Working Together for 1000 Years

The Cathedral of Rheims is the best evidence I know of what a community can do and what we stand to lose when we don’t know the difference between these human miracles and the social machinery we call “networks.” Rheims was built without power tools by people working day and night for a hundred years. Everybody worked willingly; nobody was slave labor. No school taught cathedral building as a subject.

What possessed people to work together for a hundred years? Whatever it was looks like something worth educating ourselves about. We know the workers were profoundly united as families and as friends, and as friends they knew what they really wanted in the way of a church. Popes and archbishops had nothing to do with it. Gothic architecture itself was invented out of sheer aspiration—the Gothic cathedral stands lige a lighthouse illuminating what is possible in the way of uncoerced human union. It provides a bench mark against which our own lives can be measured.

At Rheims, the serfs and farmers anad peasants filled gigantic spaces with the most incredible stained-glass windows in the world, but they never bothered to sign even one of them. No one knows who designed or made them, because our modern form of institutional boasting did not yet exist as corruption of communitarian feeling. After all these centuries they still announce what being human really means.

—John Taylor Gatto

Posted on Thursday, October 27, 2011 by Pastor Jerry Owen