Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction
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Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  947 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Readers worldwide recognize Caldecott Medal winner David Macaulay's imaginary Cathedral of Chutreaux. This critically acclaimed book has been translated into a dozen languages and remains a classic of children's literature and a touchstone for budding architects. Cathedral's numerous awards include a prestigious Caldecott Honor and designation as a New York Times Best Illu...more
Paperback, 80 pages
Published October 26th 1981 by HMH Books for Young Readers (first published 1973)
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Orsolya
Children may wonder where babies come from or how birds fly; but some wonder how things are built. For these architecturally-curious children, David Macaulay’s award-winning books come to the rescue. “Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction”, which was actually the first of Macaulay’s books, explores the wonders of a cathedral’s assembly.

Like Macaulay’s other works, “Cathedral” is an oversize children’s picture book filled with glorious hand-drawn black and white “pen and ink” illustrations wh...more
Ted
Cathedral was the first of David Macaulay’s very popular (and groundbreaking) “children’s” books, in which he produced large drawings accompanied by interesting text, together illustrating how various things have been put together by humans over the ages. In this book his topic is a medieval European cathedral. The book informs us about the engineering problems and solutions, the large number and different types of craftsman involved, and the decades-long effort required. (The Wiki article on Ma...more
K.
This marvelous illustrated book, supposedly for children, is the most useful book on cathedral-building I've found. I've been reading a number of scholarly books and histories on the subject, and all of them serve to verify that Macaulay got it right. He doesn't go into the theory, the complex geometry, or the depth of historical and political context, of course, but his pictures helped me to understand how the flying buttresses were constructed (and why), as well as how these astonishing struct...more
Daniel
As an artist, a trained architect, and a lifelong lover of children's books, I fiercely love this little book of step-by-step ink drawings of a medieval Gothic cathedral being built. The level of knowledge and care that went into each picture is awe-inspiring, and yet instantly legible. It reminds me of a quote by Dizzy Gillespie,; "It's taken me my whole life to learn what not to play". There's an astonishing level of mastery here to be able to compress so much obviously painstakingly researche...more
Stuart
Cathedral is an 80 page hardcover, dust-jacketed, full-color reprint of the 1973 classic with the same name that is designed for kids ages 10 to 14. It takes place in France circa 13th through Century and involves the building of a Gothic cathedral in the fictitious city of Chutreaux. William of Planz is a fictitious architect tasked with the building of this monumental structure.The first architectural drawings we see are the floor plan, in traditional cruciform shape and a cross-section of the...more
Amy
with Story of the World, Vol II.

For some reason I skipped over the beginning note about this being a fictional cathedral so at the end of the book when we wanted to learn more about the cathedral now and we found it didn't exist it was a BIG (tear-filled) disappointment. Moral: Don't skip that part if your kid is like mine.
Mark
Somehow I missed this as a kid, even though I was a LIBRARY kid that devoured everything interesting. Maybe back then old, European history doesn't sound as interesting or as important as it does to my middle-aged self.

Regardless, I'm glad I found this "children's" book bow, because it's really amazing. The illustrations are wonderful, of course, but what's just as good is how you learn something about the enormous engineering undertaking that one of these cathedrals was. I still can't get my 2...more
Amanda Northrup
I always marveled at these structures, but this book gave me a much deeper appreciation. I never thought so much about what processes were needed to lift stone blocks over 100 feet in the air in the 1200s!

One thing nagged at me throughout the whole book - the entire text follows the construction of a cathedral in Chutreaux, France. But the author says up front - there is no cathedral - he made it up to streamline the process for his text. I don't know how to feel about a nonfiction book being s...more
Dawn
Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction is the first book written by David Macaulay. It was published in the year 1973 and has since then been highly appreciated by readers as a great historical fiction book. The book has gained several awards. It gained the New York time Best exemplified book of the year and also won the Caldcott medal award. Although the book is a good read for people of different ages, it is intended for children from age 9 and above.
David Macaulay studied architecture at t...more
Ruth
May 08, 2008 Ruth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: monica
Really nice ink drawings. Interesting explanations. Used this in my Art History classes.
Chris Murray
Macaulay, David. Cathedral: The Story of its Construction (1973)
Cathedral tells the story of the building of a magnificent gothic cathedral in the imaginary village of Chutreaux, France starting in the year 1252. God was good to the people of this village, so they decided to build the longest, widest, highest and most beautiful cathedral in all of France in his honor. The book describes the tedious step-by-step process of building from making a plan, erecting walls, and finally hanging banners –...more
Andrew Watt
Nov 16, 2008 Andrew Watt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: kids, young adults, interested adults
I think this was the first of David David Macaulay's books, and it's by far the best. He follows the people of Chutreaux, an imaginary market town in France, as they set out to build the longest, tallest, widest and most beautiful cathedral in the entire kingdom, in the Gothic style. The companion video is ok, but not great.

One of the things that impresses me about this book is the degree of long-term thinking that went into building a cathedral. The roof timbers come from Scandinavia; the ston...more
Andres
Though almost 40 years old, this storybook about the construction of a fictional Gothic cathedral is just as informative to adults as it is to the book's intended audience: kids. The illustrations wonderfully... well, illustrate the long (80+ years!), difficult, and costly process of building such a large structure at a time that didn't have the benefit of modern equipment like cranes (or even trucks!).

I also read the 25th anniversary edition of the book, called "Building the Book Cathedral", wh...more
Chester Richmond
Cathedral is a Caldecott Honor Book that details an ancient civilization of craftsmen. Initially Macaulay gives the reader foundational knowledge through labeled pictures of basic and some very old tools of the trade. The book progresses to show the elaborate construction of a cathedral and the vast interworking’s of hundreds of dedicated workers. Workers are seen climbing on rafters during the construction but by the end of the book the cathedral is fully formed and quite decadent rising above...more
Jennifer
Sep 21, 2007 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
I absolutely adore this series (Pyramid, Cathedral, Castle, etc.) I had the opportunity to meet the author at a benefit hosted at the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania around 1987 or so, he's amazing.

