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The Cathedral

Explore the evolution, majesty, and intrigue of cathedrals worldwide, as you embark on 3-D tours with a noted medieval historian.
The Cathedral is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 181.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Testing - Ashanta I love Professor Cook. This course has beautiful images. How cool would it be to visit some of these Catehdrals on a trip with Professor Cook?
Date published: 2024-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course I am thoroughly enjoying this course on some of the great cathedrals of Europe. Dr. Cook is very captivating as he takes you on a tour of some cathedrals from the ground up to the dizzying vaults, the statues, the flying buttresses, and of course, the beautiful stained glass. Highly recommeded.
Date published: 2024-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from a wonderful way to see these magnificent buildings it would be difficult, if not impossible, to visit all these buildings with such a wonderful docent - I had seen a few of them on trips but realized, while taking the course, I'd missed so much in my basic understanding of the structure's history and appreciation of key components - it's an easy, stress free way to visit in-depth many of the world's most impressive cathedrals - teacher has excellent, passionate delivery
Date published: 2023-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well worth re-watching Admittedly, Prof Cook is one of my favorite professors. I have owned The Cathedral for more than 10 years and I may be repeating my review. The first time I watched it, I was left in wonder at the cathedrals. Now I re-watched it to prep for a trip I am making to France in a few months. The lectures are primarily devoted to the aesthetics, as based in the structure. But also provide a decent historical context. The one element that is not extensively developed is that of the methods of construction. If Prof Cook had to address each of these dimensions in a comprehensive manner, the series would run to 200 lectures. So for those interested in the construction methods, I refer you to books that are easily available. But most viewers won't want to get into the details of construction and this series will serve them well.
Date published: 2023-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great enthusiasm, depth, and beauty In "The Cathedral" course Professor Cook's entertaining and enthusiastic presentation is very enjoyable as he shares his great depth of knowledge on the subject of (mostly) Gothic cathedral architecture. He clearly explains the evolution of the style in different places at different times, and the accompanying photos and diagrams are amazing and helpful. I appreciated that his lectures incorporate much information about historical figures and culture. Very beautiful to watch...Well done!
Date published: 2023-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely wonderful! Absolutely wonderful tour of some of the major churches and Cathedrals. It covers very well the history, art and architecture of some of the most breathtaking buildings ever built. Big focus on Gothic Cathedrals. Provides great visuals and photos to explain the technical terms. Great way to deepen your faith as a Catholic and treasure your artistic tradition.
Date published: 2023-03-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from here i am pride- the end of the world, the game you play....
Date published: 2023-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A very thorough introduction to Gothic Cathedrals in France, with a loving glance at England and the rest of Europe. The visit to the New World is interesting. Cook is obviously a devout Christian, but does admit that any visitor to these buildings can appreciate them regardless of personal faith or lack thereof. His preference for black and white photography would be advantageous to the shots of him in the most uncoordinated suits and ties I have seen in years! Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in these Gothic buildings.
Date published: 2022-11-12
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Tour the world's most captivating cathedrals from the comfort of your own home with these 24 lavishly illustrated lectures by Professor William R. Cook. An exciting, immersive, and multidimensional learning experience, The Cathedral brings you closer to cathedrals like Notre Dame in Paris and those in Amiens, Chartres, and Canterbury than any on-site tour could hope to do. With high-definition 3-D modeling and imagery, you'll travel around and inside the world's great Gothic cathedrals from fascinating new perspectives.


William R. Cook

In some ways, being detached from the world allows you also to be united with the world.


State University of New York, Geneseo
Dr. William R. Cook is the Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1970. He earned his bachelor's degree cum laude from Wabash College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa there. He was then awarded Woodrow Wilson and Herbert Lehman fellowships to study medieval history at Cornell University, where he earned his Ph.D. Professor Cook teaches courses in ancient and medieval history, the Renaissance and Reformation periods, and the Bible and Christian thought. Since 1983 Professor Cook has directed 11 Seminars for School Teachers for the National Endowment for the Humanities. His books include Images of St. Francis of Assisi and Francis of Assisi: The Way of Poverty and Humility. Dr. Cook contributed to the Cambridge Companion to Giotto and edits and contributes to The Art of the Franciscan Order in Italy. Among his many awards, Professor Cook has received the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching. In 1992 the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education named him New York State's Professor of the Year. In 2003 he received the first-ever CARA Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Medieval Studies from the Medieval Academy of America.

