The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral

By Robert A. Scott | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
What Is the Gothic Enterprise?

The movement I call the Gothic enterprise began in the first half of the twelfth century in the Greater Paris Basin. In fits and starts, it continued for the next four hundred years throughout Europe. By the mid-fifteenth century Gothic cathedrals could be found from Scandinavia in the north to the Iberian Peninsula in the south, and from Wales in the west to the far reaches of Central Europe in the east. I know of no comprehensive list of medieval Gothic cathedrals, but the total would surely be in the hundreds. In addition, thousands of abbey churches were built during this period (more than five hundred just in France), plus tens of thousands of small parish churches. One authority, Jean Gimpel, estimates that between 1050 and 1350, more stone was cut in France alone than at any period in the entire history of Egypt. Gimpel also reckons that there was one church for every 200 inhabitants of France and England, and that the English cities of Norwich, Lincoln, and York, with populations in the range of 5,000 to 10,000, each had forty to fifty churches. Another authority, Richard Morris, estimates that of the nearly 19,000 ecclesiastical buildings in existence in England and Wales today, nearly half date to the medieval period. 1 Imagine all the quarrying, carving, and laying of stone, the harvesting of timber, the mining of lead, and the assembling of

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