The Cathedral

Course No. 7868
Professor William R. Cook, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo
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Course No. 7868
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Course Overview

To step inside a Gothic cathedral is to step inside the visual essence of the Christian faith—a world filled with vaulted ceilings that direct the visitor's gaze toward heaven, stone sculptures that bring to life both the blessings of salvation and the horrors of damnation, and stained glass windows that illustrate powerful religious stories in dazzling bursts of color.

Since the Christianization of Europe in the 4th century, cathedrals have served as

  • centers of ecclesiastical authority;
  • marvels of architectural genius and innovation;
  • places to instruct communities about cherished Christian values and lessons, and
  • sites of political, cultural, intellectual, and economic importance.

Whether they're located in the heart of a major city or on the outskirts of a rural town, cathedrals possess a spiritual, artistic, and historical grandeur that deserves to be experienced and felt by Christians and non-Christians alike. But rather than traveling around the world to get just a cursory, ground-level glimpse of their greatness, bring these captivating buildings—in their entirety—right into your own home with The Cathedral.

In this course, noted medieval historian and award-winning Professor William R. Cook has crafted an exciting, immersive, and multidimensional experience that will bring you closer to cathedrals like Notre Dame in Paris and those in Amiens, Chartres, and Canterbury than any on-site tour could hope to do. These 24 lavishly illustrated lectures make use of high-definition 3-D modeling and imagery to not just show you the world's great Gothic cathedrals, but to take you around and inside them, revealing new perspectives you can't enjoy anywhere else.

Explore the Evolution of the Cathedral

Of all architectural styles, the Gothic style is the most successful, the most prevalent, the most iconic, and the most closely associated with these magnificent buildings. Picture a random cathedral in your mind, and what you conjure up undoubtedly bears some resemblance, in look and feel, to a Gothic cathedral.

And while you can find Gothic cathedrals throughout the world, there's no better place to witness their glory than in the cities and towns of France, as well as in other European countries, including Germany, Italy, and England. It's only in this part of the world that you can witness the birth and development of these architectural wonders—and the reason Professor Cook has made Europe's Gothic cathedrals the focus of his course.

As you follow the fascinating story of how the Gothic cathedral evolved, you'll get a keen look at each of the major stages of Gothic architecture.

  • Romanesque: The roots of Gothic cathedrals lie in the Romanesque style, a catchall term to describe a range of Roman-influenced styles that developed in the 11th and 12th centuries and that can be found in cathedrals such as Saint-Lazare in Autun, France.
  • Early Gothic: Early Gothic cathedrals, such as Notre Dame in Paris, blended traditional Romanesque elements with a new aesthetic that included experimental features such as large rose windows and six-part ribbed vaulted ceilings.
  • High Gothic: The Gothic style reached the apex of engineering and artistry with Chartres Cathedral, which features dramatically sculpted portals, facade towers, and the extensive use of flying buttresses for added support.
  • Late Gothic: During the 14th and 15th centuries, many cathedrals and churches were finished or remodeled in a more "flamboyant" decorative style, reflected in everything from stonework to sculpture to stained glass windows.
  • Neo-Gothic: There was a great revival in the 19th and 20th centuries that blended Gothic elements with more modern architectural styles. One of today's most famous neo-Gothic cathedrals is the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York.

You'll also get a chance to find answers to a range of questions:

  • Who built the first cathedrals? Why? How?
  • What makes a cathedral Gothic and not something else?
  • What are the symbolic and structural purposes of vaulted ceilings, flying buttresses, archivolts, jamb statues, and other parts of a cathedral?
  • How are these buildings meant to be experienced by the people for whom they were originally built?

Tour the World's Greatest Cathedrals

The heart of The Cathedral lies in the sweeping tours of the buildings themselves. With the eye-popping technology featured in these lectures, you'll be able to travel from the deepest crypt to the tallest tower, viewing these buildings from angles and vantage points no tour can offer.

Here are some of the great Gothic cathedrals you'll explore in depth in these lectures.

