Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral

Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral

Philip Ball

Language: English

Pages: 322

ISBN: 0061154296

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


A well written study of Gothic architecture, and Chartres Cathedral in particular, looking at the theological and philosophical ideas on which it was founded, and the practicalities of its construction to ultimately aim to show what it may have "meant" to a medieval viewer.

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of the building one can scarcely see clearly in the half-light – the vaults and the triforium, for example – but most of it has been either worn (or intentionally stripped) away to bare stone or overlaid with paint layers from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This means that we can have only an approximate notion of the impression the architecture originally made. The colour scheme chosen for the walls of Chartres tells us something about the aims of those who designed the church. Almost

comes into being as a kind of creative expression or interpretation of transcendental, archetypal forms, and thus it is more a matter of techne, of art. Both men recognized that we struggle to make sense of the world, seek not to know high things 77 and that there is much in it that is confusing or seemingly inexplicable. For Aristotle this was because our sensory organs are imperfect: there is an objective world out there, but in interpreting it we are hampered by bad data. So we are forced

disfigure this or that part of a building during its seemingly interminable restoration, we should remember that for medieval worshippers these places tended to look like construction sites for generations. Indeed, many of them were never finished in the way they were originally planned: Chartres will for ever lack the nine spires that were apparently envisaged at the outset. And even when the vaults of a church were sealed and the roof put in place, tastes might have changed so much during the

Rowbotham/AGRFoto.) Bishop Fulbert in front of his church, painted in the eleventhcentury by André de Mici. (From Obituaire de Notre-Dame de Chartres, ms N.A. 4, folio 34 r. Photo: Coll. Médiathèque de Chartres.) The west front of the royal abbey church of Saint-Denis. (Photo: Steve Cadman.) The nave elevation of Sens Cathedral, the construction of which began in the 1140s. (Note that the clerestory was remodelled in the thirteenth century.) God the Master Architect in the Codex

their church. And as if stage-managed (perish the thought), it was at that moment that the bishop, Renaud of Mouçon, appeared at the head of a procession of monks, who carried with them the Sacred Tunic. It had been saved after all, they explained, by two quick-thinking priests who rushed into the burning building and took the relic down into the crypt. There they remained trapped while the fire raged above, but they were ‘so preserved from mortal danger under the protection of the Blessed Mary

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