Pyramids, temples, castles, cathedrals - humanity built like giants in olden days. We ponder these structures in photographs, gape at them as tourists. How could such mighty edifices have been erected during eras lacking bulldozers and derricks?
This book answers the question so far as a cathedral is concerned. (What distinguishes a cathedral from other churches is that a bishop regularly performs rites there. Cathedrals built during medieval times tended toward monumental design; however, huge size is not a universal characteristic of cathedrals. Some are smaller than parish churches. The difference in size depended on the economic prosperity of the community paying for the construction.) An army of workers toiled nearly a century to build this Christian edifice. Stone, glass, timbers and lead were shaped and fitted together in an towering assembly.
No photograph of say, Notre Dame or Rheims, could capture the skill and toil involved in the building of these cathedrals. They are a fait accompli, magnificent but finished. Cities today do not construct churches on such a scale; the cost would be astronomical. Portraying past methods must be hypothetical. A researcher has to harvest old records, drawings, testimonies penned by long dead writers, and from all project the artisans, tools, and techniques as an imaginary cathedral in an imaginary city in France. Nearly every page in CATHEDRAL displays a pen and ink drawing of each stage in the construction. The type of Christian church focused on is the gothic, distinguished by its overall crucifix shape, bell towers, spires, gargoyles, and flying buttresses.
The size of CATHEDRAL - 9 by 12 inches - the profuse drawings, the unembellished prose, imply this is a book aimed at the high school and junior high level. A thin book (80) readings pages, one ought to read it in an hour without strain. To say this much and no more suggests CATHEDRAL does not merit older readers. A curious adult would find this book interesting as well as informative. It gives the reader insight into what is perhaps the greatest engineering feat of the middle ages, an undertaking so immense that a boy at its commencement would die of old age before the cathedral's doors opened to its first congregation.