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Slade Lectures Lent Term 2012: The Gothic Cathedral: a New Heaven and a New Earth - Architecture as Spolia: Suger and St-Denis

Professor Paul Crossley
When Jan 30, 2012
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 PM
Where Lecture Room A of the Arts’ School, Bene’t Street, Cambridge
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The subject of these lectures is one of the most familiar, but also one of the most elusive achievements of Western art: the Gothic cathedral.  The lectures begin with the origins of the cathedral in the twelfth century and end with its decline in the fourteenth. The first lecture, on the Myth of the cathedral, aims to locate the cathedral in the history of (largely nineteenth- and early twentieth-century) ideas.  The lectures offer an analysis of the creation of Gothic in northern France, particularly in relation to twelfth-century notions of novelty and modernity in what is still regarded as the first mature example of the style: Abbot Suger's new choir at St-Denis.  They examine the cathedral as a work of engineering and advanced technology; they discusses the rhetorical notions of ductus and memoria in relation to liturgy and religious experience at Chartres; and they plot the changes of meaning and experience in sculptural ensembles in northern France, England and the German Empire.  Stained glass figures prominently as a didactic medium that balances story-telling and moral meaning.  The last two lectures weigh up the relations between cathedrals and their cities, and the incursions of royalty and coronation in the functions and imagery of the cathedral. A short postscript speculates on why the cathedral idea failed in the later Middle Ages.