Book Reviews

Plotting Gothic

Stephen Murray

, reviewed by Matthew Reeve

By any account, the Gothic period of sacred architecture is extraordinary in its scale and kinaesthetic impact on the viewer.

How Catholic Art Saved the Faith: The Triumph of Beauty in Counter-Reformation Art

Elizabeth Lev

, reviewed by Anthony Visco

The use and role of art in the Catholic faith is boundless and intentionally so.

Sacred Ritual, Profane Space: The Roman House as Early Christian Meeting Place

Jenn Cianca

, reviewed by Uwe Michael Lang

This engaging book offers a fresh perspective on how Christians understood and embodied their liturgical worship in the first three centuries.

The Church of Saint-Eustache in the Early French Renaissance

Anne-Marie Sankovitch

, reviewed by Simone Zurawski

Anne-Marie Sankovitch’s opus stands tall in its purpose to demolish tired narratives based on dichotomies between structure and ornament, and the Gothic vis-à-vis the Italian Renaissance, as she does in The Church of Saint-Eustache in the Early French Renaissance, a careful study of the most important French Renaissance church and the only parish church in Paris to be raised in the sixteenth century.

The Mystic Cave: A History of the Nativity Church at Bethlehem

Michele Bacci

, reviewed by Rev. Anthony Giambrone, OP

The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one of Christendom’s most eminent and ancient houses of worship, is unique among the loca sancta of the Holy Land.

The Art and Science of the Church Screen in Medieval Europe: Making, Meaning, Preserving

Edited by Spike Bucklow, Richard Marks, and Lucy Wrapson

, reviewed by Dianne Phillips

The eleven essays collected in this volume study the partitions separating the nave from the chancel or choir.

American Catholics and the Church of Tomorrow: Building Churches for the Future

Catherine R. Osborne

, reviewed by Karla Britton

In 1961 the Anglican Peter Hammond famously addressed in his book Liturgy and Architecture the relationship of church design to a reassessment of the church’s purpose.

Sacred Architecture in a Secular Age: Anamnesis of Durham Cathedral

Marie Clausén

, reviewed by Nathaniel Gotcher

In 2014, I had the opportunity to pass through Durham to finally see in person the cathedral I had particularly admired from afar.

Fra Bartolommeo: The Divine Renaissance

Albert Elen, Chris Fischer, Bram de Klerck, Michael Kwakkelstein

, reviewed by Elizabeth Lev

While any attempt to return the oft-shunned Renaissance painter Fra Bartolommeo to the public eye should be lauded, Albert Elen, Chris Fischer, Bram de Klerck, and Michael Kwakkelstein deserve special mention for Fra Bartolommeo: The Divine Renaissance. Written as the catalogue to accompany the eponymous exhibition held in the Rotterdam Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen from October 2016 to January 2017, the book not only highlights the technical skill and careful craftsmanship of the artist, it explores the religious nature and significance of his art, something all too often sidelined in major exhibitions.

The Suburban Church: Modernism and Community in Postwar America

Gretchen Buggeln

, reviewed by Rev. Stephen M. Koeth, CSC

In the two decades after World War II, American Christians built an unprecedented number of churches as a postwar baby boom and suburban expansion created tremendous demand for new houses of worship. The trend began in 1947, when Americans spent $126 million dollars on church construction, and peaked in 1965 at some $1.2 billion dollars.

Young Leonardo: The Evolution of a Revolutionary Artist

Jean-Pierre Isbouts and Christopher Heath Brown

, reviewed by Julian Murphy

The subject of half a millennium of historical scrutiny, what more about Leonardo da Vinci and his masterpiece the “Last Supper” remains to be said? In Young Leonardo, Jean-Pierre Isbouts and Christopher Heath Brown challenge the traditional account of Leonardo’s early career. They aim to uncover the real story of the development of this extraordinary artist, shedding fresh light on the context of Leonardo’s early work, and in the end, opening our eyes to the possibility of seeing Leonardo’s masterpiece afresh.

The Framing of Sacred Space: The Canopy and the Byzantine Church

Jelena Bogdanović

, reviewed by Nathan Dennis

Combining equal parts rigorous architectural analysis and theoretical model for understanding the design principles behind the construction and performativity of early Christian and Byzantine liturgical space, Jelena Bogdanović’s monograph on the use of canopies in Byzantine churches is a welcome addition to the study of medieval art and architecture, as well as the framing devices, both physical and rhetorical, that were used to make the divine manifest in ecclesiastical space.

The Glorious Masterworks of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedrals

​Randal J. Loy

, reviewed by Rolf Achilles

The Glorious Masterworks of Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City, Missouri is an almost once-in-a-lifetime read on a single sacred space and its myriad of interlocking factors bound into a hefty, fascinating, profusely illustrated monograph.

