So here is the ultimate outcome of the Spacefleet Ecclesiastica project as begun just over two years ago in September 2020: a map of every cathedral in the medieval Latin Church. Of course there’s a certain elasticity to the definition of “medieval” here: the Latin bishops’ seats in the Crusader States and Greenland were long vacant by the time the great Renaissance cathedrals of Andalusia were built. But at least it’s before swathes of northern European states seceded from the papacy, and the Catholic Church began to expand across the Atlantic Ocean into the Americas. The map is based on the categories I’ve approached the project from (England, France, Holy Roman Empire, Iberia, Frontiers and the Crusader States) as an overall map of the diocesan structure of the Latin Church.
The biggest barrier to getting this realised as a full compendium of plans of Latin episcopal churches has of course, been Italy, with its exceptional density of dioceses, a lot of very boring cathedrals but also some of the largest ever built. But by ignoring the totally rebuilt Baroque buildings, I have managed 151, which is only about a dozen short of what I was looking for. This is largely thanks to the resources at BeWeB: in fact it would have been impossible without this site, as the majority of the smaller cathedrals came from here (of course it’s far from perfect, the plans have been compared to Google Maps aerial photo measurements when scaling them, a good many were wrong. I have deleted the 10-metre stick when it’s wrong, otherwise measurement sticks can be considered accurate).
So here we are, the cathedrals of the medieval Latin Church presented as a material corpus as perhaps never before. In space. What does this tell us as a graphic? Well, that not all cathedrals were great churches. While bishops’ churches generally aspired to the great-church aisled-basilica plan as established under Emperor Constantine in the early fourth century, many of them were simply venues for a bishop’s throne and for a community of (nearly always outside of Britain) secular canons to celebrate the daily liturgy of the divine office inside. But then you get buildings like Florence and Milan that to this day, are so absurdly large they go beyond any simple form-follows-function relationship. What is a medieval cathedral? After this, I am little the wiser, to be honest.
If for some reason you want this as a stupidly-large image file on the same resolution as the England, France, Empire and Iberia fleets I released, I have made a high-res version (78 MB!) available on Ko-fi for like, a couple quid. There are limitations with computer memory at this point what I can do manipulating a file this big, even doing it with flattened images has been a bit of a slog. There will be no “sensible version” because none of this is sensible, although there is a white-backed version with no starfield included in this download (48 MB)
Here are my previous posts of the sections that make up the whole of the Latin Church, along with Anglo-Norman size comparison article which compensates for the first piece England’s cathedrals piece being rather lacking beyond a general introduction to the project. (wordpress.com is supposed to show the featured image thumbnails, but it absolutely refuses to. oh well, please click through and enjoy)
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