Chartres and the Birth of the Cathedral

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9780941532235: Chartres and the Birth of the Cathedral
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In Chartres, Burckhardt’s gift for opening the spiritual and artistic treasures of the traditional worlds for modern readers shines forth once again. The author’s description of the didactic themes of the cathedral’s great doorways and rose windows covers virtually the whole of the Christian story and amount to a comprehensive presentation of Christian theology and metaphysics. At the same time, his insights go far beyond the limits of Christianity as a confessional world. Basing himself on the permanent and universal principles of the religio perennis, Burckhardt enables the reader to understand and appreciate the intellectual vision which inspired the creative joy of the artistic productions of the Middle Ages.

Richly illustrated with 16 full color photos, 10 black & white photos plus over 100 line drawings.

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About the Author:

Titus Burckhardt, a German Swiss, was born in Florence in 1908 and died in Lausanne in 1984. He devoted all his life to the study and exposition of the different aspects of Wisdom and Tradition.

In the age of modern science and technocracy, Burckhardt was one of the most remarkable of the exponents of universal truth, in the realm of metaphysics as well as in the realm of cosmology and of traditional art. In a world of existentialism, psychoanalysis, and sociology, he was a major voice of the philosophia perennis, that "wisdom uncreate" that is expressed in Platonism, Vedanta, Sufism, Taoism, and other authentic esoteric or sapiential teachings. In literary and philosophic terms, he was an eminent member of the "traditionalist school" of twentieth-century authors.

Although he first saw the light of day in Florence, Burckhardt was the scion of a patrician family of Basle. He was the great-nephew of the famous art-historian Jacob Burckhardt and the son of the sculptor Carl Burckhardt. Titus Burckhardt was a contemporary of Frithjof Schuon--destined to become the leading exponent of traditionalist thought in the twentieth century--and the two spent their early school days together in Basle around the time of the First World War. This was the beginning of an intimate friendship and a deeply harmonious intellectual and spiritual relationship that was to last a lifetime.

Burckhardt was for many years the artistic director of Urs Graf Verlag, a publishing house of Lausanne and Olten. His main activity during this period was the production and publication of a whole series of facsimiles of exquisite illuminated medieval manuscripts, especially early Celtic manuscripts of the Gospels, such as the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow (from Trinity College, Dublin) and the Book of Lindisfarne (from the British Library, London). This was pioneer work of the highest quality and a publishing achievement which immediately received wide acclaim both from experts and the wider public. At the same time, however, articles and books from Burckhardt's own pen were being published, those which have established him as one of the foremost writers of the perennialist school.

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From the Preface

The purpose of the present work is to evoke as authentically as possible the spiritual climate in which the Gothic cathedral was born, and to do so by allowing contemporary witnesses to speak for themselves--rather in the manner of my earlier book Siena, City of the Virgin. My aim here is to show how the Gothic cathedral was the final fruit to ripen on the tree of an ancient tradition. Since Chartres cathedral was the first 'classical' cathedral in the Gothic style, I have made it the object of my study.

From the standpoint of the agitated and over-cerebral age in which we live, medieval men often seem naive, child-like, and untouched by psychological uncertainty, and this can mislead us into thinking that they were less reflective and more instinctive than ourselves. In reality, however, their actions were inspired by a vision or an idea--namely, the spiritual meaning of life--to a much greater extent than in the case of modern man. It was precisely because they lived for a timeless truth that their love and their creative joy gave rise to that undivided strength which we see and admire in their productions. As has been said, they were closer both to Heaven and to earth than are we.

In modern man, generally speaking, it is the exact opposite: his motivation is chiefly sentiment, in the service of which a whole apparatus of mental activity, theories and 'ideologies' is brought into play. On the surface, the operation of mind and brain is highly visible, but underneath the motivating factor is individual or collective passion. To put it another way: in traditional artists, it is the element 'object' that determines the work, whereas in most modern artists, it is the element 'subject.'

To understand modern man, it may well be appropriate to study psychology; but one can only understand medieval man if one is aware of his highest aims and aspirations, and if one perceives how and to what extent his ideas symbolically express that which is universally and eternally true.

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Titus Burckhardt
Published by World Wisdom, Incorporated
ISBN 10: 0941532232 ISBN 13: 9780941532235
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