Consuming the labor of entire towns, sometimes taking a hundred years to build, these architectural marvels were crafted from just hand tools and stone. Many now teeter on the brink of catastrophic collapse. To save them, an international team of engineers, architects, art historians and computer scientists searches the naves, bays and bell-towers for clues to how the dream of these heavenly temples on earth came true.

Gargoyle on Amiens Cathedral

NOVA’s teams perform hands-on experiments to investigate and reveal the architectural secrets that the cathedral builders used to erect their soaring, glass-filled walls. On this dazzling journey, inside the jewels of Gothic architecture, the filmmakers of the award-winning NOVA documentary “Secrets of the Parthenon” reveal the hidden formulas, drawn from the pages of the Bible itself that drove medieval builders ever upward. Clues to life’s breathtaking diversity in ways he could scarcely have imagined.

NOVA: Building the Great Cathedrals, Wednesday at 9 p.m. on PBS 6.

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