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post written by Emma Filbrun

Title: Cathedral
Author: David Macaulay
Major Themes: Architecture, Cathedrals, Churches, Engineering, Middle Ages, Europe
Synopsis: Over a span of nearly a hundred years, the people of a town in Europe work together to build a cathedral to give glory to God.

We continue to work our way through David Macaulay’s wonderful books about architecture around the world, and throughout history. Cathedral was one of our recent reads. We greatly enjoyed the incredibly detailed drawings that illustrate it.

In the middle of the 13th century, the imaginary city of Chutreaux decided to build a cathedral to give glory to God for all the good things they enjoyed. They hired the best architect they could find, and he hired all the master craftsmen he needed to do the job. The pages showing the craftsmen and their tools are pretty interesting! There are pages showing the forest where the timber was cut, the quarry the stones came from, and how the site in the town was cleared.

Once work began, the foundations were the first things built—we enjoyed seeing how the massive holes were dug and walls built underground to support the massive structure. Then, the walls went up—we were intrigued by the spiral staircases used to reach the upper levels! The design of the flying buttresses was fascinating, too, as was the system used to lift building supplies to the top. We were especially amused by the series of pictures in which concrete was poured over the vault—there was a surprising little detail off to the side of the pictures. Many of the other details of finishing were very interesting, as well.

Even if you’re not particularly interested in architecture, you will likely enjoy this book. The line drawings are so intricate, with many fascinating details. Of course, this is a great supplement to a study of the Middle Ages. It’s the kind of book that would be good to leave laying out somewhere for children to pick up and look through.

No warnings!

Age Levels:

Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15


Links to buy Cathedral:

Amazon: Paperback | Hardcover

AbeBooks: View Choices on

Book Depository: Hardcover


Architecture, Cathedrals, Churches, Engineering, Middle Ages, Europe

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