Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction Analysis - Essay

David Macaulay


Macaulay’s talent as artist, architect, draftsman, and interpreter of the built environment is well presented in Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction. The significance of this first book did not go unrecognized; the Caldecott Committee named it an Honor Book. The same honor was bestowed on Macaulay’s Castle (1977). These works and others by the author provide understanding about important construction facts, including terms related to architecture, tools, and building techniques. Of greater importance is the fact that Macaulay is able to create social history through his text and illustrations. With clear statements in a minimum of words, he conveys a clear understanding of the times, the people, and their feelings. The book works on many levels: as art and architecture, as history, as travelogue, as social commentary, and as a pleasant reading experience.

Macaulay chose not to overwhelm the reader with too many complex ideas or too much detail. Yet, he never talks down to the reader. Accurate terminology is used in a meaningful context. Triforium, clerestory, tracery, and vaulting are explained in text and clearly illustrated in diagrams. Locations within the cathedral—such as the apse, transept, choir, and nave—are visually clear when readers are given a bird’s-eye view of the cathedral. Buttresses and flying buttresses, along with keystone, voussoirs, and trusses, are illustrated and explained as to their purpose and...

(The entire section is 545 words.)