The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral Paperback – 13 Jan 2006
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"Offers an intriguing study of the historical creation of the medieval cathedral in Europe. . . . provides a fresh eye and an engaging entree to how and why, for a 300-year period, Europeans created these lasting monuments. . . . Recommended particularly for public libraries with an interest in art and architecture."--"Library Journal
From the Inside Flap
"This is easily the best book I have seen on why the great cathedrals were built. The breadth of Scott s scholarship is astonishing. As well as art history and architecture, he brings to bear his knowledge of subjects as wide apart as engineering, the sociology of religion, and the medieval economy. Only a handful of books truly throw light on the mystery of the cathedrals, and this is one of them."Ken Follett, author of "Pillars of the Earth"
"Written in a lucid style and illustrated by dozens of sketches and photographs, this interdisciplinary survey is the best introduction to its subject now in print."Gene Brucker, author of "Florence: The Golden Age, 11381737"
"Scott has given us a book of wonderful breadth and erudition with a refreshingly light touch. He describes vividly the social, political, and religious background to the great flowering of the Gothic cathedrals of Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the strange mixture of motives that drove this astonishing building program. He is equally interested in the hard practical mechanics of hewing timber, erecting scaffolding, quarrying stone, transporting and hauling these materials as he is in the religious and liturgical symbolisms and conceptual schemes of the architects and their royal paymasters. Gothic cathedrals are astounding monuments to the aspirations of the human spirit reaching out to the divine, and this is a splendid introduction to the medieval worlds that produced them, written by an enthusiastic guide who really knows his subject and loves it."Hugh Dickinson, Dean Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral
"Gothic architecture is notoriously difficult to represent verbally, but in Scott s book the joy so many people find in discovering these breathtakingly beautiful monuments is palpable."Stephen Murray, author of "Notre Dame, Cathedral of Amiens: The Power of Change in Gothic"
"In this splendid book Scott writes precisely, clearly, and with a love for both words and his readers. Those who read these pages will come away enlightened, inspired, and with a more profound grasp of our civilization."Neil J. Smelser, University Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
While the principal focus of Scott's travels started with Salisbury Cathedral (in full, the Cathedral Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Salisbury), Scott draws examples from the breadth of the Gothic cathedrals, churches and other buildings. There are literally thousands of such dotted across the European and European-influenced landscapes. Each building has its own unique characteristics, but they share a common spirit.
Church building in particular was 'big business' in Christendom for a long time. Scott quotes estimates of that there are nearly 19,000 ecclesiastical buildings in England and Wales, nearly half of which date to the medieval period. The first Gothic church was the Abbey Church of St. Denis, just north of Paris, built under the direction of the 'founding father' of Gothic style, Abbot Suger.
Scott's first major section looks at how cathedrals were built, in terms of materials, architectural design, settings, and workforce. With regard to the workforce, the numbers were large and the division of labour highly specialised. In the records of the construction of Westminster Abbey, there were fifteen different categories of workers listed in 1253.Read more ›
Everywhere is a mixture of the secular and the sacred. There are chapters on architectural nuts and bolts; a ribbed vault used less stone than a barrel vault and allowed the construction of higher, more soaring arches to allow the light in to emulate the light of heaven.
The historical detail is often startling. Bishops were not above staging what can only be described as raids to pinch saints' relics from other religious centres - the success of the theft indicating, of course, that it was the saint's will and he much preferred his new resting place. Finance was an obvious issue, and Bishops colluded with monarchs to ban Jews from any trade other than money lending and borrowed from them the money for their cathedrals, thereby financing their buildings and leaving the sin of usury on the Jews. But out of often muddy foundations rose these wonders of European endeavour, and this book illuminates not only the cathedrals but a whole world.
'Easily the best book I have seen on why the great cathedrals were built'. I couldn't agree more.
The book is packed with fascinating and well-explained details. Each chapter leads nicely into the next.
As a history book it as well constructed as the cathedrals it describes. It is one of the best books to get
the flavour of the Middle Ages.
The author's training as a sociologist helps him to uncover the curious workings of the minds of the
medieval folk who engaged in the enterprise of building the many amazing Gothic Cathedrals.
The author, Robert A. Scott's quest began with a fascination with how Salisbury Cathedral was built and then
spread to the Gothic Enterprise as a whole. His brilliance is that he takes nothing for granted and leaves
no important stone in the development of the idea uncovered! His book has a wonderful symmetry!
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