Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral

Universe of Stone A Biography of Chartres Cathedral Chartres Cathedral south of Paris is revered as one of the most beautiful and profound works of art in the Western canon But what did it mean to those who constructed it in the twelfth and thirteent

  • Title: Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral
  • Author: Philip Ball
  • ISBN: 9780061154294
  • Page: 377
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Chartres Cathedral, south of Paris, is revered as one of the most beautiful and profound works of art in the Western canon But what did it mean to those who constructed it in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries And why, during this time, did Europeans begin to build churches in a new style, at such immense height and with such glorious play of light, in the soaring mannChartres Cathedral, south of Paris, is revered as one of the most beautiful and profound works of art in the Western canon But what did it mean to those who constructed it in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries And why, during this time, did Europeans begin to build churches in a new style, at such immense height and with such glorious play of light, in the soaring manner we now call Gothic Universe of Stone shows that the Gothic cathedrals encode a far reaching shift in the way medieval thinkers perceived their relationship with their world For the first time, they began to believe in an orderly, rational world that could be investigated and understood This change marked the beginning of Western science and also the start of a long and, indeed, unfinished struggle to reconcile faith and reason.By embedding the cathedral in the culture of the twelfth century its schools of philosophy and science, its trades and technologies, its politics and religious debates Philip Ball makes sense of the visual and emotional power of Chartres Beautifully illustrated and written, filled with astonishing insight, Universe of Stone argues that Chartres is a sublime expression of the originality and vitality of a true first renaissance, one that occurred long before the birth of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, or Francis Bacon.

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      Published :2019-04-06T09:16:03+00:00

    About "Philip Ball"

    1. Philip Ball

      Philip Ball born 1962 is an English science writer He holds a degree in chemistry from Oxford and a doctorate in physics from Bristol University He was an editor for the journal Nature for over 10 years He now writes a regular column in Chemistry World Ball s most popular book is the 2004 Critical Mass How One Things Leads to Another, winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books It examines a wide range of topics including the business cycle, random walks, phase transitions, bifurcation theory, traffic flow, Zipf s law, Small world phenomenon, catastrophe theory, the Prisoner s dilemma The overall theme is one of applying modern mathematical models to social and economic phenomena.

    444 thoughts on “Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral”

    1. Ball uses Chartres Cathedral as a lens through which to examine medieval thought and history, but that maybe ends up being a bit more of a limited lens than I thought it was going to be. You'll probably get more out of the book if, unlike me, you've been to or heard of Chartres Cathedral; ideally you'd read the book *in* Chartres Cathedral. Are you allowed to read non-Bibles in a cathedral? I bought The Warlock of Firetop Mountain in Durham Cathedral's bookshop, so I suspect you can.

    2. I had to give this one up because I dropped it in the bath. Was it any good up to the point I'd read to? Well, it wasn't bad. Philip Ball is a polymath - every one of his books isn't just about a different topic, it involves a completely different discipline: the two others of his I own are the fascinating Critical Mass, on using physics to analyse social behaviour, and the (not read yet) Water Kingdom, a history of China centred on its relationship with water.This means that a Philip Ball book [...]

    3. Ball gives a good overview of the debates concerning the Gothic as a style, with architectural and philosophical elements. In general, he introduces the various sides of a debate (the East end was started first, the West end was started first; the builder knew the neo-Platonist philosophy, he was just doing his best with available materials), shows the flaws in each side, and then ultimately concludes "Well, we may never know, but it's probably some of both or the prettiest solution is best." It [...]

    4. This book provides a great historical explanation of the religious and philosophical climate during which Chartres Cathedral was built (as well to what extent these religious/philosophical ideas influence the building) and an even better explanation of how the cathedral was actually built. Laying of stones, stained glass, stone carving were all addressed in fascinating detail. (These details feel particularly interesting after reading Pillars of the Earth earlier this year.)Because this book is [...]

    5. This book tells the story of the building of Chartres Cathedral in France. It also looks at the philosophical and theological trends current at the time of the building. The author seeks to weave the wider historical and philosophical overview into the history of the cathedral, but the two stories never quite come together. I feel like he jumps back and forth between the narrow history of the cathedral, and the wider history of the European world at that time, without ever reconciling them. He a [...]

    6. There's a lot of interesting information here about structural development, medieval guilds, and comparisons between various cathedrals built in the Gothic style. There is also a lot of disrespect paid to art history (except when he finds it convenient to stand on their shoulders to draw his own seemingly pre-determined aesthetic conclusions) and a lot of blatant bullshittery where he fills in the blanks of scanty documentations with barely-related other texts and overt wish fulfillment.It was w [...]

    7. Ball's prose occasionally falters, and I prefer less anglicizing of French names, but nevertheless, the book is nicely informative. Henry Adams (in Mont St Michel and Chartres) explores the religious feeling and artistry of Gothic architecture, and Ball focuses more on physical technique. There is some overlap, and our contemporary, Ball, has the advantage of nineteenth century Adams, thanks to scholarship of the intervening years. Ball corrects some of Adams' enthusiastic flights of fancy - for [...]

