Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction

Book review by
Katherine Kearns, Common Sense Media
Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction Book Poster Image
Learn how ancient cathedrals were built.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the story of Chutreaux's fictional builders is secondary to explanatory prose and detailed drawings. Kids will happily puzzle out each step and enjoy their role in seeing the process through.

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What's the story?

Want to get your friends and neighbors together to build a Gothic cathedral (to be finished by your great-grandchildren)? Macaulay shows the tools, illustrates the secrets of heavy lifting, and gives diagrammatic instructions. It's hard work and good fun (and a first-rate source for school projects!) to figure out each step in raising a cathedral without benefit of modern equipment.


Is it any good?

CATHEDRAL takes readers back to a time when an entire community, using ingeniously simple tools, could create something so strong and beautiful that it might stand forever. Imagine hoisting stone, timber, bronze bells, glass, sculptures, and carvings 160 feet or more above the ground. Imagine building a cathedral whose vaulted spaces mimic the curve of the sky. David Macaulay brings the process to life, and in doing so he also animates a long-ago culture.

For children who are making the transition from "Wow, look at that!" to "How did they do that?" this book introduces a world where crafted miracles such as a cathedral come about through planning, precision, hard work, and inventiveness. It proves that what 13th-century people lacked in equipment and tools, they made up for in ingenuity. Children, who have more wit than strength, will love discovering secrets that trade brawn for inventiveness.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the tools and machinery used to build the cathedral. Are any of them -- or ones like them -- still used today?

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