Ruskin’s Venice: The Stones Revisited, 2nd edition

​Sarah Quill

, reviewed by Ralph Lieberman

This is the second edition of a book originally published in 2000 to enthusiastic reviews and which, one may assume from this new version, quite reasonably sold out. The text is only slightly rearranged and remains for the most part what it was: a series of judiciously culled selections from Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice, the sprawling half-million-word work that was published in three volumes between 1851 and 1853. The abridgement was illustrated with Ruskin’s original drawings and printed versions from his book, in addition to many photographs made by Sarah Quill.

Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life

​Timothy J. O’Malley

, reviewed by Therese Madigan

In Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life, Professor Timothy O’Malley of the University of Notre Dame asserts that boredom is something we should embrace, that it is essential to spiritual growth and gaining spiritual insight. Distracting ourselves when boredom encroaches inhibits our ability to receive this insight, or even to pray at all.

Liturgy, Architecture, and Sacred Places in Anglo-Saxon England

Helen Gittos

, reviewed by Robin M. Jensen

Gittos opens her study of Anglo-Saxon church architecture with a personal recollection. Returning to the town in which she grew up, she considers an “unremarkable nineteenth-century building” that may be the successor to an early Anglo-Saxon chapel.

Visual Arts in the Worshipping Church

Lisa J. DeBoer

, reviewed by Roberta G. Ahmanson

Was there an art committee for San Vitale in Ravenna in the sixth century? An emperor was coming—Justinian, who had recaptured this capital city from the Arian Ostrogoths in 540. An orthodox church, faithful to the Nicene Creed, was needed—one to match the brand new Hagia Sophia Justianian had built in the Byzantine capital, Constantinople.

Transformations in Person and Paint: Visual Theology, Historical Images, and the Modern Viewer

​Chloë Reddaway

, reviewed by Elizabeth Lev

Art history, which came of age during the secularizing nineteenth century, has spent over a century grappling with the problem of interpreting religious imagery.

Preaching, Building, and Burying: Friars in the Medieval City

​Caroline Bruzelius

, reviewed by Duncan G. Stroik

Ever wondered why religious orders dedicated to poverty would build enormous churches filled with monuments to the wealthy and masterpieces of art?

The Collected Letters of A.W.N. Pugin, Volume 5: 1851-1852

​Margaret Belcher

, reviewed by James M. Thunder

This book is the final volume of the letters of Augustus Welby Pugin (1812–1852), the man most responsible for the nineteenth-century Gothic Revival.

Saint John’s Abbey Church: Marcel Breuer and the Creation of a Modern Sacred Space

Victoria M. Young

, reviewed by George Martin

A building passes a certain threshold when entering its fifties.

Signs of the Holy One: Liturgy, Ritual, and Expression of the Sacred

Uwe Michael Lang, C.O.

, reviewed by Dennis Gill

A short time ago I visited a Carmelite Monastery, and during my conversation with one of the nuns in the speakroom she mentioned that she had just completed Father Lang’s book Signs of the Holy One.

King’s College Chapel 1515-2015: Art, Music and Religion in Cambridge

Jean Michael Massing and Nicolette Zeeman

, reviewed by Joseph Prud’homme

King’s College Chapel 1515–2015: Art, Music and Religion in Cambridge, a large-bound, brilliantly illustrated history coedited by Jean Michael Massing and Nicolette Zeeman, is a clearly written and sharply organized work that offers much for the interested reader.1

T&T Clark Companion to the Liturgy

Alcuin Reid

, reviewed by Michael Wurtz, C.S.C.

This valuable reference companion is a worthwhile addition to any theological library, institutional or personal.

Gothic Wonder: Art, Artifice and the Decorated Style (1290-1350)

Paul Binski

, reviewed by Jason Baxter

Paul Binski’s Gothic Wonder: Art, Artifice, and the Decorated Style (1290–1350) is meant to do more than contribute to an understudied chapter of the history of English Gothic architecture. Binski does, of course, hope his book will do that for the so-called Decorated Style, but, more importantly, he invites us to a fresh experience. Indeed, his goal is to liberate the architecture of the period from the constrictive theories of the last two centuries.

City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Kraków

George Weigel with Carrie Gress and Stephen Weigel

, reviewed by John Sikorski

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a close collaborator of Saint John Paul II (Karol Wojtyła) for over twenty years, recently summarized John Paul’s courage and faith. “He did not seek applause, nor did he look around anxiously, wondering how his decisions would be received. He acted on the basis of faith and his insight, and was willing even to suffer blows.” The cultural, historical, religious, and architectural milieu in Kraków of the early twentieth century, with its experiences of freedom and oppression, taught John Paul that the Church must work “not in a political way, but by awakening in men, through faith, the forces of genuine liberation.” In the words of John Paul II, this truth meant recognizing that “man cannot live without love . . . his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love . . . if he does not participate intimately in it.”

