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To Touch the Face of God.

Gothic Cathedrals and the American Space Program.
by

Brandon Pearce

on 20 June 2012

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Transcript of To Touch the Face of God.

To Touch the Face of God:
Gothic Cathedrals and the American Moon Shot Horizontal Parts of a Cathedral Clerestory Triforium Arcade Piers and Responds Vertical parts of a Cathedral Comparison 1-
The move from the fortress-like Romanesque architecture to the openness of Gothic construction is comparable to the shift in ballistics research from that of military-minded objectives of the defense department to the exploration-minded objectives of the space program. Romanesque and Norman architects
had already developed all of the
“Gothic” elements Flying butresses in Durham
by 1093 The basic floor plan is the
same as Romanesque Pointed arches Autun Cathederal
built in 1022 Ribbed vaults were plastered
over by Roman architects
but exposed ribbing is found in
St. Trinite church of Caen built in 1130 Defense application of ballistics From the defensive Romanesque To the ilumination of Gothic To the illumination of exploration Comparison 2-
Gothic construction represents the medieval philosophical mindset of a universe ordered upon divine ratios, symbolically understood, and each part as a rationally necessary part of the whole. for medieval man…symbol is the only objectively valid definition of reality.”
-Otto Von Simson …this does not mean, of course, that Scholastics thought in more orderly and logical fashion than Plato and Aristotle; but it does mean that they, in contrast to Plato and Aristotle, felt compelled to make the orderliness and logic of their thought palpably explicit.
- Erwin Panofsky

It was, however, in architecture that the habit of clarification achieved its greatest triumphs.


The skeleton of the structure was made to let light illuminate the interior, and the great builders made sure that the scene which was illuminated was one of logical order and stability. Scholasticism and Gothic “From rocks on the Moon, man may be assisted in learning about his origin and his destiny.
He may discover clues for answers to his questions, ‘Where did I come from?’ and ‘Why am I here.” Medieval scholars did not see direct observation as the path to truth; it could only be found in the contemplation of true metaphors. One = God
Two = Man
Three = Trinity
Four = Earth, points on a compass, or the four gospels
Five = flesh from the five senses, and Christ’s five wounds
Seven = Heavens, very important to the Medieval understanding of the cosmos The word ‘university’ came into being with the scholastic movement but so did the word ‘universe’. The way to understand the order of the heavens, and humanity’s place within it, was now through direct empirical observation. The old symbolic/mathematical epistemology had been replaced with a new observational/physics based epistemology. The goal of Scholasticism was to systematically understand theology as a whole, to examine its foundations and structure so they could understand it as a system, and not just a series of doctrines. What purer manifestation could one have of our Enlightnement ideals than a vehicle which frees us from “the surly bonds of earth” herself to carry a courageous explorer out to the universe to see, touch, and experience the heavens in order to gain knowledge of it, and better know our place within it? “The golden door foretells to you what shines here within, through palpable, visible beauty, the soul is elevated to that which is truly beautiful, and rising from the earth where it was submerged, an inert thing, it is resuscitated in heaven by the radiance of its glory.” Saint Denis - 78.5 feet Politics:
the cathedral
race and the
space race. Sens - 80 feet Notre-Dame - 108 feet Chartres - 121 feet Bourges - 123 feet Reims - 125 feet Amiens - 139 feet Beauvais - 157.5 The collapse of the tower was so tumultuous that it left a cloud of dust which hung over the entire city as the denizens of Beauvais grieved openly in the street. This drive between the local cathedral chapters to build better and greater cathedrals, with its triumphs, experiments, and collapses, can be compared in many ways to the space race that the US and Russia engaged in during the late 1950’s and 60’s. Sputnik Sputnik 2 Luna 2 Yuri Gagarin Aleksei Leonov Neil Armstrong Crew of the tragic Apollo 1 fire The Gothic sense of competition occurred on a local level, between cities, while the space race occurred internationally, between two countries on opposite sides of the globe, and yet they are comparable in so many ways. Despite the radically different forms of expression, the Gothic cathedral was to the people of the Middle Ages, what the space program is to Americans. This shift from the defensive mindset of the Eisenhower administration to the exploratory mindset of the Kennedy administration echoes the move from the defensive Romanesque style and mindset, to the open, exploratory nature of the Gothic ideal. The fact that Scholasticism and Gothic architecture arise in the
same place and in the same time period is not conincidence. Just as the Gothic cathedral was the ultimate expression of man’s symbolic understanding of the heavens, and humanity’s place within in it, the American space program is the ultimate expression of the modern empirically based understanding of the universe, as well as man’s place within it. HI Class
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