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Notes to Transformation

The Template-Makers of the Paris Basin

Creation of Gothic Architecture: Ark of God

Master Masons of Chartres

The Contractors of Chartres
Master Masons of Chartres
by John James



Describes the construction of Chartres cathedral

after the fire of 1194.

Its architects used

beautiful geometric figures to reflect

profoundly sacred ideas.


Notes to Transformation

1985, 200 pages, 116 illustrations, cost $AUD.55, ISBN 0646008056

Review by John Lane:-
"This book, beautifully illustrated and written with an engaging enthusiasm and directness, contributes a great deal to our knowledge. He knows the building as well as the back of his hand. It is difficult to convey the detailed reading cod controlled excitement of a book in which the different levels of meaning tumble over one another, layer by layer. John James gives us a new appreciation of the living, growing and organic reality of medieval building."

Chapter 1: The Cathedral
Chapter 2: Messiness can be a Virtue
Chapter 3: The Contractors
Chapter 4: Dating by Poetry
Chapter 5: The Client
Chapter 6: Putting Significance into Form
Chapter 7: The Architect
Chapter 8: More about the Contractors
Chapter 9: The Geometers
Chapter 10: Master Bronze at work

Selected quotes:
"When you examine the cathedral closely, you discover to your immense surprise that the design is not a well controlled and harmonious entity, but a mess. We tend to think of a great work of art like Chartres as having been thought through to the end before it was begun. But Chartres is not like this, not at all. Our vision has been conditioned by the homogenizing eye of the camera, but when we look carefully we see that there are few things at one end of the building that match those at the other. Windows and piers and buttresses change, as do hidden elements such as wells and footings, and of course all the details. The close we look the messier it becomes: there is no other word for it."

"Christianity is a progressive religion in which man moves from a state of original sin towards a greater understanding with God. Every pilgrim accepts a hierarchy of ideas when he enters the cathedral, such as the wet end being more mundane from which he "progresses" towards the altar and the rising sun in the east. Pilgrim's place is in the nave, and he prays towards the choir. The root of our word 'nave' is the same as navy, with its overtones of the ark, and of protection from the boundless fears of the deep.

Southern Hemisphere Distributor: West Grinstead Publications - contact:

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