From Giotto to Botticelli: The Artistic Patronage of the Humiliati in Florence

Julia I. Miller and Laurie Taylor-Michell

, reviewed by Duncan G. Stroik

The commissioning of sacred images in a church in one of the greatest art cities of Europe. A story of the vicissitudes of the Humiliati (Humbled Ones), a wealthy religious order who built substantial churches and monasteries in northern Italy. People may know their Church of Madonna dell’Orto, one of the masterpieces of late medieval architecture and Renaissance art in Venice. But their largest house was the Church of the Ognissanti in Florence, a building that imitated the preaching halls of the mendicants, where the Humiliati patronized some of the finest artists of their day.

Painted Glories: The Brancacci Chapel in Renaissance Florence

Nicholas A. Eckstein

, reviewed by Sara Nair James

When I first encountered the frescoes depicting the life of Saint Peter by Masaccio and Masolino in the Brancacci Chapel, still in their grimy state in the dank, dimly lit church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence, they were not on any tourist’s must-see list. I sat spellbound for about an hour, during which time I encountered no other living soul. Since then—especially after the late 1980s, when the chapel was reopened to the public with cleaned paintings and modern (over)lighting—their fame has renewed, which has lured crowds and inspired further scholarship.

Lost Classroom, Lost Community

Margaret F. Brinig and Nicole Stelle Garnett

, reviewed by Will Seath

Since their peak enrollment in the 1960s, roughly half of all Catholic schools have closed. The pace of closings has increased with enrollment attrition and with competition from the recent rise of charter schools; nationwide, more than two thousand Catholic schools have closed since the year 2000.

The Making of Assisi: The Pope, the Franciscans and the Painting of the Basilica

Donal Cooper and Janet Robson

, reviewed by Dianne Phillips

The Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi is one of the great monuments of the late Middle Ages. Begun in 1228, less than two years after the death of Saint Francis, it quickly became a magnet for pilgrims, and its construction was a source of controversy under the early minister general Elias of Cortona.

Transcending Architecture: Contemporary Views on Sacred Space

Ed. Julio Bermudez

, reviewed by Kyle Dugdale

“The problems of the building art cannot be viewed apart from the problems of being.” This declaration can be found in Fritz Neumeyer’s introduction to the collected writings of Mies van der Rohe. It is repeated in Karla Cavarra Britton’s contribution to Transcending Architecture, and it is abundantly supported by the essays collected in this more recent volume.

Christ is Here! Studies in Biblical and Christian Archaeology in Memory of Michele Piccirillo, OFM

Ed. L. Daniel Chrupacala

, reviewed by Thomas D. Stroka

Dedicated to the memory of Michele Piccirillo, O.F.M., a priest and friar who committed his life to archaeological research, this compilation includes studies ranging from wall paintings in the Abbey of Saint Mary in the Kidron Valley of Jerusalem (Crusader period), to the architectural reconstruction of the Church of Bishop John at Khirbet Barqa (Byzantine period), map mosaics depicting sailing in the Dead Sea (Byzantine period), and inscriptions in Elijah’s Cave on Mount Carmel (ninth century BC through the twentieth century AD).

The Experience of Beauty in the Middle Ages

Mary Carruthers

, reviewed by Jordan Wales

How did medieval audiences experience beauty in a work of art? Mary Carruthers argues that two obstacles have impeded scholarly accounts of this experience.

George Frederick Bodley and the Later Gothic Revival in Britain and America

Evan McWilliams

, reviewed by Evan McWilliams

George Frederick Bodley (1827–1907) was one of the most influential architects of the later nineteenth century, so it is surprising that no substantial modern publication covering his life and work existed until Michael Hall’s George Frederick Bodley and the Later Gothic Revival in Britain and America became available in late 2014.

Bramante’s Tempietto, the Roman Renaissance, and the Spanish Crown

Jack Freiberg

, reviewed by Victor Deupi

The flood of new scholarship on Spanish Rome in the early modern world is certainly impressive if not somewhat bewildering, particularly since Elías Tormo’s two-volume Monumentos de españoles en Roma (1940) generated very little interest on the topic.

Palace of the Mind: The Cloister Silos and Spanish Sculpture of the Twelfth Century

E. Valdez del Alamo

, reviewed by Andrew Wilson Smith

It is cold. The first gloom of dawn reveals the forms of a wretched octet of shaggy apes, carved into the structural support of an abbey cloister in the hills south of the Pyrenees. Bound hand and foot, these degenerate descendants of Atlas bear the weight of a whole monastery on their shoulders. A young novice strides along the cobbled arcade en-route to his choir stall for Lauds.

A Sense of the Sacred: Roman Catholic Worship in the Middle Ages

James Monti

, reviewed by Matthew Levering

Cognizant that “the ceremonies of medieval liturgy are among the most underappreciated treasures of our Catholic heritage” (xviii), James Monti has written a masterpiece of liturgical history. In accessible prose, he shows how the medieval liturgy mirrors and expresses the Church’s development of doctrine.

