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Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction Hardcover – September 19, 1973

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Product Details

  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers; 5th printing edition (September 19, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395175135
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395175132
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 0.6 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #290,655 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

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 architectural student at the Rhode Island School of Design, Macaulay glories in the intricacies and beauty of structure, as evidenced in his masterful pen-and-ink drawings in critically acclaimed children's books such as Castle, Pyramid, and Rome Antics. He begins Cathedral in 1252, when the people of a fictitious French town named Chutreaux decide to build a cathedral after their existing church is struck by lightning. We first meet the craftspeople, then examine the tools, study their cathedral plans, and watch the laying of the foundation. Week by week we witness the construction of this glorious temple to God. Macaulay intuitively hones in on the details about which we are the most curious: How were those enormously high ceilings built and decorated? How were those 60-foot-high windows made and installed in the 13th century? And how did people haul those huge, heavy bells up into the skyscraper-high towers? Thanks to Macaulay's thorough, thoughtful tribute to the Gothic cathedral, not a stone, turret, or pane of stained glass is left unexamined or unexplained. (Ages 9 and older) --Gail Hudson


"This marvelous book recreates the building of a French Gothic cathedral from the hewing down of half a forest to the placement of the last sheet of lead on the spire. Macaulay uses voluminous knowledge and pen-and-ink sketches accompanied by a brief clear narrative." Time Magazine

Customer Reviews

This book is good for children and for adults.
Irene Schneider
Published in 1973, "Cathedral" was David Macaulay's first book.
Marco Antonio Abarca
This well written and beautifully illustrated.
Adele Culp

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful By JLind555 on January 9, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
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.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Rafael L Medina on July 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
It is indeed a book that can be read easily in a couple of hours. However, if you read "between the drawings", if I may say so, you will discover a very deep knowledge of structural design. In fact, I had the chance to read first John Fitchen's The Construction of Gothic Cathedrals, and I can assure that I enjoyed Mr. Macaulay's work much more. Perhaps "Cathedral. The Story of Its Construction" falls short in words and should have been beefed up with more text. Still, I recommend this book. It is hard to find another book with drawings so detailed showing perhaps the most accurate construction means used by the medieval builders, from the very beginning of the construction of these espiritual and community gothic buildings to the end.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Ingalls on November 18, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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More About the Author

David Macaulay is an award-winning author and illustrator whose books have sold millions of copies in the United States alone, and his work has been translated into a dozen languages. Macaulay has garnered numerous awards including the Caldecott Medal and Honor Awards, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Christopher Award, an American Institute of Architects Medal, and the Washington Post-Children's Book Guild Nonfiction Award. In 2006, he was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, given "to encourage people of outstanding talent to pursue their own creative, intellectual, and professional inclinations." Superb design, magnificent illustrations, and clearly presented information distinguish all of his books. David Macaulay lives with his family in Vermont.

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