Mont-Saint-Michel and ...
Henry Adams
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Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  176 ratings  ·  33 reviews
This first paperback facsimile of the classic 1913 edition includes thirteen photographs and numerous illustrations of the great cathedrals of Northern France. Henry Adams referred to this book as "A Study of Thirteenth-Cntury Unity," and its expansive scope, together with the author's deep understanding of the period, makes it a classic in art history as well as in Americ...more
ebook, 401 pages
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 1905)
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This is an old classic that I first read over thirty years ago. I recently reread it as part of a family vacation to Belgium and France, during which we spent at day at each of these two wonderful places - along with the Bayeux Tapestry. James provides a good history and description of the key portions of each building along with particular highlights of interest - such as the links between Mont Saint-Michel and the Song of Roland. Adams' prose is wonderful and easy to follow and most of the inf...more
“Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres” is clearly a work of love by Henry Adams. To be sure, Adams can come off as a bit pompous with his repeated declarations of quotes which can only be read in French and not translated (which are probably best read that way, but impossible for many people who don’t read French at all), but his love of the subject is key, as his enthusiasm is infectious and the reader is likely to start to plan their trip to see these incredible structures for themselves.

Though not...more
Ben Dutton
The abbey at Mont-Saint Michel and the cathedral at Chartres are the subject of Henry Adams’ history, self-published in 1904 for the education of his nieces and “nieces in wish” but later released by Ralph Adams Cram with the support of the American Institute of Architects. This history takes in not only the architecture of these two buildings, but a detailed examination of poetry, religion, science, art and philosophy. It is a precise and understanding deconstruction of life in twelfth century...more
A fascinating, personal exploration of 12th century French culture. I wish I could read an edition of this book with more illustrations, since many of his descriptions of medieval church architecture are very difficult to follow for someone who has never seen the buildings he is writing about. One almost needs to be standing in front of the building itself to appreciate what the author has to say about it.

One negative thing I have to mention is that the author in two or three places lapses into...more
John E. Branch Jr.
Henry Adams gets at the life of an entire age by way of examining two buildings, which, if you think about it, is quite an accomplishment. Having read it decades ago, I still find myself wondering now and then what constitutes a Mont-Saint-Michel or Chartres for our age. My current inclination is to regard celebrities as the creation of our time that speaks best for our beliefs and aspirations (and no compliment does that do us), but the thought pales in comparison to what Adams achieves here.
Philip Lane
This proved to be a bit of a challenge. The first section is about architecture - Norman architecture in France and had me grabbing for a dictionary to explain the architectural vocab. I also missed out badly by reading a free electronic version with no illustrations or diagrams which would have made it much easier to access.
The secon section was more connected to the politics of the time and how the buildings came to be built, by whom and why. This was great fun particularly regarding Eleanor...more
It is clear to me that I simply was not equipped with enough knowledge -- philosophical, theological, historical -- to begin to fully appreciate, or even understand, this book. A meditation on a time whose philosophy and architecture are now esteemed only as relics of a curious era a millennium-gone, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres is both playful and mournful, deeply conscious of the the glories of man's (and God's) creation, while simultaneously heavy with skepticism. Adams concludes by linking...more
A strange and wonderful compendium of knowledge regarding two of the greatest architectural achievements of the Middle Ages, paired with the social and philosophical achievements of the day. Adams finds a vast array of connections that surprise and sometimes confound, and in the process of examining two structures of stone and glass, paints a portrait of a civilization struggling not to fall back into the Dark Ages yet rekindling once more the the wars of faith that brought them so low. Especial...more
The first half of this book was a revelation--insightful, playful, energizing. I didn't know a thing about it, having happily stumbled upon it on a $1 sidewalk rack of an Oakland bookstore. I loved learning about the architecture of Mont St. Michel and Notre-Dame de Chartres (and a whole host of other cathedrals and abbeys by way of comparisons), the history of their construction, and the atmosphere of their milieu. All of the stuff about Chartres-as-shrine to the Virgin got to be a bit heavy-he...more
It has a certain charming oldness about it. Chapter XIV "Abelard" and Chapter X "The Court of the Queen of Heaven" summarize the most stimulating theological discussions. Abelard on realism/nominalism; and QofH on the way Mariology allows for Grace as contrasted with the perfectionism of the Trinity (with a footnote on how Mary is the new Eve in the same sense as Jesus is the new Adam). The final chapter on Thomas Aquinas treats free will (as differentiated from free choice), science, esthetics,...more
Not my sort of subject matter, too dated. At times it does get interesting, but only in a very long-winded manner. I do like that the author assumes an educated readership, inserting large chunks of Middle French and Latin quotations in the text, usually with translations but not always, but drawing parallels between medieval Norman cathedrals and theology went a bit beyond me.

