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How to Read a Church: A Guide to Symbols and Images in Churches and Cathedrals [Paperback]

By Richard Taylor (Author)
Our Price $ 15.30  
Retail Value $ 18.00  
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Item Number 114278  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   256
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.12" Width: 5.12" Height: 0.74"
Weight:   0.73 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 1, 2005
Publisher   HiddenSpring
ISBN  1587680300  
EAN  9781587680304  

Availability  1 units.
Availability accurate as of May 28, 2017 04:42.
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Item Description...
Every church sends out an amazing number of signals. Taylor is a fascinating tour guide to what they all mean---from who the biblical figures in the stained glass windows are to the significance of the church's layout, from how to interpret animal and plant imagery to why there are candles. 224 pages, softcover. Paulist.

Publishers Description
Explores the principal features of a church or cathedral and what each represents, such as the significance of church layout, the importance of such details as the use of colors or letters, the identity of people and scenes, and the symbolism of animals and plants. Original.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Reading a church  Feb 8, 2008
Well written and organized. I learned a lot. Potential buyers should know that the focus of this book is on Anglican and Catholic churches. I'd recommend it very highly.
Bought this to prepare for a trip to Italy, hoping to better understand what I was seeing in all those historic churches. This book, however, is centered on churches as places of Christian worship. To quote from the introduction: "Admiring a church for its beauty or history alone is like admiring a Monet for the frame". This is the author's principle theme. As an example, one chapter is devoted to the life of Jesus. In it, he elaborates on 29 different stages of Christ's life that you might see as an image in a church, from the Nativity to The Incredulity of Thomas. Other chapters include The Virgin Mary, Saints, and The Old Testament. The book does provide the needed visual clues to understand what one is seeing, e.g. pictures of St. Lawrence are of a young man with an iron grid and a money bag. However, the piety of the author is the both the book's strength and weakness. Those of the Christian faith may find this a wonderful read. Those of other faiths or none at all may be constantly irritated (as I was) by his writing technique, which treats the Bible as a source of eye-witness history. If you are looking for dispassionate discussion of church imagery, look elsewhere.
Introduction for the churchgoer  Nov 12, 2007
This book would be a useful guide for the American churchgoer who is curious about the signs and symbols he sees around him. In an encyclopedia-like format, Taylor describes the chi-rho, the attributes of the more popular saints, and similar visual messages of Christianity.

It is not in-depth or particularly scholarly. For example, the entry for the columbine (flower, not high school) gives one meaning for that flower's symbolism, but does not go into older meanings that appear in medieval art. OK for most uses, but not as a reference for art history students.

There are also odd mistakes that an editor should have prevented. For example, throughout the book Taylor uses the word "unshaven" to mean "beardless". I don't know about him, but when I don't shave, I am bearded.
Informed, well-written  Jun 7, 2007
This is a well-written, religiously neutral excursion of the visual symbols and elements of the Christian church, more or less as it exists today and leaning somewhat to the Anglican church. It is not a history of Christian church architecture or symbols through the ages though the author seems to be fairly conversant with the relevant art history. It is no more or less than a brief description of what is behind what you'd see in an English church, with accounts of the lives of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Peter and all the rest, in case you know absolutely nothing.

The charming churches the author is most familiar with are relics, and efforts like this one that may in some way preserve them are good. They, the churches of the past, are as much like America's mega-churches as flowers are like asphalt. I don't know if they have mega-churches in Europe. I don't think so. They, the mega-churches, help us envision the utter banality of the age to come. And what a long way we have traveled since Chartres.

The author is studiously non-evangelistic, which is good, but one feels the absence of faith in or hope for anything beyond the obvious. It is really a rather light-hearted anatomy of Christian churches, lacking soul. If there's no hope of meaningfulness, no hope that these places may convey the possibility of a real inner life, it all seems rather hollow.
Interpreting art and architecture  Jun 5, 2007
Ever wonder why some saints in paintings and sculpture have square haloes? Why columns have foliate capitals? And what are all those hand signals? Richard Taylor explains in How to Read a Church, written not as a scholastic thesis but as a general guide for lay persons. The basic layout of churches, the number and placement of stained glass windows, the grouping of figures and how to identify who's who - all of this can be helpful in figuring out what the builders and decorative artists were trying to convey to those viewing and appreciating the results of their labors. The book works as a resource, and does not have to be read from cover to cover. Individual chapters, such as that on styles of crosses, can be read separately and perused at leisure. Nice resource.

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