By This Professor

The World's Greatest Churches
The Cathedral
The Catholic Church: A History
The Cathedral


What Is a Cathedral?

01: What Is a Cathedral?

Start your tour of great Gothic cathedrals with this introductory lecture. Discover the important role these buildings play in both spirituality and society, and learn how their origins lie in the 1st century A.D. with the emergence of the office of the bishop, whose throne is known as a "cathedra."

32 min
Early Christian Architecture

02: Early Christian Architecture

Go back to the 4th century A.D, when Christians first began to erect large buildings for public worship. Taking you to the dawn of the 11th century, Professor Cook leads you through the most important examples of surviving ecclesiastical buildings from this period, including Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome and the Hagia Sophia in modern-day Istanbul.

31 min
Romanesque-A New Monumental Style

03: Romanesque-A New Monumental Style

By 1100, many churches in western Europe were built using a range of local styles, all of which in some manner hearkened back to classical Roman forms. Here, explore the development of the Romanesque style and survey impressive examples of Romanesque cathedrals in France, Germany, Italy, and England....

30 min
Vaulting - A Look at Roofs

04: Vaulting - A Look at Roofs

What's the best way to build a church's ceiling? This lecture takes you through the evolution of church roofs—from flat wood ceilings to stone barrel vaults to magnificent ribbed vaulting. Without these developments, you'll discover, there could have been no Gothic cathedrals.

31 min
Romanesque at Its Best

05: Romanesque at Its Best

Sainte Foy in Conques. Saint Mary Magdalene in Vézelay. Saint-Lazare at Autun. Focus on these three French churches as definitive examples of Romanesque style and decoration. In particular, investigate how sculptural masterpieces on columns and over entrances rendered biblical stories into simple, visually arresting messages to instruct the faithful.

30 min
Saint-Denis and the Beginning of Gothic Style

06: Saint-Denis and the Beginning of Gothic Style

Scholars agree that the first Gothic building in history is the Abbey Church of Saint-Denis, located outside of Paris. After learning about this building's role in French history, tour the building's facade and interior, noting in particular the ribbed and pointed vaults, large stained glass windows, and extraordinary infusion of sunlight.

30 min
The Urban Context of Cathedrals

07: The Urban Context of Cathedrals

Place the power of cathedrals in a more urban context as you explore the factors that led to the widespread reemergence of cities as the religious centers of Europe. Then, take a brief look at three "experimental" Gothic cathedrals in northern France: Sens, Senlis, and Noyon.

31 min
Notre Dame in Paris

08: Notre Dame in Paris

In the first of two lectures on early Gothic cathedrals, focus on perhaps the most famous cathedral in the world: Notre Dame in Paris. Gain new insights into how this magnificent building was created and learn the importance of features from its justly famous facade to its dramatic flying buttresses.

30 min
Early Gothic Style-Laon

09: Early Gothic Style-Laon

Located in a much smaller town, the Cathedral of Laon is a quite different Gothic experiment than Notre Dame-but just as fascinating. Learn what's so unusual about the style, substance, and placement of the three arches on its facade, the statues of oxen on top of its towers, and more.

30 min
Chartres-The Building

10: Chartres-The Building

Notre Dame de Chartres is perhaps the most influential Gothic cathedral-so influential that Professor Cook devotes three lectures to exploring it. In the first, focus on the building itself, including its systematic use of flying buttresses, groundbreaking three-layered elevation, and rich interplay between verticals and horizontals....

30 min
Chartres-The Sculpture

11: Chartres-The Sculpture

Continue your virtual tour of Notre Dame de Chartres with a closer look at the cathedral's three porches, whose sculpted portals contain the largest collection of statuary of any Gothic cathedral. With their precise details, hidden narratives, and coordinating themes, these sculptures teach, inspire, and even evoke fear.

31 min
Chartres-The Windows

12: Chartres-The Windows

Professor Cook concludes his in-depth look at Chartres with a handsomely illustrated lecture on its famous stained glass windows, as well as a description of how these brilliant works of art are created. Of the 175 glass windows in the cathedral, about 150 of them contain their original medieval glass.

