In the twelfth century, Christians in Europe began to build a completely new kind of church - not the squat, gloomy buildings we now call Romanesque, but soaring, spacious monuments flooded with light from immense windows. These were the first Gothic churches, the crowning example of which was the cathedral of Chartres, an unparalleled feat of craftsmanship in which all the elements of the new style cohered perfectly for the first time. It marked a profound change in the social, intellectual and theological climate of Western Christendom. It also posed enormous challenges to the master builders and masons whose task it was to make these vast masses of stone seem airy and weightless.
In Universe of Stone, Philip Ball explains the genesis and development of the Gothic style. He argues that it signified a new way of looking at God and the universe, as well as humanity's relationship with them. Informed by the rediscovery of texts from the ancient world, philosophers began to question old certainties about God's power and plan for mankind. This was the beginning of the argument between faith and reason, and of a scientific view of the world that threatened to dispense with God altogether.
Universe of Stone establishes Chartres Cathedral's iconic role in Europe's history: a revolution in thought embodied in stone and glass, a philosophy made concrete through the cooperation of theologians, craftsmen and engineers. It shows us that there are other ways of seeing the world and reveals, as never before, the complex workings of the medieval mind.