Help a teacher! Cathedral building activity

I am French teacher doing a unit on the Middle Ages with my students, and we are getting ready to study Gothic cathedrals. Years ago I saw a picture of a Rick Steves tour group "building" a cathedral with their bodies outside a cathedral, to show how the flying buttresses supported the building. I have searched in vain through every Rick Steves book I have and cannot find the picture but would love to do this activity with my students! Has anybody ever been on a Rick Steves tour and done this activity and would be willing to explain how it worked? Merci mille fois!
Lauren Grubbs

Posted by CL
Salem, Oregon, USA
960 posts

The picture is on page 186 of "Mona Winks" 5th edition (in the walking tour section for Paris, St. Chapelle description). The caption says "it takes 13 tourists to build a Gothic church: six columns, six buttresses, and one steeple" I believe there is a video of it too, but I think it's in a now-outdated RS episode from the 90s.

Posted by Gretchen
Andover, MA, USA
427 posts

Lauren, now that CL has told you where the picture is,if you don't have the Mona Winks book, maybe you can call the RS offices and they can email you a copy (of the photo). Just explain you're a teacher and I bet they be willing to help. Doesn't hurt to ask. :)

Posted by Dawn
Denver, CO
422 posts

How funny, I JUST saw this episode today on PBS!! If you go to and type in "Rick Steves Alsace", you can pull up the episode. Around minute 20 is where they are "buidling" the cathedral.

Posted by Alice
Stoughton, Wisconsin, USA
24 posts

I first saw a cathedral built this way at Chartres cathedral. Malcolm Miller demonstrated as part of one of his talks. Sometimes the buttresses quiver a bit!

Posted by Lauren
Greensboro, NC, USA
4 posts

Oh, wow, this group is awesome! I can't believe how many responses I had, and so quickly! I was on my way to check out the book at the library this afternoon after school (Mona Winks is one of the few I don't own already) when I saw the link about hulu, so I signed up for an account and voila! All those awesome Rick Steves episodes...I had no idea they were there! We will be doing this tomorrow in class--I can't wait!