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Gothic Architecture and the Liturgy in Construction

Weston, Lindy (2018) Gothic Architecture and the Liturgy in Construction. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (KAR id:67341)


Medieval Christian action, which is sometimes venerational, provides the embodiment of Christian narrative within relics. Abbot Suger saw masonry stones as if they were relics, and there must therefore be a corresponding Christian veneration and collective Christian working, i.e. liturgy, specifically to do with construction. Though the articulation of this collective Christian action in construction has not been attempted because masons left no written record of their work, it is certain manual construction was seen as a spiritual process of edification. This "liturgy in construction" is here explored through the idea of sacred geometry as an aspect of "uncreated being", applied geometry, and stone masonry craftsmanship. The cosmological presuppositions accepted by the medieval mind allowed for religious answers to

questions of building and construction in the medieval cathedral, but contemporary literature often provides an insufficient narrative of the role of religion for the daily tasks required in stone masonry. While past scholarship has asserted the cathedral was built by theologians, such notions are now seen as suspect. To what extent did religion influence these lay builders? Although it is certainly reasonable for thinkers of the 21st century to assume a secular and technological workforce, it remains somewhat of an oversight, given the weight of the religious and written tradition in medieval culture, to assume religion played no role in design and construction. The removal of key philosophical and theological notions, such as virtue, charity, the idea of uncreated being, and miracles from debates dealing with medieval architecture result in an insufficient and inauthentic account of the Gothic cathedral. To explore the question of religious building methods in the medieval cathedral, an interpretation

of the cosmology of the period is here articulated, and the work of the mason is discussed within this "cosmological" approach. Despite the absence of written documents which might reveal the presuppositions and motivations of the masons, the task of stone masonry is undertaken experimentally within this thesis in order to demonstrate how cutting stone with hand tools fits within the medieval cosmology. Thus, the processes of medieval stone masonry and of organizing a workforce without construction documents, lent themselves to easy assimilation by the medieval mind.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Fontana-Giusti, Gordana
Thesis advisor: Brittain-Catlin, Timothy
Uncontrolled keywords: Gothic Architecture Liturgy Construction Generation Sacred Geometry Christ Stone Sanctuary Masons Medieval Sacramental Ritual Building Process Skill Tradition Hierarchy Veneration Cosmology Abbot Suger Christian Action Working Religion Virtue
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2018 13:10 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 23:38 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Weston, Lindy.

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