Institutions that value dissent and auatonomy foster productive equilibrium.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Architecture as Weapon. Gothic as Control of Dissenters...

In the mid-12th Century, Gothic forms of architecture began to arise like so many spears on the hills of the towns, many on ruins of earlier Romanesque or other cultural or religious sites.  Gothic.  Swoon!  See  Where the style was limited by building materials, such as brick and not rock, the impact was the same: impress, enforce, exclude dissenters. Gothic as anti-insurgent, once the various crusades and papal military incursions had brought in more lands and wealth.

Think of the grandeur, the cost, the anonymity of the builder, the need for community dedication, see Consider the related fungibility of the common man, working and believing what he is told about going to hell if he did not comply, and who had no hope of rising to the elevated status of nobility, knight at arms, royalty, ecclesiastical privilege and the greatest profit-maker, greed.

It was centuries before a stonemason left his name, a facial feature was made individual. Watch the architecture soar in the meantime, regardless of the conditions of the people, let them wait until heaven, and calculate the evolution of flying buttresses, impossible arches, stained glass that makes one think of a dream world, so beautiful, so far removed from the reality imposed outside.


Think, instead of Gothic-beautiful, Gothic-control.

Ask:  What was going on culturally, in terms of migrations, turf wars, evolutions (that word again that some religious disavow) of religious dogma, militarism in religion that fostered popes leading armies, directing armies, raising armies to kill nonbelievers. It paid them well.  See the Gothic emerge from conquest.

1.  To spur the new Gothic.  Crusades.

First Crusade, 1096.  Success, followed by failures. See  The Ninth Crusade ended in 1272.

Once the suppression of others got going in the Holy Land, the mindset spread to those who lived on the way there. The Sack of Constantinople 1203-1204 was an attack of Christian on Christian.  There was no need for or strategy for "conquest" against Constantinople.  It was barbarity unleashed, regardless of our later mischaracterizations of this travesty of marauders, see

 2.  To enable the spur of the Gothic:  Booty.

Booty from further "manufactured" local, European crusades.  With the booty came the drive to spend it all, to build up the power and fearsomeness of the newly totally dominant church.  These were pervasive crusades in the church's own backyard, and omit reference to the Balkan Crusades earlier, see Bosnia, Croatia.

  • The Cathar Crusades to the south produced immediate wealth, land, control undreamed of and unreachable except by killing who had been so prosperous there before.

From the Holy Land where the motives at the beginning might have been theological.  More likely, those Crusades also were to drive home the might of the newly separated Roman Church, see the Great Schism from the Eastern Orthodox in, was it, 1056?  The Crusades were petri dishes for using the skills and mindsets needed for unilateral control: killing unbelievers is no sin, and you can decide who is an unbeliever.  In the attributed words of the cathar era, kill them all, God will know his own. Etc. See this view at

3.  The history under the ecclesiastical rug.  Back to evolution of the Gothic.

Stress again the forces that cleared the way for all those expensive Gothic Churches in Europe in the same era: The European Crusades.

3.1.  Cathars. Heretics by virtue of disagreement on text interpretation.  The drive to force one view resulted in, in southern Europe, not only Inquisitions but, the Albigensian Crusade that indeed wiped out an entire Languedoc's population of Christians in the south-west of what is now France -- and at that time, was not part of France.  It was its own entity, with its own language.

Imagine, read aloud, a narrative view that shows in theater form the mindsets of the French to the north, the Cathars in Languedoc, the Pope's army and minions, see

They died for being inclusive, tolerant. Paratge:  the value of courtesy, respect. The churches of the Cathars despite being peaceable,  were leveled or at least ruined and repurposed for Papal purposes, at Beziers, Carcassonne, Lavaur.

  •  This was no "radical" religious sect.  The Cathars, or Albigensians so called because of the large numbers of them living peaceably and prospering in the Albi area of the Languedoc in particular, based their interpretation of Christianity on the same texts as the Pope -- but came to different conclusions:  a dualistic one, viewing conflicts between good and evil as entities in themselves.  Sounds pretty Eden, does it not?  Their extermination was more to gain the land and riches for the expanding Roman church, than based on some aversion to their customs, is that so?

3.2  Money

The prosperity that then befell the happy Church was fabulous, and became part of the compromise of the spiritual integrity of the Papacy itself -- see

 Compromise of spiritual integrity indeed.  The treasures at Avignon so suggest, wealth of land and estate and personalty taken from the Cathars, concealed at the Pope's palace. Treasure upon treasure.  Some was lost, some bought loyalty and conversions, overall most used for the glory of the tainted Papacy.  By 1309, some 50+ years after the formal end of the Albigensian Crusade, (for example, Montsegur fell in 1244) and all the land had been requisitioned, confiscated, estates liquidated and given to popes and kings and new nobles, Rome had to moves itself to Avignon just to manage the property, conceal it better without having to travel far distances.  Visit Avignon:  near le pont, and there is the Pope's Palace, see, a fortress suitable for its secrets.

Gothic on ruins of the conquered. 

O, Little Town of Bethlehem, see what thy foll'wers have now. 

4.  The process was brutal.  See the ugly results. Examples:  Albi, Beziers.

4.1  Albi

Have you ever seen an uglier building than this one, the Gothic Cathedral built at Albi, where the triumphant church militant remained so afraid of the local populace after the slaughters that it had to be a fortress itself. Cathedrale Saint-Cecile.  Even the first Bishop there was not a cleric at all, but a knight from a noble family. All the better to subdue, my dear.

 From a distance it looks orderly, but it is very alone -- all around it was razed for defense purposes.   The back part, built after the need for the fort had passed, looks more ecclesiastical, but don't be fooled.  Its purpose was not to lift the spirits. See  Some ugliness cannot be architectured around.

