A Documentary Analysis of Cathedral
How it works
This documentary is split into two parts; the first part being a story of the building of a specific cathedral, and the second part is a description of cathedrals and the way they are built. The story is an animated story of the building of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Beaulieu. This story is told by the church recorder Pierre and later by his successor. It tells how the cathedral was built as a result of the burning of the original church.
This story though fictional, covers many realistic issues that the building of a cathedral entails. The story shows the importance of a competent master builder, and how detrimental an ineffective bishop can have on the building of a cathedral. The other part of the documentary shows common cathedral building techniques and how they evolved over time. This included a lot of visuals of famous cathedrals that were built in medieval Europe and still exists today. These are the things that made up the bulk of this documentary. One thing this documentary stresses is the importance of cathedrals on medieval society. Medieval cathedrals had a profound effect on society in many ways. One way cathedrals effected society is that their completion would inject the surrounding are with an incredible influx of money. The most common way cathedrals could earn money is by their use in attracting tourism. Cathedrals did this in many ways such as becoming pilgrimage sites, and by providing religious relics as attractions. An example of this was in the documentary as the cathedral was built in order to showcase the “Virgins Veil”.
Another way the building of the cathedral could affect the surrounding area is that its building cost could inflict a lot of economic stress on the surrounding city or countryside. Many times the working class were heavily taxed in order to pay for a cathedral in which they received little benefit. This was also shown in the documentary, as the townspeople were very reluctant to donate to the cathedral after the controversy with the governing bishop. In cases where the surrounding area was devoid of building funds, supporters of the cathedral were often forced to recruit benefactors who would donate to the building. These benefactors could be anyone, but were often wealthy merchants or nobility as shown in the documentary by the silk trader and countess. These are a few examples of the economic effects a cathedral can have on an area. This documentary shows a lot of attention to the role religion has in the town of Beaulieu. For example, it shows how both the bishop and the chapter possessed a significant amount of political influence in Beaulieu. This is shown not only shown by how the bishops corruption negatively impacted the town, but also by the fact that the chapter had enough influence to force the retirement of said bishop. Another example of religions role in Beaulieu is that the whole mood of the town seemed to be influence by the success of the cathedral. At times when the cathedrals building was going smoothly the town seemed to prosper while when the cathedral was downcast the whole town seemed to suffer alongside it. One important factor in the building of the cathedral was the presence of feudalism. Often times the cathedral had to be allowed and sometimes sponsored by the local gentry. This was common because the cathedral would bring income and importance to the area, and therefore to the lord or bishop in the area. As shown in the documentary by the corruption of the bishop, this leads to many conflicting interest involved in a cathedrals construction. This is just one example of how feudalism can have a profound effect on the building of a cathedral.
One of the most important features of medieval cathedrals is they provided an outlet for gothic architecture. Gothic architecture was so alluring because it was so drastically different from the architecture at the time. Previously, buildings such as Roman churches were big fortress-like structures that were cumbersome and allowed little natural light. This created a feeling of claustrophobia and gloominess in many Roman churches. Gothic cathedrals were innovative because they used ribbed ceiling and arches to make a church more a piece of art than a building. The theme of this documentary is to show the hardships involved in building a cathedral, but at the same time to show how important cathedrals were to medieval society. The documentary portrays their theme very effectively by using the story to give an in depth look at how this town may have been both positively and negatively affected by this cathedral. This documentary presents the material in two ways. The bulk of the documentary is an animated story of the building of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Beaulieu. The rest of the documentary is footage of the hosts at some famous medieval cathedrals as they provide information on the architectural and functional aspects of common medieval cathedrals. This documentary did a good job of revealing the impact cathedrals had on the surrounding area. It did this by showing the cathedrals building through the eyes of the church recorder. One thing the documentary didn’t cover satisfactorily is how cathedral funding was often sabotaged by competing building sites who sought to build their own cathedrals in an attempt to boost tourism. I think this would have shown another issue cathedrals often faced in their building process. These are some things that this documentary did and didn’t cover well.