Architecture – a new perspective

I had often wondered why our ancestors bothered so much perfecting edifices until I read the following eye-opener text by Victor Hugo.


Until the invention of Gutenberg printing in the XVth century, architecture served as the main register of human civilisation. All important thoughts were noted in buildings of stones. Those immortal books of rock obeyed ideas aspiring to conserve themselves and to leave a mark.

Architecture developed in line with the range of human ideas and it followed the advances of civilization.  Firstly, traditions were recorded by erecting simple monuments of rock piles. Later, sophisticated cultures and symbols urged the emergence of complex edifices  throughout millenia.

Then in the Middle Ages, Christianity striving to establish a new hierarchic society communicated by means of the  austere Romanesque style. Each arch reflected authority, horror of progress, the preservation of traditional lines and the priest everywhere.

Rome’s gradual decline made Romanesque architecture fade. Cathedrals got occupied by the bourgeoisie and fell into the competence of artists. Popular architecture reflected progress, originality and perpetual movement.  It was separated from religion enough to consider and take care of shere beauty. This liberty of architecture meant liberty of press for thoughts spread through buildings.

Pretenting to build churches for religious reasons, all intellectual resources nurtured architecture and produced the tremendous number of cathedrals in Europe. Invaders throughout the history added their own words to that codex. Although the ancient symbols on the facade of cathedrals got replaced by new hieroglyph, one can see the remnants appearing here and there.



The invention of printing, the new self- expression requiring only paper, ink and pens, dethroned architecture in the XVth century. Once its artistic omnipotence was abolished, sculpture, music and painting liberated themselves to begin their own art-historic journeys.


Source: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo


  1. Love those 19th century novelist’s philospophical observations about life.

    As our words become more digital, thus immediate and ephemeral, society continues to build monuments.

    One we rarely think of, but which will most likely out-live most of the buildings, are our roads. Roads divide environments and connect our populations centers. But, we have little improved our process for making roads since the Roman’s built their road systems across their empire. The other day, while riding the ferry from Jamestown, Rhode Island to Newport (for the Jazz Festival), I asked one in our party whether the Newport Bridge, a suspension bridge, were basically a Roman Arch bridge turned upside-down. The supports and arches immediately became apparent.

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  2. Hate to argue with Victor Hugo, but he overlooks the Great pyramid and Greek sculpture, music and theatre and recited poetry, painting etc etc. Humans have always been singing!

    Liked by 2 people

    • He did not ignore antique edifices all around the world as he mentioned even monuments without definite structure or useful purpose. He did emphasized the development process of architecture, where the Middles Ages represented only a stage anticipated by less complex edifices/symbols/cultures. (Obviously the original version is longer and full of exemples.)

      As fas as other arts are concerned, I suppose that the lack of “mass-production” and that of the wide coverage of audience might have made him assert that communication with the surroundings used to work through the buildings.

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  3. In Maslow’s pyramid of needs, a roof/shelter comes immediately after food as a basic necessity.
    So if you think of the place you live/sleep it better be nice.
    Now, monuments? Best explained with two men cutting stones by the side of a road. Doing exactly the same thing. The first one says “I’m a stone-cutter”. The second says “I’m building cathedrals”.
    Which of the two does one want to be?

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  4. Great perspective! Now onwards whenever i will see any historical building with inscriptions in stone or painted walls this post will come to my mind! Now i know!! Thanks for sharing!
    After the printing press it was all books and with the advent of computers it’s all in data centers and documentaries!! Someday everything will be digitised…but i still doubt anything would be as robust or stand the test of time and weather as the ones preserved in stone!! 🤔

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  5. Inspiring article indeed…
    After i read your last sentence i couldn’t help myself but ask this question:
    You said “The invention of printing, the new self- expression requiring only paper, ink and pens, dethroned architecture in the XVth century. Once its artistic omnipotence was abolished, sculpture, music and painting liberated themselves to begin their own art-historic journeys.”
    By analogy if we tune this idea a bit to and refine it to our days and our problems we would find an important problem.
    We are living in a digital age and all the books (As a materialistic element) are losing value day after day.
    The invention of virtuality, requiring only electricity, and networks, dethroned the books and any manuscript.
    I see a pattern there.
    But what is concerning to me is the fact that, seeing this kind of expression fall, and become outdated, didn’t have the same relay effect on another field and didn’t nourish the growth of any other kind of works previously constrained to it.

    What are the Fields that are missing out on their liberation voyage to begin their own journey into the world?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that with electronic platforms, films and internet are growing. All kinds of digital solutions (sound, picture, 3D, 4D effects, dolby surrounds) are on the grow as well. Furthermore electronic gadgets and maybe fashion industry are serving this process as well.
      A kind of advancement, yet not purely artistic.


  6. Exactly but we are a bit missing on it’s diffusion in the integrity of the world ( not very far from my country of origin),despite many existing plans working on revolutinizing the virtual world.
    We could witness wonders, in fact if the communication we are talking about , reaches its maturity.

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