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Book Description

November 1, 2010 3833151404 978-3833151408
Superbly researched texts take the reader on a tour through the epochs and highlight the specific changes in sacral art, architecture and culture. The viewer seems close enough to touch the objects, and magnified images delight even in the finest details.

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ARS SACRA: Christian Art in the Western World + Baroque: Theatrum Mundi. The World as a Work of Art + Gothic: Visual Art of the Middle Ages 1140-1500
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Editorial Reviews


WHPK-FM radio 88.5 FM in Chicago

"This may be the biggest coffee table book I've ever seen: It's about 800 pages, it weighs 25 pounds. It's not just a coffee table book, it is a coffee table... But, what the book is, ARS SACRA, is a history of Christian Art in the Western World, beginning to contemporary"

"Talk about comprehensive? This goes beyond the word... It is gorgeous, it is mind blowing, it is beautiful when you see the pictures and reproductions in this book. It's extraordinary... I didn't know where to put it because it's one of those books you want to put it in a vault, let alone a coffee table. It took me maybe a week just to go through it, page by page, in awe of the images as well as the history of Christian Art."

"If you want a book that will truly astound you, it is ARS SACRA published by hf Ullmann Publishers. Once again, a great book company doing some really superior, beautiful work in books of arts and culture"

Big, visually stunning art book may bolster publishing's future

There are art books, coffee table books, books that are themselves artworks. "Ars Sacra: Christian Art in the Western World" is all of the above.

First and foremost, it is a visual treasure chest, comprising 800 pages brimming with 1,000 brilliantly colored, sharply detailed images of Christian art and architecture drawn from the fourth to the 21st centuries. The big names are well represented -- Bernini, Caravaggio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Le Corbusier -- but, significantly, so are rarely seen works and sites.

Each page holds a new wonder and presentation is paramount. "Ars Sacra" weighs nearly 23 pounds due to its thick, glossy paper, and size, 171/2 by 111/2 inches, which reflect the publisher's commitment to the project, as do double-page spreads, fold-out pages and an exquisite reproduction of the 10th-century "Limburg Staurotheque" on its covers.

The reader's eyes soar to a Baroque ceiling fresco, which fills two pages and invites examination of each cherub, cloud and figure in a way that even the most avid church-touring, binocular-toting visitor couldn't achieve. Another double-page image reveals the skilled craftsmanship of a reliquary artisan through larger-than-life detail, the rainbow colors of cabochon gemstones set elegantly amid gilding and cloisonne, populated with narratives of the faith.

"Ars Sacra" is arranged by art epochs and begins with "Late Antiquity -- Byzantium" and images of a fourth-century catacomb. The final image, within the section "Art Nouveau -- Expressionism -- Modern Age," is of a stained-glass window by internationally hailed contemporary artist Gerhard Richter, who used a computer to randomly generate its abstract color squares arrangement.

Such chronology, grouping and resultant juxtapositions prompt cultural comparisons, including the differing ways groups perceive and relate to divinity. The pictures, then, are instructive as well as beautiful and the information more complex than that of a straightforward art historical timeline. Texts by eight scholars are illuminating but brief by necessity of space, and at times awkwardly translated from the original German.

Editor Rolf Toman's ambition for the book was high, but containing Christian-themed aesthetic achievements in one volume -- no matter how superb -- must have required some soul-searching choices.

That presumption was confirmed by Lucas Ludemann, commissioning editor at publishing house h.f. ullmann, in Potsdam, Germany, near Berlin. He explained, by telephone, that photographer Achim Bednorz traveled approximately 93,000 miles to 20 countries to shoot the thousands of photographs that were carefully winnowed to those included.

The upside is that digital photography makes taking large numbers of photographs more economically feasible, and more choice allows for creative approaches to book design, Mr. Ludemann said. Pictures of the same object may be shot in "different constellations of light" that can be patched together in Photoshop to get "the perfect light for an object" and thereby the most authentic representation. One part of a cathedral, for example, may be brightly lit while another is very dark. "The eye can focus on the dark and light at the same time, but the camera can't focus on both."

