Sunday, November 08, 2009

Learned Stone

An attitude similar to that of High Scholasticism must be presupposed in the builders of the High Gothic cathedrals. For these architects the great structures of the past had an auctoritas quite similar to that which the Fathers had for the schoolmen. Of two apparently contradictory motifs, both of them sanctioned by authority, one could not simply be rejected in favor of the other. They had to be worked through to the limit and they had to be reconciled in the end; much as a saying of St. Augustine had ultimately to be reconciled with one of St. Ambrose. And this, I believe, accounts to some extent for the apparently erratic yet stubbornly consistent evolution fo Early and High Gothic architecture; it, too, proceeded according to the scheme: videtur quod -- sed contra -- respondeo dicendum.

Erwin Panofsky, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism, Meridian (New York: 1957) pp. 69-70. This book, of course, is one of the two most famous of the Wimmer Lectures. Boniface Wimmer was the founder of the Benedictine Order in America and of Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, PA; the Lectures were founded in honor of him, and are often quite interesting. The other famous book that grew out of the Wimmer Lectures is Jacques Maritain's Man's Approach to God.

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