Hidden Mental Origins of Material Gothic
Ordinary Meeting of Fellows (Fellows and Guests Only)
Magic, Paganism and Islam: Hidden Mental Origins of Material Gothic
Lecture by Dr John B Onians, FSA.
We are used to think of the origins of Gothic architecture in terms of solutions to structural problems and intellectual trends, but such thinking hardly explains its rapid spread throughout Europe.Another approach is to look for its origins in more obscure processes of the human mind. As this lecture proposes, if we think in terms of the power of sympathetic magic and the needs of tree-worshipping pagans, a new aventue of enquiry opens up, one which we can explore in the light of the latest neuroscience. An understanding of this background then helps us to appreciate why the invention and rapid spread of the pointed arch under Islam provides the best analogy to the later spread of Gothic. The Crusader conquest of Jerusalem thus becomes the context for the trans mission of this architectural magic, with the use of the pointed arch in the Dome of the Rock inspiring its use at St Denis, and its spread from that monument through western christianity being sustained by the same pressures that ensured its spread through Islam from the sacred structure on the Temple Mount.