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How Much did the Gothic Churches Cost? An Estimate of Ecclesiastical Building Costs in the Paris Basin between 1100-1250
By Amy Denning
Bachelor’s Thesis, Florida Atlantic University (2012)
Abstract: Several scholars have studied the explicit (tangible) costs of the ecclesiastical buildings constructed in the High Middle Ages. However, no scholar has examined the implicit (opportunity) cost of unskilled labor required for their construction, or tried to estimate the total cost of their building as a percentage of regional GDP.
This thesis examines the implicit costs of building the Gothic churches of the Paris Basin built between 1100-1250, and attempts to estimate the percentage of the regional economy that was devoted to build them. I estimate that over this 150-year period, on average, 21.5 percent of the regional economy was devoted to the construction of these Gothic churches, 1.5 percent of which is directly related to the implicit cost of labor.
Introduction: During the High Middle Ages, Western Europe was plagued with famine, disease, and dismal economic growth. Population was increasing at a rate faster than the (Maddison, 2003), leaving the average person experiencing declining levels of sustenance every year. However, during the period known as the High Middle Ages, between 1100-1250, the Catholic Church built over 1400 Gothic churches in the Paris Basin alone. The lavish ecclesiastical building campaigns of the Church represented a portion of the GDP for the region, but what percentage of GDP does this building campaign represent?
Top Image: The interior of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Photo by Peter Konieczny