  • Notre Dame in Paris: With its famous facade and its iconic status as one of the world's foremost cathedrals, Notre Dame has been remodeled more often than any other cathedral (most notably after the French Revolution). With an estimated length of 400 feet, the cathedral features an innovative double-aisled nave and soaring vaults that make it a breathtaking sight—despite its surprisingly dark interior.
  • Chartres Cathedral: Equally as important as Notre Dame in Paris, this cathedral set the architectural standard for French cathedrals built after the late 12th century. Professor Cook devotes three lectures to this impressive cathedral, providing you with fascinating looks at many aspects of its brilliance, including its basement crypt (the largest of any Gothic cathedral), its three richly sculpted portals, and its jaw-dropping windows (nearly all of which contain stained glass from the 12th and 13th centuries).
  • Amiens Cathedral: It's at Amiens Cathedral where one truly sees the full splendor and the limits of Gothic engineering and construction. Professor Cook's favorite cathedral, this cathedral was (rather unusually) built from west to east. As a result, the different ends of the cathedral offer you a true lesson in the development of the Gothic style.
  • Reims Cathedral: The cathedral at Reims is closely tied to the country's history, having served as the location for more than 800 years' worth of coronations and having survived German bombardment during World War I. One of the many aspects of this building you'll learn about are its more than 2,000 statues—some small, some terrifying, and some among the most important in all of medieval sculpture.

While you focus on these and other French cathedrals, you'll get a chance to visit those from other European countries as well, including York Cathedral, the Cathedral of Cologne, and the Cathedral of Siena. You'll also get glimpses of less familiar Gothic cathedrals outside of Europe, in countries like China, Mexico, and the United States. Among these: the Dominican Republic's Santo Domingo (the oldest cathedral in the New World) and Washington, DC's National Cathedral (which incorporates distinctive American elements into its decoration).

An Immersive, Insightful Learning Experience

Of course, it's one thing to learn about all these cathedrals, but to actually tour them all would be extremely expensive. Yet with its extensive 3-D tours, The Cathedral is the perfect and affordable way to visit and explore the world's great Gothic cathedrals—whether you simply want to take an armchair tour of these masterpieces, whether you want to prepare for cathedrals you may visit on an upcoming trip, or whether you just want to learn more about this sometimes mysterious, always intriguing art form.

Yet as dynamic as the visuals are, every single lecture is rooted in the detailed scholarship and fascinating insights of Professor Cook himself. A lifelong scholar of cathedrals, he's traveled the world to learn about these magnificent structures. And every lecture is a way for him to share, with the characteristic passion and engagement that have made him one of our most popular professors, his comprehensive knowledge of cathedrals: how they're built, how they've evolved, and what they mean to people both in the past and today.

