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The Core Curriculum

Amiens Cathedral, Western Frontispiece, 1220-1266

1240 CE
Date is approximate
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All artists, authors, and architects face the question of how to usher an audience into a work. Medieval cathedrals, like Amiens pictured here, mediated the entry of the visitor by drawing him or her in with elaborate sculptures and architectural ornaments while the portal itself decreased from a monumental to a more human scale as one approached the doors. Amiens, the first great, fully Gothic cathedral, has a much more abrupt entry that many earlier churches, as the main dividing wall between the western frontispiece and the nave is relatively thin and not much built up on the inside. The effect is a bit like a funnel that then spits the visitor out into the building. Like the architects of Amiens cathedral, Dante was interested in entries and exits, and indeed the mode of coming and going in many passages in his Inferno is extremely meaningful. Compare, for example, the architecture of the three portals pictured here with the first Canto of the Inferno.  How does Dante mediate the entry of the reader into the work? 

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