The Paris cathedral was built using the first true flying buttresses (masonry bridges that transmit the thrust of a vault or a roof to an outer support). The device allowed the structure to achieve a great height—one of the first Gothic churches to do so. Gothic was a medieval architectural style that predominated in northern Europe from the early twelfth century until the sixteenth century; it was epitomized in elaborate churches with stained-glass windows—ornamentation meant to instill the building itself with transcendental qualities. One of the leading examples of Gothic architecture is the Amiens Cathedral (in Amiens, northern France), which was begun in 1220. Its soaring nave (the central area of a church) epitomizes the era’s drive for height. The Amiens cathedral is France’s largest.