Reliquary of St. Taurinus.
BRITISH GOTHIC Anonymous
13th c British Gothic Painting
(c. 1230 - c. 1500)
Reflecting the great building projects that marked the 13th century, God was seen as a great mathematician, the master builder, the architect of the universe. In this illustration from a 13th century manuscript He measures his newly created world with the calipers that were the symbol of the master mason.
This image, as well as 13th century maps, reflect the Gothic world view which was very different from our modern view. The earth was represented as the center of the universe, with seven crystal spheres revolve around it, to which are attached the planets and the fixed stars. Jerusalem was located in the very center of such maps.
For Gothic men and women the whole universe was linked in a marvelous way, from the creation, to man and all knowledge, up to the angels, through the crystal spheres and finally to God Himself. All these things were connected by a mystic arithmetic. As Honorius d'Autun pointed out in "De Imagine Mundi," there was a mysterious connection with the four elements, air, earth, water and fire; with the four rivers of paradise, with the four winds, the four humors of the body, and the four cardinal virtues of the soul. The four sciences of the Quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy) plus the three liberal arts of the Trivium (grammar, rhetoric and logic) make up the number seven. Three and four, which were themselves magical, were equally important when they were combined. There were seven planets, seven virtues, seven deadly sins, seven sacraments, and seven tones of the Gregorian chant. The distance from the earth to each of the seven planets was put in rapport with the seven strings of the lyre. The number seven was, in fact, the symbol for universal harmony.
According to Plato, a siren sitting on each of the seven crystal spheres sings a different note, and these notes form a marvelous harmony. This is the music of the spheres that is heard by souls before they descend to take residence in their bodies, and from this comes the divine power of music which awakens in us a nostalgia for our lost homeland in the heavens. Man, who is himself a miniature of the cosmos, makes his own music when he is in harmony with all things. The music created by instruments is only a distant echo of the sublime music of creation. Since geometry and mathematical correspondences formed the basis for the harmony of the universe, and because man was considered a microcosmic reflection of the cosmos, human proportions were thought of in geometric terms.
GOTHIC | God as Architect of the Uniiverse. | c.1200-1299 | British | Gothic