Gothic Architecture And

Gothic architecture and Scholasticism

In any age ideas consciously or more often unconsciously give shape to the tangible products of society. Edwin Panofsky discusses how characteristic ideas of Scholastic theology and philosophy of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries manifest themselves in Gothic architecture. He asserts that the relationship between theology and architecture is not merely a parallel development nor the specific influence of key individuals but a general and diffuse influence

High Scholasticism sought to demonstra

High Scholasticism sought to demonstrate the unity of truth, faith and reason as mutually supportive. The influence was not so much the application of doctrine as the provision of a modus operandi. Three principles are described, the clarity of truth, the organization of truth and the integrity of the parts. For each principle, Panofsky cites examples of the application of these principles in early and high Gothic churches. The examples chosen show a progress development toward what he calls the “final solution” (an unfortunate choice of terms), viz. the ideal and complete Gothic structure.

It may appear to someone unfamiliar with various theories of the origin of Gothic architecture that Panofsky is guilty of reading a lot into the minds of the builders. Unfortunately there is little contemporary literature to tell us what they really thought. Therefore, the contribution of Panofsky is not so much to overthrow other theories, but to show that ideas that drove one branch of knowledge, could filter into other disciplines. We see this in our own day, just to pick one example, in the Zen influence on product designs from Steve Jobs and Apple.

This brief book (90 pages) was a lecture delivered in 1951. As such it is brief and tantalizing rather than satisfying to anyone inclined to be skeptical. That this is still in print after 60 years means it deserves a read. There are 60 figures and photos to illustrate the architectural examples.

Popular Q&A

What was scholasticism and gothic architecture?

Scholasticism (n) is the system of theological and philosophical teaching predominant in the Middle Ages. !

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