Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals by Richard Stemp

book cover
The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals
by Richard Stemp

ISBN-13: 9781780289618
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Watkins Publishing
Released: July 19, 2016

Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Book Description, Modified from NetGalley:
Who is depicted in that stained glass window? What is the significance of those geometric figures? Why are there fierce-looking beasts carved amidst all that beauty? Is there a deeper purpose behind the play of light and space in the nave? Why is there a pelican on the lectern and ornate foliage on the pillars? The largely illiterate medieval audience could read the symbols of churches and cathedrals and recognize the meanings and stories deliberately encoded into them.

Today, in an age less attuned to iconography, such places of worship are often seen merely as magnificent works of architecture. This book restores the lost spiritual meaning of these fine and fascinating buildings. It provides a three-part illustrated key by which modern visitors can understand the layout, fabric and decorative symbolism of Christian sacred structures.

Part One is an analysis of structural features, outside and in, from spires and domes to clerestories and brasses.

Part Two is a theme-by-theme guide, which identifies significant figures, scenes, stories, animals, flowers, and the use of numbers, letters and patterns in paintings, carvings and sculpture.

Part Three is a historical decoder, revealing the evolution of styles - from basilicas through Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and beyond.

For all those who seek to know more about Christian art and architecture, this richly illustrated book will instruct and delight in equal measure.

My Review:
The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals provides a tour of these buildings, explaining the practical, historical, and symbolic reasons behind their features. The author looked at Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches.

The first part described what you see as you approach and enter the building and explained the architectural features found in a typical cathedral or church. The second part looked at the paintings and sculptures and identified various people and common symbols and scenes for those of us not "in the know." The third part looked at the elements found in the earliest churches and how they changed throughout history.

The book contained many full-color pictures from the outside and inside of churches to illustrate the points made in the text. For paintings, we're shown the overall ceiling, then detail shots with descriptions of what is being show in that section.

I once went on a study abroad tour were we visited many cathedrals. I felt like I was missing half of what I was seeing because I didn't know the intent behind it. I'd recommend this book to those planning on touring cathedrals or who are just interested in the topic.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

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