Reader's Encyclopedia

Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (privately printed, 1904; published 1913)

A historical and philosophical study by Henry Adams. The volume is subtitled A Study in 13th Century Unity and serves as a companion piece to his autobiographical The Education of Henry Adams, which carries the subtitle A Study in 20th Century Multiplicity. Adams sees the century 1150-1250 as "the point in history when man held the highest idea of himself as a unit in a unified universe." At that point, according to Adams, philosophy, theology, and the arts were all informed by faith. The book begins with a discussion of the Norman style and spirit that went into the construction of the cathedral at Mont-Saint-Michel in the 12th century. From this, Adams moves to the culminating moment in the 13th century, when the statue of the Virgin of Chartres was a viable symbolic link between reason and intuition, science and religion. By 1250, in Adams's view, the scholasticism of St. Thomas Aquinas, with its emphasis on reason, had begun to destroy this coherent world view.

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