Originally posted on Theory Of Irony
More than 1600 years before all the New York City skyscrapers, the matt-haired and rag-draped farmers of northern France built a simple wooden church – which, burned down. The good people, faithful and diligent though they were, replaced it with another, which burned down, and another, which burned down, and yet another – which also, burned down. The year now 1144, they rebuilt with stone, working on a Romanesque design, with towers of such height and sculptures of such beauty as had never, on completion in 1164, been seen before. It too, largely burned down, but this time the towers, the front façade and the crypt survived. So, starting on these foundations in 1194, the locals rebuilt again using a new Gothic style of architecture. To this end an army of illiterate peasants descended from all over France, joined by the equally illiterate nobility and they volunteered for work crews en-masse. Stories exist of the whole lot hitching themselves up to carts like farm animals in order to haul supplies and stones from a distant quarry. With a spirit and humility lacking translation, they put up a new Cathedral in near-record time and it was basically completed by 1220.
The various fields of science, often unfairly cast as the bane of religion, saw advancements which now allowed for better Church construction. Architects started with soaring, pointed arches where low, semi-circular ones had in the past supported the laborious weight of stone. To these arches, the architects slapped on a system of “flying buttresses,” sort of external supports which distributed horizontal loads away from the sides and downward to the ground. Builders, consequently blessed with higher and thinner walls, questioned, “What could be done with all the new wall space?” They were answered with stained glass windows, which conveyed…
via Paradox of Chartres Cathedral | Theory Of Irony.
Originally posted on History Today
Richard I of England, called the Lionheart, seized the island of Cyprus in the summer of 1191. Almost 700 years later, in 1878, Cyprus came under English, or British, rule once more. Between 1951 and 1954 the great Byzantinist Steven Runciman published his three-volume narrative, A History of the Crusades, achieving both scholarly acclaim and enormous sales. Following this, Runciman’s old friend, Peter Quennell, a founding editor of History Today, commissioned him to write a profile of Richard for the magazine, then in its fifth year.
Runciman, who had passed a convalescent VE Day on Cyprus relaxing beneath the castle of Kyrenia, had remained well-informed about Cypriot affairs because of his friendship with the Greek poet and diplomat George Seferiades, or Seferis, who was torn between admiration for British culture and unwavering support for Cypriot independence. From Seferis, Runciman would be one of the first Britons to hear of the foundation of the Cypriot terrorist organisation, EOKA, with its solemn oath ‘to free Cyprus from the British yoke’, in the same month that his article appeared in History Today.
Runciman’s profile of Richard is to some degree extracted from The Kingdom of Acre (1954), the third volume of A History of the Crusades, and condenses what was the most familiar and dramatic part of the story to…
via The Familiar and the Fresh | History Today.