Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Soaring High into Heaven

It’s the pursuit of geometric equality, when followed without fail, which gives gothic cathedrals their characteristic unrefined harmony. “Every part of the building is linked logically, harmoniously and proportionally to the whole world” (Scott).

Chartres Cathedral is an example of the above. It can be seen from many miles away; only the grain silos that dot the lands in which the city lies can contend with the cathedrals outline (Coldstream). The Cathedral itself “occupies a central position in the history of Western architecture for many reasons” (Pestell). Chartres along with the Rheims and Amiens Cathedrals, have long been taken as the “most perfect Gothic solutions to the structural and aesthetic problems posed by the design of a great church” (Pestell).

The French Gothic Chartres Cathedral was originally a Romanesque church built in 1145 (Craven) and is a example of soaring arches and flying buttresses (Eusden). Everything but the western front of the church was destroyed by fire in 1194 (Craven). Chartres was re-erected by many designers who worked from 1194 to 1220 to rebuild it after the fire (Eusden). The reconstruction of Chartres was done in the Gothic style, setting the standard for thirteenth architecture (Craven). Chartres is built of limestone and measures 112 feet in height and 427 feet in length (Craven).

When entering the nave at Chartres you are urged to use the “gift of seeing” (Eusden). As you look around, you are immediately struck by the soaring open space (Eusden). It has its own form and style of images of the spirit. One does not need to be taught about it before they can appreciate its great beauty (Eusden). “The viewer is struck by the inside light of Chartres--the "girdle of light," as it is sometimes described. In the thirteenth-century glassmaker's art, blues and reds were the dominant tones. Depending on the light, the colors are always shifting, offering ever-changing patterns. "The sensuous power of the illuminous tones of Chartres glass, which waxes and wanes in strength as the day proceeds, grows at dusk, when the windows seem to glide loose from the framework of the cathedral architecture and appear like color floating in space.”Chartres is said to be a Bible of glass as well as a Bible of stone” (Eusden). Eusden also tells us that “in its space, light, and height, Chartres is a summa of Christian doctrine. Its architecture, perhaps even more than its collection of specific religious objects, brings to light the attributes of God and the condition of humankind.”” The church is, mystically and liturgically an image of heaven” (Simson).

All of the “new style” ideas listed in my previous posts allowed the Gothic mason to build much larger and taller buildings than anyone could have ever imagined. These new forms of architecture have continued to be utilized even in the present time. Today this Gothic style of architecture is not just for churches. As I drive through my community I have observed this style on many store fronts and mini-malls. It is also used to create intricate gothic home furnishings and décor. The Gothic period architecture obviously has made a great and lasting impact of history.

Coldstream Nicola. Medieval Architecture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print.
Craven, Jackie. "Chartres Cathedral." Sacred Buildings: Gothic Chartres Cathedral in Chartres,
France. Guide. Web. 18 August 2010.
Eusden, John D. "Chartres and Ryoan-ji: Aesthetic connections and affecting presence." Cross Currents
43.1 (1993): 38. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 14 Aug. 2010.
Pestell, Richard. "The Design Sources For The Cathedrals of Chartres Soissons." Art History 4.1 (1981):
1-13. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 14 Aug. 2010.
Simson, Otto Von. "The Gothic Cathedral:Origins of Gothic Architecture & the Medieval Concept of Order.
New York: Bollingen Foundation Inc, 1956. Print.

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