How built a cathedral in the Middle Ages?

2020-07-04 | By Historian | Filed in: Culture.

In fact, many of children’s books are related to architecture-construction is one of the most essential needs of human beings-such as various “revealing secrets”. Castles, buildings and airports are frequent themes, as well as various stories of building houses, and even the most basic “three little pigs”, all have something to do with architecture. But none of these can be compared with this magical book:

Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

The Story of the Construction of the Cathedral

By David Macaulay

The story of the construction of the cathedral revolves around the construction of a fictional Chutreaux cathedral. Although the name is fictional, the plot is very real and comes from an in-depth study of the history of Gothic architecture. It is actually a good popular science book for us who have only learned a little about the history of western architecture and for Gothic who only know it as a “crude” architectural lion.

In the city of Chutreaux before the Gothic church was built, the original church was obviously Roman.

At the beginning, I would like to talk about why the church was built: in the 13th century, the French place Chutreaux was free from illness, disaster, harmony between the government and people, and everything was in full swing. However, the common people did not want to build a what building, what Tower, nor did they want to commend the local officials. What they thought was, “It’s time to build a cathedral.” Then he said three reasons why it must be repaired: Louis IX (known as “St. Louis”) got back from Constantinople the bones of a knight and saint of the First Crusade and had to find a place for him; Moreover, churches are being built in the surrounding cities, and Chutreaux cannot be pulled down. Last but not least, a big fire caused by thunder and lightning burned down the old church. It is urgent to build the church. Compared with the architectural history books, which have always talked directly about form and structure, such background introduction also makes it easier for us to understand why churches monopolized the glory of medieval architecture.

The archbishop and the clergy who controlled the funds summoned an architect (note! Gothic churches have architects, and the legend that the church was built so high by the great enthusiasm of the parishioners themselves is completely different) William. William is an educated architect who has traveled to many churches in France, Germany and England. After some examination, he was not only entrusted with design but also with the important task of supervision.

The following is the appearance of many master (from left to right, from top to bottom): Master of quarrying, master of cutting, master of carving, master of stucco making, master of bricklayer, master of carpenter, master of blacksmith, Master roofer and master glass… Forgive me for using this word so indiscriminately, Look at the back, I feel that it is more appropriate for these people to call them “professional leaders” or “bosses of a professional company”, because each of them can lead a team of dozens or even hundreds of people with many apprentices, and the real workers are some hired manual workers, so… don’t think too much about those people’s spontaneous construction and so on.

Then the author showed us a lot of tools, forgive me for being stupid, so I won’t translate them one by one-in short, it can prove that church construction is a very complicated and accurate work.

At that time, William’s design was almost done. He showed the judges (clergy) two pictures he had drawn: the plane and facade on the gypsum board (actually the interior facade, which shows that what is really important to the church is the nave rather than the appearance).

Plan view

Elevation of the Middle Hall

William was very lucky (compared with today’s architects and the real Gothic architects) that the plan was passed. Next, it’s time to find materials. The carpenter group (150 people) and the quarrying group (250 people) all set off.

Cutting wood is not only to find building materials, the cathedral is made of stone, but almost as much wood is needed to build the cathedral-why will be discussed later. The master of quarryman of the quarrying company was even more powerful. He brought 50 apprentices and 200 laborers. He first set up a blacksmith’s shop at the quarrying site-if a worker wants to do a good job, he must choose his own tools, make good tools and then chisel stones.

Each stone should be marked with which building parts to prepare and where to collect them in the future, so as to be priced one by one in the future. In other words, the approximate quantity of materials and the size of each material should be determined at this time. I wonder if William drew the picture?

The old church has been cleaned up. Except for the basement where the old bishop was buried, all the workers drew the positions of the choir and the back hall (semi-circular room) on the base and began digging holes. The foundation wall is very thick and must be 25 feet (7.6 meters) deep according to the position of the old crypt.

At this time, the big wood for the roof came from Scandinavia-imported materials. The stone also arrived. The transportation of these materials depends on shipping. It is hard to imagine whether the cathedral can be built without being close to the river.

