cover image The Rise of the Gothic

The Rise of the Gothic

William Anderson. Salem House Publishers, $29 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-88162-109-9

Chartres Cathedral stands on a site devoted in antiquity to the Great Goddess and later to a temple of Venus. Anderson, author of Castles of Europe, believes that the Gothic style embodies ""the highest states of consciousness of which man is capable,'' yet he recognizes that the Christian spirituality crystallized in these cathedrals owes a debt to the mythic archetypes of pre-Christian civilizations. The image of the Green Man, a leaf-like figure originating in a Celtic horned god, turns up in Gothic stained-glass windows, carvings, columns and sculpture. The Great Goddess worshiped by ancient peoples makes her presence felt in Gothic statues consecrating the eternal feminine. Anderson's exploration of the roots of the Gothic style is original and interesting. Regrettably, he weights his argument with superlatives and pushes the mythic comparisons too far (Bourges is a ``gigantic chrysalis,'' Chartres a ``two-headed beast with the transepts making its haunches''). Not every reader will agree with him that the Christian concept of individual worth achieved its first full expression in the statues of Chartres and St.-Denis. November 15