Tuesday, September 7, 2010

History and Math Converge

Being the first day of school I hestitated to post something not directly related to my curriculum but as they showed the final scenes of this mini-series I felt I had to share this with parents, staff and students.

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett tells the story of the building of the fictious Kingsbridge Cathedral in 12th Century England.  This was made in miniseries by the CBC and presented recently on the Starz Network.  At this same time, it is also available as a streaming on demand for Netflix members (which is how we have been following it as we do not subscribe to Starz.)  It is already slated for DVD release and can be preordered on Amazon.

I mention it here because it is a story of construction using tools of simple measuring, balance, and carving.  The Salsibury Cathedral on which the fictional Kingsbridge is based stands today still a testiment to vision of its masons, laborers and masons.  In the film several times the tools of the trade are shown and one pivotal scene holds the following dialogue:

Master Builder pointing at a book of Geometric figures:  Do you know Euclid?
Jack:  No... no I don't.
Master Builder slamming the book shut:  Then you know NOTHING.

Overall it is a historical piece showing bloody battles in the wars of succession between Maude and Stephen and using this as a back drop to the steady and methodical construction of the cathedral and all the politics attached to it.  I cannot recommend the book myself as I have not read it, and my wife cautions that there are some graphic scenes involving adult content.

However, if you are a fan of history and can get past the need for lots of sword swinging, the story is incredibly engaging.  The references to geometry as a core skill for master builder are important to the plot and add a deeper appreciation for the work of men (and women) in a time when simply being able to read was considered the greatest of luxuries.  That it still stands today as strong as when it was built strikes me as both awe inspiring and profoundly humbling.

Photo by Andrew Dun

Photo By Theophill Arthur

No comments:

Post a Comment