Gothic Cathedrals

Gothic Cathedrals

Gothic Cathedrals:
A Guide to the History, Places, Art, and Symbolism
By Karen Ralls, PhD

CLICK HERE TO ORDER from Red Wheel/Weiser.

• An accessible and inspiring exploration of the evolution of Western culture, religion, and spirituality
• A copiously illustrated, full-color survey of the remarkable architectural wonders of medieval Gothic construction, stained glass technology, and sculptures in wood and stone
• A historical study of the centrality of the cathedral in the organization of medieval social, religious, and communal life
• An analysis of the religious and cultural significance of the medieval concept of Pilgrimage

From the 12th century through the 16th centuries, the Gothic architectural style spread throughout Europe. Several hundred churches and other public buildings were built, many of which stand to this day. This continent-wide long-sustained activity had profound effects on the social development of medieval Europe, paving the way for its evolution away from the feudal system that had dominated during the earlier Middle Ages. Guilds of architects, artisans, and specialized laborers developed from the interaction they shared—encouraging the building of communities outside the feudal constructs of manor and village living.

Gothic architecture left its legacy of meticulous building techniques and the infusion of illuminating interior space through extensive use of stained glass. Its design criteria convey a palpable awareness of the vast power of time and place.

Famed medievalist Dr. Karen Ralls explores the legacy of this exquisite architectural period, whose artistic beauty and expert craftsmanship have served for centuries to inspire feelings of spiritual reverence and aesthetic wonder. Religious devotees, pilgrims, artists, scholars, and craftspeople have marvelled at the interweaving of mathematical mastery and skilled workmanship in these magnificent edifices.

The author details the relationship between architecture, sacred geometry, and music. She ties in the birth of the architectural secrets learned by the Knights Templar during the Crusades and suggests a link to the establishment of the Masonic fraternity and other esoteric orders. Dr. Ralls explores the concept of the Labyrinth; the evolution of the European educational system and its embrace of the Liberal Arts; the sacred pilgrimage and the importance of the cults of the Virgin Mary and St. Mary Magdalene; the use of astronomical calculations in the design, orientation, and location of medieval cathedrals; the embrace of the teachings of Pythagoras, classical Greek philosophers, and the later Neo-Platonists. She highlights the associated mystic and spiritual symbolism found in these structures, as well as the concept of these centers functioning as healing shrines. And she provides information to help modern readers visit these sites and share in the energy of the Sacred they continue to radiate.

About the Author

Karen Ralls, PhD, is the author of Medieval Mysteries: A Guide to History, Lore, Places, and Symbolism from Ibis Press. She is a renowned medieval historian who obtained her doctorate from the University of Edinburgh, remained there for six years as a Lecturer, and became the Deputy Curator of the Rosslyn Chapel Museum art exhibition (1996-2001). She now lives in Oxford, England. She has appeared in TV documentaries for The History Channel, Discovery, and National Geographic, and has completed a specialist Medieval and Renaissance art history course at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Dr. Ralls is an international conference speaker, sacred sites tour guide, musician (flute, harp), and workshop presenter. She is the author of The Templars and the Grail; The Knights Templar Encyclopedia; Music and the Celtic Otherworld; and Quest for the Celtic Key. Visit the her award-winning website at

Ibis Press
ISBN: 978-0-89254-173-7
Ebook: 978-0-89254-627-5
Sewn Paperback
7 x 10 • 384 pages
Full color throughout, and black & white photographs
Rights: Nicholas Hays, Inc.
Market: World
Author residence: UK
Season: March 2015
CLICK HERE TO ORDER from Red Wheel/Weiser.



Gothic Cathedrals