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The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral
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The Gothic Enterprise: A Guide to Understanding the Medieval Cathedral

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  112 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
The great Gothic cathedrals of Europe are among the most astonishing achievements of Western culture. Evoking feelings of awe and humility, they make us want to understand what inspired the people who had the audacity to build them. This engrossing book surveys an era that has fired the historical imagination for centuries. In it Robert A. Scott explores why medieval peopl ...more
ebook, 320 pages
Published June 28th 2011 by Perseus - Ucal Pod (first published January 1st 2003)
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Barnaby Thieme
Scott's book is an entertaining and readable overview of the culture of Gothic cathedral building in Europe, particularly France and England. A sociologist by trade, Scott shows himself to be well-studied in the literature of cathedral building, but has a tendency to base large passages on single books. He strikes me as adequately competent in the literature to write this book, but I did wonder at times about the depth of his knowledge of medieval culture as a whole.

Scott explores the cathedral
This is not at all a gripping or poetic book, but it is quite accessible, and I think I understand the how and why of cathedrals much better having read it. Some helpful diagrams were included, but the black and white pictures did sad injustice to the majesty of the Gothic enterprise.

Scott addresses the philosophical, social, religious, economic, and scientific backdrop to cathedrals and the tremendous project of making them. He self-consciously analyzes cathedrals from both a theological (what
Mar 29, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
My husband and I enjoy visiting Gothic cathedrals whenever we take a trip to Europe. The very first, and one of the oldest, cathedrals that we experienced was in Salisbury, England. I'll never forget the sense of awe that emanated from the magnificent structure, stemming from its age, its architecture and design, and its size. Since that first sojourn, we've never failed to recapture those feelings in any of the cathedrals we've seen in England, France, or Italy. It's evident that Robert A. Scot ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Gothic Enterprise is the unfortunate result you end up with if you have a sociologist write a book about architectural history. Robert Scott decided, apparently as the result of his love of visiting gothic cathedrals on vacation, to write a book on the subject. Every aspect of it. In 250 pages including numerous illustrations. The Gothic Enterprise touches on everything from the role of a cathedral in a community’s economy to the evolution of decorative schemes to discussions of the engineer ...more
Jul 07, 2013 Brian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have mixed feelings about this book (and I actually enjoy talking more about those types of books.)

So, positively I really enjoyed some exposure to the medieval subtlety and drive that produced the cathedrals as well as displayed their stunning beauty. Repressed peasants humbug! I also liked the historical balance of theory and actuality--sort of thing some people wouldn't do bad to read for a history class.

On the other hand, a lot of technical stuff that I really could care less about and, m
Hmmm. I have rather mixed feelings about this one. Perhaps this book is a fine example of what happens when sociologists try to write about something outside their field. Though the first few chapters contain many facts about medieval cathedral building, most of the book is social commentary and interpretation. Overall: interesting and thought-provoking, but his obvious lack of knowledge concerning the medieval church tarnishes his perspective. Read Erwin Panofsky's "Gothic Architecture and Scho ...more
Jan 04, 2009 K. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is my favorite intellectual study of the era of the cathedral-builders. Scott writes well, his research is up to date, his book includes plenty of useful illustrations, and he covers the politics and history of the "gothic" era with thoroughness and meticulous scholarship. I especially love his exploration of "sacred space" and his chapter on Stonehenge. He makes me itch to go to England again and see for myself with more educated eyes. Definitely a favorite book!
May 28, 2008 Tedb0t rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, readable and compelling overview of the incredible idea and task of building cathedrals in a time when lives were short, disease was rampant and resources were scarce. As a sociolologist, the author brings a unique insight into the genesis of these monumental structures, whereas a typical architectural overview would have likely completely missed the point--how and why did humans, and human society, come to spend such an immense amount of effort building such works?
Moses Operandi
Mar 30, 2013 Moses Operandi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating ideas about Gothic churches and medieval thought (the parts about scholastic influences and mnemonics were fascinating), but Scott is not a church historian, an architect, or an architectural historian--he's a sociologist. So the book is just as much about the medievals as it is about their creations, and Scott has some outmoded ideas about the medievals. But a great read, nonetheless.
Apr 04, 2013 Christopher rated it it was ok
The kind of book that you finish and then promptly wish you could have your time back. Basically a history of cathedrals written by a secularist through a psychology of religion lens. Scott set out to explain the “hows” and “whys” of cathedral building, and he did so with a very unsympathetic view of medievals. The “hows” were interesting, but the “whys” were incomplete and rang hollow. Still some good material here, and a partial antidote to cathedral fan-boyism.
Jan 15, 2013 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was amazing to find all of this information about building the great gothic cathedrals all in one remarkable source. I expected descriptions of a few cathedrals, but no! The author explores a comprehensive slate of social, economic, political, scientific and religious trends that came together during this period. I didn't give it 5-stars because it is actually a bit overwhelming at times. Nonetheless, a stunning achievement.
Oct 10, 2014 Charlene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining and accessible book on the building of the medieval cathedrals. I picked it up primarily because it had jacket reveiw blurb by Ken Follet. Gained a greater appreciation of cathedrals after hearing realizing how much time and resources medieval society poured into them. I liked the author's personal story of how he, a sociologist, became interested in the architecture of cathedrals.
Sep 04, 2009 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Extremely well document book on the history of the medieval cathedraland the times. Good history of Erupe in this period and good architectural information.

Lindsey Doolan
Very engaging read on why the Gothic cathedrals were built. Even the proportions of the book are like a cathedral: it's tall and thin.
Feb 16, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was fantastic! I am so interested in Gothic architecture and this took a much-needed holistic approach to the time and gothic enterprise. It is much more than just a book about cathedrals. ...more
Derek Parsons
Feb 23, 2014 Derek Parsons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A fine read that dawdles off the topic from time to time...there's only so much an average person needs to know about saints in relation to Gothic cathedrals.
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