The Gothic cathedral is one of the great wonders and creations of Western Civilization. Along with the great Pyramids of Gaza, they stand out as testament to an age of deep religious faith, an age when love for things divine drove men to create magnificent structures of such beauty. It has hard to imagine in today’s world entire cities and societies laboring together to create any structure, but in the Medieval period this is exactly what was needed in order to build the cathedrals. Often it took decades, even centuries to complete one. People spent their entire lives working on them.
The Cathedral shown here is the famous Cathedral of Chartres, in France. Begun in 1194, it was most likely finished around 1260, although one of the bell towers was a later addition, as can be seen by the different size and style of the two towers. Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Gothic cathedral can’t really be described in words: the only way to really appreciate one is to simply experience it in person. Photographs do poor justice to how powerful these structures are as an expression of religious faith. In addition, the light that flows from the wonderful stained glass windows can never be appreciated except, again, by being in a cathedral. What can be appreciated even from a distance is the complexity of the structure, the skill and dedication required to build such a monument to faith, and the faith of the age that created it. To the medieval mind God was always present, and the cathedral is the ultimate expression of man’s longing for union with the divine.
Even though we are separated in today’s world by these great buildings by more than seven centuries, and a vastly different culture, these cathedrals are still living spaces, still used for religious services, still part of the heritage that binds us to the people who once spent their entire lives creating such wonders of pure, awe inspiring beauty.