How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture - Denis R. McNamara

>> Saturday, February 1, 2014

Small enough to fit in a pocket yet serious enough to provide real answers, this primer is a must-have for architecture and history buffs, tourists, and churchgoers interested in decoding the styles and symbols of religious buildings. Every building contains clues embedded in its design that identify not only its architectural style but also who designed it, what kind of congregation it was built for, and why. This practical yet charming handbook is the key to decoding the style, history, evolution, and social significance of religious buildings. Not strictly limited to churches, it also covers abbeys, chapels, and monasteries, among other structures. Organized according to architectural element (windows, domes, arches, etc.), each element is presented in chronological order. Additional chapters explore the architectural influence of geography, history, and various creeds, along with an illustrated timeline showing how, where, and in many cases why certain church features evolved through the centuries. There is also a useful introduction to naming each component of a church, from vaults to buttresses and transepts to apses. All entries are illustrated with period engravings and line drawings. This book will be invaluable for architecture buffs and anyone who has ever wondered why classic New England churches are white with little ornament, why Quaker meetinghouses have no altars, or why Episcopalians traditionally favored the Gothic style.

About the Author

Dr. Denis McNamara is assistant director and faculty member at the Liturgical Institute of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, a graduate program in liturgical studies founded by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. He holds a BA in the History of Art from Yale University and a PhD in Architectural History from the University of Virginia, where he concentrated his research on the study of ecclesiastical architecture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

He has served on the Art and Architecture Commission of the Archdiocese of Chicago and works frequently with architects and pastors in church renovations and new design. He has appeared on both Catholic and secular television and radio, and is a frequent presenter in academic as well as parish settings.

Dr. McNamara is the author of numerous articles on art and architecture in Communio,Rite, Chicago Studies, Adoremus Bulletin, Sacred Architecture, Environment and Art Letter, Assembly, The Priest, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Letter and Spirit, and Arris: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. His book "Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago" (Liturgy Training Publications, 2005) appeared on the Catholic Bestseller List and won a Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Booksellers Association as well as two first place awards from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association. "Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy" earned a second place award from the Catholic Press Association. His newest book, "How to Read A Church: A Crash Course in Christian Architecture" (Rizzoli) is available for pre-order.


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