Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral by Philip Ball

By Philip Ball

Chartres Cathedral, south of Paris, is respected as essentially the most appealing and profound artworks within the Western canon. yet what did it suggest to people who developed it within the 12th and 13th centuries—and why was once it outfitted at such massive peak and with such wonderful play of sunshine, within the hovering demeanour we now name Gothic?

In this eminently interesting paintings, writer Philip Ball is sensible of the visible and emotional energy of Chartres and brilliantly explores how its construction—and the production of different Gothic cathedrals—represented a profound and dramatic shift within the method medieval thinkers perceived their courting with their international. superbly illustrated and written, jam-packed with outstanding perception, Universe of Stone embeds the very good cathedral within the tradition of the 12th century—its colleges of philosophy and technological know-how, its trades and applied sciences, its politics and non secular debates—enabling us to view this old architectural surprise with clean eyes.

From the recent Yorker
In this vigorous biography of Chartres Cathedral, Ball explores the configuration of cultural and technological elements that enabled Europe to accomplish a "liberation from gravity" within the 12th century, together with the increase of scholasticism, Platonic obsessions with mild and percentage, and heroic masons who "turned geometry into stone." The accomplishments of Gothic structure have been the entire extra notable provided that stonework was once nearly forgotten within the West within the centuries after Rome fell. although a lot of the heritage of Chartres Cathedral continues to be opaque, Ball’s account of its development unearths interesting info (such because the origins of its blue glass, most probably scavenged from Roman or Byzantine websites) and inspires its raison d’être: in an period while structure "existed to bare the deep layout of God’s creation," Chartres "encoded a suite of symbols and relationships that mapped out the universe itself."
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Review
“A vigorous biography of Chartres Cathedral. . . . Ball’s account of its building finds interesting information . . . and inspires its raison d’être.” (The New Yorker)

“There is not any larger basic creation to the subject... [Ball’s] account is daring and plausible.” (Wall road Journal)

“Lively...Ball places the joys again in medieval scholasticism...seems as a lot comfortable at the medieval development web site as in an abbey library.” (Los Angeles Times)

“A outstanding book…A lucid, considerate travel de force…A interesting ebook with vital insights and observations on each page.” (Christian technology Monitor)

“Anyone who has been delighted by means of the good Gothic cathedrals will enjoy this examine of either the religious and architectural traits of these medieval wonders.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“Ball leaves no stone unturned . . . A revelatory examine a seminal interval in paintings history.” (Kirkus experiences)

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Extra resources for Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral

Sample text

Debates about scholarly theology, like those that Abelard provoked at Saint-Denis, weren’t terribly interesting to him. He was more concerned simply that men should not argue or condemn one another too stridently. Not for Suger the hair shirt and flagellant’s cell; he saw no reason why men and women could not follow their faith in a little comfort. Moderation was preferable to self-denial: his food, it was said, was ‘neither very exquisite nor very coarse’. Another component of the Suger myth is the story of the prince and the pauper.

But ‘whether he knew it or not’, says Kidson, ‘Suger employed an architect of genius’. This forgotten man was eclectic in his composition. He took rib vaulting from Normandy and pointed arches from Burgundy (Suger himself knew both places well). The cylindrical columns speak of ancient Rome, as does the triple portal of the west front, which echoes the triumphal arch of Constantine (Suger claimed that these three doors symbolized the Trinity). One of the most striking innovations was the west rose window that opens up the wall between the twin towers.

This, as the story goes, accounts for his later influence at the royal court. But in fact Louis left the tuition of the abbey school just two years after Suger began his life there; and during that time Louis would probably have had a private tutor rather than mingle with the other boys. Suger did indeed become the king’s closest adviser, but that did not happen until around 1130, after Louis VI’s former chief minister Stephen de Garlande fell out of favour. Suger was more careful than his predecessor – he kept his position as royal adviser until his death in 1151, maintaining it under the king’s successor Louis VII.

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