Everyone dreams about a European vacation. However I was never interested in most of the normal European tourist sights (though I could probably put together a bucket list of sights I would still like to see) but I was always fascinated with the great Gothic Cathedrals of France. So when I had the opportunity, and a 10 week sabbatical, to head to France and Spain and make a pilgrimage on the medieval pilgrimage trail – The Camino de Santiago – I knew I also wanted to first visit some of these great medieval structures.

Imagine the medieval world of the 12th century, and a community dedicating most of its resources for many decades, even lifetimes, to the construction of their cathedral. It was quite an undertaking. The Church and communities had been building churches and sometimes quite large churches for centuries, but when three architectural innovations came along allowing cathedral builders to build larger and more beautiful buildings – innovations that allowed designers to include vast windows filled with stained glass – the desire and ability to build a Great Cathedral was born.



The three architectural innovations were: the pointed arch, the ribbed vault ceiling, and the flying buttress. The pointed arch better directed the forces from the great weight of stone down to the ground. The ribbed vault ceiling allowed builders to span larger spaces, and the flying buttress countered the remaining outward thrust from the weight of the stone, holding up the walls.


It was at the monastery of St. Denis to the north of Paris, that the abbot, who wanted to bring more light into the building, first conceived or was convinced of the possibility of building a church with great stained glass windows, and began in 1135 what is considered to be the first true Gothic structure.


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Saturday the 20th. Thanks for visiting Woodturners Unlimited.