If you are really into how early 20th-century authors analysed the culture of north-western French medieval cathedral bu...more
An interesting and very personal mediation on French architecture and theology in the 12th and 13th centuries centered around the "militant" Mont St. Michel; the cult of the Virgin in Chartres; and the battles between the Church and the scholastics. Many interesting anecdotes. A knowledge of gothic architecture helps in following his description; I could not follow his discussion of medieval scholastic philsophy very well, so I can't tell if the failing was mine or that Adams made his discussion...more
I am slowly working my way through this paperback that I bought back in the 70s and never managed to finish. Now that I have been to France and seen many of the cathedrals, it is making more sense to me, and if you need visuals you can always google for photos. Adams connects the building style to the style and character of the culture and since I particularly love Romanesque and the earliest Gothic churches, I am delighted by his insights.
I still have not seen Mont-Saint-Michel or Chartres, bu...more
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Has an amusing preface — "The following pages, then, are for nieces, or for those who are willing, for the time, to be nieces in wish."

Oh, and the quote he says is from an Elizabethan play is actually from a Jacobean play, The Tragedy of Thierry King of France and His Brother Theodoret, also known as Thierry and Theodoret.
I love this book, which is a fascinating look at the transition from Romanesque to Gothic in eleventh and twelfth century France. Adams brings his encyclopedic knowledge, taste and wit to bear on subjects ranging from the veneration of the Virgin to Scholasticism, the First Crusade, and much more.
I do have to say that the casual antisemitism he reveals on a few occasions, although socially acceptable and even commonplace for a man of his time and circumstances, is more than a little jarring to m...more
Wow. This book is a personal reading triumph for me. I read it in undergraduate school. It's the hardest thing I've ever read...and, thus, the most rewarding. A fascinating look at 8th (or was it 9th?) century French architecture, written by an American, this book deals with cosmic unity, the formation of the Catholic church's adoration of Mary, and, of course, the gorgeous architecture of Mont St Michel and Chartres.
Louis, you are reminding me of books I read long ago and loved. This is one of them. A new England Congregationalist visits Roman Catholicism in France and realizes there is something there.

I had the opportunity to visit Mont St Michel for a few hours in 2009 when my legs could still negotiate the steps. Abaolutely amazing place and architecture, full of faith and nationalism and beauty and war...
Douglas Dalrymple
This is from one chapter to the next a very engaging and a very plodding book. My ignorance of architectural language probably cost me something in the enjoyment of it. Still, I did enjoy it. Adams is a real intelligence. You feel the vigor and breadth of his mind, for instance, in his opening chapter and the excellent chapter on Abelard. He’s also a fine writer. I’m going to have to read his Education soon.
Brilliant! The topic of this book is architecture and theology and the 12th-13th century practice of constructing both around a central uncertainty. It is a dense and challenging read but is definitely worth the effort. I read it on my Nook and was able to look up photos of various cathedrals as well as architectural terms with which I was unfamiliar. I loved this book!
A magnificient book. Read this book before going on a trip of the Gothic Cathedrals in the North of France. We travelled from Saint Michelle to Paris and the Saint Chapelle. This book along with two others served as my guide of the stories behind their constructions and the turbulent times they were built. A must read for those interested in history and architecture.
Turn of the 20th century enthusiasm about places I just visited. Many exclamation points! Much repetition! A nice job of pulling in all elements of medieval life to discuss architecture -- The Song of Roland, crusades, etc. Alas, he didn't know when to quit, although in his defense, he self published and didn't design this for a general audience.
An old classic, Adams' narrative gives wonderful insight into the mind and thinking of the medieval man. It helped me gain some perspective on the history and role of France in the development of Western civilization, which, I suppose, was Mr. Adams intention. Well done, Mr. Adams!
Clear that the book was never really meant for publication as it probably goes on for way too long. Still, Adams writes with impressive enthusiasm, vigor and clarity about subjects that on their surface seem more than a little dry: medieval architecture, society and philosophy.
This is a classic of art history, which I only got around to reading now. A discussion of Gothic and Romanesque art and architecture, written in the form of a letter to his niece. I only wish the edition I read had pictures in it.
Jun 17, 2008 Eric marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly hate The Education...but I read a few chapters of this while browsing a bookstore, and it triggered none of the usual loathing that overtakes me when in the proximity of his prose style. So maybe.
The Education of Henry Adams ... I highly recommend that everyone read this book. One of my all time favorites. Especially if anyone enjoys American history.
Aug 30, 2009 Karen marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Looking forward to really getting into this. I pick it up now and again and have yet to set aside the time it's due.
Great primer for anyone planning to visit these two areas. Also good history of the great cathedral age.
excelente libro de dos de mis favoritos, indescriptibles y magicos lugares que he visitado!!
A delightful travelogue, but don't rely on this volume for all of your facts about Chartres.
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Born in 1838 into one of the oldest and most distinguished families in Boston, a family which had produced two American presidents, Henry Adams had the opportunity to pursue a wide-ranging variety of intellectual interests during the course of his life. Functioning both in...more
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