Gothic Cathedrals

Fall 2017, Fall 2016, Fall 2015, Fall 2014, Fall 2012

ARTHIST 225-01 & 225-01L | MEDREN 215-01

Current Instructor: Edward Triplett

Past Instructor: Caroline Bruzelius

Fall 2017: TTh 11:45am-1:00pm | Perkins LINK 072 (Classroom 6)

In this course, students work in teams of 3 to create a fictional cathedral. They write a narrative and propose a program for the decoration (stained glass and portals) and architecture (ground plan, elevation, section and façade) of a cathedral situated in a specific place and time. The historical narrative begins with the Christianization of the site, and must consider access to supplies of wood and stone (students study geological maps). The fictional cathedral also needs to be located near roads, ports, or rivers in order to provide the economic basis for the project. All proposals include fictional budgets (income and expenditures) as well as an outline for the organization of the labor force.

The “master builders” in this class learn a computer-design program (AutoCad) to produce their cathedral plans and drawings appropriate in style and structure to the date and place chosen by the group. Projects are presented to a jury at the end of the semester and prizes are awarded for teamwork, project quality, and originality.

The Mendicant Revolution

Fall 2012, Fall 2014

Caroline Bruzelius


This course examines the impact of two new religious orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans (mendicant friars), on cities, architecture, literature, painting and sculpture.

In the early 13th century, two men, Francis and Dominic, started religious movements that had a profound impact on the world. Although their institutions were different in many ways, they shared some common goals: outreach to the public through public sermons aimed at converting heretics, a spiritual vocation dedicated to imitating the poverty of Christ and the Apostles, and a focus on people living in cities. This became a profoundly urban movement, engaging with laymen in the public spaces of cities (squares, piazzas, markets) as well as in the private spaces of homes. Because of their public role, friars became immensely popular and influenced many aspects of late medieval life. Their use of imagery in painting and sculpture initiated new trends in the representation of sacred themes, for example. The importance of sermons as a mode of outreach to the public led to the invention of new types of texts, such as concordances, popularizing saint’s lives. They created a new type of urban convent for their communities that were often flanked by public piazzas for preaching.