Noted art historian William H. Goodyear (1846–1923) spent the better part of his career documenting what he called the “widening refinement,” the intentionally out-of-plumb construction of Gothic churches. Builders, he believed, inclined their walls in service of a sophisticated art of irregularity designed to grant vitality to their edifices. Yet such a practice was antithetical to the motives of the Gothic masters, for whom these deformations due to vault thrusts were unwelcome—for whom wall plumb was an imperative not only of constructional but also of theological order. In An Architecture of Perfection, Andrew Tallon uses evidence of an ideal of rectilinearity found in scripture and its medieval exegesis, in which moral and architectural perfection are explicitly linked, along with analysis of the cathedrals of Chartres and Bourges using laser technology to demonstrate that rectilinear perfection was actively sought—and attained.

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