Building the Great Cathedrals

About the Show

NOVA: This documentary looks at the construction of the great cathedrals of Europe over a period spanning four centuries, and the architectural and technological advances that made it possible to erect such imposing buildings. Originating in 12th-century France, the Gothic style of architecture, as it would later be known, revolutionised the construction of large buildings. The essential load-bearing part of the structure consisted of a stone skeleton of columns and buttresses, which enabled the walls to be built much thinner and use far less stone, allowing the light to stream in through great stained glass windows. Pointed arches and vaulted ceilings also spread the weight more evenly. The theory was simple enough, but how did medieval builders put it into practice as they constructed the huge churches that would dominate the skylines of Europe’s cities for centuries?