It was November 1252, and the foundation pit of the back hall of the cathedral had been dug-the plane appeared directly on the ground.

On April 14, 1253, the Bishop presided over the foundation stone laying ceremony for the first stone. The laborers transported the stones into the foundation pit one by one, and Master Mason strictly supervised them to ensure that each stone was built horizontally, horizontally and vertically.

Soon, the building came out of the ground. The towering arcades are almost the soul of Gothic Cathedral. They will hold up the towering roof. The facade is all made up of exquisite flower windows.

Each flower window is made up of hundreds of stone components and fixed with iron pieces (please pay attention to the figures on the upper left of the picture. With them, you can understand that the author is drawing a bird’s eye view and how big the window is).

Next came the construction of buttresses-buttresses and flying buttresses, which are probably the most impressive features of Gothic architecture. The reason why buttresses are needed is that we need to offset the side thrust of the arch at the top of the nave, and we don’t want the pillars to be too thick and benzene. Only by transmitting the force through the flying buttresses can we see the slender and tall “Gothic” pillars and let light enter the room.

As the wall rises, scaffolding also begins to appear. The scaffolding is provided with a platform for stonemasons to stay on. Due to the high cost of wood, the scaffolding on the upper part of the arcade does not actually fall to the ground, but hangs on the wall and moves up with the construction. As the stairs also grow up, there is no worry about not going down.

How did the curved flying buttress come from? First of all, carpenters will make temporary wooden structures on the ground, which are called “centering”. They will bear the strength of the stone wall and maintain the shape of the arch until the mortar between the stones solidifies. The permanent stone buttress will be removed after it is built.

By the summer of 1270, the back hall and chapel at the eastern end of the church (the top semicircle of the plan) were basically completed. -At this time, it has been 17 years since the start of construction, but everything has just begun.

Every winter, the construction site will stop, and the completed stone structure will be covered with straw for thermal insulation to prevent the mortar cracking structure from collapsing. The masons have all gone home. Only the masons are still chiseling and carving in the temporary workers’ shed. For them, the work seems to never be finished.

The arcades of the singing world have also begun to be built, with 80-foot (24-meter) high columns at the bottom, a facade composed of two groups of window arches at the top, and 60-foot (18-meter) high side windows on the third floor. From 1270 to 1275, they were finally going to start building roofs.

Wooden roof trusses are also assembled on the ground, adopting mortise and tenon structure. After being tested firmly, they are removed and transported to the roof height for reassembly. Cranes transport materials through pulley devices.

At this time, roofer on the ground was stepping up the firing of lead tiles to cover the wooden frame. They will also cast drainage ditches. Stonemasons are carving stone drainage ditches and rainwater pipes, which are often carved into horrible monsters. The so-called GRE word “gargoyle”, which has never been used before, refers to “stone dripping mouth”

Gargoyle was placed at the top of the buttress and connected to the drainage ditch leading to here through the flying buttress. Probably no architect has drawn such a delicate and fascinating cross-section of the drainage ditch.

In 1280, the construction of the vault above the singing mat was finally about to begin. But William is too old to do any more. After 30 years of work on a project, architect Robert replaced him. At the same time, the foundation pit of the side halls on the north and south sides of the cross-shaped plane also began to start construction.

In order to build the vault, they first made a strange big guy-a large disk that could accommodate two people to walk inside, transported to the top by the winch that hoisted the wooden frame, tied ropes, and then the disk was driven to rotate by people walking inside, which could lift very heavy materials-this is probably the embryonic form of the early crane.

While people were building the vault, the bishop of Chutreaux died and he was put into the grave left by the old bishops underground. The project was suspended for 7 days before the new bishop took office. Party a and the architect have all changed, but the progress of the project has not yet reached half.

The vault also uses the aforementioned “scaffold”, which is similar to the function of the flying buttress. It is located between the two walls at an altitude of 130 feet. They will support the stone arch ribs until the mortar between the stones solidifies and can bear its own stress. The vaults of four column piers in a column span shall be constructed at the same time. Meanwhile, the outer buttress has been completed.