So embark on an unforgettable experience with The Cathedral. Dynamic, comprehensive, and immersive, it's a Great Course that will finally illuminate these powerful buildings—their intricate structures, their hidden secrets, and their undeniable importance to art, faith, and history.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    What Is a Cathedral?
    Start your tour of great Gothic cathedrals with this introductory lecture. Discover the important role these buildings play in both spirituality and society, and learn how their origins lie in the 1st century A.D. with the emergence of the office of the bishop, whose throne is known as a "cathedra." x
  • 2
    Early Christian Architecture
    Go back to the 4th century A.D, when Christians first began to erect large buildings for public worship. Taking you to the dawn of the 11th century, Professor Cook leads you through the most important examples of surviving ecclesiastical buildings from this period, including Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and the Hagia Sophia in modern-day Istanbul. x
  • 3
    Romanesque—A New Monumental Style
    By 1100, many churches in western Europe were built using a range of local styles, all of which in some manner hearkened back to classical Roman forms. Here, explore the development of the Romanesque style and survey impressive examples of Romanesque cathedrals in France, Germany, Italy, and England. x
  • 4
    Vaulting—A Look at Roofs
    What's the best way to build a church's ceiling? This lecture takes you through the evolution of church roofs—from flat wood ceilings to stone barrel vaults to magnificent ribbed vaulting. Without these developments, you'll discover, there could have been no Gothic cathedrals. x
  • 5
    Romanesque at Its Best
    Sainte Foy in Conques. Saint Mary Magdalene in Vézelay. Saint-Lazare at Autun. Focus on these three French churches as definitive examples of Romanesque style and decoration. In particular, investigate how sculptural masterpieces on columns and over entrances rendered biblical stories into simple, visually arresting messages to instruct the faithful. x
  • 6
    Saint-Denis and the Beginning of Gothic Style
    Scholars agree that the first Gothic building in history is the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis, located outside of Paris. After learning about this building's role in French history, tour the building's facade and interior, noting in particular the ribbed and pointed vaults, large stained glass windows, and extraordinary infusion of sunlight. x
  • 7
    The Urban Context of Cathedrals
    Place the power of cathedrals in a more urban context as you explore the factors that led to the widespread reemergence of cities as the religious centers of Europe. Then, take a brief look at three "experimental" Gothic cathedrals in northern France: Sens, Senlis, and Noyon. x
  • 8
    Notre Dame in Paris
    In the first of two lectures on early Gothic cathedrals, focus on perhaps the most famous cathedral in the world: Notre Dame in Paris. Gain new insights into how this magnificent building was created and learn the importance of features from its justly famous facade to its dramatic flying buttresses. x
  • 9
    Early Gothic Style—Laon
    Located in a much smaller town, the Cathedral of Laon is a quite different Gothic experiment than Notre Dame—but just as fascinating. Learn what's so unusual about the style, substance, and placement of the three arches on its facade, the statues of oxen on top of its towers, and more. x
  • 10
    Chartres—The Building
    Notre Dame de Chartres is perhaps the most influential Gothic cathedral—so influential that Professor Cook devotes three lectures to exploring it. In the first, focus on the building itself, including its systematic use of flying buttresses, groundbreaking three-layered elevation, and rich interplay between verticals and horizontals. x
  • 11
    Chartres—The Sculpture
    Continue your virtual tour of Notre Dame de Chartres with a closer look at the cathedral's three porches, whose sculpted portals contain the largest collection of statuary of any Gothic cathedral. With their precise details, hidden narratives, and coordinating themes, these sculptures teach, inspire, and even evoke fear. x
  • 12
    Chartres—The Windows
    Professor Cook concludes his in-depth look at Chartres with a handsomely illustrated lecture on its famous stained glass windows, as well as a description of how these brilliant works of art are created. Of the 175 glass windows in the cathedral, about 150 of them contain their original medieval glass. x
