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T h e  V i r t u a l  o t h i c  C a t h e d r a l

Chapter I. In Praise of Stonecutters

Medieval stonecutters

I.
Stonecutters
VII.
Scaffolders
II.
Stained Glass Painters
VIII.
Masons
III.
Carpenters & Woodcarvers
IX.
Tool Makers
IV.
Blacksmiths
X.
Plumbers
V.
Mortar Mixers
XI.
Quarrymans
VI.
Roofers
XII.
Architects

Standing before the strange beauty of a Gothic cathedral, it's easy to see why writers always wax poetic about the artistry, skill and sacrifice of the medieval stonecutter.

Yet despite the heights they achieved, the workaday life of a stone mason most often included haggling over money, complaining about the working conditions, and gossiping about the clergy! They sometimes got along with the other guilds (or not), exhibited varying degrees of talent and were most often well-compensated for their effort - extra if they could carve statues or gargoyles.

And from this day-to-day world of chisel hitting stone, professionalism juxtaposed with personal backbiting... the classical architecture of Rome was somehow turned completely on its head. With little if any formal education, the stonecutters brought to the Not So Dark Ages the most creative and original ideas ever known to architecture up to that time.

Few masons thought of themselves as artists, of course - although it's certain many knew they were on to something special: i.e., it would be four centuries before Europe erected anything higher than the 466 foot high spire of Strasbourg Cathedral, completed in 1439.

cathedral designThe politically correct Renaissance era later looked down its nose at the Gothic style for its uncompromising ties to nature - what with its primitive gargoyles, and forests of columns, lit by sunbeams filtered through stained glass. Gothic was in some ways a world view more in tune with the glories of earth than with those of either mankind or the angels.

Today, in the post-post-modern world (when we all should know better, supposedly) it is not the height, the grace, nor the artistry, but the most primitive aspects of Gothic that continue to fascinate.

Most innovations were thought up 'on the fly' by stonecutters who picked up practical tips and tricks from each other, learning as they went through stone mad Europe plying the Tools and the Trade.

In Praise of...

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