The Life In Gothic Style, And Rush Limbaugh’s Place In The Medieval World

by bria4123 on April 10, 2012

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People in the 13th century classified their world so that every being had its place in a universal system. Their world included some strange creatures.

Is this carving on Rouen Cathedral of a medieval Rush Limbaugh?

People in the Middle Ages had big enough imaginations to envision their own bizarre life forms. So where were they coming from when they carved these on Rouen Cathedral in France?

The last post on medieval philosophy explained that folks who built Gothic cathedrals saw them as depictions of the whole universe in which everything was in its place. And they meant Everything. The 13th century was an age of encyclopedias. St. Thomas Aquinas published his Summa Theologica, which coordinated all Christian doctrine and ancient philosophy.

Vincent of Beauvais also went after universal knowledge when he published his Mirror. This great work put all the beings that God created, all moral instructions, and all historical events in their places in the cosmos.

People who built Gothic cathedrals were doing the same. They saw the universe as a hierarchy of beings which God created. 9 levels of angelic souls hover over us, and beasts and demons grovel below us. So these strange looking dudes in the pics are part of this divine hierarchy. They fleshed it out for the local townsmen. But there were higher levels in this schema.

Such as ordinary dudes and dudettes. The south portal of the Basilica of St. Denis, in France, has 2 vertical lines of people doing their daily jobs. Here, 2 bakers earn their daily bread with dignity that a nobleman would have been proud of. All the essential occupations are assigned a place in the universal system–but where are the bloggers and programmers?

I took all these photos outside the cathedrals. All these beings represent worldly life. But the cathedral builders, Aquinas and Vincent of Beauvais didn’t want us to stop there. People in the 13th century linked the beings in the universe with metaphysical ideas that you have to climb a bit higher to reach. We’ll ascend the stairs in the next post on the life in Gothic style.

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