"It's a technology we didn't have 10 years ago," Mr. Ludemann said, and it's "so important for making a book like this."

The selection task was even more difficult due to the variety of content, including majestic cathedrals and remote monasteries, paintings and illuminated manuscripts, sculpture and liturgical objects.

"We tried to make not only very well-known artworks the focus in this book, but also not so known works of art," Mr. Ludemann said.

Mr. Toman's idea for the book was large from the inception. When the publishers saw Mr. Bednorz's photographs, they realized they could do an immense format, Mr. Ludemann said.

"If we do a topic like this, we have to show something magical so that people will say it's magnificent and it's the right medium for Christian art."

Last year, ullmann released "1,000 Sacred Places," a smaller book that similarly explored spiritual heritage, a topic that appears to be gaining increasing interest.

"You're right," Mr. Ludemann said. "We think at the moment, and also in the long term, people are looking more toward spiritual things. They need something beyond what they are doing on earth. Life is getting faster and faster. Book editor Toman is fond of his Christian culture and his spiritual life. He has a love for art and for history, and a feeling for spiritual things."

The first edition of "Ars Sacra" was published simultaneously in German, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese in a print run of 20,000, high for such a specialized publication. It is now in its second printing with added Czech and Slovak language editions.

Due to its sales success, and people responding so positively, Mr. Ludemann said this will not be the last book of its kind. And it may be the sort of publication that saves the printed book.

"We see it as an answer to the ebook. We love ebooks, too. We will also do ebooks. But we also love our printed books. ... You can't present content like 'Ars Sacra' on a medium like an iPad," Mr. Ludemann said, pointing out the impossibility of controlling things like color and format. "A book is a medium that's binding."

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

By Mary Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

In our technology-infatuated era, we've become accustomed to the idea that whatever is smaller and faster must surely be better.

The slim, omnipotent iPhone is obviously superior to the primitive rotary dial mechanisms that people once used. The whisper-thin laptop looks like an almost comical repudiation of the great beeping, flashing, wall-size computers of the early jet age.

These comparisons do not flatter the old stuff. Even books seem increasingly quaint, and imperiled. What, after all, can a book do for you that a computer or smart phone can't instantly outdo?

This Easter Sunday I am happy to say that I have an answer, one that perfectly suits the day's deeper meanings. It's a monumental book called "Ars Sacra," first published in late 2010, that weighs almost 22 pounds. Over its 800 pages, this miraculous achievement chronicles the art and architecture of Christianity from the gorgeous mosaics of antiquity all the way through to the computer-designed abstract stained glass cathedral windows of today.

It's the biggest book I've ever held -- certainly the biggest I've ever seen outside a museum or library (I had to wrestle a bit just to get it into the house). Unlike most glossy art books, "Ars Sacra" is less of a coffee table book than an actual coffee table. You could serve lunch on the thing. Yet you wouldn't want to, for though the golden, seemingly bejeweled cover would make a lovely tablecloth, what's inside is more beautiful still.

Here are delicate gilded paintings from 9th century Byzantine manuscripts, precious chalices from medieval Ireland, stave churches from 11th century Norway and painted statuary from the Romanesque period. In stunning photographs, we see the remarkably detailed figure of John the Baptist from a niche high on the Cathedral at Reims and Duccio's exquisite chronicle of Christ's Passion from the Cathedral of Siena.

And on it goes, each page more engrossing than the one before: grotesque gothic representations of demons torturing the damned, joyous cherubim dancing across a Renaissance frieze and Masaccio's achingly sad painting of Adam and Eve in disgrace, from the Brancacci chapel in Florence. You could get lost in the Renaissance era alone -- and I plan to -- such is the beauty and abundance of that artistic flowering as it appears in these pages.

