Scholasticism in Religious Architecture

Matt Pearson Professor Ansell Humanities 201 5 August 2013 Scholasticism in Religious Architecture “Sacred architecture is not, a ‘free’ art, developed from ‘feelings’ and ‘sentiment’, but it is an art strictly tied by and developed from the laws of geometry” (Schneider). This is a governing principle behind the architecture and stained-glass images in Chartres Cathedral: the building wasn’t Just built without a plan or the art didn’t Just happen, it is a systematic creation using geometry (Crossly 232). Scholasticism is the main contributor to the use of geometry to organize how the Cathedral was built.
Briefly described, scholasticism is taking events, concepts, or miracles, that we can’t understand, and organizing a structured argument to provide an explanation. In the Chartres Cathedral, the architecture and art not only display sacred religious events and scenes from the Bible, but also secular events, such as everyday chores like farming or cleaning. There is clearly a union trying to be made here between things of this earthly world – science, philosophy, reason – and things that go beyond the earthly world – faith, theology, revelation.
This is where scholasticism is found, cause it organizes events and understanding to find God in the secular and sacred. In Chartres Cathedral, the building as a whole is meant to take us from the corruption of this world and into the presence of God, which embodies light. There is great detail in each stained-glass window, specifically in the exactness of the geometry and also in the Biblical stories they portray, which again point us to God, and also show how scholasticism has helped shape the organized design behind many things in the Cathedral. Scholasticism is a “term used to designate both a method and a system.

It is applied to theology as well as to philosophy’ (Turner). Historically, it came from early Christian institutions. They would have someone as the head of the school that would act as the philosopher or theologian to help carry out the method of dialectical teaching to the students. This is done in an attempt to put understanding and reason to mysteries like science and faith or reason and revelation, and how these conflicting pairs can exist together. Not only can these opposites exist, but they “must harmonize” together to form greater understanding (Turner). SST. Thomas
Aquinas was one of the greatest Scholastics of his time. He was monumental in bridging the gap between theology and philosophy by his reasoning that “God is the author of all truth, and it is impossible to think that He would teach in the natural order anything that contradicts what He teaches in the supernatural order” (Turner). A structure, as grand as the Chartres Cathedral, introduces an interesting paradox for religious and secular views, because the architects “however much directed towards the glory of God, still turned man’s eyes elsewhere and diverted elsewhere he wealth he could have put to better purpose” (Affair 55).
This meaner that the architects were trying to turn people’s hearts and minds to God, but, in an attempt to do so, they were expending vast amounts of resources on secular architecture. They wanted to build a place that would mentally take you from this world and into God’s world. This concept is easily seen as people enter the doors of the Cathedral and see all the light that is coming in through the stained-glass windows at all times of the day. These windows truly illuminate the building and allow the participants to feel God or light.
The Cathedral also was a place for people to make their religious pilgrimages and would aid them in their search for God. Many of the stained-glass windows show events of Chrism’s ministry, but for the sake of exploring scholasticism and its relation to Chartres Cathedral, we are going to focus on Just two windows: The Tree of Jesse and the Rose Window. The Tree of Jesse shows “Chrism’s royal genealogy [rising] up from Jesse, who lies at the bottom of the window, to Christ, who sits enthroned at the summit” (Preach 42). The window is a column of squares made up of smaller rectangles.
In each square is figure and a continuation of the tree stemming from Jesses frame, which represents the continued line from Jesse to Christ and how Christ is born an heir to the king because of the unbroken chain. At Chrism’s feet sits Mary, and around both of them are seven doves, which represent the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, “the gift of wisdom… The gift of understanding… The gift of counsel… The gift of fortitude… The gift of knowledge… The gift of fear of the Lord… The gift of Reverence” (Aquinas).
Having Christ, Mary, and the doves all together at the top also represents something else, the double personality of Christ, human through His lineage, divine through His union with the Holy Spirit” (Preach 44). The miracle of Chrism’s birth can’t be explained through science, because of Mary and the Immaculate Conception, but some understanding is given to Chrism’s lineage through the structure of the window. It shows Christ is connected to being a King through Mary, or God, and through Jesse, who was an earthly king. The organized structure shows the use of scholasticism, because of its push for organization to explain miraculous events.
