GREAT GOTHIC CATHEDRALS OF
FRANCE, A Visitorís Guide. Stan Parry (Viking Studio; April
2001, 224 pages; $19.95)
the world need another book on French cathedrals? Check
out this new twist on the age-old topic and you'll wonder how
the world did without it.
the pride of France is served up with a maximum of detail and
minimum of fuss. The
ingredients are certainly complex, but like a great French chef
the author makes France's rich architectural history look easy.
with clear travel information and directions, he shows the visitor
on arrival how the great cathedrals were built, how to relate
the exterior to the interior, and most enlightening - includes
an entire chapter on how to 'read' medieval stained-glass windows.
It is a skill that the illiterate medieval faithful could perform
without difficulty. However,
"today, most of us have lost the ability to read fully the
symbols and ...in a sense, it is we who are now illiterate..."
one to leave us hanging, the author goes on to explain in detail
using the Passion window and New Alliance window at Bourges Cathedral
More stories are peppered throughout the medium format book (toss
it in a backpack) with suggested behind-the-scenes itinerary for
each city and cathedral. For
instance, most people who visit Notre-Dame don't realize that
the birthplace of Gothic lies about half an hour away - by metro
- at the Basilica of Saint-Denis.
medieval Church invented the use of eye candy, and there is no
shortage of it here. Although the concise glossary wouldn't overwhelm
the novice, a more experienced cathedral traveler might wish for
a bit more (with, perhaps, line illustrations) in the final chapter
- a minor quibble in an otherwise fresh, informative look at an
see in Virtual Cathedral -> Stained