  • 13
    Amiens—The Limits of Height
    Enormous. Soaring. Awe-inspiring. Find out why the Cathedral of Amiens—Professor Cook's favorite cathedral—deserves these and other titles by surveying the structure of the building and its dizzying heights. It's a chance to find out why Amiens takes visitors to the limits of what a Gothic building can do. x
  • 14
    Amiens—The Facade
    The front of the Cathedral of Amiens is the single greatest sculptural display in all of Gothic decoration. Here, make sense of the complexities and details of the cathedral's facade by approaching its larger-than-life sculptures from the point of view of the 13th-century people for whom they were built. x
  • 15
    Reims—The Royal Cathedral
    Another of France's most beautiful—and important—cathedrals is located in the city of Reims. Survey the building's long and dramatic history, from the time of Joan of Arc to the bombardments of World War I, and look closely at examples from its statues, spires, and stained glass windows. x
  • 16
    Cathedrals—Who Builds? Who Pays? How Long?
    You've witnessed the majesty of some of Europe's great cathedrals. But how on earth were they actually built? This lecture separates myth from reality, using models, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass windows, and other sources to reveal the technical process of creating impressive buildings that would inspire millions. x
  • 17
    New Developments in Gothic France
    Using the abbey of Saint—Denis; the cathedrals at Bourges, Troyes, and Beauvais; and the chapel of Saint Chapelle as case studies, examine the progression in the Gothic style that took place during the late 13th century. Among these are advanced buttressing systems, even higher vaults, and the addition of still more windows. x
  • 18
    Late Gothic Churches in France
    Witness the evolution of Gothic architecture in the 14th, 15th, and early 16th centuries. Looking closely at a series of French cathedrals, abbeys, and churches, you'll find powerful examples of the flamboyant style, including more elegant stone tracery and glass windows that are more painted than stained. x
  • 19
    Early Gothic Architecture in England
    Cross the English Channel into England, where you tour four classic examples of the country's Gothic style: the cathedrals at Canterbury, Salisbury, Wells, and Lincoln. In addition, investigate the major and subtle differences between these and the French cathedrals you looked at in earlier lectures. x
  • 20
    Decorated and Perpendicular English Gothic
    Continue your virtual travels through England, this time paying particular attention to specific cathedrals, abbeys, and chapels that feature developments unique to the English Gothic style. Highlights of this lecture include Westminster Abbey, Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, and Ely Cathedral. x
  • 21
    Gothic Churches in the Holy Roman Empire
    Venture into the former territory of the Holy Roman Empire in this highlight of the most famous Gothic cathedrals from this part of Europe. Here, study the Gothic cathedrals of Strasbourg, Cologne, and Prague, as well as the exuberance of Kutná Hora's cathedral in the Czech Republic. x
  • 22
    Gothic Churches in Italy
    While the term "Gothic" is rarely used in an Italian context, Professor Cook pinpoints both traditional and unique Gothic elements present in the cathedrals of Siena and Orvieto, as well as in the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi. He also guides you through other buildings, including the most Gothic cathedral in Italy, Milan Cathedral. x
  • 23
    Gothic Styles in Iberia and the New World
    Turn west to the Gothic cathedrals of Spain, many of which exhibit a unique mixture of Roman, Muslim, French, and German influences. Then, go across the ocean to see how Spanish churches developed in the New World, including a visit to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the oldest cathedral in the Americas. x
  • 24
    Gothic Architecture in Today's World
    With the spread of Renaissance ideas and styles, Gothic architecture eventually subsided, only to experience a vibrant revival in the 19th and 20th centuries. In this concluding lecture, sample neo-Gothic churches in countries like Ecuador, China, South Africa, and the United States. x