31 min
Amiens-The Limits of Height

13: Amiens-The Limits of Height

Enormous. Soaring. Awe-inspiring. Find out why the Cathedral of Amiens-Professor Cook's favorite cathedral-deserves these and other titles by surveying the structure of the building and its dizzying heights. It's a chance to find out why Amiens takes visitors to the limits of what a Gothic building can do.

30 min
Amiens-The Facade

14: Amiens-The Facade

The front of the Cathedral of Amiens is the single greatest sculptural display in all of Gothic decoration. Here, make sense of the complexities and details of the cathedral's facade by approaching its larger-than-life sculptures from the point of view of the 13th-century people for whom they were built.

30 min
Reims-The Royal Cathedral

15: Reims-The Royal Cathedral

Another of France's most beautiful-and important-cathedrals is located in the city of Reims. Survey the building's long and dramatic history, from the time of Joan of Arc to the bombardments of World War I, and look closely at examples from its statues, spires, and stained glass windows.

31 min
Cathedrals-Who Builds? Who Pays? How Long?

16: Cathedrals-Who Builds? Who Pays? How Long?

You've witnessed the majesty of some of Europe's great cathedrals. But how on earth were they actually built? This lecture separates myth from reality, using models, illuminated manuscripts, stained glass windows, and other sources to reveal the technical process of creating impressive buildings that would inspire millions.

31 min
New Developments in Gothic France

17: New Developments in Gothic France

Using the abbey of Saint-Denis; the cathedrals at Bourges, Troyes, and Beauvais; and the chapel of Saint Chapelle as case studies, examine the progression in the Gothic style that took place during the late 13th century. Among these are advanced buttressing systems, even higher vaults, and the addition of still more windows.

31 min
Late Gothic Churches in France

18: Late Gothic Churches in France

Witness the evolution of Gothic architecture in the 14th, 15th, and early 16th centuries. Looking closely at a series of French cathedrals, abbeys, and churches, you'll find powerful examples of the flamboyant style, including more elegant stone tracery and glass windows that are more painted than stained.

31 min
Early Gothic Architecture in England

19: Early Gothic Architecture in England

Cross the English Channel into England, where you tour four classic examples of the country's Gothic style: the cathedrals at Canterbury, Salisbury, Wells, and Lincoln. In addition, investigate the major and subtle differences between these and the French cathedrals you looked at in earlier lectures.

31 min
Decorated and Perpendicular English Gothic

20: Decorated and Perpendicular English Gothic

Continue your virtual travels through England, this time paying particular attention to specific cathedrals, abbeys, and chapels that feature developments unique to the English Gothic style. Highlights of this lecture include Westminster Abbey, Kings College Chapel in Cambridge, and Ely Cathedral.

31 min
Gothic Churches in the Holy Roman Empire

21: Gothic Churches in the Holy Roman Empire

Venture into the former territory of the Holy Roman Empire in this highlight of the most famous Gothic cathedrals from this part of Europe. Here, study the Gothic cathedrals of Strasbourg, Cologne, and Prague, as well as the exuberance of Kutná Hora's cathedral in the Czech Republic.

31 min
Gothic Churches in Italy

22: Gothic Churches in Italy

While the term "Gothic" is rarely used in an Italian context, Professor Cook pinpoints both traditional and unique Gothic elements present in the cathedrals of Siena and Orvieto, as well as in the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi. He also guides you through other buildings, including the most Gothic cathedral in Italy, Milan Cathedral.

32 min
Gothic Styles in Iberia and the New World

23: Gothic Styles in Iberia and the New World

Turn west to the Gothic cathedrals of Spain, many of which exhibit a unique mixture of Roman, Muslim, French, and German influences. Then, go across the ocean to see how Spanish churches developed in the New World, including a visit to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the oldest cathedral in the Americas.

31 min
Gothic Architecture in Today's World

24: Gothic Architecture in Today's World

With the spread of Renaissance ideas and styles, Gothic architecture eventually subsided, only to experience a vibrant revival in the 19th and 20th centuries. In this concluding lecture, sample neo-Gothic churches in countries like Ecuador, China, South Africa, and the United States.

33 min