The Challenge of Emulation in Art and Architecture: Between Innovation and Invention

David Mayernik

, reviewed by Milton Grenfell

To even the casual observer, clearly the Himalayan heights of quantity and quality that Western art attained from the fifteenth century until the end of the eighteenth century have never been attained before or since. And indeed, one might even say that it is the casual observer who has most noticed this, since the more “educated” have usually been miseducated so as not to see it. But the more serious student (and one not miseducated) has no doubt pondered: “Why?” And “why then, and not now?”

The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo: Renaissance and Later Architecture and Ornament

Paul Davies and David Helmsoll

, reviewed by Carroll William Westfall

All buildings are made out of other buildings or parts of buildings. An architect looking for precedents can look here. In seventeenth-century Rome, an architect had Rome’s buildings and the extensive Museo Cartacio (Paper Museum)—the modest dal Pozzo palace.

The Church: Unlocking the Secrets of the Places Catholics Call Home

Donald Cardinal Wuerl and Mike Aquilina

, reviewed by Julio Bermudez

What initially seems to be “only” an introductory book about the foundations of Catholic worship places soon reveals itself as a source of not only useful information but also, more significantly, profound insights and provocative meditation.

The Space Between and Making Neighborhoods Whole

Eric O. Jacobsen; Wayne Gordon and John M. Perkins

, reviewed by Kalinda Gathinji

Few authors have considered the built environment in terms of Christianity. In his book The Space Between: A Christian Engagement with the Built Environment, Eric Jacobsen does just that.

America’s Church:  The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Gregory W. Tucker

, reviewed by William L. Portier

On a hill in the Brookland neighborhood of Northeast Washington, D.C., on the campus of Catholic University, stands the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. To the task of writing the Shrine’s history, Thomas Tweed brings all the methodological resources of contemporary religious studies, from material history and ethnography to old-fashioned work with archives and census records.

Roman Pilgrimage: The Station Churches

George Weigel with Elizabeth Lev and Stephen Weigel

, reviewed by C. John McCloskey

The distinguished team of papal biographer George Weigel, his photographer-son Stephen (who handles the illustrations), and well-known art and architecture historian, professor, author, and tour guide resident in Rome Elizabeth Lev have collaborated to produce The Station Churches of Rome.

The Sensuous in the Counter-Reformation Church

Marcia B. Hall and Tracy E. Cooper

, reviewed by Duncan G. Stroik

Common wisdom has been that the Counter-Reformation sought to undo Renaissance achievements and to enforce a narrow and prurient view of art. This fine set of essays offers a more nuanced view of the debates that accompanied the reform of art during this time.

Discourse on Sacred and Profane Images

Gabriele Paleotti

, reviewed by Elizabeth Lev

To this day, the sixteenth-century artistic crisis in the Catholic Church remains choppy water for the art historian to navigate.

Detroit’s Historic Places of Worship

Marla O. Collum, Ed.

, reviewed by Scott Ford

Motown has a particular claim on the American soul. As Keith Schnieder has observed, the narrative of twentieth-century America was written by those who came of age in the Motor City:

Solomon’s Temple: Myth, Conflict, and Faith

Alan Balfour

, reviewed by Denis McNamara

Sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, the otherwise obscure hill known as the Temple Mount has been the object of worship, warfare, and encounters with God. It has also seen complex building programs, from Solomon’s Temple to temples dedicated to Jupiter to the golden Dome of the Rock.

Gothic Pride: The Story of Building a Great Cathedral in Newark

Brian Regan

, reviewed by Mark O’Malley

Though the Garden State offers considerable natural and man-made beauty, gazing out the window of a descending flight into Newark Liberty International Airport can be less than appealing as the view shifts from the impressive Manhattan skyline to the railroad tracks, piled cargo bins, and factory smokestacks that surround the landing strips and provide an initial greeting to the traveler.

Thresholds of the Sacred: Architectural, Art Historical, Liturgical, and Theological Perspectives

Sharon E.J. Gerstel

, reviewed by Thomas D. Stroka

The “threshold” of the sanctuary has been called the chancel barrier, templon, choir screen, lettner, jubé, rood screen, iconostasis, and tramezzo. Thresholds of the Sacred, a compilation of papers dating to the 2003 Dumbarton Oaks Byzantine Studies Symposium, remains a crucial reference for the development and the application of these sacred barriers in church architecture.

The Liturgical Altar

Geoffrey Webb

, reviewed by Duncan G. Stroik

Would you like to get a glimpse into the philosophy of the Liturgical Movement in the 1930s? This period between World War I and Vatican II witnessed some important ideas which were to have a great influence on the renovation and building of Catholic churches.

