Saturday, November 17, 2018

Insights into the Cathedral Builders

From Bonjour Paris:
Lately I’ve been re-reading The Cathedral Builders, written by Jean Gimpel, a man of diverse interests born in Paris in 1918. During World War II he was involved in a Resistance group blowing up factories in and around Paris – preventing their takeover by the invading Nazis. Jean survived a concentration camp, but his father René, the eminent Parisian art dealer, did not. After the War, Jean set up a laboratory for the scientific study of the Old Masters. The Cathedral Builders, published 35 years ago, is a definitive study, dispensing with myth and magic and all the more commanding for that.

The facts contained in his first three sentences always astonish me: “In three centuries – from 1050 to 1350 – several million tons of stone were quarried in France for the building of 80 cathedrals, 500 large churches and some tens of thousands of parish churches. More stone was excavated in France during those three centuries than at any time in Ancient Egypt, although the volume of the Great Pyramid alone is 2,500,000 cubic meters. The foundations of the cathedrals are laid as deep as 10 meters, the average depth of a Paris Metro station, and in some cases there is as much stone below ground as above.” The statistics are eye-watering! (Read more.)

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