A main contributor to scholasticism is SST. Thomas Aquinas and his text Sum Theological. One argument he presented was “The Life of God” and “Whether all things in God are life? ” (Aquinas). He takes all the objections he can find to the question he has asked. He will then make a “response” or an explanation to every objection to explain the initial question being asked. This is a very structured procedure, but it is seen in “The Tree of Jesse” window, because it addresses the concern, is Christ really God and is He an earthly and heavenly king.
It then takes each objection and finds a response: Christ is an earthly king because of his genealogical connection to Jesse, ND Christ is a heavenly king, because of his miraculous or immaculate conception by the Holy Ghost, through his virgin mother, Mary. The Rose Window is actually in two places in Chartres Cathedral on the south and north walls. The Rose on the south transept has Christ at the center, surrounded by apostles. Below the Rose Window are five “lancet” windows, which have, from left to right, Isaiah, Daniel, Virgin Mary holding Christ as an infant, Ezekiel, Jeremiah (Affair 90).
This is to surround Mary with the “four great prophets” (Preach 89). On their shoulders sit the “Evangelists,” Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke, which symbolizes their role in proclaiming Chrism’s birth and divinity. The Rose itself symbolized beauty and perfection, which represents Mary as a fair virgin and also Christ as the only perfect human. The Rose symbolism is only strengthened by the presence of these stained glass windows that surround the rose. To give an example, in one of the medallion windows that surround the center of the rose, “Mary, is exalted as Queen of Heaven… He is seated on a throne and holds a scepter” (Preach 93). The Rose on the north transept has SST. Anne holding Mary at the center. This is a unique image, because now it isn’t Christ who is the infant, but it is Mary and she is “in the arms of her mother Anne, the person who establishes the genealogical link with the Old Testament” (Preach 93). This shows us the importance of Mary in all of Christianity. Below the Rose are five more “lancet” windows, like on the south side, except these stained-glass windows have different images, which are, from left to right, Milkweed, David, SST.
Anne holding Mary as an infant, Solomon, and Aaron (Affair 91). Anne is “surrounded by the most famous of the ancient kings” which show how important Anne is and the oracle that came from her (Preach 93). All of this detail and organization in both Rose Windows shows scholastic thought, because, as mentioned before, Chrism’s birth and conception is an unexplainable miracle, but guiding our train of thought with these images helps to explain the miracle. There is one more detail in the Rose that really cements scholasticism in the Cathedral, it is the process to create the Rose.
First, a process is carried out to find twelve evenly spaced spaces around a circle. Second, a star with twelve points is drawn in the middle, every line being exactly the name length. At the base of each point, close to the center, twelve equal circles are made. Another star with twelve points is then drawn inside the bigger star, once again each line being the same length. A circle is made around the inner star and in the center of this circle is where Christ is placed in one window and Anne and Mary are placed in the other window.
The precision that is used reflects the scholastic procedure Thomas Aquinas uses. Great care and concern are taken to create the desired result and to give an explanation too miracle. Thomas Aquinas used this teeth in writing to explain the miracle of God and the Rose Windows use this method in imagery and biblical symbolism to explain the miracle of Christ and Mary. Thus, we can see that Chartres Cathedral has Biblical symbolism in the stained-glass windows and scholasticism is used within these windows as the organization.
Chartres Cathedral is built in great geometric precision to take people’s thoughts from this world into God’s world (Crossly 233). Through the geometric precision, scholasticism is very present. Scholasticism is found in the Stem of Jesse by the organizational structure used to present the explanation of Chrism’s divine birth. This is a miracle that can’t simply be explained, but the Stem of Jesse window systematically takes us from Jesse to Mary and then to Christ to explain the miracle.
Scholasticism is also found in the Rose Windows in the precise geometric construction and also in the images that are shown. The conception of Christ is a miracle, but the different images show how it can be explained. In all of these Biblical events and miracles, scholasticism creates an organized way to understanding them. Works Cited Aquinas, Thomas. Sum Theological. Kevin Knight, 2008. New Advent. Web. 6 August 2013. Crossly, Paul. Rhetoric Beyond Words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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