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Robert of Luzarches
Born at Luzarches near Pontoise towards the end of the twelfth century; is said to have been summoned to Paris by Philip Augustus who employed him in beautifying the city, and to have had a share in the work on Notre Dame. The real fame of this master is, however, connected with the cathedral of Notre Dame in Amiens. The old cathedral was destroyed by fire in 1218 and Bishop Evrard de Fouilloy had it rebuilt in Gothic style. An inscription made in 1288 in the "labyrinth" of the floor (now removed) testified that the building had begun in 1220, and names "Robert, called of Luzarches", as the architect, and as his successors, Thomas de Cormont and the latter's son. The work was completed in later centuries. Viollet-le-Duc sees a fact of great significance in the employment of the layman, Robert; but it is not accurate that in Romanesque times the architects were always bishops, priests, or monks; or, on the other hand, that since the Gothic period the Church relinquished the direction of church-building so entirely as is now believed. Robert was not long employed on the cathedral. Under the successor of Bishop Evrard, who apparently died in 1222, Cormont appears as the architect. Before 1240 Bishop Bernard put a choir window in the provisionally completed cathedral. An intended alteration of the original plan was not used in the finished building, so that the whole remains a splendid moment to Robert. In his day it was already called the "Gothic Parthenon". Gracefully built and better lighted than several of the large churches of France, there is yet, especially about the façade, a majestic severity. It is more spacious than Notre Dame in Paris and considerably larger than the cathedral of Reims. The former is effective through its quiet simplicity, which amounts to austerity; the latter is less rich in the modelling of choir, windows, and triforium. But Robert's creation became a standard far and near, through France and beyond, on account of the successful manner in which weight and strength are counterbalanced and of the consistently Gothic style. The design presents a middle aisle and two side aisles, though the choir has five aisles and the transept has the width of seven aisles. The choir is flanked by seven chapels; that in the centre (the Lady chapel) projecting beyond the others in French style. The majestic and harmonious interior is surpassed in beauty by few cathedrals. The nave is about 470 ft. in length, 164 ft. in breadth (213 ft. in the transept), and 141 ft. in height. A poet writes aptly, "Fabrica nil demi patitur nec susinet addi" (It is not possible to add anything to or to take anything from it).