Not everything is here, mind you - no mortal could print, let alone lift, the book containing all Christian art -- and the English translation (from the German) is not always felicitous, but there are treasures almost beyond measure, in stunning photographic detail.

The marvelous solidity of a book like "Ars Sacra" makes technology seem frail and even feeble. Such a compendium is like a physical rebuttal to the Kindle and the Nook. It's an aesthetic and intellectual rebuke of the Twitterized sensibility that so values breeziness and disposability.

In fact, in subject and physicality, it's a countercultural book, about the Eternal, for the ages. Once today's chocolate and jellybean frenzy is over and we've finished our feast, I plan to disappear into its pages for the rest of the day. Technology can wait until tomorrow. Happy Easter!

Meghan Cox Gurdon

Washington Examiner Columnist

ARS SACRA, AMERICA MAGAZINE - "This massive encyclopedic survey covers Christian art and architecture in Europe from its beginnings in the catacombs of third-century Rome to the present day."

ARS SACRA, DENVER POST - "This book is an accomplishment worthy of endless page turning."

ARS SACRA, MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW - "A magnificent feast for the eye, "Ars Sacra" presents its reader with unforgettable vistas of Christian art history and accomplishment."

ARS SACRA, WALL STREET JOURNAL - "For anyone whose travels include stops to look at sacred art, "Ars Sacra" will be a godsend."

About the Author

Rolf Toman, studied philosophy and German language and literature. After several years of working as an editor for a large German publisher, he now is a freelance editor of books on art and art history. He lives and works in southern France.

Prof. Dr. Rainer Warland, Freiburg, has taught Christian archeology and the history of Byzantine art at Freiburg University since 1995, after professorships in Göttingen and Halle.

Prof. Dr. Harald Wolter-von dem Knesebeck, Bonn, has taught art history at the University of Bonn since 2008, with a focus on the art of the Middle Ages.

Dr. Uwe Geese, Marburg, is a historian of art and culture with a doctorate on medieval relic cults. He works at the Liebighaus in Frankfurt am Main and has published numerous works, primarily on the history of Western sculpture.

Prof. Dr. Bruno Klein, Dresden, has studied and taught in several European countries and in Latin America. Since 2000 he has been Professor of the Christian Art of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages in the Philosophy faculty at the Dresden University of Technology.

Dr. Barbara Borngässer, Dresden, studied art history, Romance studies, and archeology in Berlin, Florence, and Salamanca. Numerous publications on the architecture of the modern era.

Dr. Pablo de la Riestra, Nuremberg, studied fine art in Argentina, and has a doctorate in art history from Philipps University in Marburg. He is an architecture historian, illustrator, and photographer, and a visiting professor primarily at South American universities. Numerous publications in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and Latin America.

Dr. Maria-Christina Boerner, Rennes, studied German language and literature, art history, and journalism. Teaches at the University of Fribourg/Switzerland. Numerous publications on the art and literature of the 19th and 20th century.

Prof. Dr. Bruno Boerner, Rennes, has taught in Fribourg/Switzerland, Lausanne, Kassel, and Dresden, and since 2009 has been Professor of Art History in Rennes. Numerous publications on sacred art and architecture.

Achim Bednorz, Cologne, has been a photographer for publications on architecture and art history for over 20 years. He has made a name for himself as a specialist on sacred rooms.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: hf ULLMANN (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3833151404
  • ISBN-13: 978-3833151408
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 15.2 x 4.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 24 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #759,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • Due to this item's unusual size or weight, it requires special handling and will ship separately from other items in your order. Read More

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
75 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable Treasure March 11, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the kind of book that seems to come along only once in a generation, and if you miss it, you wish you could have been lucky enough to have purchased it when it was still available.

First, as to logistics. The publisher's information about the book on this page currently says the book weighs 4 pounds. This is a serious error - my scale says it weighs 21 pounds. Perhaps they meant kilos?

