A Birds Eye View
The building: Savageness, Changefulness, Naturalism, Grotesqueness, Rigidity & Redundance.
The builders: Savageness or Rudeness, Love of Change, Love of Nature, Disturbed Imagination, Obstinacy & Generosity
I really hope you enjoy these beautiful & descriptive words that will hopefully awaken your senses to the world you live in.
Typically, when we speak of Gothic Architecture we think of the North which is “rude & wild“….But what he is trying to do is rearrange the way we view each individual environment & look upon it as a whole. Starting from the Southern Hemisphere & visualizing our way up to the Northern Hemisphere.
Come on, let’s go on a breathtaking trip over God’s great Earth.
“The charts of the world which of been drawn up by modern science have thrown into a narrow space the expression of a vast amount of knowledge, but I have never yet seen any one pictorial enough to enable the spectator to imagine the kind of contrast in physical character which exists between Northern and Southern countries.
We know the differences in detail, but we have not that broad glance and grasp which would enable us to feel them in their fulness.
We know that gentians grow on the Alps, and olives on the Apennines; but we do not enough conceive for ourselves that variegated mosaic of the world’s surface which a bird sees in its migration, that difference between the district of the gentian and of the olive which the stork and the swallow see far off, as they lean upon the sirocco wind.
Let us, for a moment, try to raise ourselves even above the level of their flight, and imagine the Mediterranean lying beneath us like an irregular lake, and all it’s ancient promontories sleeping in the sun: here and there an angry spot of thunder, a grey stain of storm, moving upon the burning field; and here and there a fixed wreath of white volcano smoke, surrounded by its circle of ashes; but for the most part a great peacefulness of light, Syria and Greece, Italy and Spain, laid like pieces of a golden pavement into the sea-blue, chased, as we stoop nearer to them, with bossy beaten work of mountain chains, and glowing softly with terraced gardens, and flowers heavy with frankincense, mixed among masses of laurel, and orange, and plumy palm, that abate with their grey-green shadows the burning of the marble rocks, and of the ledges of porphyry sloping under lucent sand.
Then let us pass farther towards the north, until we see the orient colors change gradually into a vast belt of rainy green, where the pastures of Switzerland, and poplar valleys of France, and dark forest of the Danube and Carpathians stretch from the mouths of the Loire to those of the Volga, seen through clefts in grey swirls of rain-cloud and flaky veils of the mist of the brooks, spreading low along the pasture lands: and then, farther north still, to see the earth heave into mighty masses of leaden rock and heathy moor, bordering with a broad waste of gloomy purple that belt of field and wood, and splintering into irregular and grisly islands amidst the northern seas, beaten by storm, and chilled by ice- drift, and tormented by furious pulses of contending tide, until the roots of the last forests fail from among the hill ravines, and the hunger of the north wind bites their peaks into barrenness; and, at last, the wall of ice, durable like iron, sets, deathlike, its white teeth against us out of the polar twilight.
And, having once traversed in thought this gradation of the zoned iris of the earth in all its material vastness, let us go down nearer to it, and watch the parallel change in the belt of animal life; the multitudes of swift and brilliant creatures that glance in the air and sea, or tread the sands of the southern zone; striped zebras and spotted leopards, glistening serpents, and birds arrayed in purple and scarlet.
Let us contrast their delicacy and brilliancy of color, and swiftness of motion, with the frost-cramped strength, and shaggy covering, and dusky plumage of the northern tribes; contrast the Arabian horse with the Shetland, the tiger and leopard with the wolf and bear, the antelope with the elk, the bird of paradise with the osprey; and then, submissively acknowledging the great laws by which the earth and all that it bears are ruled throughout there being, let us not to condemn, but rejoice in the expression by man of his own rest in the statutes of the lands that gave him birth.
Let us watch him with reverence as he sets side by side the burning gems, and smooths with soft sculpture the jasper pillars, that are to reflect a ceaseless sunshine, and rise into a cloudless sky: but not with less reverence let us stand by him, when, with rough strength and hurried stroke, he smites an uncouth animation out of the rocks which he has torn from among the moss of the moorland, and heaves into the darkened air the pile of iron buttress and rugged wall, instinct with work of an imagination as wild and wayward as the northern sea…”
All that to explain the architecture of the North…but in doing so we gain admiration for this spinning sphere in space.
We gain appreciation for where it has brought us today.
Architecture is the language of history and its importance will be brought to the forefront again sooner than later with the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem which has already begun. You can read about that here. Think about how amazing it was when the Egyptians were building those Great Pyramids! What a sight that must have been!
Watching the building & construction of the Gothic Cathedrals would truly be something else too…
So, did you enjoy this portion of Ruskin’s essay?
Have a very blessed day,