Book Reviews

Bored Again Catholic: How the Mass Could Save Your Life

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. 

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

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.”

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

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.”

Reconquering Sacred Space

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

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

American Sanctuary; Understanding Sacred Spaces

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

The Artist and the Eternal City: Bernini, Pope Alexander VII, and the Making of Rome

A weird, monumental stone elephant has the power to lead a curious mind to make the statement, “No artist before or since Bernini has ever so clearly defined the image of a great city.”

Unearthly Beauty: The Aesthetic of Saint John Henry Newman

To read Unearthly Beauty: The Aesthetic of Saint John Henry Newman by Father Guy Nicholls is to step through a doorway into Newman’s home.

The Silent Knight: A History of Saint Joseph as Depicted in Art

In her most recent book, Elizabeth Lev takes up the project of tracing the history of Saint Joseph in art.

City of Refuge: Separatists and Utopian Town Planning

In his usual thorough and thought-provoking manner, Wall Street Journal architectural critic Michael  Lewis’ book describes attempts at creating the perfect society in written and architectural forms.

Michelangelo, God’s Architect: The Story of His Final Years and Greatest Masterpiece

It is not difficult to imagine an alternative history where, when Pope Paul III approached Michelangelo to take over as head architect on the construction of the new Saint Peter’s, the answer he received was a polite but resolute “no.”

Building Faith: A Sociology of Religious Structures

In Building Faith: A Sociology of Religious Structures, sociologists Robert Brenneman and Brian Miller conclude what architects and architectural historians have long contended: buildings matter.

Rembrandt’s Religious Prints: The Feddersen Collection at the Snite Museum of Art

Few artists have allured collectors and captivated historians as intensely as seventeenth-century Dutch painter and printmaker Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669).

Philip II of Spain and the Architecture of Empire

Studying the exchange of ideas and trends is a useful means of exploring how the periphery of empire affected its center,” writes Laura Fernández-González in Philip II of Spain and the Architecture of Empire.

Painting in Stone: Architecture and the Poetics of Marble from Antiquity to the Enlightenment

A work of rare conceptual rigor and enormous range and depth of research, Painting in Stone is a “biography” of a material common to many of the most celebrated buildings in the Western canon.

Eyewitness to Old Saint Peter’s: A study of Maffeo Vegio’s “Remembering the Ancient History of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome,” with translation and a digital reconstruction of the church.

Maffeo Vegio (1407-58) was a man of many talents: a humanist, a master of Latin prose whose mentors and patrons were scattered across Florence and Rome, and a canon of Saint Peter’s in Rome. 

Notre Dame of Amiens: Life of the Gothic Cathedral

Stephen Murray is one of the world’s foremost experts on French Gothic architecture.

Cimabue and the Franciscans

Holly Flora has written an intelligent and insightful book about the thirteenth-century painter Cimabue.

Religious Poverty, Visual Riches: Art in the Dominican Churches of Central Italy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries

How is it that the Dominicans amassed a priceless collection of artwork in their first two centuries of existence when they were men vowed to poverty?

The Sound of Beauty: A Classical Composer on Music in the Spiritual Life

A teacher recently told me about playing Simon & Garfunkel for her middle school students to introduce them to lyrics and imagery.

Touching the Passion - Seeing Late Medieval Altarpieces through the Eyes of Faith

Donna Sadler’s study of late medieval Northern carved altarpieces focuses on their impact on the senses. 

Stories in Light: A Guide to the Stained Glass of the Basilica of the University of Notre Dame

In 1842, Father Edward Sorin of the Congregation of Holy Cross began both a school and a parish in the mission that was known as Notre Dame du Lac.

The Cross: History, Art, and Controversy

The cross is the most widespread and universal emblem of Christian faith, an image of suffering transformed into a symbol of salvation and hope.

Rudolf Schwarz and the Monumental Order of Things

Rudolf Schwarz is principally known as a church architect and mystic-poet-philosopher of sacred architecture.

The Chapel of Saint John the Baptist in the Church of São Roque: The Commission, the Building, the Collection

his beautiful book describes one exceptional commission of King John the Fifth of Portugal (1689-1750), placing the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist in the Church of São Roque (Saint Roch) as one of the highest achievements of world art.

Temples and Tombs: The Sacred and Monumental Architecture of Craig Hamilton

Can a new sacred architecture be achieved in the twenty-first century, grounded in historical precedent but decidedly pioneering all at once?

South Carolina’s Sacred Spaces: Seventy Churches and Temples that Helped Shape the State’s History and Culture

Yes, there were times I questioned my sanity, but those doubts would evaporate when I would find an offbeat landmark or better, an eager person with local knowledge,” Bill Fitzpatrick writes.

The Soul of the World

Roger Scruton is without peer among contemporary philosophers. 

Aesthetics, Volume 1

Philosophical aesthetics tends to bend immediately to a discussion of beauty in the arts. 

Remains of Dark Days: The Architectural Heritage of Oratorian Missionary Churches in Sri Lanka

Thanks to Portuguese missionary activity in the sixteenth century, the Catholic faith took root among the people along the seacoast of Ceilão (as Sri Lanka was known). 

Regina Coeli: Art and Essays on the Blessed Virgin Mary

An old Catholic prayer dating to the fourth century extols the incomparable beauty of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the words Tota Pulchra Es, meaning “You are completely beautiful.”

The Cistercian Arts: From the 12th to the 21st Century

The Cistercian Arts provides a one-stop catalog that at once nourishes sufficiently and leaves one desiring more. 

Plotting Gothic

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

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

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’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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A building passes a certain threshold when entering its fifties.

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

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

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

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’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

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

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

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

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

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

“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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.