MA in Architecture: Theory and Design December (1999)
This dissertation will study the correlation and influences between a series of underlying beliefs and how these find expression in the architecture and setting of place. I believe that the physical structures of a place carry a layer of meanings and associations, and that it is these meanings and associations that give a sense of place. The western European medieval town will be used as a basis of study and discussion. The time period is generally from 1100 to 1350 AD, although the underlying beliefs were influenced from a considerably earlier time, most notably by St Augustine in the 4th century AD. Lewis Mumford observed that:
By renouncing all that the pagan world had coveted and striven for, the Christian took the first steps toward building up a new fabric out of the wreckage [of the collapsed Roman Empire]. Christian Rome found a new capital, the heavenly City; and a new civic bond, the communion of the saints. Here was the invisible prototype of the new city.
Given the complexity of a society and the scale of this dissertation, it would be impossible to adequately analyse the entire societal worldview and it’s architectural manifestations. Instead, only some of the underlying beliefs and their manifestations will be discussed, with primary emphasis given to the cathedral, and secondary emphasis given to the market. The cathedral encapsulates and manifests many of the key aspects of the medieval belief system including man’s role on earth, civic bonds to others in society, the afterlife, the conduct of one’s life, to a lesser degree healing and education, and much more. As will be discussed in greater detail later the cathedral was, in the minds of the people of that day, the physical and spiritual link with the City of God, and the attainment of this City was the source of supreme good.