ISBN 9781844836635,The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals

The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals



Duncan Baird Publishers

Publication Year 2010

ISBN 9781844836635

ISBN-10 1844836630


Number of Pages 224 Pages
Language (English)

Literature fiction

Discover the hidden symbols and complex layers of meaning in the structure and detail of some of the world's most beautiful buildings.

A church or a cathedral is more than a magnificent and imposing piece of architecture. To step inside one is to experience something intentionally uplifting, but these extraordinary buildings also express complex ideas about human belief, and were designed quite deliberately to be "read" in this way by the faithful who attended them.

Who is depicted in that stained glass window? What is the significance of those geometric figures? Why are there beasts carved amidst all that beauty? Is there a deeper purpose underlying the exploitation of height and light 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. For worshipers these were places of religious education and an awe-inspiring feast satisfying both the senses and the soul. 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.

The Secret Language of Churches and Cathedrals provides an illustrated key by which modern visitors can understand the layout, fabric and decorative symbolism of Christian sacred structures - thereby bringing back to life their atmosphere of awe and sanctity. The book has three parts. Part One is an analysis of structural features, outside and inside, from walls to ceilings. 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, tracing the evolution of styles - from the early basilica style through Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and beyond.

For all those who relish symbolism, or enjoy exploring layers of meaning or simply seek a more informed appreciation of Christian art and architecture, this richly illustrated book will instruct and delight in equal measure.

About The Author
Richard Stemp studied Natural Science and History of Art at the University of Cambridge, and has a Ph.D in Italian Renaissance sculpture. After a year at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, he now divides his time between art history and acting. He teaches in London for the National Gallery, Tate and Buchingham Palace, as well as on site in museums and churches across Italy for Art History Abroad. He wrote and presented the TV series "Art in the National Gallery" and "Tate Modern" for Channel 4 in the United Kingdom and is the author of several books, including The Secret Language of the Renaissance (DBP, 2006).

Table of Contents
Part 1
Outside and In- Looking up to God
Heading Inside
From Floor to Ceiling, Walls and Windows
Stained Glass
In the Nave
The Word of Life
In Memoriam, Different Devotions
Closer to God
The Division of Space
, The Altar
Life and Work
Part 2
The Thematic Decoder- The Bible
One God in Three Persons
Jesus: God and Man
Mary: Mother of God
Prophets and Sibyls
The Communion of Saints, Angels and Demons
Virtues and Vices
Sacred Geometry
Light and Colour
Flora and Fauna
Letters and the Law
Part 3
The Historical Decoder- The Early Church
Byzantium and the East
Gothic Renaissance
The Age of Reform
Churches of the Word
Choosing from the Past
Electric and Modern.