Gothic Enterprise : A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral - With a New Preface

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2011-06-06
  • Publisher: Univ of California Pr
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The great Gothic cathedrals of Europe are among the most astonishing achievements of Western culture. Evoking feelings of awe and humility, they make us want to understand what inspired the people who had the audacity to build them. This engrossing book surveys an era that has fired the historical imagination for centuries. In it Robert A. Scott explores why medieval people built Gothic cathedrals, how they built them, what conception of the divine lay behind their creation, and how religious and secular leaders used cathedrals for social and political purposes. As a traveler's companion or a rich source of knowledge for the armchair enthusiast,The Gothic Enterprisehelps us understand how ordinary people managed such tremendous feats of physical and creative energy at a time when technology was rudimentary, famine and disease were rampant, the climate was often harsh, and communal life was unstable and incessantly violent. While most books about Gothic cathedrals focus on a particular building or on the cathedrals of a specific region,The Gothic Enterpriseconsiders theideaof the cathedral as a humanly created space. Scott discusses why an impoverished people would commit so many social and personal resources to building something so physically stupendous and what this says about their ideas of the sacred, especially the vital role they ascribed to the divine as a protector against the dangers of everyday life. Scott's narrative offers a wealth of fascinating details concerning daily life during medieval times. The author describes the difficulties master-builders faced in scheduling construction that wouldn't be completed during their own lifetimes, how they managed without adequate numeric systems or paper on which to make detailed drawings, and how climate, natural disasters, wars, variations in the hours of daylight throughout the year, and the celebration of holy days affected the pace and timing of work. Scott also explains such things as the role of relics, the quarrying and transporting of stone, and the incessant conflict cathedral-building projects caused within their communities. Finally, by drawing comparisons between Gothic cathedrals and other monumental building projects, such as Stonehenge, Scott expands our understanding of the human impulses that shape our landscape.

Author Biography

Robert A. Scott is Associate Director Emeritus of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and was previously Professor of Sociology at Princeton University for eighteen years. He is the author of Miracle Cures: Saints, Pilgrimage, and the Healing Powers of Belief, among other books.

Table of Contents

Preface to the 2011 Editionp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introduction: A Personal Journeyp. 1
A Grand Undertaking
What Is the Gothic Enterprise?p. 11
How Were the Cathedrals Built?p. 17
Kings, Feudal Lords, and Great Monasteriesp. 47
The Age of Cathedral-Buildingp. 65
The Initial Visionp. 76
"The Cathedral Crusade"p. 91
The Gothic Look
What Is the Gothic Look?p. 103
An Image of Heavenp. 121
A Pragmatic View of Cathedral-Buildingp. 134
The Religious Experience
Sacred Force and Sacred Spacep. 147
Imagining the Cathedralp. 171
Honoring the Deadp. 183
The Gothic Community
Medieval Living Conditionsp. 211
The Spiritual Brokers-Priests and Monarchsp. 219
Cathedrals and Communityp. 233
Conclusion: Learning from Stonehengep. 237
Terminologyp. 251
Notesp. 255
Bibliographyp. 269
List of Illustrations and Creditsp. 281
Indexp. 285
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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