Adams never tired of quoting the supreme phrase of his idol Gibbon, before the Gothic cathedrals: “I darted a contemptuous look on the stately monuments of superstition.” Even in the footnotes of his history, Gibbon had never inserted a bit of humor more human than this, and one would have paid largely for a photograph of the fat little historian, on the background of Notre Dame of Amiens, trying to persuade his readers — perhaps himself — that he was darting a contemptuous look on the stately monument, for which he felt in fact the respect which every man of his vast study and active mind always feels before objects worthy of it; but besides the humor, one felt also the relation. Gibbon ignored the Virgin, because in 1789 religious monuments were out of fashion.

The Education of Henry Adams. Maybe Adams is right here, but what if Gibbon really was as contemptuous of the great medieval cathedrals as he said he was? If so, it would be interesting to reflect on what you would have to do to yourself, how you would have to educate and train yourself, in order to feel such contempt when in the presence of the greatest works of art human beings have ever made.