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Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals

More than any other art form, the great European cathedrals of the middle ages herald the triumph of a unique and vital western civilization unified in Christendom and feudalism.

To undertake such decades-long building projects meant prestige and wealth for the chosen town - work and food, glory and grace.

Contrary to some popular opinion that the money spent on these monumental tributes to the sovereignty of God could have better been spent on providing for the poor, these building projects provided a tremendous boost for the economies of the cities so endowed. Rather like having Disney World next door (and what does that say about our culture?).

When an entire population is united in faith and will, any achievement is possible - even the glorious splendors of the gothic cathedral.

Buy Books about Medieval Gothic and Romanesque Cathredrals
Early Medieval Architecture
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Early Medieval Architecture (Oxford History of Art)
by R. A. Stalley

Lively and highly readable account of the achievements of early medieval builders up through the Romanesque. Not all at dry, the author discusses the symbolism and meaning of architectural designs and the social and religious milieu that produced them.
Romanesque : Architecture, Sculpture, Painting
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Romanesque: Architecture, Sculpture, Painting
edited by Rolf Toman, photographed by Achim Bednorz

Far more than an ordinary coffee table book, Toman and Bednorz have produced both a feast for the eyes and the mind. Innumerable photographs (gorgeous) with erudite text, the book covers the Romanesque all over Europe - including Great Britain and Scandinavia. Very affordable for the quality.
Cathedral : The Story of Its Construction
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Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction
by David MacAulay

Originally, we bought MacAulay's books for our children, but they are on our shelves now! From beginning to end, in picture and text, MacAulay explains every detail of how a 13th century gothic cathedral was constructed - from the clearing of the land to the fitting of the stained glass windows and tower bells. Fantastic.
The Gothic Enterprise
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The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral
by Robert A. Scott

Robert A. Scott explores why medieval people built Gothic cathedrals, how they built them, what conception of the divine lay behind their creation, and how religious and secular leaders used cathedrals for social and political purposes.

Scott's narrative offers a wealth of fascinating details concerning daily life during medieval times. The author describes the difficulties master-builders faced in scheduling construction that wouldn't be completed during their own lifetimes, how they managed without adequate numeric systems or paper on which to make detailed drawings, and how climate, natural disasters, wars, variations in the hours of daylight throughout the year, and the celebration of holy days affected the pace and timing of work.
Construction of Gothic Cathedrals
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The Construction of Gothic Cathedrals: A Study of Medieval Vault Erection
by John Fitchen

Fitchen writes with style in describing the various problems facing medieval builders and the steps they may have taken to overcome them in producing buildings of such magnificence and splendor. Perfect for those with architectural knowledge, but readable for those without.
Great Gothic Cathedrals of France
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Great Gothic Cathedrals of France
by Stan Perry

Perry focuses on twelve of the great French cathedrals (all the most famous - Chartres, Notre Dame, etc.) in this indispensable guide. Sized to take with you, the appendix provides travel information for each cathedral. Lots of photos and detailed historical information.
Cathedrals and Castles
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Cathedrals and Castles: Building in the Middle Ages
by Alain Erlande-Brandenburg,
translated by Rosemary Stonehewer

Lively and engaging account of the "birth of the building trades" in the middle ages. Covers not just castles and cathedrals, but homes, bridges, and more, as well as the changes in tools and abilities that made such work possible. A terrific introduction to the subject that doesn't require an architectural background.
The Gothic Cathedral : Architecture of the Great Church
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The Gothic Cathedral: The Architecture of the Great Church 1130-1530
by Christopher Wilson

Wilson details in chronological order the development of medieval church architecture over time, with an emphasis on explaining to us the geographical differences in style (such as Norman, English, etc.). Not about construction, but artistic styles, with lots of helpful illustrations. Very nice.
The Gothic Cathedral
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The Gothic Cathedral
by Otto Georg Von Simson

This is a beautifully written book on the gothic cathedral as an expression of the spiritual worldview of medieval times. Human beings do things for a reason, and to understand their achievements, we must understand the reasoning and emotions behind their efforts. Enlightening and fascinating.
The Cathedrals of England
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The Cathedrals of England (World of Art)
by Alec Clifton-Taylor,
photographed by Martin Hurlimann

Beautifully photographed guided tour of English cathedrals from Norman times to the present day. Books specifically about British cathedrals are in short supply, so this one is a real find for British history lovers.
Guided by a Stone Mason
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Guided by a Stone-Mason: The Cathedrals, Abbeys and Churches of Britain Unveiled
by Thomas Maude

Maude is a stonemason who has worked on restoring the ancient buildings of Britain. This is a terrific book about religious architecture and construction in medieval Britain. Definitely a must-read for anglophiles.