Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

David Macaulay’s Cathedral explains and shows the construction of a Gothic cathedral during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The time span is idealized, since most cathedrals took two hundred years to be constructed instead of the eighty-six years in the book. The only other imaginary aspects are the name of the community and its inhabitants; they did not exist. In all other parts, faithful adherence to cathedral construction is followed.

The reasons for construction include people’s desire to give thanks for God’s kindness or to ask for God’s mercy. In the thirteenth century, there were no wars to fight and the plague was gone. Crops flourished and business was good, so the city of Chutreaux planned to build God a new cathedral. The relics of Saint Germain, a knight of the First Crusade, included his skull and forefinger; these relics were sent from Constantinople by Louis IX and needed a worthy resting place. The people of Amiens, Beauvais, and Rouen were building new cathedrals, and Chutreaux did not wish to be outdone. All these factors led to the construction, but the final factor was when their existing cathedral was damaged by lightning. Thus, work began on the longest, widest, highest, and most beautiful cathedral in all of France.

Clergymen hired William of Planz, a Flemish architect, to design and supervise the construction of the new cathedral. William hired master craftsmen to quarry, cut stone, sculpt,...

(The entire section is 531 words.)