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The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral Paperback – 13 Jan 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 307 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; New Ed edition (13 Jan. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520246802
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520246805
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 14.6 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,763,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Review

"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.

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Customer Reviews

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By Kurt Messick HALL OF FAME on 5 Jan. 2006
Format: Hardcover
Author Robert Scott had much the same the experience at Salisbury Cathedral as I had - a sense of awe and wonder, and a desire to learn more about it, not just as a place, or as an architectural wonder, or as a place of worship, or as a cultural icon. Scott wanted to get at the heart of the idea of the Gothic enterprise as a whole - a trained sociologist, Scott knew that the bigger picture is sometimes lost by too narrow a focus on particular details to the exclusion of others. The sociology background also gave Scott a sense of wanting to understand the hearts and minds of the people involved.
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.
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Format: Paperback
I went to Paris aged 16 on a UNESCO travelling scholarship. It was in 1951. I was a grammar school boy from North London and knew nothing about Gothic cathedrals. We visited Notre Dame and then took a coach to Chartres. Never heard of Chartres at the time. The spires emerged from the flat plains for a long time before we actually arrived. It was magical. The dark blue light. This book explains so many things that I have read about and thought about over the years. It is wonderful. I have a shelf load of books on Gothic cathedrals but in many ways this is the best.
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Format: Paperback
I enjoyed this book greatly. A well written, scholarly and readable account of the development of the great gothic cathedrals of Europe, it details not only how and why they were built, but the society that gave rise to them.

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.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
On the front cover Ken Follett says of 'The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral'-
'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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Not quite what I expected but perhaps my expectations were wrong. Very little on the Gothic physical structure but more on the philosophy underlying Gothic buildings. Also written as as though it is a transcript of a university lecture.
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