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Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 24 lectures on 4 DVDs
  • 160-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 160-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

William R. Cook

About Your Professor

William R. Cook, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Geneseo
Dr. William R. Cook is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1970. He earned his bachelor's degree cum laude from Wabash College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa there. He was then awarded Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Lehman fellowships to study medieval history at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. Professor Cook teaches courses...
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The Cathedral is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 146.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Can't wait for the next lecture! Saw this course several yrs ago when our library acquired it. Checked it out again recently and decided I need this for myself. Prof.Cooks passion for the topic is amazing and inspiring.I've got to go to France and visit these cathederals.
Date published: 2020-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Top-Notch Professor and Great Use of Photography The professor is clearly in love with his subject, and his organization and delivery of the course material is superb. I have not seen a better use of photographs and graphics in a Teaching Company course. Overall an A+.
Date published: 2020-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The presentation Just a quick mention of William Cook’s Teaching method. He has a podium and uses it to keep notes and track of his place in the lecture. I like that he is not wondering around on that rug that is part of so many presentations of the great courses. Those teachers look so beleaguered trying to keep track of the instructions that tell them when to turn to the other side of the rug. Then they need to find their place in the teleprompter. That is all so fake. Dr Cook, in contrast, is very animated and steps beyond the podium to gesticulate and emphasize but returns to it. It grounds him and looks like a real class lecture. He is so interesting and does not distract from what he is saying by getting lost on the rug. Also, not to neglect the content, great detail and great visual aids. I love the way he appears in a little window while the subject, usually a building or drawing of the structural elements of a building, appear in a larger window. Why do not the other teachers do more of that. This class is just so good, everyone interested in architecture and engineering should give it a try.
Date published: 2020-01-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The instructor really knows his cathedrals! The course is very detailed and explaining showing and demonstrating all of the features of the various Gothic cathedrals. I had expected more coverage of how they were constructed and by who, than was afforded in the course.
Date published: 2019-11-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome but Accessible Have you ever had a friend or acquaintance who went on a tour of Europe and came back saying how great it was, but adding that the parade of churches eventually grew tiresome? “If you’ve seen one cathedral, you’ve seen them all” seems to be the common refrain. Professor William Cook vehemently disagrees, and by the end of this course, you will, too. Although called simply “The Cathedral,” this course mainly focuses on the sort of building many of us think of when we hear that word: Gothic cathedrals. The course does begin with a glance at precursors to Gothic architecture, and concludes with a brief mention of 21st-century Gothic architecture, but the majority of it is concerned with French medieval cathedrals in the Gothic style. It’s a subject Prof. Cook addresses with gusto, a clear object of passion for him. His discussions cover everything from the earliest Gothic at Saint-Denis (ironically, not a cathedral), to Reims, Amiens, and more, including a sweeping, three-lecture-long look at the tremendous cathedral of Chartres. These lectures cover not just the history of specific buildings, but where they stand in the Gothic style, including the development of vaulting, arches, columns, sculptural programs both exterior and interior, and of course the magnificent stained glass that so many of us associate with Gothic cathedrals. Far from mind-numbing minutiae or inane trivia, these architectural and artistic details turn out to be the pulsing lifeblood of the Gothic tradition, and learning to pay attention to them is what transforms a visit to one of these churches from a single, wow-that’s-big moment of shock to a dynamic, rewarding, and even spiritually fulfilling encounter with the minds and work of ages past. This course is rife with photographs that help illustrate the concepts and buildings Prof. Cook is talking about. The camera occasionally sweeps around computer-rendered models of some of the churches, an idea that’s intriguing but ultimately doesn’t amount to much, serving more often as a fancy transition than a real aid to understanding. Prof. Cook himself is, as I mentioned, clearly very passionate about this subject. Yes, he does have a habit of slightly raising his voice: to me, he sounds like a professor who’s used to addressing a plenary room full of students, and imagining myself in a big classroom listening to him speak to a crowd made it feel a bit more natural. In any event, it bothered me for maybe the first two minutes of the first lecture, after which I rarely thought about it again. It is absolutely not a reason to avoid this superlative course. Not only is he engaged, Prof. Cook is engaging, obviously accustomed to introducing this subject to neophyte audiences. He starts with the basics of both the architecture and the history and, as one must with a church, builds up. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know your apse from a hole in the ground: Prof. Cook will give you everything you need to appreciate these great buildings. Although cathedrals of the non-French world unfortunately get somewhat short shrift, by Prof. Cook’s own admission, this is deliberate. By examining a few places in detail, he equips you with the ability to look thoughtfully at any other Gothic structure you might encounter. And by the time you’re done with this course, you’ll want to encounter them. In fact, the only real negative I could mention about this course is that the price might be higher than it appears – because there’s a pretty good chance it’ll inspire you to grab a ticket to Europe and go see some of these churches! And even if you did that, it would still be worth every penny. ~
