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Gothic Cathedrals:  History, Art, Places and Symbolism  by Karen Ralls, PhD

History, symbolism, and ancient and historic places continue to fascinate all over the world today.  Anyone  –  spiritually inclined or not –  can appreciate the art, beauty, and craftsmanship of ancient, historical, or sacred sites and their surrounding landscapes and gardens, those of an era gone by.

Enter the world of the High Middle Ages and explore the beauty, art, and intricate carvings of the Gothic cathedrals, stunning artistic achievements from medieval times for all to still see today. From bejewelled stained glass windows, stone and wood carvings, labyrinths and gardens, to journeys “on the road” to Compostela, the aesthetic wonders of Gothic architecture continue to inspire many worldwide.

From the 12th century, the dramatic new, cutting edge Gothic architectural style –  originally, often strongly disparaged by critics –  emphasized  incoming light and continued to spread like wildfire throughout Europe, so great were its effects.  Noted medievalist Dr. Karen Ralls explores the legacy of this exquisite architectural period, whose artistic beauty and expert craftsmanship have served for centuries to inspire feelings of joy and/or aesthetic wonder for many today from all walks of life, whether spiritually inclined or not.

Chapters address topics relating to Gothic architecture, geometry, and music;  the Feast of Fools and other festivals; music;  the daily uses, both secular and religious, of a medieval cathedral by all in the community;  the importance of craft guilds and those who built the cathedrals; gardens, labyrinths and mazes;  pilgrimages – secular and sacred;  Black Madonnas; astronomical calculations; East-West travels;  stone and wood carvings, gargoyles and grotesques;  the Green Man;  the seven Liberal Arts and sciences, debates about the philosophies of Pythagoras, Aristotle, the later Neo-Platonists, Heraclitus, and others;  the decline of the era of pilgrimage, and visiting Gothic sites today.

For the general reader and specialist alike, the author guides the reader through the history, places, art, and symbolism of these unique ‘stories in stone’, providing a lively portal and essential resource for all readers. Lavishly illustrated with color photographs throughout, Gothic Cathedrals includes appendices of the major European cathedral building dates and sites,  major Black Madonna shrines and pilgrimage sites, and an extensive Bibliography. It showcases the art, beauty, and symbolism found in Gothic cathedrals and Gothic secular buildings, many of which were often built upon earlier, sacred sites, and with a wealth of information about all of these related topics that will help readers today better understand, visit, and explore the history, art and symbolism of these Gothic-related sites and gardens, reconnect with the ancient past, and help foster more Interfaith and greater cross-cultural and multifaith understanding.

Anyone – spiritually inclined or not – can go ‘on the road’ and visit and appreciate the art, architecture, beauty, and cultural significance of these places in their time, and their related topics, further enhancing their own Quest in some way.   But most of all – enjoy the Journey!

Publisher:   Ibis Press /RedWheelWeiser Books, USA

Release date:  spring 2015,  in both print and e-book formats

373 pages,  lavishly illustrated w/colour photos throughout

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