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Gervase of Canterbury

Gervase of Canterbury

Cronicus and Logistics Man

(p.47) 2 Gervase of Canterbury
Plotting Gothic
Stephen Murray
University of Chicago Press

Gervase of Canterbury was monk in the Benedictine community of Christ Church, Canterbury, a chronicler and, for a while, sacristan (guardian of the cathedral fabric). He witnessed the dramatic events in the aftermath of the 1170 martyrdom of Archbishop Thomas Becket: the burning of the wooden-roofed choir and the reconstruction of a new “Gothic” edifice under the initial direction of a Frenchman, Master William of Sens. His account of these dramatic events, the Tractatus, written some times afterwards, provides an astonishingly fresh, blow-by-blow account of the sequence of construction. It is here proposed that such precision was only possible through access to written records, fabric accounts. Gothic architectural production was facilitated by the development of an efficient financial infrastructure: Canterbury was a center for the early development of systematic accounting. The polished account of the construction and the authority of the newly constructed-cathedral provided a means to gloss over the dissentions that accompanied the Becket affair.

Keywords:   Gervase of Canterbury, Tractatus, Cronicus, logistics, Thomas Becket, William of Sens, fabric account

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