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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  • 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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The Cathedral is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 144.
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
Rated 5 out of 5 by from History, Iconography, and Architecture in one go As a complete atheist, but a dedicated student of history, I found Professor Cook's presentations both lucid and informative. It makes me want to return to many of the cathedrals I have visited in the past in order to reappraise them with new-found knowledge. The same comments apply to his 'Greatest Churches'. These courses are made all the more enlivening by Prof Cook's outlandish dress sense...
Date published: 2015-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my two or three best TGCs Instructor is obviously enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the subject matter. His enthusiasm is infectious. Graphics are superb. I'm an engineer who has always been something of a nut about Gothic cathedrals. First and foremost, they are structures of incredible beauty. But the engineer in me is awed that the people who built them were able to accomplish the things they did with the tools they had available to them at the time.
Date published: 2015-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring and information. Professor Cook's passionate presentation inspired me to visit most of the cathedrals presented in this course. I find his presentation and visuals to complement my learning style. I found his humor entertaining and this course gave me the feeling that I was listening to stories of a friend. I never write reviews but I found this course and the course book lend themselves to be watched and read over and over. While traveling the steaming video and the printed guidebook were often used as referenced materials. If giving the chance I would express my sincere appreciation to Professor Cook. Thank you, you've inspired a journey of exploration which I am continuing to pursue.
Date published: 2015-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fantastic graphics and lectures I have purchased many Great courses on a wide variety of subjects and this is one of the best. The speaker is animated and excited about the subject. The graphics are excellent and emphasize the content very well. Many areas of France and Western Europe are included. I have visited many of these churches and now want to return to see what I overlooked. Cthedrals in Burgundy, Spain, Paris, England, and many other places are described. The statues as well as the actual structural details are explained. wow. what a thrill to watch and hear.
Date published: 2015-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Themes and Variations on Gothic Architecture This course is a winner; it spends twelve hours with some truly beautiful and amazing buildings. Naturally twelve hours is more of a sampler than an exhaustive tour, but the course is well-considered; it spends more time in a few cathedrals to understand the basics, then less time in more cathedrals to learn how the style developed over time and in different countries. The overall point of view in these lectures is art-historical and includes historical background, religious meanings, architectural and decorative elements (valuting, statues, stained glass). The professor's speaking style is enthusiastic and down to earth, and the learning experience is almost effortless. Very recommended!
Date published: 2015-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing, Inspirational Structures Many years ago I had the opportunity to visit several Gothic cathedrals in England: Salisbury, York, Canterbury, and the abbey at Westminster, all places covered here. I wish TGC and this course had existed back then. It is excellent in both verbal and visual presentation. On-screen computer models augment Professor Cook's personal photography, erudite descriptions and explanations. The lectures are fascinating and go by so quickly. Very enjoyable. The course focuses mostly on the heart of Gothic cathedral building, that is around Paris and the north of France. But the scope is wide enough to include many other sites as well. You'll learn both the functional engineering and artistic elements of these great buildings, monuments to human enterprise as well as sacred expressions. Professor Cook relates what the great cathedrals must have meant to the common medieval folk as well as to the great minds and the powerful of that age. I have been inspired by this course to venture into books on the subject and intend to purchase Professor Cook's new TGC series on The Great Churches. I expect it to be well worth the investment.
Date published: 2014-12-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Rename This Course I enjoyed the Course "The Cathedral" taught by Professor William Cook. There are undoubtedly many ways to approach the subject that is the title of the lecture series. In this case the approach was the idea that only a Gothic Cathedral is a real Cathedral and those in France are the standard. For me this left out all the Churches I had seen in Italy which I considered to be Cathedrals. Cook has a very good grasp of Cristology, which makes up for the expectation gap, however his linguistic skills are limited so that his descriptions consist of the same words over and over which detracts from the fact that he has a rich presentation of photographs and digital representations. All told it was an "interesting" course.
Date published: 2014-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best This is a great lecture series. Prof. Cook has what I believe is a truly unique personality: the ability to be incredibly nerdy, while also being entertaining and personable. His knowledge of and fascination with this topic is amazing, and he has a real talent for sharing that spirit with others. The only limitation about this course is that it depicts only the cathedrals as they stand -- there's little or no explanation of how they were designed or constructed, which I think would be even more interesting than their existing features. To make this course truly inspiring, it would be helpful to know how somebody 1,000 years ago designed an amazingly intricate and beautiful, 140 foot tall, stone building with a stone roof, and assembled it in a way that it's still standing today and probably will be so in another 1,000 years. These places are miracles of architecture, engineering, and finance (and, I hope, faith rather than cynicism and power). That's another story in itself, but probably outside the scope of the lectures.