Date published: 2019-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Cathedral This excellent course answers many questions on the evolution of gothic design. As a lay student of architecture, the course is a must have in understanding this evolution and the amount of information that we still don't know. Professor William Cook presented this material with wonder and enthusiasm making the student wanting more at each lecture. His 1st hand observations were as if I was there looking at it the particular detail with him. An outstanding delivery of the material. To get the most from the material, I recommend the video course as there are many photos and graphics enhancing the course. I look forward to someday visiting these wonderful works and before I leave my home, I will be referring back to this course to get the most from my visit.
Date published: 2019-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Cathedral I am really enjoying this course as I had previously bought World's Greatest Churches with Professor Cook and he is very interesting and easy to watch and listen to.The only complaint I have is this course was packaged in Mexico it said on the box of dvds and all the dvds were crammed in one case. Luckily none were damaged but I thought that was poor packaging.That was the first time I had encountered that. All the other courses I bought were in cases with slots for each dvd.Anyway I would definitely recommend this course for armchair travelers like me.
Date published: 2019-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Glad I chose this course I haven't finished the course yet, but I am very pleased with what I have seen so far. The professor is extremely knowledgeable and detailed in his presentation, and the visuals are excellent. I was especially drawn to the lecture on Notre Dame in view of the recent fire.
Date published: 2019-09-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Adventure in Wonder This course was far more beautiful and informative than I anticipated! I deeply appreciated not only the in-depth knowledge of Professor Cook, but also the manner and content of his lectures. The abundant photographs, videos, and incredible graphics all gave visual evidence of the incredible architecture and skill of those who constructed and decorated these marvelous buildings. I was raised Roman Catholic in the '40s and '50s, and the cathedral in my hometown is in the "hall Gothic" style that is apparently typical for Catholic and Episcopal cathedrals in the Americas. As a young man, I had the privilege of touring some of the churches discussed in this course, including Notre Dame in Paris, Notre Dame in Chartres, and Westminster Abbey in London and, although I marveled at their size and intricate sculptures and carvings, I did not understand the "depth" of what I had the privilege to visit. Dr. Cook's course conveys a welter of different but intertwined areas of knowledge: some of the essential beliefs and practices of the Christians at the time these churches were built, for instance, but also the evolution of cathedrals from the basilica structures modeling the civic buildings of ancient Rome, to the Romanesque and then to several periods of Gothic. I learned how Gothic architecture began -- a development from, rather than a rejection of, Romanesque -- and also how it varied within and between countries. It was also fun to see how its architecture moved from the necessity of function -- how to most successfully up hold up very heavy roofs of stone of stone, which is how the invention of flying buttresses came about -- to the more fanciful and even whimsical creations of late Gothic in which pillars and arches combined function with beauty. This was one of the most informative and enjoyable of the more than 120 courses I have enjoyed from the Teaching Company. Even if one is not a Christian, but is nonetheless interested in architecture or just wanting to know more about these most "Middle Age representative" structures, I think you will enjoy this course and come away with renewed admiration for the skills, work, and beliefs of our ancestors in faith. Well done!
Date published: 2019-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating material, engaging professor I'm still watching these lectures, but I already know I will watch them over again. The material is beautifully illustrated and the professor seems to speak directly to you, only occasionally glancing at his notes. You feel like you are actually in a class with this professor.
Date published: 2019-08-02
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Misleading title: mainly gothic in France I found the course disappointing. The title does not reflect the course material. I was expecting an introduction of Cathedrals of the world, but the course mostly covers medieval gothic cathedrals in France. How about other architectural styles, e.g. Roman, Byzantine, Renaissance, Baroque, Victorian, etc., and the vast number of Cathedrals in other countries, such as Italy and Spain? It is like a course with a title, Economics, but only covers the economics in France from 15th-18th century. Why don't just use a title, Gothic Cathedrals in France, intead?
Date published: 2019-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting Great blending of photographs with CGI. Professor Cook is very dynamic and not only knowledgeable of architechure by but of Catholic theology.