Real Presence: Sacrament Houses and the Body of Christ, c. 1270-1600

Series Architectura Medii Aevi, Vol. IV

, reviewed by Steven J. Schloeder

Edmund Bishop made an interesting comment that during the Middle Ages, “the Blessed Sacrament reserved was commonly treated with a kind of indifference which at present would be considered to be of the nature of ‘irreverence,’ I will not say indignity.”

Altars Restored: The Changing Face of English Religious Worship, 1547-c.1700

Kenneth Fincham and Nicholas Tyacke

, reviewed by Duncan G. Stroik

The English reformation was not kind to altars and art. Along with the dissolution and destruction of the monasteries, other acts of iconoclasm were perpetrated during the reign of Henry VIII. Under his son, Edward VI, a plan was put in place to transform the liturgy, the theology, and the art of the English church.

Jerusalem on the Hill: Rome and the Vision of Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Renaissance

Marie Tanner

, reviewed by Tod A. Marder

Saint Peter’s Basilica was founded by Constantine around 325 AD and built in a fashion typical of early Christian architecture. By the dawn of the Renaissance in the early 1400s, this structure was dilapidated and in urgent need of repair. Restructuring was begun in the middle of the fifteenth century, but less than fifty years later the goal of shoring up the edifice was supplanted by the grand idea of a completely new building.

Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd-7th Century AD

Anastasia Lazaridou, ed.

, reviewed by Thomas F.X. Noble

The period from 300 to 700 was for a long time—for centuries—interpreted as the time of Rome’s, of Classical Antiquity’s, senescence. Everything declined and fell. Standards eroded. In the 1960s a new interpretation emerged that is today regnant in the academy although perhaps not in the broader culture.

The Eighteenth-Century Church in Britain

Terry Friedman

, reviewed by John W. Stamper

This formidable book is both beautifully illustrated and exhaustively researched, and for what it lacks in historical synthesis, it makes up for in sheer quantity of detail. It covers a period that began with the completion of Sir Christopher Wren’s Saint Paul’s Cathedral, representing the eighteenth-century Baroque tradition, and it ends at a time when church design was largely inspired by Neoclassicism based on an archaeological revival of the antique past.

Borromini’s Book: The Full Relation of The Building of the Roman Oratory

Francesco Borromini and Virgilio Spada, Trans. by Kerry Downes

, reviewed by Thomas Gordon Smith

Three years ago, Kerry Downes published a compilation of at least thirty years of organization, analysis, and interpretation: Borromini’s Book.

The Virgin of Chartres: Making History through Liturgy and the Arts

Margot E. Fassler

, reviewed by Stephen Murray

Each great cathedral gathers around itself a group of amateurs—lovers, really—who take upon themselves the task of interpreting and creating the meanings of the great multi-media work…

Holy Ground: Re-inventing Ritual Space in Modern Western Culture

Paul Post and Arie L. Molendijk

, reviewed by Lisa Austin

Rituals evolve over time. Recently, a California funeral home offered mourners the option of staying in their car while paying their respects. Holy Ground does not address “drive-thru visitation” but discusses ritual space through a contemporary social-cultural lens.

Architecture as Icon: Perception and Representation of Architecture in Byzantine Art

Slobodan Ćurčić and Evangelia Hadjitryphonos

, reviewed by Christ J. Kamages

Architecture as Icon is a catalogue of a joint exhibit presented at the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki, Greece and Princeton University Art Museum. Editors Ćurčić and Hadjitryphonos served as curators of the exhibit, culling artifacts from museums in Europe and the United States.

Worship Space Acoustics

Mendel Kleiner, David Lloyd Klepper, and Rendell R. Torres

, reviewed by Dennis Fleisher

Worship space acoustics is a branch of architectural acoustics which deals with the audible effects imparted to sounds produced within architectural spaces.

Ravenna in Late Antiquity

Deborah Mauskopf Deliyannis

, reviewed by Nikolaos Karydis

The preservation in Ravenna of more than twelve churches from the fifth or sixth century offers a rare opportunity to study the history of a major urban center of the Late Antique period.

How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture

Denis R. McNamara

, reviewed by Thomas M. Dietz

This book is self-described as a “pocket primer for decoding the structure and purpose of ecclesiastical buildings.”

Majestic Shrines and Graceful Sanctuaries: The Church Architecture of Patrick Byrne

Brendan Grimes

, reviewed by Thomas D. Stroka

Architectural historians might easily overlook the Emerald Isle as a source of classical innovation, especially during a century scourged by the Great Potato Famine and mass emigration.

