Geometry, Gothic Architecture, Rose Windows, and Christmas Ornaments

(first published on Needhamia.com in 2007)

I find the rose windows of Gothic cathedrals awe-inspiring. From the rigid formalism of Chartres to the flamboyant explosion of Tours, their marriage of geometry, philosophy, and aesthetics with stone and glass is awesome. Built at a time when science and spirit weren’t as divided as today, each window is a statement of the beauty, order, and harmony in the world. Using only a pair of compasses (dividers) and a straight-edge (an unmarked ruler), the Gothic architects created myriad lace-like designs, making stone hang in the air and glass sing.

Geometry was my favorite math class in Jr. high school, and the Euclidean constructions that I drew with my compass and ruler I later applied in shop class and drafting class. Geometry was mathematics made beautiful, and I loved it.

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