The Cathedral: The Social and Architectural Dynamics of Construction

The Cathedral: The Social and Architectural Dynamics of Construction

By Alain Erlande-Brandenburg
Cambridge University Press, 2009
ISBN: 9780521110372

The popular image of the traditional western city has usually been dominated by the cathedral, whose sheer size seemed to create an isolated physical and spiritual focal point. In this iconoclastic study, the author sets out to reverse some of the romantic myths which have accrued about the medieval cathedral, in particular that the cathedral was a separate entity, self-sufficient, sublime and apart. Here the cathedral is shown to be a dynamic, evolving and unpredictable force in the development of the medieval city. Taking France as the main focus, but including material on England, Germany, Italy, Spain and Bohemia, the author describes the growth of diocesan authority and the consequent experiments in the layout of cathedral plans. Full use is made of recent archaeological research to show how architectural, social, financial and religious considerations combined to form a structure that was above all a practical, functioning concern, a ‘city within a city’.


Introduction: myth or reality

1. The bishop in the city

2. The Imperial dream

3. The Gregorian reform

4. Gothic construction

5. Men, finance, and administration

6. The churches in the cathedral

7. The Gothic palace

8. The canonial precinct

9. The hotel-dieu

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