A Benediction of Place: Historic Catholic Sacred Sites of Kentucky and Southern Indiana

Clyde F. Crews

, reviewed by Anne Husted Burleigh

If you love old churches, and if you want a flavor of the history of the Catholic Church in America after it crossed the eastern mountains and expanded into the American frontier, you will want to add to your library Clyde F. Crews’s lovely book, A Benediction of Place: Historic Catholic Sacred Sites of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

The Netherlandish Image after Iconoclasm

Mia M. Mochizuki

, reviewed by Gretchen Buggeln

Reformation iconoclasm “stripped the altars” of northern Europe, the story goes, leaving bare and colorless churches in its wake.

Universe of Stone: Chartres Cathedral and the Invention of the Gothic

Philip Ball

, reviewed by Danielle Joyner

A Gothic cathedral is more than the sum of its individual stones, and Philip Ball’s Universe of Stone, Chartres Cathedral and the Invention of Gothic elucidates with clarity and depth the history of this captivating monument and its place in the evolution of Gothic architecture.

Roma Felix -  Formation and Reflections of Medieval Rome

Eamonn O Carragain and Carol Neuman de Vegvar, Eds.

, reviewed by Hendrik Dey

In their introduction, the editors succinctly state the case for the city of Rome’s striking preeminence in the collective cultural consciousness of western Christians during the Middle Ages, a manifestly important premise which has received less attention than might be expected in the over a century since the appearance of Arturo Graf’s monumental Roma nella memoria e nelle immaginazioni del medio evo.

Staging the Liturgy: The Medieval Altarpiece in the Iberian Peninsula

Justin E. A. Kroesen

, reviewed by Daniel P. DeGreve

A brilliant study suffused with vivid historical commentary, this book elucidates the morphological, spatial, and communicative causes of the retable altarpiece in the late medieval and early Renaissance kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula.

Sacred Spaces: Religious Architecture in the Ancient World, Ancient Near Eastern Studies Supplement

G.J. Wightman

, reviewed by John W. Stamper

Books on ancient architecture are typically focused on a specific region or culture, whether it is Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman or pre-Columbian. They are written by specialists in a particular field and published for specific audiences. G. J. Wightman’s Sacred Spaces, in contrast, covers virtually every geographic region, time period and culture from the ancient world.

The Politics of the Piazza: The History and Meaning of the Italian Square

Eamonn Canniffe

, reviewed by Thomas M. Dietz

This densely written and well-researched book is unlikely to adorn the shelves of most practicing professionals. This is unfortunate, as Politics of the Piazza offers a unique analysis of a subject that should be a matter of concern to all practitioners—the purpose and origins of the piazza, a component of urbanism that, although particularly significant in Italy, remains recognizable throughout the western urban tradition.

The Future of the Past: A Conservation Ethic for Architecture, Urbanism and Historic Preservation,

Steven W. Semes

, reviewed by John Cluver

Just like our most revered religious practices, our best buildings are imbued with a deep sense of history and tradition. Any historic building, however, needs to be periodically updated in order to remain useful and relevant, which leads to the fundamental question of how to do so in a manner that is both meaningful today and respectful of its past.

Liturgical Space: Christian Worship and Church Buildings in Western Europe

Nigel Yates

, reviewed by

Nigel Yates left both a considerable legacy and a void in the field of ecclesiastical history when he died last year. In his final work, he researched and catalogued the planning histories and liturgical practices of many hundreds of parish churches in the United Kingdom and western Europe.

The Beauty of Faith: How Christian Art Reveals the Good News

Jem Sullivan

, reviewed by Christopher Burgwald

In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel the Idiot, protagonist Prince Myshkin states, “I believe the world will be saved by beauty.” In the Beauty of Faith, Jem Sullivan makes a similar proposal, arguing that it is imperative that we employ the beauty of Christian art to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and his Church.

America’s First Cathedral

Mary-Cabrini Durkin

, reviewed by Philip Nielsen

In America’s First Cathedral, Mary-Cabrini Durkin presents a beautifully illustrated history of the Baltimore diocese’s cathedral from Latrobe’s original designs through its rise as a national symbol of American Catholicism, culminating in years of restoration that have only recently been completed.

Picturing the Celestial City: The Medieval Stained Glass of Beauvais Cathedral

Michael W. Cothren

, reviewed by Virginia C. Raguin

This is a richly researched and beautifully produced book, welcome among the studies on Beauvais…

Contemporary Church Architecture

Edwin Heathcote and Laura Moffatt

, reviewed by Thomas D. Stroka

Unlike any other building, a church is “an accessible public space amid an increasingly, and occasionally frighteningly commercial and privatized world…”

Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy

Dr. Denis McNamara

, reviewed by Riccardo Vicenzino

For those who have borne witness to the architectural and liturgical vandalism that has occurred over the last half century, there will be comfort in this groundbreaking work…

The Beauty of Holiness: Angicanism and Architecture in Colonial South Carolina

Louis P. Nelson

, reviewed by Carroll William Westfall

This book sparkles with erudition and clarity worthy of its title…

Stone and Glass: The Meaning of the Cathedral of Saint Paul

Dia Boyle

, reviewed by Thomas M. Dietz

Excepting scholarly articles and occasional references in monographic studies of Cass Gilbert, texts addressing the architecture of Minnesota classicist Emmanuel Masqueray are typically hard to come by…

The Art of the Sublime: Principles of Christian Art and Architecture

Roger Homan

, reviewed by Michael Morris, O.P.