Date published: 2014-05-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An excellent overview An excellent course by an enthusiastic professor. Professor Cook knows his material from personal experience in visiting these beautiful buildings. I wish there was more concerning unusual cathedrals especially Sagrida Familia and more time on St. Peters in Rome. Watch this course (or parts of it) before traveling to the cities mentioned. There are some hidden gems that I did not know about, and added to the beauty of our journey.
Date published: 2014-03-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Wonderful And Enlightening Course I loved this course and how it was presented and learned so much about this amazing subject. My only criticism is that it lacked detail about the methods used by Medieval man to construct these amazing buildings. Had this course included more details about the tools available and engineering methods used to lift huge stones and sculptures and construct the amazing vaults, then this course would have been more complete. Therefore it left me still wondering about how these amazing Catherdrals were built. That being said, Professor Cook still did a wonderful job and I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2014-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Personally Guided Tour at Home This is a marvelous video series! Prof. William Cook may be a little too enthusiastic for some, but I found his delight in his subject infectious. He certainly knows his stuff! I particularly liked his "readings" of the various sculptures and bas reliefs. I have visited most of these cathedrals, yet I saw (and understood) more from watching this course than I did in the hours I spent with a guidebook or local guide. I can only hope that Prof. Cook will follow up this series with one on illuminated manuscripts.
Date published: 2013-12-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fabulous Course The Cathedral 8-26-2013 [ DVD format ] In short, this is a great course that easily earns my five-star rating. Sure, it has weakness but, overall, I finished it with a substantial knowledge in cathedrals, particularly the Gothic Cathedral –and was totally absorbed in every lecture along the way. He takes us on a fabulous tour of France, England; the Roman Empire (Germany, Czech Republic, Spain, Italy) -ending with notable cathedrals in the New World, including Washington’s National Cathedral. A historian of Medieval History, Dr. Cook presents a well-organized, comprehensive course -and lectures energetically with evident passion for the subject, having obviously visited all the cathedrals about which he lectures. Thus, his knowledge includes critical first-hand experience. The Cathedral is presented with abundant photographs, videos and fact slides. In general, the photography is creative composed and stunningly beautiful, especially the scenes of interiors and art. Prof. Cook also reviews the historical circumstances and personalities associated with the birth and evolution of each cathedral. With a background in architecture, town planning, art and art history, this course by far exceeded my expectations and plan to review it often. I highly endorse this wonderful course and hope that GC and Dr. Cook prepare another course; I suggest architecture of the Renaissance, a course I am sure he can prepare very successfully. Respectfully, jkh
Date published: 2013-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very entertaining The best graphics of any course I've watched, and the professor is energetic throughout.
Date published: 2013-06-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting presentation I enjoyed this course. I had visited some of the cathedrals which Professor Cook discusses, but still learned quite a lot from his lectures. His love for his subject is very obvious, which makes listening to the lectures pleasurable. I found that the course inspired me to visit some Gothic-style cathedrals in my local area and to photograph some of the elements he had discussed so vividly. It made me look at them in a new light and also made me want to revisit some of the cathedrals he covers in this course.
Date published: 2013-03-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very enjoyable course This was my introduction to The Great Courses, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Professor Cook's lecture style took a bit of getting used to, but once I adjusted to his peculiarities I really found him interesting, and his enthusiasm for his subject was very engaging. The photos were obviously amateur, but that added to the enjoyment and the genuineness of the presentation. Contrary to the comments of a few negative reviewers, I also thought the computer graphics added to the understanding of the lectures. My only quibbles would be the title -- which would more accurately be "The Gothic Cathedral" -- and the heavy emphasis on French structures; I would have appreciated a bit more attention to English cathedrals than the hurried two-lecture peek that we got. But these really are quibbles. Overall, the course was everything I hoped it would be.
Date published: 2013-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Presentation Two things make this course outstanding: the extremely good visuals (which not always a strong feature of The Great Courses), and Professor Cook’s obvious delight in the subject. The course is primarily about the Gothic cathedral (so the title is somewhat misleading) and gives an excellent introduction to the emergence and development of the Gothic style. It is not overly technical, and perhaps a little more historical/social context could have been included. But if you are going to Europe and plan to see one or more of these magnificent buildings, this course is well worth the time and money.
Date published: 2013-02-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Doesn't know architecture Professor Cook is clearly a history professor with a religious focus. His lack of understanding of architecture is obvious. He actually spent a full lecture on Romanesque churches without ever mentioning semicircular (roman) arches that are one of the defining features of the style. Instead he could not find a commonality of the style, focusing instead on the variety of tower placement. At St. Sabina in Rome he stated that it had a flat roof because the ceiling is flat, when a step outside would clearly show a peaked roof, doubtless with a wooden truss. When showing other churches with an exposed wooden truss, he did not appear to know what a truss was. He lectures like a revival preacher. Speaking really loud is not a big benefit.
Date published: 2013-01-18
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