Building a Medieval Cathedral

Building a Medieval Cathedral

Medieval cathedrals were the main viewpoint of medieval England and were much bigger than castles to represent their religious significance within medieval society for both rich and poor.

Building a medieval cathedral was a way to display the Church’s wealth, and cities like Canterbury and York had huge cathedrals built.

It cost a vast amount to build them although the money came from people through the payments made to the Roman Catholic church.

Workers had to use very basic tools and be in unacceptable conditions in comparison to modern health and safety rules. However the main motive in spite of all this was to create an awe inspiring building for God’s glory to be displayed.

An architect would be found for the designing of a cathedral and they would also need to know which master craftsmen were the best to take on, along with many well skilled men.

A master quarryman A master stone cutter
A master sculptor A master mortar maker
A master mason A master carpenter
A master blacksmith A master roofer
A master glass maker

Masters of trades ran their own workshops for a specific trade, meaning a master mason employed several masons who could be trusted enough to work well on the building of a cathedral - eventually they would also become master masons. The men were skilled and would not perform any labouring work - this was left to unskilled labourers living near a cathedral that would be built.

A lot of skilled tradesmen depended on additional trades for work - master blacksmiths constructed all the necessary metal tools and skilled carpenters made the tools’ wooden handles.

The amount of tools needed for cathedral building was surprisingly small. They included an auger, sledge hammer, chisel, plane, saw and pickaxe.

A chapter decided how much money could be invested in different areas. The chapter decided the cathedral’s final design and instructed the architect about what they required.

When a plan was put in place, the basic building work of the cathedral foundations began. Recent renovation work at Canterbury cathedral unveiled that it was built on top of the original cathedral at Canterbury - so the original building became part of the new cathedral’s foundations. It was not unusual if foundations were 25 feet deep underground, and the actual foundation building was its own skill as any mistakes could cause the walls above ground to become weak, particularly once the roof had been added.

During the laying of the foundations, skilled craftsmen would work in quarries where they produced stone blocks to use in the process of building. Up to 50 advanced skilled apprentices could work within a quarry with 250 labourers and all under supervision by a master quarryman. The master quarryman would be provided with templates for the required shapes from cut quarry stone by the master mason. Individual stones were marked to plan where it was to go when the building began.

See also: Medieval Cathedrals

Pickaxe and axe Brace and Bit
Hammer Sledge hammer
Chisel Auger
Saw Mathematical dividers
Plane Squares and templates

A chapter decided how much money could be invested in different areas. The chapter decided the cathedral’s final design and instructed the architect about what they required.

When a plan was put in place, the basic building work of the cathedral foundations began. Recent renovation work at Canterbury cathedral unveiled that it was built over the original cathedral at Canterbury - so the original building became part of the new cathedral’s foundations. It was not unusual if foundations were 25 feet deep underground, and the actual foundation building was its own skill as any mistakes could cause the walls above ground to become weak, particularly once the roof had been added.

During the laying of the foundations, skilled craftsmen would work in quarries where they produced stone blocks to use in the process of building. Up to 50 advanced skilled apprentices could work within a quarry with 250 labourers and all under supervision by a master quarryman. The master quarryman would be provided with templates for the required shapes from cut quarry stone by the master mason. Individual stones were marked to plan where it was to go when the building began.

See also: Canterbury Cathedral

MLA Citation/Reference

"Building a Medieval Cathedral". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.