Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Notre Dame of Paris (2)

Notre Dame of Paris (2). Allan Temko. New York: Time, Inc. Book Division. 1952.

Why read it? “Henry Adams saw the uniqueness of the Middle Ages, not in their courts or castles or battles, but in their cathedrals.”

The Cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris was a communal effort dedicated to Our Lady, the Blessed Mother, the Mother of Christ. She was loved because she meant forgiveness. God and Christ were the judges. Mary could forgive, no matter the sin.

Notre Dame was the climactic achievement of medieval Paris, “…the expression of a social and spiritual endeavor that embraced an extraordinary range of professions and classes….a superb common effort in which the entire community took part, the manual laborer as well as the master artist, the serf and villein as well as the merchant and the prince.”

Sample quotes and ideas (continued):

“Architects changed, and bishops, but the grand original design of Maurice de Sully remained dominant.” p. 117.

“In spite of the unity of Notre-Dame, each change in architects is detectable.” p. 117.

“Except for superficial additions, a typical cathedral was built in less than one hundred years.” p. 140.

“Although the master builders operated in a pre-industrial age, they had a variety of technical equipment at their disposal: the winch and the windlass, the inclined plane, the lever and the jack.” p. 140.

“His was the earliest known use of the device [flying buttress] which, like most great inventions, emerged in several regions almost simultaneously.” p. 148.

“For Mary knows not how to judge, but only to forgive….” p. 164.

“Merely to walk through its broad, living shadow, when the sun stands behind the towers at morning, is to share its optimism.” p. 178.

“…is to create truly classic architecture, which, once built, cannot be conceived as standing otherwise or in any other place…the site, climate, the amount of light in the air, the materials available, are all part of great construction; they were all deeply considered by the Master Builder…. The same Master would have built a different church…at Reims and Amiens.” p. 179.

“There can be little doubt that this design was first drawn on parchment…. Regularity of proportions alone is proof of an advance plan….” p. 180.

“The façade is France.” p. 181.

“…none [of the elements] clamoring for attention; none existing for its own sake…none disrupting the harmony of the whole; none which would not be missed if it were removed; what makes this the façade of all facades is the complexity of the composition and the resulting simplicity of over-all effect.” p. 183.

“Both Shakespeare and the Master Builder borrowed materials from previous artists, only to transform and color them with unprecedented beauty….” p. 183.

“…depicts nothing less than the whole natural universe as it was known at the start of the thirteenth century.” p. 202.

“Notre Dame speaks for the nation; it was a national church constructed simultaneously with a national state, at a time when neither could have existed without the other.” p. 216.

“And perched on the balustrades, staring over the city, crouching, grimacing, ready to spring into space and pounce downwards, are hundreds of grotesques—the gargoyles of Notre Dame—inhuman birds with half-human faces who have sprouted like myths form the rock…have flown out of the construction, chased from the interior of the church by the Virgin, who from the middle of the twelfth century onward banished monsters from her sanctuary but kept them as terrifying guardians of the outer walls and towers.” p. 236.

LaCorbusier: “A Cathedral is a difficult problem ingeniously solved….” p. 275.

“Mary lifted and civilized the entire Western world; in an era of continual male brutality, her emblem, the rose, became the sign of the less brutal woman….” p. 297.

“The nation has forgotten what once caused it to build….” p. 299.

Comment: A cathedral in honor of Mary who is all-forgiving and an entire community and all levels of society join together to build it. Another view of the Middle Ages. RayS.

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