Thursday, February 23, 2012

43 Some SACRED GEOMETRY: the tools of the master builder (3)

Another tool of the master builder was the gnomon, a straight pole to find the four cardinal directions by measuring its shadow. It had a little sphere on top for a more distinctive shadow. The length of the shadow was marked on the ground during one day, from sunrise to sunset (the red curve in the drawing above).Then a circle was drawn with the pole as its center (blue in the drawing). This circle crosses the shadow line in points 1 and 2. Tracing two equal circles centered in 1 and 2 produces crossing 3. The line pole-point 3 indicates true North, coinciding with the shortest shadow during the day.
This method, known since Antiquity, one can even suppose since the Neolithic era, was used everywhere in the construction of temples. This simple pole planted in the ground on flat ground is effective to study the solar course. It also allowed by repeated measurements during the two solstices to determine the latitude of a place with remarkable precision.

The gnomon represents the “axis mundi”, the world axis, the symbolic connection between sky and earth. One could say that the gnomon is an astronomical instrument activated by the sun to regulate time and space of man and to construct a geometric model of the universe at a human scale.

Gnomon in the Saint-Sulpice church, Paris

Sunday, February 12, 2012

42 Some SACRED GEOMETRY: the tools of the master builder (2)

The ruler contained the “trait”, the chosen unity of measure. Square and ruler connect the points set out by the compass to form angles, triangles, squares, rectangles and other polygons. They materialize the ideas of the compass. While the compass represents “spirit”, the square represents “matter”. Indicating horizontality and verticality, the square symbolizes space. The compass, which evokes spirit because it draws curves, is regarded as active, while the square, related to matter, is regarded as passive.
The crossing of square and compass indicates a balance of two elements: spirit and matter. This crossing represents the two halves of the Hermetic Androgyne, the Rebis, in which the two principles of manifestation, heaven and earth, male and female, active and passive, sun and moon, spirituality and materiality, are united.
Tracing a plan was an act of meditation. In the Middle Ages, every created form in the context of a “sacred” building represented an idea or a human experience of the un-graspable, which surpass and baffle our rational minds. Building a cathedral was an expression of spirituality, not a spirituality losing itself in abstract and subjective conceptions without any link to reality, but a spirituality given concrete form and expressed in stone: applied spirituality. 

Another tool was the rope with 13 knots, making 12 equal segments. With 12 segments, many geometric shapes can be formed, like circle, square, rectangle and three kinds of triangles: equilateral, isosceles, and scalene. Twelve is a number that can be divided evenly by 2, 3, 4, and 6. There are 12 months in the year. Each day is 24 hours long, two times twelve. There are 12 apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 knights of the round table and 12 signs of the zodiac…

Saturday, February 4, 2012

41 Some SACRED GEOMETRY: the tools of the master builder (1)

Construction tools didn’t evolve much between Antiquity and the Middle Ages, they even stayed pretty much the same until the 19th century. The above tombstone of Hugues Ligergier, the ”maître d’oeuvre” (master builder) of Reims cathedral, shows the three most important tools of the medieval architects: ruler, square and compass.
The compass is the tool of applied thought, while the ruler and the square verify its traced lines. Medieval images often show God creating the world using a compass. The compass was considered a cosmological symbol because it can be used to measure as well as to generate a perfect circle, hence it symbolized dynamic creation. Turning around its point, it also represented the cycle of existence. In fact, the circle created by the compass is the manifestation emanating from the initial point. This point is not only a symbol of creation, but also the initial point inside the human mind: consciousness.