Monday, June 2, 2008

Why Build Cathedral's?

Classic case of a trivial question leading to some interesting conclusions. At Marginal Revolution, they have a string of comments discussing why medieval peeps were shelling out their ducats for gigantic churches, rather than buying things like.....soap, or a goat, or perhaps a little of that exotic spicy pepper stuff imported through Venice that might actually mask the distinctive waft of death from the pot roast.

Bryan Caplan likens cathedrals to fashion magazines - they were a way of duping everyone into the feudalistic system (it's a really strained comparison). Tyler Cowen thinks more of public spending - building cathedrals as economic stimulus.

I'm inclined to think that it's conspicuous consumption by bishops. Remember most of the guys in charge of churches were not the most pious types, and probably purchased the bishopric to fill the time, since they were 2nd sons without a claim to family land. You can't run anyone through with a lance, so why not build a cathedral just a little bigger than your enemy? Makes him look cheap.

It's just a pissing contest. And it's not over. Come to Houston one day and take a look at the "church" that Joel Osteen built inside the old basketball arena. It's glorified dick-swinging (sorry mom) glossed over with the veneer of religion.

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