E-Text 14

Production: Artisans

Over the 300-year "life" of the Gothic cathedral many hundreds of artisans were engaged in a range of activities: masons, sculptors, carpenters, roofers, glaziers, iron workers, painters, laborers.  Some were itinerant, working for weeks or months; for others the cathedral provided their main livelihood; they were members of the local professional guilds and fully integrated with the clergy and the urban community.  Under "Production," our website will allow you to explore the contributions of the master masons, the carpenters and the glaziers; you will also find a useful toolbox with accurate plans and sections of the cathedral drawn from the great monograph written by Georges Durand c. 1900.  Here we will focus upon the role of the master mason or architect.

The image of the Gothic master mason has veered wildly from the notion of the lowly anonymous uneducated medieval artisan favored in renaissance propaganda to the romantic image of the creative genius found in Johann Wolfgang Goethe's Von Deutscher Baukunst.  Amiens Cathedral offers us the possibility of correlating the limited written evidence with the forms of the building itself in order to tell the story of the three master masons as already summarized in the introduction above and elaborated in the website where the axonometric drawings together with the accompanying texts will allow you and your students to follow the work of each master.  Freed from the task of recounting again the narrative of construction, let us reach for bigger conclusions by reflecting upon four key issues....