The author of this book, Roger Homan, is professor of religious studies at the University of Brighton in England. For Anglophiles the slim volume will prove to be an absolute treat, for Professor Homan casts new light on English figures and subject matter seldom treated in general surveys of Christian art and architecture. This is done, however, at the expense of omitting major figures and monuments from the modern movement on the Continent and in America, thus rendering the book either extremely chauvinistic or the right book with the wrong title.

Churches for the Southwest: The Ecclesiastical Architecture of John Gaw Meem

Stanford Lehmberg

, reviewed by Norman Crowe

John Gaw Meem, while relatively unknown outside New Mexico, is regarded among New Mexicans as their most significant interpreter of regional forces in architecture. Lehmberg’s book, the first to focus on the architect’s ecclesiastical designs, provides a careful account of Meem’s engagement with church commissions from about 1920 until his last church design in 1949. Meem began his career not by designing, but by restoring churches, especially very venerable ones—such as the San Estevan del Rey Mission, the only surviving church built prior to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and Saint Francis Cathedral of Santa Fe, erected by Bishop Lamy in the 1860s. It is likely that this early involvement in restoration set Meem’s approach to both sacred and secular architecture throughout his career.

Temples for Protestants

Per Gustaf Hamberg

, reviewed by Gretchen Buggeln

In 1955, Per Gustaf Hamberg published in Swedish his Temples for Protestants, an extraordinarily well-researched, nuanced study of the early (sixteenth- and seventeenth-century) Reformed and Lutheran Churches of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. Now, finally, this illuminating and useful book is available in English. As a scholar of early American Protestant architecture, I found myself wishing I had had access to this book years ago. It contains numerous, thorough descriptions of churches and fascinating discussions of important relevant primary texts of the period, many of which are unavailable in English. The translation is fluid, despite minor inaccuracies. Lengthy quotes in Latin, German, French, and Italian are not translated, which is a bit frustrating for the provincial. Nonetheless, this is a necessary book for anyone interested in the religious architecture of this period and its influence on later buildings.

Painterly Perspective and Piety

John F. Moffitt

, reviewed by Duncan G. Stroik

The discovery, or rediscovery, of linear perspective in the Italian Renaissance is usually credited to Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect of the dome of the Florence Cathedral. Another nearby monument that may be the first existing example of one-point perspective is the funerary chapel in Santa Maria Novella painted by Masaccio in 1428. In a complex and theologically rich explication of Masaccio’s Holy Trinity, with the Virgin, Saint John and Donors, John Moffitt argues that the point to which all of the lines converge is placed at the bottom of the picture in order to correspond with the elevation of the host during Mass. Thus God the Father stands on an altar and presents his crucified Son to the viewer within a perspectival architecture that converges on the Eucharist. The consecrated host becomes the liturgical focal point of the chapel and of the painting.

From Meetinghouse to Megachurch: A Material and Cultural History

Anne C. Loveland and Otis B. Wheeler

, reviewed by Lauren Beaupre

Do the increasingly ubiquitous evangelical megachurches that dot the national landscape represent something new in either Protestant architecture or American culture? In their book, From Meetinghouse to Megachurch: A Material and Cultural History, authors Anne C. Loveland and Otis B. Wheeler respond to this question with an emphatic “No.” Rather than representing something new, Loveland and Wheeler contend that evangelical megachurches are part of an ongoing evolution whose antecedents include Puritan meetinghouses, revival tents, tabernacles, and mainline Protestant churches. A sense of continuity that persists even as American church architecture changes is the book’s major theme.

The Architecture of Ralph Adams Cram and His Office

Ethan Anthony

, reviewed by Michael J. Lewis

The historian and the artist bring different questions to a figure like Ralph Adams Cram. The historian wants to understand what social and cultural forces compelled a modern businessman-architect, practicing in the twentieth century, to make buildings in the style of the fourteenth; the artist merely wants to know if they are any good. Do his buildings live—live in the artistic sense—or are they merely clever writing in a dead language, like someone writing Latin verse today? If the answer is that his buildings do not live, then there is hardly any point in trying to answer the first question.

The Altars and Altarpieces of New St. Peter’s, Outfitting the Basilica, 1621-1666

Louise Rice, New York:

, reviewed by Meredith J. Gill

Following completion of construction in the 1620s, and reaching a peak in the first half of the 1630s, a dazzling array of artists worked side by side creating a series of some twenty-four works of art, primarily altarpieces, which, in their programmatic relationship to one another and to the hagiographic traditions of the Church, proclaimed the complex identity of the Papacy and the liturgical mission of “the cathedral of the world.”

