Universe of Stone: A Biography of Chartres Cathedral

In this lively biography of Chartres Cathedral, Ball explores the configuration of cultural and technological factors that enabled Europe to achieve a “liberation from gravity” in the twelfth century, including the rise of scholasticism, Platonic obsessions with light and proportion, and heroic masons who “turned geometry into stone.” The accomplishments of Gothic architecture were all the more remarkable given that stonework was virtually forgotten in the West in the centuries after Rome fell. Though much of the history of Chartres Cathedral remains opaque,

Ball's account of its construction reveals fascinating details (such as the origins of its blue glass, likely scavenged from Roman or Byzantine sites) and evokes its raison d'être: in an era when architecture “existed to reveal the deep design of God's creation,” Chartres “encoded a set of symbols and relationships that mapped out the universe itself.”