Vintage £9.99 (326pp) (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 0870 079 8897
Universe of Stone, By Philip Ball
Friday 01 May 2009
This richly rewarding book explores the irony of how the devout medieval mind laid the basis for modern secularity. Using Chartres cathedral as a supreme example of the Gothic style, Ball explains that the soaring architecture – so otherworldly compared to "squat and gloomy" Romanesque – "encodes a renunciation of our poor, drab and degenerate world".
Scotching theories of numerology and "sacred geometry", Ball insists that Chartres represents a "comprehensible cosmos". The rationalist philosophy behind this grand design was stated in the 12th century by Adelard of Bath: "Only when human knowledge fails utterly should there be recourse to God."
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