There’s a fantastic special running on PBS’s NOVA series that details the incredible feats of architectural innovation behind some of Europe’s greatest cathedrals. This special focuses specifically on the stone mason’s challenge in building incredibly tall (reaching to the heavens), strong (everlasting), and graceful (wide internal space) monuments to their beliefs.
The problem these masters faced was that they were stuck using the exact same skills, tools, and materials that builders had used for years to build big, bulky, and tightly packed castles.
At the time these cathedral architects were in direct competition with each other to cement their legacy (pun intended). Each wanted to be known as the artist behind the most elaborate and beautiful of these buildings. Yet it wasn’t simply about who had the best design or who could work the hardest. What these early builders were trying to do had never been done before. They had to find innovative solutions to problems that one had ever tried to tackle with stone. They had the near impossible task of building enormous, beautiful, and safe “bubbles” out of rocks.