The afterthought grand entry added at the side, once the anti-Roman Catholic Crusade insurgencies had been suppressed once and for all, is attached like a misfit appendage, and is known as the four-poster. The four-poster:  added entryway to the fortress church at Albi. A wedding cake added to the fort.

The frivolous entryway to Albi's Cathedral makes no difference. The place still is a fort.  Inside, however, the added stained glass windows are wonderful.  Does that make us forget?  No. 

The pattern continued.  The first Gothic churches built in Cathar areas after the pyres were ugly, fortress-like, nothing but domination of the now subject but angry people. Counter-insurgency that went on for years. The first step toward domination is the fortress church; then could come the luxury of the towers of northern Gothic, the brick Gothic side entryways all lacey, the stained glass. Building materials also matter as to height: recall that brick Gothic has to be squatter than stone; stone heights are not possible in the same way, but the principle is first the fortress, then the glamour, equally taxing on the people, diverting.

4.2  Beziers; Lavaur.

And see other architectural failures as to spiritual purpose of a church, successes at the time as forts.  The church now here never survived spiritually what it did in killing the Cathars of the preceding church, and nearby castle (no trace of that any more) inside its very walls and out -- Beziers -- 

The newly-built church at Beziers became a big blocky thing, with attached fripperies from later architectural trends, just stuck on there, as though there is a checklist for converting a romanesque structure's remnants after the fires, with cheap stuff stuck on, both inside and out.  A patchwork of what-can-we-hide next. 

And another:  the fortress church at Lavaur:

Fortress church, once a Cathedral, Lavaur, France

5.  Gothic architecture as enforcer, imposer of abuses, enabler of centralized power.

The elements of Gothic furthered the domination of populations.  The massive effort forced a belief system on populations that had enjoyed economic and cultural autonomy, both of which were and anathema to a religious institution that could and can only survive if it destroys all dissent.

6.  History's myopia.

Does that institution continue in its benefiting from the riches, by pretending the past never happened.

  • Are we surprised now to find all that disavowed, formally forgotten, never accounted for, all that unjust enrichment, unclean hands, keep the booty, and now we have a new Tweeter -- @pontifex.  Pontifex?  "Bridgebuilder?"  Bridgebuilder??  

Pontifex.  See .  Reject the handle.

7.  Can the Gothic architectural weaponry, the propaganda tool used so well to force unilateral control of belief, ever purge itself.

Try this: As long as the booty of 1500 years remains in the coffers and the bank accounts, and not returned to the people, as long as there is no -- let's hear the latest fad, apology --  and new acceptance for those who disagree including the Orthodox and the other forms of belief, religious and secular, there is no pontifexing in fact, just another tool.  The mindset of One Way has taken over our politics, and we can start to uproot it in our churches.  Gothic emerged with all the wealth to the church from its killing. Is that so?  Experts, thesis writers, to your research.  Is that why we (I) are more comforted by Romanesque, and merely impressed by Gothic.

Andorra. In the Pyrenees, France on one side, Spain on the other.  A place of many, very old, Romanesque churches. See some more at churches.  

8.  Western religion morphed into historical abuses.

It still skirts them. This is not a new topic. It is merely unexamined.

Christian cultural and religious abuse of those who do not readily accept the taught, centralized dogma of the Roman version of Christianity is not a favored idea.  It is more hip to tweet the pope.  Yet, there are timelines showing the violence, the gradual ethnic-type cleansing of funneling of all the interpretations that flowed from believed and some actual events, so that only one emerged at the end for the West, the Roman, at least until the Reformation. See

The Roman even excluded itself from the originally inclusive Christian world by separating from the Orthodox, the eastern form. The timing of the Schism required that the Roman church assert its own power, get converts, money. Oppression works.

 Since then, it is the western form that has produced the extremists, the killing crusades even against already-Christian Orthodox Christian, for not accepting the pope. In Africa, Joseph Kony, a former altar boy, leads his murderous crusades. See  In America, violence against those not of a particular person's belief system can be killed because that person must be "evil."

9.  Ramifications of the Gothic in contemporary politics.  Text abuse. Deliberate mis-teaching, mis-education of an electorate, a body of believers.

Monolithic architecture like monolithic belief systems, religious and secular, affects even basic thinking.  The comfort of the Romanesque -- the welcomer -- was not allowed once the Gothic got going. What room is there for disagreement in the shadow of those soaring towers.

Mis-teaching.  Many oldest texts do not support much of contemporary Roman Catholic teaching, just as our secular governmental texts do not support much of Tea Party, or other extremist, teaching.  At least we can admit ambivalence in the face of documents, instead of claiming "authority." Crusade abuses, political abuses. Intended consequences: Control, not autonomy.  Where the crusades hit hardest, analysis also fell.

Orthodoxy may well be on target, not the West.

In many instances where the west assumes a self-dealing, violent stance, the Eastern Orthodox view of care is closer to the oldest texts -- see the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople reiterating the text-supported interpretation that we are accountable -- our dominion requires it -- to all creation, the animals, air, water, land.  Sin is violating responsible stewardship, see New York Times' Orthodox Leader Deepens Progressive Stance on Environment, by Marlise Simons, at

Orthodox architecture is not so pointed, so lance-like, as is the Gothic.  Where there is mystery, there is a curtain, or a room behind. But people are free to come and go, much murmuring, walking about. Local materials, built low.

Be careful what you wish for.  The view of the transliteration, the Mechanical Translation, that creation's original intent was merely for functionality and not a "moral" anything, gets Orthodox as well as Roman Catholic in trouble, see Do we create our own right and wrong, with some seed of what those are, and where did that come from.  What if what they tell us is self-serving to them, using us.

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