August 24th, 2011

Gothic on the March

The truth about Gothic is, first, that it is alive, and second, that it is on the march. It is the Church Militant; it is the only fighting architecture. All its spires are spears at rest; and all its stones are stones asleep in a catapult. In that instant of illusion, I could hear the arches clash like swords as they crossed each other. The mighty and numberless columns seemed to go swinging by like the huge feet of imperial elephants. The graven foliage wreathed and blew like banners going into battle; the silence was deafening with ail the mingled noises of a military march; the great bell shook down, as the organ shook up its thunder. The thirsty-throated gargoyles shouted like trumpets from all the roofs and pinnacles as they passed; and from the lectern in the core of the cathedral the eagle of the awful evangelist clashed his wings of brass. 

And amid all the noises I seemed to hear the voice of a man shouting in the midst like one ordering regiments hither and thither in the fight; the voice of the great half-military master-builder; the architect of spears. I could almost fancy he wore armour while he made that church; and I knew indeed that, under a scriptural figure, he had borne in either hand the trowel and the sword. 

From the Architect of Spears by G. K. Chesterton


February 21st, 2011

Goodness is the relation of things to their final causes. Here again we get two meanings to one word. Goodness means that the final cause of a thing is what God wants it to be. A good man’s purpose is the same as God’s purpose for him. But goodness also means a congruence between what he himself wants and what he succeeds in achieving. A good building is one which has a good purpose, one congruent with the needs of man as God created him, and it is also one that fulfills its purpose whatever that purpose may be…

And what of beauty? Beauty is the radiance of perfection in a thing, a perfection which the mind may understand directly through the service of the senses. If a thing is what it should be, true and good, it will appear as it should, beautiful, to anyone who has a mind capable of receiving beauty… The beauty of architecture is a direct result of the truth and goodness of architecture. This is the meaning of Lethaby’s often misunderstood dictum that, given truth and goodness, beauty will look after herself.