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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  • Download 24 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
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  • 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?

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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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Reviews

The Cathedral is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 127.
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
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Extremely heavy on architecture, light on history I've bought several of Professor Cook's classes, all worthwhile...then this one! Unfortunately, I am very disappointed with The Cathedral. Sure, if you love architecture, you'll probably love this course; however, I'm far more interested in history, and sadly this is compromised, due to an overload of discussions on vaults, statues, naves, etc. I felt it was the same emphasis over and over, and, frankly, about 1/2 way through the course I became very bored, as I knew what to expect from each lecture. Nevertheless, I did finish the course. Obviously, the architecture is extremely important for cathedrals and should definitely be addressed, but more balance with each one's history is, from my perspective, badly needed. Perhaps if the lectures were 45 minutes long, instead of 30, the extra 15 minutes could be spent on history alone. Professor Cook is extremely knowledgeable, and would certainly have no problems whatsoever is providing each cathedral's role in history. Actually, I recommend that the Great Courses take this course out of "history" and put it into "architecture." True, at times the professor does touch on some history, but definitely not enough. His discussions of the stained glass and statues do show their historical relevance, but I needed far more. For example, could you imagine what the walls of Paris' Notre Dame would say if they could talk about the esteemed personages they have welcomed throughout the ages--such as Mary, Queen of Scots when she wedded Francis? And certainly some discussion about the horrible destructions effected on Amiens and others during the World Wars--even pictures of the damage--should be addressed, I should think. No, this class again and again overlooks such major events. Bottom line: if you want the "nuts and bolts" of cathedral building, this class is definitely for you. If you want to learn about some important events that took place in these magnificent buildings, buy instead the "pure" history classes offered.
Date published: 2017-06-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Energy & Passion Throughly enjoyed the professor's enthusiasm and knowledge of the subject; I didn't think I enjoyed Medieval history until I participated in his class. Yes, a bit rapid fire at times; but, also what kept the content interesting throughout. Great balance of graphics as well. Welcomed his clever humor peppered sparingly.
Date published: 2017-04-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Even Better than Expected I waited until I watched all 24 episodes to write my review. While I expected an excellent series of lectures, "Cathedrals" exceeded those expectations. From content to presentation, graphics and comprehensiveness, this is a great program. If there was anything lacking, it was not enough time spent on the people, tools, materials and methods used in the construction of cathedrals. Maybe the subject for yet another Great Course. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2017-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Instructor, he brought to Material to Life This course has the potential to be a great picture book of wonderful and famous Cathedrals but the instructor made it a course we will not soon forget. He put his wonderful knowledge behind each building and brought it to life. This has been by far one of the best courses you have ever created.
Date published: 2017-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The "Gothic Cathedral" ... This is the third course that I have viewed, presented by Dr William R Cook. I thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend his course, 'The Catholic Church: A History,' so much that I followed that course with his course on 'Great Churches.' I liked that course so much that I followed it with this course (The Cathedral), which I also very much enjoyed. If you have already watched Dr Cook's course on Great Churches then you will revisit a lot of familiar material when you watch this course. The two courses are similar and feature some of the same buildings and architecture, but this course focuses primarily on Gothic Cathedrals while the former course is much broader in it's scope. The first third of this course did not engage me the way the entire course on Great Churches did, but it was necessary for Dr Cook to lay the ground work for the Cathedrals that he would discuss, in later lectures. We learn about the Romanesque style, the Gothic styles (early and later), the Baroque style and Neo Gothic styles of architecture along the way. Terminology had to be defined and historical context explained. So, while I found the first 1/3 of the course to be interesting and informative, it was not quite as engaging as the earlier course. That would all change by the start of the second 2/3 of this course. Lecture 9 visits Notre Dame, in Paris. Lectures 10 - 12 on Chartes Cathedral and lectures 13 and 14 on Amiens Cathedral were the very highlights of this course, for me. Those 5 lectures (10 - 14) were worth the cost of the course, alone. Even with all of the detail that Dr Cook goes into on those Cathedrals, I found myself craving more. In fact, at the end of this course, I was still wanting more (more Cathedrals, more detail, more history, etc). I'm not sure that Dr Cook could possibly have packed any more into these 24 lectures than he did, but I found myself hungry for even more. I mean that as a compliment to the Professor (who is excellent, by the way). If I were to tour the Great Cathedrals of Europe, Dr Cook is the person that I would want along as my tour guide. If you have a love of history (Medieval, Catholic, European, etc), Architecture, Art, or just love churches then this course is one that you should consider. I continue to love Dr Cook's enthusiasm and his wealth of knowledge, which are both evident throughout this course. If you watch this course and enjoy it, then the companion course 'Great Churches' should also be on your short list.