The Renovation Manipulation:  The Church Counter-Renovation Handbook

Michael S. Rose, Cincinnati, Ohio:

, reviewed by Christopher Carstens

Taking to heart the final words of the current Code of Canon Law, that “the salvation of souls, which in the Church must always be the supreme law,” the recent book by Michael S. Rose gives clarity and advice to the troubled soul experiencing a church renovation project. The Renovation Manipulation: The Church Counter-Renovation Handbook attempts, in the words of its author, to “give the average lay Catholic a clear understanding of the renovation process and ultimately the knowledge necessary to bring about honesty and integrity in the renovation of existing churches as well as in the construction of new ones” (p.6).

Rejoice! 700 Years of Art for the Papal Jubilee

edited by Maurizio Calvesi with Lorenzo Canova

, reviewed by Michael Morris, O.P.

REJOICE! is a very dumb title for a very smart book. The Rizzoli publication, which is a compilation of twentyfour essays by a variety of Italian scholars, looks at 700 years of papal artistic patronage for the Jubilee Years that brought pilgrims from around the world to Rome. The superbly illustrated coffee-table book covers both art and architecture.

Reconquering Sacred Space

Cristiano Rosponi and Giampaolo Rossi

, reviewed by Jan Maciag

Art and Crusade in the Age of St. Louis

Daniel H Weiss

, reviewed by Christopher Olaf Blum

Art and Crusade in the Age of Saint Louis treats two significant objects of royal patronage: the Arsenal Old Testament, a lavish illuminated manuscript the king commissioned while on Crusade in the Holy Land, and the Sainte-Chapelle. The author’s contention is that both works are kinds of political and religious propaganda meant to justify the ideal of the Crusade.

The Beauty of Holiness and the Holiness of Beauty:  Art, Sanctity & the Truth of Catholicism

John Saward

, reviewed by Michael R. Carey

John Saward’s graceful and insightful book was developed from the Bernard Gilpin Lectures which he delivered at the University of Durham in 1996. The “theological meditations,” and this is the phrase Saward correctly uses to describe his prose, “lead us to understand what beauty is, and how it can be recognized in works of art and holy lives

Notre-Dame, Cathedral of Amiens:  The Power of Change in Gothic

Stephen Murray

, reviewed by Christopher Olaf Blum

Notre-Dame of Amiens (1220-ca. 1269) is the largest in area of the French Gothic cathedrals and second to St. Pierre of Beauvais in height. Praised poetically by Ruskin and beloved of pilgrims and touists, it has nevertheless been seen by art historians as a copy of Chartres or a poor- man’s Reims

America’s Church:  The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

Gregory W. Tucker

, reviewed by Fr. Dan Scheidt

At first glance, Gregory W. Tucker’s America’s Church: The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception might seem to be yet another attractive religious shrine commemorative volume destined to take its place in that inexorably horizontal, closed position where picture book meets coffee table. But both the National Shrine and Tucker’s volume, which lovingly recounts its history, are indeed well worth our more sustained attention.

Sir Ninian Comper: An Introduction to His Life and Work, with Complete Gazetteer

Anthony Symondson, Stephen Arthur Bucknall

, reviewed by

From Abyssinian to Zion:  A Guide to Manhattan’s Houses of Worship

Donald W. Dunlap

, reviewed by Matthew Alderman

David W. Dunlap’s From Abyssinian to Zion: A Guide to Manhattan’s Houses of Worship taps into a very elemental part of my New York—its oft-neglected churches, synagogues, and temples

A Glimpse of Heaven:  Catholic Churches of England and Wales

Christopher Martin

, reviewed by Roderick O’Donnell

Christopher Martin’s A Glimpse of Heaven is a spectacularly illustrated gazetteer of over one hundred Catholic churches in England and Wales, photographed in color by Alex Ramsey

Redeeming Beauty:  Soundings in Sacral Aesthetics

Aidan Nichols, OP

, reviewed by Daniel McInerny

Readers of this journal, passionate about the ability of architecture to “speak” the glory of God, have every reason to rejoice at this new publication by Aidan Nichols, O.

American Sanctuary; Understanding Sacred Spaces

Louis P. Nelson

, reviewed by Duncan G. Stroik

This series of essays, edited by Louis Nelson, examines how people have interpreted the idea of the sacred in American history.

Paolo Veronese: Piety and Display in an Age of Religious Reform

Richard Cocke

, reviewed by Michael Morris, O.P.

Artists, like pedigree dogs, go in and out of fashion.

Temples ... worthy of His presence

Christopher Webster

, reviewed by Shawn Tribe

It seems only too seldom that people of high ideals make much of an impact on the general populace, let alone realize those ideals. This was not the case with regard to Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and the Cambridge Camden Society.