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Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

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This description may be from another edition of this product. The Gothic cathedral is one of humanity's greatest masterpieces--an architectural feast that couldn't help but attract the attention of renowned author-illustrator David Macaulay. Once an...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A wonderful introduction to architecture and the Middle Ages

Having just finished a great book called "Great Cathedrals", filled with 400 pages of jaw-dropping photographs, I kept wondering how in the world they could have built such marvelous edifices with rudimentary implements over 800 years ago. David Macaulay's "Cathedral" is a book ostensibly written for children but which will fascinate readers of all ages. In scarcely 80 pages, Macaulay takes us back in time to the year 1252 in the fictional French village of Chutreaux where the people decide to build the "longest, widest, highest and most beautiful cathedral in all of France" for the glory of God. Macaulay's text is minimal, but his exquisite black and white line drawings say it all: the step-by-step stages in the building's construction, the craftsmen and the tools they used, and the dedication that kept this project going for 80 years until its completion. We feel a sense of awe at the dedication of the original architects and craftsmen and builders who knew that they would be long dead before the cathedral was finally finished. Macaulay's glossary at the end of the book helps us to understand the major elements of the Gothic cathedral, and his cross-sections and diagrams provide clear illustration of just how the cathedral rose from its foundations. At the end of this volume, we share the awe and pride the townspeople felt at having shared a goal for over 80 years and making it a reality. Macaulay's "Cathedral" is a marvelous creation in more ways than one.

Great introduction to how cathedrals were built

Having seen a number of European cathedrals, it is mind boggling to try to imagine how they were constructed by medieval people. This book uses beautifully detailed pen and ink drawings to show how it was done. The book goes step-by-step through the over 80 year process by which successive generations of the local citizens built a fictious French cathedral. All of the key aspects of the procedure are depicted, including designing the structure, obtaining materials, digging the foundation, building walls and flying buttresses for a ceiling over 100 feet high, casting and hoisting bells, and creating huge stained glass windows. This book is really not for children under about 10 years old--although people assume it is because it is illustrated and has text which can be read in under one hour. Given the complexity of the topic, it was just much easier to describe the process using drawings. If you are interested in how cathedrals were built, this is a great introduction.

A fascinating way to learn more about architecture

I began reading David Macaulay's books when I was about eight or nine years old. But his style is so addictive, it's really ideal for all ages. In addition to "Cathedral," he has similar books entitled "Castle," "Pyramid," "City" and more. "Cathedral" introduces a fictional 12th century French village named Chutreaux, whose church was destroyed when it was struck by lightning. The citizens decide to have a new one built, which will be the largest, tallest and widest in the world. And this is where the story begins. Like Macaulay's other books, it describes in great detail the process involved in the planning and construction of such a structure. In addition to the informative, entertaining text, nearly every page is filled with massive, detailed illustrations. Although the town and cathedral of Chutreaux is fictional, it is typical of its respective time.Reading this book, you will find yourself immersed in the lives of Chutreaux's citizens, not to mention trying to grasp the enormity of the construction project (since it takes nearly a century to complete, those who started the project will not live to see it finished). All of Macaulay's books in this series are fascinating. But this is my favorite.

Blue Prints for History

MacAuley clearly loves his subject and attends to fine details that provide a landscape for studies of medieval Europe. The complexity of the society that chose such grand architecture is revealed in drawings that engage child and adult in a reading partnership. The ingenuity of the engineer, the courage of the workers on the perilous stage of religious expression, the minuatae of life in the period, all combine in an extraordinarily respectful book. Respect is accorded to the original workers, and to you dear reader as MacAulay permits you to claim your own ignorance and delight you with marvels and wonders. "City" and "Castle" make companion volumes of the highest order.

Excellent introduction to cathedral research

Pyramids, temples, castles, cathedrals - humanity built like giants in olden days. We ponder these structures in photographs, gape at them as tourists. How could such mighty edifices have been erected during eras lacking bulldozers and derricks?This book answers the question so far as a cathedral is concerned. (What distinguishes a cathedral from other churches is that a bishop regularly performs rites there. Cathedrals built during medieval times tended toward monumental design; however, huge size is not a universal characteristic of cathedrals. Some are smaller than parish churches. The difference in size depended on the economic prosperity of the community paying for the construction.) An army of workers toiled nearly a century to build this Christian edifice. Stone, glass, timbers and lead were shaped and fitted together in an towering assembly.No photograph of say, Notre Dame or Rheims, could capture the skill and toil involved in the building of these cathedrals. They are a fait accompli, magnificent but finished. Cities today do not construct churches on such a scale; the cost would be astronomical. Portraying past methods must be hypothetical. A researcher has to harvest old records, drawings, testimonies penned by long dead writers, and from all project the artisans, tools, and techniques as an imaginary cathedral in an imaginary city in France. Nearly every page in CATHEDRAL displays a pen and ink drawing of each stage in the construction. The type of Christian church focused on is the gothic, distinguished by its overall crucifix shape, bell towers, spires, gargoyles, and flying buttresses. The size of CATHEDRAL - 9 by 12 inches - the profuse drawings, the unembellished prose, imply this is a book aimed at the high school and junior high level. A thin book (80) readings pages, one ought to read it in an hour without strain. To say this much and no more suggests CATHEDRAL does not merit older readers. A curious adult would find this book interesting as well as informative. It gives the reader insight into what is perhaps the greatest engineering feat of the middle ages, an undertaking so immense that a boy at its commencement would die of old age before the cathedral's doors opened to its first congregation.
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