    8. Despite the title, this book is less about Chartres itself than it is about exploring the intellectual and technological circumstances which made the construction of it and the other great Gothic cathedrals possible. Ball is not a medievalist, and so Universe of Stone is largely a synthesis of the works of other historians and art historians. He does write compellingly, particularly when it comes to conjuring up the sheer mass and weight of these buildings. Yet while Ball's clearly read some of [...]

    9. A very exciting tour de force through Gothic buildings in particular and to the science of that time. Several concepts from engineering and architecture are introduced in order to explain the Goth cathedral. The mechanics of arcs, vaults, foundations, etc are explained and put in the context of Europe in the X - XIII centuries. Mainly, is a book about science in those times, and the cite from Adelard of Bath is overwhelming: "If we turned our backs on the amazing rational beauty of the universe [...]

    10. I visited Chartres and it's cathedral earlier this year. To know a little more about this famous building, I decided to read this book.I got to know a bit more than just "a little".This book is DENSE. Incredibly dense. It doesn't just discuss the building, but places it in a historical context, describing the political and religious situation of the time in which the cathedral was build. Thus, the narrative frequently moves away from Chartres, most often to Paris and St Denis. It also goes indep [...]

    11. Ball examines the Chartres Cathedral in the context of the Medieval world in which it was built.Religious thought dominated the period and science was largely a process of scanning works of the past in hope of recovering some of the lost knowledge of antiquity. Ball reviews the important figures of the time and their views on learning. The cathedral school at Chartres became a center of learning, being a major conduit of Arabic science and mathematics.Ball describes the men who planned the Chart [...]

    12. This book was fascinating! I enjoyed both aspects - the first part of the book that talks about the philosophy of medieval thinkers and how it related to the Gothic church crusade and the more practical chapters on how it was actually built. What seems so surprising to me is that we still don't know a lot of answers. In this book you find a little bit of everything: the Roman Empire, the Kings of France, St. Augustine, monasteries, medieval art, history of geometry, Platonic cosmology, abbots, t [...]

    13. The book gives a view of Gothic style of architecture using the Chartres Cathedral as the main focus. For me who is very ignorant about architecture it was not an easy read especially when it came to the various design differences etc but I was captivated with the cultural aspect of the story. The different roles of workers and their sponsors who were responsible for creating such marvellous buildings. The power of faith in Europe must be at a entirely different level to be able to finish such a [...]

    14. I really enjoyed this book. I have a very basic background in Medieval history and none at all in architecture, but didn't find Philip Ball at all too much. Although he deals with some fairly complex ideas (or what seem complex for those who know nothing about them!) he makes them easy to understand and not only interesting but completely fascinating.Frankly, I was entranced. I found the philosophical and religious links to the Gothic style interesting and the detail about the style's developmen [...]

    15. Ball attempts to put Chartres Cathedral in its cultural and intellectual context. He admits that asking “why” Chartres was built has been a subject of fierce and unresolved debate, but he wades into the controversy anyway. The result is too casual for the scholarly community, and perhaps a bit involved for general readers without an architectural background. Chronology and early history of the site are well summarized.

    16. I'm not sure I needed to read so much about 12th and 13th century cathedrals, how and why they were built. Nor do I really need to know about vaults, arches, clerestories and flying buttresses. Do you know the difference between Romanesque and gothic cathedrals or that St. Augustine was a Neo-Platonist? All this and more if you want to borrow my book. Even so, it was an interesting read.

    17. Excellent topic and quite informative book. Only one small blemish as far as I am concerned: the fellow is blatantly a rationalist and indulges -at times- in the usual jazz of "freedom of thought", "proto-scientists", and the like. But, he can be forgiven, on account of his marvelous journey through one of West's all-time achievements

    18. This book was an excellent piece of writing. It did a good job of chronicling the social and economic forces that led to the building of the cathedral and the building of the cathedral itself. A few times I got a little lost in the technical details of the building of it, but overall it was a very good read.

    19. Philip Ball looks back to the building of the great Gothic cathedrals, particularising Chartres, when we stopped looking back always to the Classical World and began asking our own questions which leads us up to modern times.

    20. Indispensable for those of you interested in Gothic design and engineering. Minor quibble: the title is somewhat misleading in that Ball's study is not focused wholly on Chartres. But a subject like this requires an expanded / seemingly ever-expanding scope.

    21. Philip Ball is one of my favorite authors, and this book does not disappoint. Ball as usual combines history, art, philosophy, religion, science, and more in a thorough and well-written biography of Chartres Cathedral.

    22. An excellent review of the development of medieval science via the story of Chartres cathedral. Well-written and very readable. Can serve as a nice introduction to the Gothic experience as demonstrated by the spectacle of the great Gothic cathedrals of France.

    23. I couldn't finish it. It was hard to read, and seemed more focused on medieval philosophy than the building of the cathedral. I was highly disappointed.

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