Universe of Stone: Book summary and reviews of Universe of Stone by Philip Ball

Universe of Stone

A Biography of Chartres Cathedral

by Philip Ball

Universe of Stone by Philip Ball X
Universe of Stone by Philip Ball
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Book Summary

Chartres Cathedral, south of Paris, is revered as one of the most beautiful and profound works of art in the Western canon. But what did it mean to those who constructed it in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries? And why, during this time, did Europeans begin to build churches in a new style, at such immense height and with such glorious play of light, in the soaring manner we now call Gothic?

Universe of Stone shows that the Gothic cathedrals encode a far-reaching shift in the way medieval thinkers perceived their relationship with their world. For the first time, they began to believe in an orderly, rational world that could be investigated and understood. This change marked the beginning of Western science and also the start of a long and, indeed, unfinished struggle to reconcile faith and reason.

By embedding the cathedral in the culture of the twelfth century—its schools of philosophy and science, its trades and technologies, its politics and religious debates—Philip Ball makes sense of the visual and emotional power of Chartres. Beautifully illustrated and written, filled with astonishing insight, Universe of Stone argues that Chartres is a sublime expression of the originality and vitality of a true "first renaissance," one that occurred long before the birth of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, or Francis Bacon.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred. Ball's passion, sharp critical mind and fluid prose open a window onto the remote, alien world we call the Middle Ages." - Publishers Weekly.

"A revelatory look at a seminal period in art history." - Kirkus Reviews.

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Author Information

Philip Ball

Philip Ball is a consulting editor for Nature magazine and a regular commentator on science in Great Britain. His book Bright Earth was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and he won Great Britain's prestigious Aventis Prize for Science Books for Critical Mass. He lives in London.

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