Building the Great Great Cathedrals, summary

A Nova Program

These are my notes & commentary and do not represent a balanced summary of the author’s work. I’ve selected portions of the text which were relevant to me and placed them here in my own words, in an abbreviated fashion, with added commentary. Though this article introduces some main ideas from the text, it is bias toward what I felt were ideas of particular importance. This should not be considered a scholarly work, but rather an informal sharing & discussion of ideas as permitted by Fair Use law. I alone am responsible for the contents of this article.

Gothic Cathedrals have 100 million pounds of brick, they are as heavy as the empire state building.

-They were built with mere craftsmen and stone.

-the bible says how God made the universe, they followed these patterns; they used scared numbers from the bible as their blueprint. It’s a hidden mathematical code in the gothic cathedrals

-the film is called Building the Great Cathedrals

-in the 12th century they built these Cathedrals

-rocks are split open by hammering on their natural fault lines.

-these cathedrals look like the temple of Solomon in their core structures.

-mortar was made from burnt limestone and sand; it dries very slow; inside the walls where there is little air, it could take 1000’s of years to dry, but it’s the weight of the stone keeping it in place.

-the stones must be level, or the walls would collapse.

-the only way to build tall back then was building thick walls, making bulky dark places, the Church of Saint Denis in 144 AD they built a Cathedral not so thick. Abbot Suger is who came up with this type of architecture. Abbot Suger associates these cathedrals with the temple of Solomon. In making windows, it brought more light into the room, which was like more of God getting in.

-the builders went from thick walls to walls with much glass windows.

-the thick bulky style was the Romanesque style. The Gothic style was taller and thinner walls with big openings to allow in more lights, and the arches are a different shape, pointed. The pointed arch directs the stress line downwards rather than outwards, allowing them to build taller, but this creates stress at the top of the columns.

-the center of many of these are 12 stories high.

-many of the cathedrals are shaped like a cross at an aerial view.

-the ceiling is thousands of tons heavy

-many of these were built to hold 20 thousand people (about the size of the LDS Conference Center today built with modern technology).

-a laser measuring the distance between it and the walls around it can give a virtual 3D image of the structure it is measuring, which helps determine if the columns remain straight etc.

-structural analysts came push virtual buildings to their max limits to see at which point the building would collapse.

-putting another wing on the arch called a flying buttress helps to stabilize the arches. All of these can make a building like a spider web.

-hydraulic hammers were had in ancient Greece, it’s something to use to make longer stele. It can be powered by a water cog.

-a ribbed vault (vaulted ceiling) is two intersecting pointed arches, which concentrates the weight to the columns rather than the walls, hence the weight of the building was not on the walls and the walls could be filled with glass windows.

-glass is essentially made from metals and vegetables

-copper gave green and red. cobalt gave blue. Different metals give the glass different colors.

-few people could read or write, so the multimedia for them were the stain glass windows. The colored light was a new experience for them.

-the cathedrals were to be a heaven like experience with its smells and sights and music etc.

-the Paris Notre Dame cathedral is two floors each being 30 royal feet tall. Solomon’s temple was 30 cubits to the first level, and 60 cubits to the second level. This probably is builders including sacred numbers into their architecture.

-builders of the cathedrals studied the classical Roman and Greek texts, and found bible numbers considered God’s sacred dimensions; they considered the universe to be built with ideal numbers.

-Noah’s ark was 50 cubits long, The Amine Cathedral with the center parts 50 feet, trying to follow this pattern in the bible.

-book of Revelation of John measures the city of God, it’s 144 cubits; the cathedral, when converted into this medieval numbers, it’s 144 of their feet, trying to follow this pattern.

-using these numbers was an attempt to make a heaven on earth.

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