Add an air of drama to your chess game with a luxury set inspired by the Cathedrals and sculptures of Gothic art.
For centuries, the history and style (inadvertently) named for the Goths – a Germanic tribe who rose to power all over Europe, starting in the 3rd century – have continued to fascinate people across the globe. Even well after the eventual disintegration of their reign, the Goths have inspired the imaginations of artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and fashion designers – a legacy that is still going strong in 2023. Granted, much of what is labeled “Gothic” actually has little to do with the ancient Goths. Much beloved “Gothic” artwork and literature was actually created well after the time period in which the Goths reigned, and reflects an emotional aesthetic more so than the history of the Goths themselves.
Nevertheless, the “Gothic” aesthetic has an enduring classic beauty all its own. If you are fond of the Gothic art style, we think you’ll love these beautifully-made Gothic Chess Sets that add an element of timeless elegance and sense of intrigue to any room of the house.
The Best Gothic Chess Sets of 2023:
1. The Canterbury Cathedral Chess Set – SAC Hand-Decorated
The Canterbury Cathedral chess set is a truly outstanding set of elegant Gothic chess pieces inspired by England’s beloved Canterbury Cathedral. The original cathedral in Canterbury suffered damage in a fire in 1174. But revenue collected from Christian pilgrims who visited Canterbury to see the relics of St. Thomas was enough to rebuild the Cathedral – which became the first in England to be built in the Gothic style.
These strikingly detailed Gothic chess pieces are made and hand-painted by Studio Ann Carlton (SAC), a company known for their beautiful hand-made chess pieces. The Canterbury Cathedral Chess Pieces are made out of polyresin, a crushed stone composite that feels a lot like stone but is as durable as plastic. This is one of the most elegant Gothic chess sets we have come across. The Canterbury Cathedral chess pieces look impressive on display – on or off the chess board.
The Gothic chess pieces in the Canterbury Cathedral chess set each feature a base recalling the architecture of the Cathedral. The rook pieces are complete homages to the building’s design. The rest of the pieces depict regally elegant kings, queens, bishops, knights, and pawns standing upon the base, clad in red or blue attire. As a lovely touch, the windows on the Cathedral bases are also red or blue.
The king piece is 5.255” tall, with a 1.7” base. The base is covered in billiard cloth. The Canterbury Cathedral chess pieces are sold without a chess board, though the option to add a chess board to your purchase is there if you choose. It is recommended to play with these pieces on a chess board with 2.5” spaces.
2. Gothic Chess Set with Cabinet Storage Board
One of the most beautiful chess sets we have come across is This Gothic chess Set with Cabinet Storage Board that is handmade in Italy by the Italfama factory. The delightfully detailed metallic Gothic chess pieces in this set can be stored inside the cabinet-style chess board, which locks with its own little brass key. This cabinet chess board is made of the highest quality inlaid maple, walnut, mahogany, and Briarwood, with brass piano hinges for opening and closing. The chess board measures 16 ¾” square and sits 2 ¾” tall. The squares are 1 ¾”.
There is also the option to purchase this Gothic chess set with an equally elegant leatherette storage chess board. The leatherette storage chess board is also made in Italy and features a beautiful tooled design along the base. This board is amber colored, with black accents and squares, and measures 13 ⅞”, with the actual game board part measuring 11”. The leatherette storage board is 1 ½” deep, and the squares are 1 ⅜”.
There are slots inside the storage part of this chess board for each of the Gothic chess pieces to fit perfectly. The leatherette chess board does cost much less than the wood cabinet chess board, so it’s a great option for anyone who wants an elegant Gothic chess set, but is shopping on a budget.
The beautifully detailed Gothic chess set pieces in this set are finished in brass and silver. The rooks in this set resemble Gothic-style stone towers. The rest of these Gothic chess pieces represent kings, queens, bishops, etc, clad in medieval attire. The king piece is 2 ⅝” tall with a 15/16” base. The king weighs 1 oz. and the entire set together weighs in at 1 lb, 12 oz. These Gothic chess pieces can be purchased by themselves, without a chess board, if desired.
The History of Gothic Style
The original Goths were a Germanic tribe that spread out across much of Europe, rising to power in many places, including the Iberian peninsula. Throughout the 3rd century CE, the Goths attacked Rome many times. However, the Romans generally viewed the Goths more as annoying pests than a true threat to their Empire. The term “Gothic” was used interchangeably with “barbaric.”
When the Huns appeared on the scene, around 375 CE, the Goths found themselves pushed into Roman territory, where the Romans treated them horribly. Many Goths were forced to sell their children into slavery for food. Eventually, the Goths retaliated, rampaging through the Balkans, attacking and plundering. In August 378, Roman Emperor Valen personally led an army out to subdue the Goths. The Goths won that battle, however, even killing Valen himself. Valen’s successor, Theodosius, wisely formed a treaty with the Goths.
Upon Theodosius’ death in 395, there was Gothic-Roman tension again. A Gothic leader named Alaric eventually led the Goths to overtake the city of Rome in 410. Despite so many years of conflict, it was the Goths, interestingly enough, who preserved much of the Roman culture (from religion to art) after the Empire crumbled. The Goths continued to hold power in a number of areas throughout Europe until the last Gothic kingdom fell in 711.
The architectural and artistic style we know as “Gothic” actually was created between the 12th and 16th century. The term “Gothic” was applied toward the the imposing architectural style of buildings such as Notre Dames Cathedral in Paris, by Renaissance-era Italian writers. At the time, such buildings were seen as “nonclassical” and ugly – “barbaric,” essentially. Around the 19th century, popular opinion improved regarding the Gothic style, which has been adored and emulated by many over the centuries. It is this Gothic artistic style that provided the inspiration for The Beautiful Gothic Chess Sets we’ve found.
The genre of literature known as “Gothic” comes from an even later time period. In the 19th century, dramatically atmospheric novels that featured dark settings (such as mysterious castles), supernatural phenomena, and a prevailing air of foreboding, mystery, and horror, came into popularity. Famous examples include the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and, of course, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It is the aesthetic and emotional environment of these types of stories that our modern idea of Gothic style embodies. Over the past century, “Gothic” has essentially been synonymous with anything dark, gloomy, and macabre, typically borrowing from either medieval or Victorian styles.
As you can see, the term “Gothic” encompasses a far larger number of time periods and cultures than many realize! From the long and dramatic history of the ancient Goths to the hauntingly intense beauty of the Gothic architectural style, to the human inclination toward a fascination with the darker side of life, anything “Gothic” seems shrouded in an air of imagination-sparking intrigue. It can only be expected, as the centuries continue to tick by, that the modern Gothic concept will continue to evolve – though always retaining its interesting history.
Our Final Thoughts
We think that anyone who enjoys the Gothic artistic style will love these beautiful, exceptional-quality Gothic chess sets. Whether you want to make a boldly elegant statement in your own home or to give a special gift to a lover of history, Gothic art, or uniquely themed chess sets, these Gothic chess sets offer something for everyone.
From the stately “painted-figurine” style of the Canterbury Cathedral Gothic chess pieces to the sumptuous wood and leatherette storage chess boards with their shiny metal pieces, These Gothic Chess Sets truly do live up to the artistic detail and sense of drama that the mere word “Gothic” evokes.
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