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Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres by Henry…

Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (1905)

by Henry Adams, Henry Adams

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Mr. Adams was a descendant of the Adamses of Massachusetts and could afford the travel necessary to write this description of two medieval masterpieces for the American public. Both studies have since been replaced by modern analyses of the their functions, but the initial work has charms. The style is literate, and not condescending. He is a keen observer of the sites, and meditates on them with a sensibility formed by the popular attitudes of the later nineteenth century, the mindset that created the arthuriana of Howard Pyle and many faux-medieval country houses. Restful to read as an artefact. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Dec 20, 2013 |
Someof the imagery in this was far-fetched, I thoght. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jul 23, 2013 |
This is a fascinating description and analysis not only of mediæval architecture but of twelfth and thirteenth century Western society, culture, and values and their connection to their history and their neighbours. A very civilised book.
  Fledgist | Nov 24, 2012 |
Capsule review:: I should have read this ages ago. If you're interested in the Middle Ages, do not delay. Read it now!

In more depth: Set up as an architectural tour of the early Gothic cathedrals of northern France, this is in actuality a meditation on the medieval mind, ranging through the politics, the literature, the architecture and the theological disputes of the 11th through the 13th centuries. Anyone interested in the history of medieval France or England, in Gothic architecture, in medieval romances, in courtly love, or in medieval Catholicism will find much food for thought here.

While Adams displays a deep romanticism about the middle ages, he is also very much a modern (dare I say, neo-pagan) person who made me feel grateful that I live when I live.

In addition, he is a wonderful writer: humorous, eclectic, as well as knowing when enough information is enough. I found this book a joy to read and look forward to rereading sections from time to time as the mood strikes me.

A couple of caveats: The pictures in the original 1904 text are next to useless. I had to buy an entirely separate book on French cathedrals to admire all the detail Adams described. (Not that the word pictures aren't sufficient to get the points that he is making, but he does make you want to see it for yourself.)

Second, the windows of Chartres have been cleaned since Adams' writing and the building historians found out that all the 19th century nattering about the blues in the stained glass were a result of 19th century people looking at the glass covered by centuries of air pollution and had nothing to do with the original artist's conceptions. ( )
1 vote aulsmith | Jun 18, 2012 |
Although I love cathedrals and own several books on cathedrals, I chose this book for its literary value. The book was quite well written, but it really didn't do much for me. The first half of the book described the architecture of Mont Saint Michel and Chartres. The second half began to explain why the cathedrals were build, but surprisingly for me, it was from a religious point of view. Adams would say - this part of the cathedral was designed in this way because that was how Mary wanted it. That section didn't really work for me. The latter quarter of the book got into the philisophy of some of the Church leaders at the time the cathedrals were build. That became a little more interesting, but again, not really what I was expecting fromt he book. ( )
  pickwick817 | Dec 29, 2009 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Henry Adamsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Adams, Henrymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Carney, RaymondIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chamberlain, SamuelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cram, Ralph AdamsIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Samuels, ErnestIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140390545, Paperback)

Mont Saint Michel and Chartres is a record not of a literal jouney but of a meditative journey across time and space into the medieval imagination. Using the architecture, sculpture, and stained glass of the two locales as a starting point, Adams breathes life into what others might see merely as monuments of a past civilization. With daring and inventive conceits, Adams looks at the ordinary people, places, and events in the context of the social conventions and systems of thought and belief of the thirteenth century turning the study of history into a kind of theater.

As Raymond Carney discusses in his introduction, Adams' freeedom from the European traditions of study lends an exuberance—and puckish wit—to his writings.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:11 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Privately printed in 1904 for the delectation of his nieces (and commercially published in 1913), this extended essay by Adams is an amalgam of history, travel, and poetry celebrating--and mourning the loss of--the unity of medieval society as captured in these two great French cathedrals.… (more)

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