The arch stones of the four arch ribs are placed one by one on the scaffold, and finally the arch core stones at the center point are placed, so that the arch ribs are closely connected at the highest point.

Subsequently, a working group composed of carpenters and stonemasons began to work at the same time. The first is the carpenter, who laid a wooden cushion between the two scaffolds, and the stonemason laid a stone roof on it. This layer of stone should be as light as possible to reduce the stress on the arch ribs. Similarly, when the mortar dries out, the boards can be removed.

After the stone vault is built, 4 inches (10 centimeters) thick concrete will be poured on it (this is the most I don’t understand, not to say that the concrete has been lost since the Roman Empire) to prevent the vault stone from cracking. After completion, the scaffolding, wooden cushion and scaffolding will all be removed and transported to the next group of vaults for construction.

Careful people can notice that on the left side of the three-piece picture, there is a mother bird, from hatching eggs to breaking shells of birds to starving, which subtly expresses the time required to build a set of vaults.

In May 1302, the vault and the cross-shaped wings were basically completed. People stopped work and rested at the May Festival and celebrated for the cathedral.

The construction of colored windows has been put on the agenda. Glassmakers use high-temperature burning to melt the mixture of beech ash and sand and add different metals to obtain colorful colors. Then, the craftsman will scoop out a spoonful of melt, blow it into a balloon with a long tube, cut it off and spread it out into round glass pieces. Then cut them up and set them up according to the equal proportion patterns drawn on the table top.

The window hole is too large and the glass is too small. First, lead strips should be used to inlay pieces of glass to form small unit blocks, and then they should be embedded into the divided window frame cells to finally form a dazzling glass color window of nearly 20 meters.

The craftsman combined the patterns of the ground into a maze, and finding the passage was like getting God’s blessing. People from the countryside came to Chutreaux Cathedral as a pilgrimage.

In 1306, the project stopped again-the carpenters all ran away because they had no money-do you remember the skeleton of the saint mentioned at the beginning of the book? The church quickly set up an exhibition for people from northern France and southern England to pay for a visit. It took them five years to raise the rest of the money, and the nave was finally completed in 1330.

At this time, the foundry is rushing to make four big clocks. The mold of the clock must be supported by clay and plaster in Paris, then covered with a layer of wax to make the thickness of the clock, carve out the decoration, and then paste the mixture of clay and plaster on the outside. After heating, the wax melts and flows away, leaving the mold for casting the bell. After pouring molten copper water, it can be installed in the church after cooling.

People also have to make carvings of the western facade gable. The stones are arranged one by one on the ground, and there is a nearly semi-circular relief above each of the three entrances.

In 1331, the steeple on the roof was also built, which is located directly above the intersection of cross planes. This is a wooden structure wrapped in lead skin, beautifully carved and decorated.

In 1332, the project finally left only two towers on the west elevation. At this time, the architect was replaced by Etienne-Robert died in 1329 and fell off the scaffolding of the vault-the building is risky, so be careful when entering the business.

On the North Tower, people are installing huge frames to hang big clocks, which can be heard by people for miles around when the bell rings.

The most magnificent rose window on the west facade has also been basically installed, with hundreds of groups of stained glass embedded one by one between stone window ribs.

In the summer of 1338, the last sculpture was put in place-the cathedral was finally completed! On August 19, bishops and clergy led a long procession up the steps to their magnificent cathedral, where people from the whole city of Chutreaux gathered to thank God.

Huge colorful flags hung from the arcade, candles were lit on every stone pillar, the choir began to sing, and the church was full of songs and crowds, most of whom were grandchildren of those who attended the foundation stone laying ceremony. They greeted this moment with reverence and joy.

After 86 years of construction, the people of this city have finally reached an agreement on the goal! They have the largest, most beautiful and most magnificent cathedral!

This article is reproduced from the public number: Architectural Palace


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