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The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals: Decoding the Sacred Symbolism of Christianity's Holy Buildings - Richard Stemp

London: Duncan Baird, 2010, Hardback in Dust Wrapper.
Condition: Very Good — in Very Good Dust Wrapper. Dust wrapper a little age-toned on the verso.

Contains: Further reading list; Chronological tables [1]; Colour photographs; Colour frontispiece; Illustrated endpapers and blanks; Glossary; Ribbon markers [1];

From the cover: “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 worshippers 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 & 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.”


Size: 12" x 9½". Purple boards with Gilt titling to the Spine. 224 pages.
£21.70
The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals: Decoding the Sacred