This book, and the companion video, give incredible insight into the mammoth human effort, gargantuan investment, and astonishing technical knowledge that went into building the monuments we still tour in awe today. McCauley balances technical information with accessible characters, creating...more
Craig Shier
Among the many books on Gothic cathedrals, there is not a better introduction than this thin volume from David Macaulay. Cathedrals required teamwork involving many specialized skills that are explained and demonstrated in detailed drawings, from the digging of foundations to the completion more than 80 years later.

The writing is clear and compact. It introduces many technical terms but in such a way that the meaning is plain without lengthy definitions. The illustrations complement the text and...more
Rodrigo
Once again another book that depicts everything as it is in a simple, interesting way. The book provides excellent exercises for the developing imagination, presenting an incredible variety of viewpoints from which to examine a cathedral— angles not even available to someone standing in the real building. The book also introduces the social structure, materials, and working conditions of the medieval trade guilds. Interesting book for children wondering how things are build, even while reading t...more
Esther
Published in 1981 by Houghton Mifflin
Interest Level: 3-6th Grade

This is a great book about cathedrals that allows the reader to look inside every detailed sketch and learn more and more with every page turn. All my past students have always appreciated this book for its detailed schematics and interesting details. This informational text does not simply explain a Cathedral and what it was but it allows for the reader to see what is being described. I think this is perhaps one of the best informa...more
Mitchell
Impressively detailed. This was the redrawn version in color, though I'm thinking I might appreciate the original version better. Its hard to track the scale in space and time of this project. And yet I would have liked this work to have been even more detailed.
Charity (CJ)
I read this aloud to my children (ages 3 and 7) as an addendum to the older one's history lesson for the week. It was recommended in the workbook that accompanies volume 2 of Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World, and I'm very glad we picked it up. Both of my kids enjoyed it, and so did I. The drawings are enjoyable and precise, and the text isn't overly wordy. I liked that Macaulay emphasized the participation of three generations of the community in building the cathedral; it helped to put...more
Rachel
I have known about this book for awhile, but for whatever reason, I never picked it up though I find the subject matter fascinating. The book won the 1974 Caldecott Honor and rightly so as it is a very well-done. The book shows the development, building and completion of a Gothic Cathedral in France in the 13th century, over the course of eighty years. Though it was originally created for children, I would use this book as a way to explain Art History to college students as it clearly explains t...more
Definitelydennis
Seriously some of the best books I've read.
Hands down, they are written for children, but there is so much to learn from them.
Mike Spinak
Cathedral is an absolutely brilliant children's book. It is so lavishly illustrated, so informative (for adults as well as kids), so ingenious. David Macauley has truly carved out a niche of his own in the world of children's books. I was so impressed with this children's book that I bought it for my (adult) girlfriend. I should also say it's been a major influence on me (yes, I'm a children's book author) toward carving out my own niche in the field of kids books, combining knowledge and entert...more
Benjamin Thomas
Nice reference work on how a medieval cathedral in France was built over nearly 100 years. The text is interesting and valuable but the major attraction here is the finely detailed drawings of the building effort through all the steps. It reminds me a bit of the 'Cross-Sections' books with that level of detail. One can spend a lot of time just staring at each of the drawings; it really helps you appreciate the scale and massive effort it took to build such a structure.

This book is designed for y...more
Tim Vandenberg
Astounding. Breathtaking. Unreal.

Macaulay's "Cathedral" effectively portrays the mind-boggling Gothic achievement of medieval humanity, all done *without* the help of power tools nor modern architectural science, engineering, or mathematics.

I'm still literally numb from the awe of what humans actually accomplished seven hundred years ago. It took 8 decades & 3 generations to build these monuments of religion. Staggering!

A *VERY* highly recommended Common Core Exemplar Text for grades 6-8, an...more
pati
Very informative! I would really like to see the original book.
John Hugens
This book is an amazing exploration of how a cathedral during the Medieval Period in Europe was built. This book provides a clear and easily understood graphic representation so that children of all reading abilities can understand the complex building process (there are no steps held back), while providing text that is not made overly simple for children so that when they have a high enough reading level to fully access the text will learn real, and functional architectural, artistic, and other...more
Melody Savage
Imaginary cathedral, true to life construction process. Fascinating. Simple to read with no more than a few paragraphs per page and plenty of white space; Macaulay uses specific vocabulary to keep the explanations succinct. The drawings are very well done and illustrate what the paragraphs are describing. Not sure if more labels would spoil the art but they would be helpful clarifiers. It would be good to pair this book with another one describing the function of a cathedral.
Kate Gukeisen
Through engaging illustration and text, Cathedral: The Story of its Construction, draws readers into the challenges and process of building a cathedral before the age of power tools and heavy gas-powered construction machinery. This Caldecott Honor Book will engage middle school students in learning about construction, tools, society and history, and would provide a valuable informational text for a cross-curricular unit.
Rachel
Nick and I both loved this book. The drawings are lush, detailed, and architecturally precise. The same can be said for the text, come to think of it. This is a book about history, religion, architecture, engineering, and the human quest for perfection, all wrapped up neatly in an appealing story and presented in such a way that a seven-year-old and and thirty-something can both learn something new.
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David Macaulay, born in 1946, was eleven when his parents moved from England to Bloomfield, New Jersey. He found himself having to adjust from an idyllic English childhood to life in a fast paced American city. During this time he began to draw seriously, and after graduating from high school he enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). After spending his fifth year at RISD in Rome on...more
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