Researcher ORCID Identifier


Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

George Gorse

Reader 2

Chanchal Dadlani

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By examining the histories of the Notre-Dame and Chartres cathedrals, I will consider three academic schools of thought regarding the high Gothic Cathedrals: the balanced and rational feat of engineering, the communal and social rituals that bond humans to this space, and the iconographic manifestation of the supernatural. Functionalist engineering paradoxically lays at the heart of these cathedrals' capacity to open the human consciousness to the sacred by using recurrent symbolic patterns from nature, music and mathematics to create divine ratios that transport us. Integrated into these larger architectural designs the repeating visual patterns exalting both biblical and supernatural icons further bridges and opens the worlds of the sacred and the mystical to congregations past and present. And finally, the divinely sanctioned code imposed by the church, and backed by the king’s court in 1193, to lift taxation within the cloisters for merchants, tradesmen and serfs enhanced the power of the divine in daily secular life. These three approaches reveal different ways that one is able to experience these sacred spaces and allow us to imagine how the universe was known to humans in the Middle Ages.