Saturday, August 5

a pure accord

If one starts from the total height of the nave (from the ground to the crown of the vault), the next smaller stretch of the 'golden section' is the height of the nave up to the beginning of the vault, then the above-mentioned height of the wall pillars (from the columns of the arcades to the beginning of the vault), then the height of the columns of the arcades themselves (from the plinth to the springing-stone of the arch), and finally the distance between the springing-stone and the lower cornice. To this harmonic cadence is linked, as in the groundplan, the simple proportion of two to one, emphasized by the upper cornice on the wall pillar . . .

For this is a clarity, a pure accord, which the observer 'sees' or 'hears' rather than reckons. And this explains why people in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, who used the term 'Gothic' to mean 'barbaric', liked to cover the all too widely-spread rhythm of the stone body with neo-classical stucco statues, which they were able to 'understand literally'. But who could tame the upsurge of these arches, which starts already in the wall-pillars, and even in the clustered columns of the arcades? The arches are not merely laid on the pillars, nor are the pillars merely placed in front of the walls. All these things—arches, walls, and pillars—constitute an organic whole, comparable to the calyx of a flower, with its sepals and petals. The lily-like miracle of the high Gothic style can already be seen in the steeply rising divisions of the vaulting, even if in Chartres the basic stone, with its edges and curves, still remains rough; its heaviness is overcome; and wherever the vault-coverings join with the arched ribs, the steeply rising girders, and the stilted arcaded arches, they resemble leaves that have grown a natural growth.

-- Titus Burckhardt Chartres and the Birth of the Cathedral
Translated by William Stoddart