Elden Ring we would see how Hellenic and classical architecture appeared in the depths of the world, and baroque and gothic on the surface. In fact, whenever From Software wants us to understand that we are traveling to the past, it has resorted to ideas taken from Rome and Greece. If you have reached Oolacile, you will have noticed.
And precisely this duality, Gothic light and Romanesque darkness, is also represented in his two sons: Lorian, who dresses in rigorous black, and Lothric, capable of using light of a divine nature. Dark Souls III it’s great for this. On a narrative level, it is not only a brilliant title because of how it deconstructs the myths of its characters or its management of the lore as such, but also because of how it makes the architectural designs flow with each other to accentuate its message. There is a lot of intention in the transition from Gothic to Romanesque in this place in relation to the characters that inhabit it.
Anor Londo, the illusion of the Gothic come true
Dark Souls III stands out for this architectural flow, but the first of the trilogy does so because of the emphaticity with which it uses the meaning of each typology separately. The easiest way to explain that Gothic is light is to look at Anor Londo. We landed in the city being dragged by gargoyles which, by the way, are decorative elements typical of this period. Upon arrival, we not only find a cathedral prepared to better collect light, but we come across the light itself.
What is particular about this scene is that it is not real. It’s all an illusion built by Gwyndolin. In reality, Anor Londo is a shattered, ashen shadow; but Gwyn’s heir makes us believe, with his magic, that it is still a warm and precious place. The wonderful thing about this lie is that it recreates what the Gothic architects had in their heads: the construction of a temple for God, so beautiful, that its light found it impossible not to move to live in it. And what do we do as players? We turn off that light by attacking Gwynevere, that is, we kill god
In addition to the Gothic and Romanesque, there is also the baroque. Around the 16th century another way of conceiving architecture appeared. The ornament commanded, the decoration and the opulence. God was excess, it was the power expressed by possession and gold. In short, the Romanesque wanted to present God through darkness, the Gothic with light, and the Baroque with luxury. Which brings us to Profaned Capital, to Yhorm’s grave.
Desecrated Capital deconstructs the baroque and throws it to the ground
The capital was a place of worship for the magic of the sorcerer Logan, and enjoyed much fame and wealth. That is to say, they enjoyed that point of luxury that is attributed to the Baroque. However, the desecrated flame appeared that devastated everything and led the city to misery and a curse. Shortly before facing Yhorm, we arrive at a room that is full of gold, treasures and jewels lying on the floor. If we look closely, it seems that those piles of silver and tinsel have fallen from the columns, the walls and the pillars. It is as if the baroque decoration, representative of the luxurious God, had been scattered on the floors as a symbol that he is no longer there.
In addition to Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque, Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team also use another architecture, Byzantine. Archdragon’s Peak, one of my favorite settings, is heavily influenced by Hagia Sophia. This way of creating religious buildings is characterized by its domes, its vaults and by a plan that does not have the shape of a cross as it does not worship the Christian God. And, precisely for this reason, it is a type of building that is associated in the Souls with faith to dragons On the one hand there is Gwyn, symbol of the dominant western religion, and on the other that of the ancient dragons, symbol of the oriental. This idea also travels to Elden Ringsince Farum Azula is also designed following these patterns.
In summary, we could say that From Software uses the Gothic to indicate stages of brilliance and splendor, the Romanesque forms to speak of darkness, and the Baroque to express the decadence of those who had a lot. Byzantine architecture welcomes gods who oppose the majority faith of their world, and classical, Roman and Greek architecture to help us understand that we have traveled to the past. Look for the architectural typologies used in each level and it will be easier for you to understand the lore of these fascinating adventures. And by the way, these ideas are not only seen in architecture, also in painting as the friends of Sword and Feather remind us.