h e V i r t u a l
o t h i c C a t h e d r a l
I. In Praise of Stonecutters
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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