As the use of baked red brick arrived in Northwestern and Central Europe in the 12th century, the oldest such buildings are classified as the Brick Romanesque. In the 16th century, Brick Gothic was superseded by Brick Renaissance architecture.
Brick Gothic is characterised by the lack of figural architectural sculpture, widespread in other styles of Gothic architecture. Typical for the Baltic Sea region is the creative subdivision and structuring of walls, using built ornaments and the colour contrast between red bricks, glazed bricks and white lime plaster. Nevertheless, these characteristics are neither omnipresent nor exclusive. Many of the old town centres dominated by Brick Gothic, as well as some individual structures, have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
The real extent and the real variety of this brick architecture has to be distinguished from the view of late 19th and early 20th century, especially the years around the end of World War I, when it was instrumentalized, politically.
Indeed, about a quarter of medieval Gothic brick architecture is standing in the Netherlands, in Flanders and in French Flanders. Some dominant buildings combinations of brick and stone. But the criterion "no stone at all" looks like a trick to exclude them. The towers of St Mary church in Lübeck, the very top Brick Gothic church of the Baltic Sea region, have corners of granite ashley. And many village churches in northern Germany and Poland have Brick Gothic design, but most of their walls are formed by boulders.
Different from other styles, the definition of Brick Gothic is based on the material (brick), and by a more strict definition, a geographical limitation (countries around the Baltic Sea). In addition, there are more remote regions with brick buildings bearing characteristics of this architectural style further south, east and west—these include Bavaria, and western Ukraine and Belarus, along with the southern tip of Norway.