The Engineering of Medieval Cathedrals: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Engineering of Medieval Cathedrals

1st Edition


400 pages

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The great cathedrals and churches of the medieval West continue to awe. How were they built, and why do they remain standing? What did their builders know about what they were doing? These questions have given rise to considerable controversy, which is fully reflected in the papers selected here. The first section of the book is concerned with the medieval builders and their design methods; the second focuses on engineering issues in the context of the infamous collapse of the choir at Beauvais in 1284. The following papers extend the analysis into the 15th century, looking for example at Brunelleschi’s dome for Florence Cathedral, and deal with the often neglected structures of roofs, towers and spires.


’Buy it while you can.’ The Structural Engineer, Vol. 76, Nos. 23 & 24 'The aim of Ashgate's twelve volume series is to bring together collections of important papers on particular topics from scholarly journals, conference proceedings and other hard-to-access sources. This is a wholly laudable objective. Some of the papers in the volume under review [The Civil Engineering of Canals and Railways before 1850] cannot be found even in abundantly-resourced academic libraries. The series opens up, directly or indirectly, debates over the nature of historical evidence which arise from the profoundly different approaches to the past of historians of technology, whose works are principally represented in these volumes, industrial archaeologists and social and economic historians.' Industrial Archaeology Review, Vol. XXI, No. 1

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Robert Willis, Viollet-le-Duc and the structural approach to Gothic architecture, R. Mark; On the rubber vaults of the Middle Ages and other matters, J. Heyman; The geometrical knowledge of medieval master masons, Lon R. Shelby; Villard de Honnecourt, Reims, and the origin of gothic architectural drawing, R. Branner; The tracing floor of York Minster, J.H. Harvey; Late gothic structural design in ’instructions’ of Lorenz Lechler, Lon R. Shelby and R. Mark; The ground plan of Norwich Cathedral and the square root of two, Eric Fernie; The stonework planning of the first Durham master, J.Bony; Archaeology and engineering: the foundations of Amiens Cathedral, S. Bonde, C. Maines, and R. Mark; The collapse of 1284 at Beauvais Cathedral, S. Murray; Beauvais Cathedral, J. Heyman; The structural behaviour of medieval ribbed vaulting, K.D. Alexander, R. Mark and J.F. Abel; Fan vaulting, Walter C.Leedy Jr.; Ars mecanica: gothic structure in Italy, Elizabeth B. Smith; Brunelleschi’s dome of S. Maria del Fiore and some related structures, R. Mainstone; A comment on the function of the upper flying buttress in French gothic architecture, J. F. Fitchen; The high roofs of the east end of Lincoln Cathedral, N.D.J. Foot, C.D. Litton and W.G. Simpson; Viollet-le-Duc and the flèche of Notre-Dame de Paris: gothic carpentry of the 13th and 19th centuries, L. Courtenay; Building the tower and spire of Salisbury Cathedral, Tim Tatton-Brown; Index.

About the Series

Studies in the History of Civil Engineering

From dams to cathedrals, from water supply to transport systems, and from land drainage to the design and construction of ever larger and more monumental buildings, the impact of civil engineering on human history has been immense. This series sets out to examine key aspects of its history, from antiquity to the early 20th century.

Studies in the History of Civil Engineering focuses on the following areas: the analysis of early structures to discover how ancient or medieval builders used the materials available to them, and the principles upon which they worked; the ideas and practices of design as employed by both engineers and architects; the development of new materials and techniques, from wooden trusses to cast iron and concrete; the investigation of the great engineering projects that began to burgeon with the 18th century, first in Britain, then elsewhere, underpinned by advances in science which provided a new theoretical framework upon which to base the engineering.

These volumes reveal the implications for the history of architecture of choices of material, technique and structure. They aim also to reflect the political and economic constraints which so often shaped what could be achieved, and the inter-relationship between the history of civil engineering and economic history: the engineering was both stimulated by, and made possible the spread of industrialization.

Not least, the series is concerned to examine the lives, attitudes and careers of the men who emerged to form the new profession of the engineer. Studies in the History of Civil Engineering comprises 12 volumes. Each focuses on a particular topic, edited by an expert in that field. They reprint a selection of papers which have proved of particular importance, and which exemplify the current state of knowledge and the historiography. Originally published in wide range of scholarly journals, conference proceedings and the like, many hard to consult, these papers are now reprinted together under hard covers, making them readily accessible, even for non-specialists. Each volume opens with a substantial new introduction by the editor, to assess the field and place the papers in their context, and is fully indexed. The series constitutes an authoritative reference library, not just for those interested in the history of civil engineering, but also those studying economic history and the history of science and, above all, of architecture.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General