Date published: 2019-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exactly what I wanted One of the best on-line courses I've taken. Clear lectures with excellent examples and graphics. The flow is perfect, that is, specific topics with excellent compare-and-contrast examples. I experienced many Aha moments. After this course, I feel ready to explore and identify European gothic architecture.
Date published: 2019-07-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super I have seen many of the cathedral that Professor Cook talks about, but wish that I had taken his course before I went. Not only is Professor Cook very knowledgeable, but the pictures and visuals are outstanding
Date published: 2019-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I had looked at this before and decided to purchase a copy because of the portion on Notre Dame. Visited Notre Dame several times and want to be able to remember how it looked before the fire.
Date published: 2019-06-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good lectures I just returned from Europe and on this trip I visited the 5 main Cathedrals that are talked about in this series of lectures. I have also visited at least 8 other cathedrals in other visits. Unfortunately after Nov1 until spring all of these cathedrals only offer lectures in French so this course covered things that I was unsure of the significance of until I watched it. The crypts under the cathedrals were also Closed during the winter. The professor is knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the subject but he does repeat him self in several of the lectures I would imagine to emphasize a certain point. He also glosses over the wide spread destruction of the cathedral interiors by the revolutionaries and by later groups such as during the commune period in Paris 1872 and by the lack of restoration work done by the French until recently. Other than those minor point the lectures a well done and the visual aids were really helpful in understanding his lectures. The course is well worth the money
Date published: 2019-05-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A good history of the cathedral This course provides a good history of the cathedral from its beginnings to the gothic style. As a lover of cathedrals, I found it interesting. It was fun when I visited England after viewing the series to see many of the styles that were discussed (however, the course is mostly focused on mainland Europe and France, in particular). If you enjoy history, architecture, or churches in general, you will probably like this course.
Date published: 2019-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting and informative I have enjoyed the way the professor presents the material. The combination of photos and some computer generated, 3D graphics makes the various cathedrals easy to visualize.
Date published: 2019-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine survey I bought this about a decade ago. It was great. I highly recommend it. They had a title on evolution by an amateur and it got nasty when I complained about it. I sent it back for a refund. By the way, I am a professional evolutionary biologist. I just happen to like cathedrals too.
Date published: 2019-02-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Clear I have had this series for a month and I find the integration of history, architecture and church culture presented in a thorough story. The photos enhance the presentation an since they are the passenger's own photos he brings them alive in a way that engages the audience. It is the fifth topic I have purchased and I have not been disappointed.
Date published: 2019-01-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Information is good. Graphics excellent. Wish Dr Cook had lectured in a conversational tone instead of SHOUTING.
Date published: 2018-11-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Professor Cook shares his passion This is thorough course on the cathedrals of Europe and an introduction to Gothic architecture. I've seen several of the churches in the course and wish I had taken this course before traveling. Professor Cook's passion for the subject is contagious and the photos and graphics are well done.
Date published: 2018-08-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great information! At first the professor's voice bothered me a little, but I got used to it. It contains great information.
Date published: 2018-08-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New Appreciation & The excellent William R. Cook I now want to visit cathedrals and will now have some idea of what I am looking at and what research to do in advance. Truly opened up a new interest for me. Also, I have many courses and for me, William R. Cook is the most able to explain to me in an interesting and understandable fashion things that heretofore I had no knowledge of. I am now watching him co-teach St. Augustines Confessions with Ronald Herzman and they are making this subject incredibly interesting. Thank you.
Date published: 2018-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More Gothic Than the Goths This is a fascinating course. Last year, I watched the same professor's course on the World's Greatest Churches. If I was picking just one, I liked his Greatest Churches course better because it had more depth and variety. However, this course was not a disappointment and was well worth the time spent watching it. The professor does a very good job telling the history of the development of cathedrals while also treating them as a both sacred works and aesthetic masterpieces. You can tell that he loves and respects these amazing structures. He passed along his reverence and taught me a great deal more than I knew.
Date published: 2017-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, Enjoyable and very Informative I have now looked at 18 out of 24 lectures and really enjoying them. Lectures are faced paced delivered clearly with a sense of humour and loads of passion from Professor Cook. I like the use of his personal photos and how he explains social, historical and religious context and then explains architecture, sculpture and stained glass windows. I was lucky enough to visit Notre Damme Paris, Reims, Saint Chappelle and Prague Cathedrals last year and learned so much more from the lectures.
