Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Chartres and the Birth of the Cathedral

Chartres and the Birth of the CathedralChartres and the Birth of the Cathedral by Titus Burckhardt, translated by William Stoddart, 144 pages

The magnificent cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres has proven magnetic to a diverse collection of men and women, including Henry Adams, JK Huysmans, Eric Gill, Joseph Campbell, and Orson Welles, all of whom have found in the mysteries of its beauty a key to some of the mysteries of the universe.  In Chartres and the Birth of the Cathedral Titus Burckhardt attempts to explicate some of those mysteries.

That explanation is rooted in sympathetic appreciation of medieval thought and culture - Burckhardt understands that medievals were more literary and less literal than moderns.  Indeed, Burckhardt's goal is to enable moderns to contemplate the cathedral as the work of art it is, one intended to convey meaning on a number of levels.  Not only does he largely succeed in this goal, due to the author's focus on the intentions of the builders the book is blessedly free from the kind of absurd claims about esoteric meanings and occultism that so often populate its genre.

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