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Universe of Stone: Chartres Cathedral and the Triumph of the Medieval Mind Paperback – 30 Apr 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (30 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099499444
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099499442
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 529,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"[Ball] has a knack for translating difficult concepts into lucid prose: he offers a refreshingly sceptical guided tour of Chartres Cathedral and the intellectual contents that helped produce it" (Daily Telegraph)

"Lucid and resplendent...a model of explanatory writing" (John Carey Sunday Times)

"Consistently and healthily sceptical ... an intelligent, enjoyable and well-produced book which deserves a wide audience" (Times Literary Supplement)

"An original and imaginative synthesis of art history and history of science" (History Today)

"Lucid and resplendent" (The Times)

Review

'lucid, resplendent book'

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4.4 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ball's book is extremely strong on the philosophical background and how the worldview of the time gradually allowed the development of science. He is good, but somewhat less clear in his writing, on building techniques and the sheer technical challenge of the High Gothic. He punctures various urban legends very effectively.

Yet overall the book is missing something. it isn't exactly a guidebook to Chartres, as other reviewers point out and as Ball himself straightforwardly acknowledges. But there is a strange lack of the actual physical object that is Chartres Cathedral. And there is no sense that this is a living church still, with services and parishioners and so on, and Ball's sneering contempt for what isn't High Gothic in the Cathedral grates a little.
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Format: Paperback
A quite superb history of not just Chartres Cathedral but a history of the medieval era, economics, politics, religion, warfare, it's all in here. Deftly written, you will struggle to find a more enjoyable history book this year - especially, if like the copy I bought, it is in the "Architecture" section!

By the way the Amazon price is a snip!
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Format: Paperback
Two thirds of this book was primarily about the building and the edifice that is Chartres Cathedral, and was fascinating. The author went to some lengths to put this amazing feat (that is a Gothic cathedral) into a religious, philosophical and scientific context. Since just about every scientific 'belief' the builders and sponsors had at the time was erroneous, I have a problem with the word "Triumph" in the sub-title. However, I really enjoyed the book, and as one reviewer who was quoted on the cover said: ". . the impulse to catch the next Eurostar and head out to Chartres is strong"
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Any student of mediaeval history will find this a delight. The architectural detail and explanation of the innovations is remarkable. It also shows the relatively easy communications between different countries when there was just one form of Christianity and John of Salisbury becomes a player in this intriguing story. I still find the Cathedral at Chartres a strange mixture, over-flamboyant in some asects and with the weirdest external appearance of the two mismatched towers. Just down the hill is another mediaeval church without stained glass windows and it is a refreshing change to visit after the gloominess of Chartres Cathedral.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book covers a large topic, the medieval reasoning behind the massive cathedral building programme, the new (medieval) design evolution and the construction of Chartres Cathredral in particular.
Whilst I am not sure that one can really understand the medieval mind from a modern view point, the technicalities of the problems of construction in those times can be appreciated.
Clearly an enormous amount of work has been done by the author to try an establish all of the above. Having visited Chartres in the past I just had to read all about that wonderful Cathredral.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very good book but how much it is for you depends on what you want. Much of the book is about the history of philosophy and religious thinking leading up to the Cathedral being built. It is therefore excellent at putting into perspective the development of the Cathedral. Although the building techniques are described they do not take up as much space as I would have liked. Nevertheless they are sufficient to give a flavour of what to look at in Chartres Cathedral.

The book is well written in a clear style even for the uninitiated.
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By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this to read prior to a group trip to Chartres last week (as far as I could tell, almost everyone else in the group was reading it too). It's an excellent account of the history, design, construction and significance of the wonderful cathedral at Chartres, and of the important changes in medieval thinking that it stands for.

The author describes the latter briskly, including an interesting discussion of the conflict between Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abelard, which is taken to be an example - very roughly - of the struggle between faith and reason. In the same context, he also mentions the chancellors of the school at Chartres, beginning with Bernard of Chartres, who provided (p108) "[the] vivid image of how knowledge progresses by building on its antecedents. 'We are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants,' he said, 'so we perceive more things than they do'". This remark was of course later appropriated by Isaac Newton (not to mention Oasis), and it's used in the stained glass windows in the South Transept of the cathedral, which depict the four (rather scrawny-looking) evangelists sitting on the shoulders of four Old Testament prophets.

A similar degree of erudition is exhibited throughout the book - perhaps most divertingly when he refers to a chap described as (p240) "the early Christian Neo-Platonist Pseudo-Dyonisius", an appellation that looks like a bit of a mouthful but which is fully justified and explained.
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