Monday, December 22, 2008

How To Understand The Medieval Mind

"One cannot really understand the medieval mind, characterized by its pursuit of a perfect hierarchical order, if one does not take into account the underlying cosmology." --Wildiers

Max Wildiers (The Theologian and His Universe) explored the medieval order, and the underlying cosmology of medieval thought.

The hierarchy of the cosmos explained christian doctrine as well as guided moral and political activity.  This hierarchy could be clearly seen in the organization of medieval stone masons, and master masons.  The progression in skill level from material laborer to skilled mason to master mason was a determined course the trade worker would follow during a lifetime of working.

This hierarchy of mason to master mason is best understood as a pursuit of perfect hierarchical order, within a cosmology that was unified with anthropology, and theology.  

The hierarchy of the building trades betrays a fundamental notion within the medieval cosmology.  The pre-destination, or teleology of the cosmos pervades even the organisation of the masons.  The progress of the mason was pre-destined, as well as the building trade itself.  Like everything within medieval culture, trade as a tradition was seen to be determined by the hand of God.  Each actor progressed teleologically, and took part in a larger scheme of the trade progressing teleologically.  Technology had yet to replace teleology at this point in history.

Good workmanship dominated everything else.  Truth, goodness, and beauty were sought in accordance with the prevailing cosmology.  That man sought perfection through creating within a cosmos that emanated from and progressed towards God.  The consideration of an underlying cosmology can only be appropriate insofar as it recognizes the inseperable nature of man and god from the cosmos.

The most important notion when considering the medieval mind and its influence on architecture is the sacred quality of the cosmos.