The Cathedral Builders: The Story of a Great Masonic Guild
by Leader Scott (Lucy Emily Baxter)
“In most histories of Italian art we are conscious of a vast hiatus of several centuries, between the ancient classic art of Rome—which was in its decadence when the Western Empire ceased in the fifth century after Christ—and that early rise of art in the twelfth century which led to the Renaissance.
This hiatus is generally supposed to be a time when Art was utterly dead and buried, its corpse in Byzantine dress lying embalmed in its tomb at Ravenna. But all death is nothing but the germ of new life. Art was not a corpse, it was only a seed, laid in Italian soil to germinate, and it bore several plants before the great reflowering period of the Renaissance.
The seed sown by the Classic schools formed the link between them and the Renaissance, just as the Romance Languages of Provence and Languedoc form the link between the dying out of the classic Latin and the rise of modern languages.
Now where are we to look for this link?
In language we find it just between the Roman and Gallic Empires.
In Art it seems also to be on that borderland—Lombardy-where the Magistri Comacini, a mediaeval Guild of Liberi Muratori (Freemasons), kept alive in their traditions the seed of classic art, slowly training it through Romanesque forms up to the Gothic, and hence to the full Renaissance. It is a significant coincidence that this obscure link in Art, like the link-languages, is styled by many writers Provençal or Romance style, for the Gothic influence spread in France even before it expanded so gloriously in Germany.
I think if we study these obscure Comacine Masters we shall find that they form a firm, perfect, and consistent link between the old and the new, filling completely that ugly gap in the History of Art. So fully that all the different Italian styles, whose names are legion—being Lombard-Byzantine at Ravenna and Venice, Romanesque at Pisa and Lucca, Lombard-Gothic at Milan, Norman-Saracen in Sicily and the south,—are nothing more than the different developments in differing climates and ages, of the art of one powerful guild of sculptor-builders, who nursed the seed of Roman art on the border-land of the falling Roman Empire, and spread the growth in far-off countries.”
The Cathedral Builders, Leader Scott, Sampson Low, Marston and Company, 1899
First edition. Hardcover. Rebound in blue cloth binding. Gold lettering to spine. Faint outline where tape has previously attached library marking to cover. Formerly belonging to the Theosophical Lending Library, Gloucester Place. Library stamps to end paper, copyright and title pages. The cover and binding is very new. Good condition.