Date published: 2016-08-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Buildings that seem to soar to paradise An excellent course with beautiful visual aids, including pictures taken by Professor Cook. After taken this course, I wish, I could visit (or visit again) all the cathedrals that were included in this course.
Date published: 2016-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is my first experience with a Great Courses course. So far, I am enjoying it a lot. We are on lesson 5 so far. I took an art history course in college, but it was a survey and did not have the detail this course does. Well worth the money spent.
Date published: 2016-07-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Triforium left Unglazed So much invaluable information and insight held within this series, save for the fact the the prof. spends probably far too much time (my subjective take) detailing the various pieces of sculpture that grace many cathedrals and only one short lecture upon how "teams" moved in to work on specific parts of a building; I don't recall anything about "Bronze" defending the use of The Golden Mean at Chartres which certainly adds to the great mystic of how such grand buildings could be erected. I wanted to know HOW the art of the building was made and want to get a general idea of how those glorious windows at Chartres, for example, were crafted and installed (and removed during the War) and just HOW something that grand could be erected. Almost too much to comprehend, so I was left with wanting more. Another lecture series on more specifics of Gothic art and architecture by the good doctor??
Date published: 2016-06-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sorry I missed Dr. Cook I was a student at SUNY Geneseo in the early 1970's and remember seeing Dr. Cook around campus. It was and is a small school so sooner or later you'd see all of the professors. I never took a class from him, and now I regret that. I just finished Cathedrals. He certainly is passionate about the subject. I have only seen 3 of the cathedrals he mentions and tried to remember what I had seen. I will certainly look at them with new insights when I revisit them. This class is one of the reasons I like Great Courses--learning for the sake of learning. Not every class has to be immediately useful in my life.
Date published: 2016-02-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course on cathedrals Prof. Cook does another great job, energetic, knowlegable, holds interest. Adds some personal elements to spice thing up and make it more than just a lecture. While he does give some background on the reasons for some of the architectural elements, more technical detail would have been appreciated. Of course maybe only for us Engineers. For instance some physics type diagrams supporting the reason for things like flying buttresses.
Date published: 2016-02-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Cathedral I have a MA in Fine Art which include Art History and Architecture courses. I learned much that was missed or omitted from the 6 years I studied. The professor made me feel that I was right in his presence. William Cook, mad it very interesting which I consider a high compliment, because the Art History courses I actualluy attended were my least favorite for the most part.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Concerning the Cathedrals The brilliant lectures of prof. Cook, presented in a very enthusiastic and pedagogic way teach us of an amazing craftsmanship of cultures that lived many centuries ago. These architects disposed astonishing science by which they constructed art, sculptures and beauty that astonish people enormously, specially today. It was a great pleasure for me to follow these lectures.
Date published: 2016-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An enlightening course This good provides an enlightening presentation and explanation of cathedrals which are primarily located in France. Professor Cook provides good explanation of the structure of the cathedrals and the associated sculptures, stained glass windows and other art works. Professor Cook explains what this various items means and how it relates to the instructions that the church is trying to provide to the general population. One of the items of this course that I did not like was the usage of terms before they are defined. For example, in the first lecture, Professor Cook references the flying buttresses on one of the photographs he was displaying but does not point out the flying buttresses on the photograph. Flying buttresses are final explained in the latter half of the course. Some of the other reviewers have mentioned that this course is lacking an explanation of how the cathedrals were built especially without the machines and methods available today. I don’t believe this to be a valid criticism of this course since it was not the objective of this course to explain how the cathedrals were built. However, there is another The Great Courses set of lectures which do explain the engineering and construction aspects of the cathedrals. Lecture 12 of the Great Courses “Understanding the World's Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity” by Professor Ressler explains the engineering and construction of the Gothic cathedrals.
Date published: 2015-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful, comprehensive look at Cathedrals I bought this class on DVD a couple of years ago, and forgot to watch it. I recently found it, and what a delightful experience it was! I originally thought it would be about how they were built and the art within them. but quickly saw that it would be a comprehensive class with historical, cultural, and religious context for it all. Professor Cook is a master of the time periods and the meaning of everything. He is enamored by the subject, and only his genuine enthusiasm could have kept me interested in so much about so many similar cathedrals. After finishing the class, the first thing I did was get on my bike and visit the Cathedral of the Holy Cross - a neo-gothic church here in Boston I'd never visited. It was a delight to examine it with all that I know now. Should others watch it? If you are interested in the subject - and especially if you are Christian - you should definitely give it a try. You don't have to be religious at all to appreciate what he is talking about. But I, someone who has long loved Gothic churches, but never knew why, was so grateful to finally understand what they really mean and why I enjoy them so much. I am grateful for what I have learned, and it will stay with me forever. Thank you, Professor Cook.
Date published: 2015-10-09
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