In this lively biography of Chartres Cathedral, Ball explores the configuration of cultural and technological factors that enabled Europe to achieve a "liberation from gravity" in the twelfth century, including the rise of scholasticism, Platonic obsessions with light and proportion, and heroic masons who "turned geometry into stone." The accomplishments of Gothic architecture were all the more remarkable given that stonework was virtually forgotten in the West in the centuries after Rome fell. Though much of the history of Chartres Cathedral remains opaque, Balls account of its construction reveals fascinating details (such as the origins of its blue glass, likely scavenged from Roman or Byzantine sites) and evokes its raison dêtre: in an era when architecture "existed to reveal the deep design of Gods creation," Chartres "encoded a set of symbols and relationships that mapped out the universe itself."
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“A lively biography of Chartres Cathedral. . . . Ball’s account of its construction reveals fascinating details . . . and evokes its raison d’être.” (The New Yorker)
“There is no better general introduction to the subject... [Ball’s] account is bold and plausible.” (Wall Street Journal)
“Lively...Ball puts the fun back in medieval scholasticism...seems as much at ease on the medieval building site as in an abbey library.” (Los Angeles Times)
“A terrific book…A lucid, thoughtful tour de force…A fascinating book with important insights and observations on every page.” (Christian Science Monitor)
“Anyone who has been thrilled by the great Gothic cathedrals will revel in this study of both the spiritual and architectural qualities of those medieval wonders.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Ball leaves no stone unturned . . . A revelatory look at a seminal period in art history.” (Kirkus Reviews)