Date published: 2017-12-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from good material with subpar presentation I read a number of reviews before writing this one, and it seems most people are okay with Prof. Cook's style; while I find it rather overbearing. I'm watching a library copy with the sound turned down to make it tolerable .. the presentation is that loud. What I initially noted was that this is obviously a man of Christian faith and some of the presentation borders on sermon. Also, some art style lifted from the 'pagans' is noted (e.g. mosaics), though not halos and various other iconic motifs borrowed from Jupiter and his entourage. However, the subject is so intensely interesting I will continue on, though I would not actually buy a copy for myself.
Date published: 2017-10-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Jerry Lewis teaches Cathedrals I like Gothic cathedrals a lot, and I like William R. Cook as a teacher, but this course was at times hard to gag down. Others have offered criticism of the "Great Courses" flim-flam that has supplanted "The Teaching Company" motifs, and I agree with most of those criticisms. Some may appreciate the zoom effects and split images, but I find them to be a positive annoyance. A teacher or any other performer with a speech impediment has much to overcome. Dr. Cook's approach in the this course is a flurry of wild body language. At times, it seems the producers have decided to "improve" The Teaching Company by merging it with MTV to give us The Great Courses. Yet, the subject is interesting, the Gothic churches really are very beautiful, and I enjoyed this flawed course overall. It does not teach us much about the evolution of Gothic church architecture, and it teaches us nothing about how the churches were built. A flat ceiling does not indeed imply a flat roof. His enthusiasm is a bit infectious, but his communication style in this course puts me more in mind of Jerry Lewis than a teacher of art history, or history.
Date published: 2017-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everything U Ever Wanted to Know About Cathedrals The 12th century of Europe does not have a very good reputation, particularly with regards to great human achievements. In some circles, it is still called the dark ages. Within that context, the remarkable series of huge church construction projects that began in the 1100’s are rather remarkable. This course delves deeply into the world of gothic cathedrals, presented by a professor who has served as TGC’s expert on Christian thought. His familiarity with the Christian context of the construction of these cathedrals helps the viewer to understand what they are all about, and what they meant to those who built them. Almost all the original gothic cathedrals are in Northern France, and the professor took an extended French vacation to visit and photograph quite a few of them in preparation for the course. His photographs are supplemented with some nice computer graphic representations of the architecture that allows you to fly around and see it from different angles. I watched this just before taking a trip to France and got to see Chartres (in July of 2017), which was the course’s most thoroughly studied cathedral. I am happy to report that they have almost finished the restoration of the cathedral, which now looks more impressive that what is shown in the course, which has photographs from early in the restoration process. I was a bit disappointed in the lecture on how the churches were constructed; the professor seems to have little interest in the construction trades. However, he is otherwise a bona fide cathedral nut who appreciates the architectural, artistic, intellectual, and spiritual significance of these remarkable churches and manages to convey his love of them in the course. Recommended for anyone whose travel plans include time in Northern France.
Date published: 2017-08-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful buildings from a man who loves his topic This course, one of the offerings of "The Great Courses" is presented by Professor William R Crook. He also did "The World's Great Churches" course which I did previously. His focus is Cathedrals, in particular Gothic Cathedrals and their forerunners "Romanesque" and "Carolingian". He shows their background, purpose, and styles, before focusing particularly on their development in France. He shows that Cathedrals were more than a place of worship, but were also the seat of the Bishop, and (at times) were a reflection of the town's wealth, or (at other times) a reflection of the town's thanks to God for some event. And it could simply be competition with the next town over. He delves into the architecture of the Cathedrals, and the changing styles of pillars, vaulted ceilings, statues, and everything else. From small windows in early Cathedrals, to large windows, at times where the entire wall is nearly glass. He also shows how Cathedrals were, by their very existence, a teaching tool in an age before reading. The sculptures on the entrances often contained images of the last judgement, with the saved being taken to paradise, and the lost being dragged by demons into judgement. This was a warning to people on their very entrance into the Cathedral of the necessity to be right with God. This teaching was also contained in the stained glass windows and other items. Overall this was a very interesting course – although, by nature of his tour through a variety of cathedrals in France (especially) but also in England, Germany, Spain, Europe and the Americas, it could be repetitive. But the repetition was worth it as we noticed the changes, the repetitions, and uniqueness of different Cathedrals – and we appreciated them more and more.
Date published: 2017-07-14
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