Raphael and the Noble Task

Raphael and the Noble Task

by Catherine Salton

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Raphael is a griffin, one of the ferocious stone creatures sworn to guard the Cathedral from harm. Yet Raphael feels a mysterious longing for something more -- a Noble Task, one that will bring meaning to his life.

When a baby is abandoned at the Cathedral door, Raphael believes he's found his Noble Task at last. But Raphael soon learns that caring for the child brings danger and sacrifice as well as love. And when the baby's mother returns, only to find that her child is missing, Raphael must set things right by performing an act of enormous courage: an act that depends not only on a legend kept secret for generations but that will demand of him all of his heart and soul to prevail.

More than twenty illustrations bring the characters of the Cathedral to life in this unforgettable adventure, destined to be cherished as an enduring Christmas classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062030429
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/16/2010
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 176
File size: 5 MB

About the Author

Catherine Salton was born in Chicago Heights, Illinois in 1963. When she was six years old, her family moved to London, England. Before returning to the United States, her family visited virtually every major cathedral in England and Catherine became fascinated by the middle Ages. "I wish I could say it was the glorious architecture that did it," says Catherine, "but it was really just the gargoyle to spur a kid's imagination. They're kid-size. They're fantastic-looking. And you think that if you just say the right thing to them, they'll talk right back to you."

After growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Catherine attended the University of Rochester in upstate New York. She graduated with an English degree and a passion for medieval literature. But since Chaucer didn't pay the rent, Catherine moved to Northern California with her husband Michael Tuciarone and attended law school at the University of California, Berkeley.

Catherine practiced law for several years, but never lost the bug for reading and writing about a medieval Cathedral for her young son and his cousins. She also has published essays as well as magazine articles and fiction, and her next book, The Star-Catching Tree, is forthcoming from HarperCollins Publishers.

Catherine lives with her husband and son in Northern California. She collects gargoyle statues and books on the Middle Ages. She also plays the cello for her own amusement, but unfortunately no-one else's.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

This is a story about something that happened a very long time ago, at the very top of a Cathedral that stands on the edge of a little town in a country that is very far away.

This particular Cathedral was built over a few hundred years during a period of time which we call the Middle Ages, for lack of anything better to call it. The Middle Ages came after the Golden Age, when people thought about mathematics and ran around naked a lot, and before the Renaissance, when people thought about mathematics again but this time wearing clothes. It is only a small exaggeration to say that during the Middle Ages most people largely forgot about mathematics, except insofar as to use it to build Cathedrals.

Cathedrals are vast and magnificent edifices, meant to reflect the Kingdom of God on earth, and so it took many years to build one. Teams of laborers cut huge blocks of stone from quarries and dragged them across miles of mudrutted countryside to the site. Carpenters and roughmasons took the stones and from them formed a cross in the earth, a cross which they raised up into soaring arches, knit together in turn by spreading fans of granite so delicate they look like the fingers of an elm tree in the sky. Inside, the freemasons and hardstone cutters carved rock so unyielding that you can still sharpen knives on it into roses, and leaves, and folds of drapery that look like a breath could move them. And, best of all, these master sculptors carved hundreds of gargoyles, chiméres, statues, and tomb effigies, and placed them on every roof and in every corner to be found.

It is with these inhabitants of the Cathedral that ourstory is concerned.

We begin with the gargoyles. Look along any outside wall of the Cathedral, and you will see them: rows of creatures, monstrous and exotic, peering down at you with open mouths. They are there to protect the Cathedral, but not from you; they are there to protect it from water. That is largely (but not entirely, as you will see) the gargoyles' task.

Placed at strategic points along the gutters of the Cathedral, the gargoyles use their open mouths to direct rainwater away from the vulnerable mortared walls and toward people's heads. That last part may not have been intentional, but for the gargoyles it's the best part of the job. Gargoyles are a little sensitive about looking like they're throwing up all the time and, unfortunately, have become somewhat hostile about it. They're also aware that in the hierarchy of cathedral statuary they carry the anchor, ranking only slightly above graffiti carved in by notables who'd survived some piddling land war in France and felt the need to advertise.

Above gargoyles in Cathedral society are the grotesques, or as they prefer to be called, the chiméres. (That's French and it's taken by the gargoyles as yet more evidence of utterly unfounded snobbery.) The chiméres are decorative statues that do not serve as waterspouts. Like gargoyles, they're usually monsters of one sort or another, including dragons, griffins, satyrs, and the occasional oddball parandrus. But unlike gargoyles, chiméres are not limited by attachment to heavy counterbalancing stones, and so they tend to have more options. This point is lost on people today. We tend to lump both the real gargoyles and the chiméres into one group and call them all gargoyles. This might say something about a loss of precision in modern thought but let's not get into that.

Taking the highest rank at the Cathedral are the tomb effigies, which are the stone figures of famous people interred there. Included in this group are the occasional bust or sculpture of an important person, living or dead, and the human faces in the bosses of the vaults, and the people carved into the wooden stalls that line the choir. These figures tend toward the pompous and self-absorbed and generally have little to say to the gargoyles or the chiméres.

The religious statues and the stained glass windows are also part of the Cathedral, but they stand outside the rule that I have described, for they are different in nature. All I need to say about them now is that they, like certain other inhabitants of the Cathedral, once helped a chimére who sat on the North Balcony of the North Tower of the West Facade of the Cathedral when this story happened. His name was—and is, still—Raphael.

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Raphael and the Noble Task 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
jjmcgaffey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Cute and weird. It reminds me of St. Patrick's Gargoyle, and makes me want to read Pillars of the Earth - which has been recommended and now I have a copy. Living gargoyles are fun, I want to read about the real thing...
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was quite excellent. I enjoyed the overall story and my heart went out to Rapheal and his endless searching for his purpose in life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful, magical book. Salton creates a fully-formed world of a medieval cathedral and those living in, on and around it. Her stone chimere protagonist, Raphael, is unusual, kind, brave, personable and immensely sympathetic. His friends are well-rounded characters drawn with wit and love. Without being heavy-handed, syrupy or maudlin, Raphael's tale is touching and deeply relevant. It's about love, faith, community, and an individual's quests for a higher purpose and for the meaning of his own identity. This is a classic book for adults and kids, and not just for the holidays. You could read one chapter a night starting on Dec. 1, finishing on Dec. 24. And then read it again in January, and February, and enjoy it more and more each time.