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…
Three years ago, Kerry Downes published a compilation of at least thirty years of organization, analysis, and interpretation: Borromini’s Book.
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.
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.
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 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 is a branch of architectural acoustics which deals with the audible effects imparted to sounds produced within architectural spaces.
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.
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.
This book is self-described as a “pocket primer for decoding the structure and purpose of ecclesiastical buildings.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Reformation iconoclasm “stripped the altars” of northern Europe, the story goes, leaving bare and colorless churches in its wake.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This is a richly researched and beautifully produced book, welcome among the studies on Beauvais…
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…
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…
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.
Unlike any other building, a church is “an accessible public space amid an increasingly, and occasionally frighteningly commercial and privatized world...”
This book sparkles with erudition and clarity worthy of its title…
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
Artists, like pedigree dogs, go in and out of fashion.
This series of essays, edited by Louis Nelson, examines how people have interpreted the idea of the sacred in American history.
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.
Nature certainly has had its infulence on the art and architecture of Chicago, but in Ecclesia Panos Fiorentinos shows the resilience and dedication of man, despite the hardships and ravages of nature and the Chicago urban landscape, in forming the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago.
Few scenes are more compelling in Renaissance art than depictions of the Apocalypse and Last Judgment. But before Michelangelo, two artists embarked upon a program depicting the End of Time for the Cathedral of Orvieto.