In order to enjoy this book, I think it's essential to have a bookstand. I found a nice inexpensive one on ebay - if you search "big bible stand" you will probably find the seller I used, who makes a very simple but very effective book stand. I would be afraid to let this lie flat on a table while browsing through it, for fear that the spine would break.

Now to the content of the book. As you might expect, the majority of this book presents art and architecture of Christian churches of the Western world through the ages. There are also some illuminated manuscripts, paintings and sculpture that might not be displayed in Churches, but the great majority of the photos encompass the architecture and art works in Western churches and monasteries. The work is grouped chronologically and while most of the works are from Western Europe, there are some works from other areas, such as Byzantine churches, and a few from Ethiopia, Russia and in the later chapters, North and South America.

The reproductions are exceptional, large, clear, lush and deep colors. Many of the photos present close-up views and details of intricate cathedral carvings that one doesn't often see. The paper is heavy and the book appears to be quite sturdy, with a beautiful cover.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superbly put together compendium of Christan art April 3, 2011
Length: 6:26 Mins
How many of us have spend a lifetime's savings going to Europe to look at the two millenia of art, architecture, painting and sculpture? We go into church after church to worship. But are we worshiping God or Jesus or Mary? The answer for most people is no. What we are really worshiping is two thousand years of inspirational creation carried out by absolutely exemplary artists.

I say that because Ars Sacra (Sacred Art) is a superbly put together compendium of Christian art. In a sense, it is the book version of all those churches, cathedrals, galleries, palaces, public places, icons, frescoes, friezes, sarcophogii, manuscripts and gargoyles. It is the summation of virtually the sole expression of European art for more than a thousand years. That art went on to resonate, develop and evolve to the present day, and it is all covered magnificently in this generous tome. Ars Sacra is the European grand tour in a book. In fact, it is the guided specialist tour that most of us will never be able to afford. With its clear and lovely reproductions, insightful commentary and wonderful production, quite frankly you will be able to get a lot closer to those treasures from this book than you will from standing 10 deep and gazing at a Tintoretto in a gallery, or trying to pick out from the ground the features of a flying buttresses disappearing into that flat grey wintery sky.

Ars Sacra is huge. It must weight something like 11 kilos and its 800 pages have more than 2000 colour images. It is presented shrink-wrapped with a simply breathtaking cover design of a bejewelled golden treasure with a two process dust jacket spelling out the title which allows glimpses through to the image behind.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Mess January 5, 2012
By Diana
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful book. It's HUGE, and it weighs about 25 pounds. I could look at the images forever.

That said, it's clear this book was originally published in a foreign language (most likely German, as the publisher is German). The translation is ABYSMAL. Pathetic, even. It breaks my heart to see such a beautiful book receive such shoddy treatment when it comes to the content. But that's what happens when design wins over editorial.

Still, I recommend this book, if only for the pictures. Not sure it's worth the hefty price tag.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Every once in a while, you come across one of those truly unusual books that does not fit into most normal categories. This stunning photographic collection in Ars Sacra is one of those finds: it is absolutely gorgeous, large, and will probably be one of the most beautiful books you will likely to come across.

First, let me echo what others are saying, yet can be difficult to conceptualize: this book is huge. No, I mean, REALLY huge. If you look at its specifications, it lists the book as being 24 pounds in weight. I can confirm that this book is, indeed, 24 pounds. And if you have a hard time envisioning that weight, remember that the carry-on luggage weight for an international flight caps on most airlines at about 50 pounds. That means that this book is HALF of that total weight. And yes, the book is physically huge. Really huge. Once you get past the weight, you'll realize that, because of its size, this book is not likely going to fit on your bookshelf, and even if it could, it would likely exceed the weight limitations of the bookshelf. It is almost half a foot thick, and every bit as tall and deep as listed. In fact, the book is so large and heavy that it comes in its own box from the manufacturer, with cardboard inserts and styrofoam supports. (That's a box you will want to keep, because you'll need it any time you wish to transport the book.) This book will require its own stand or support to accommodate its size and weight.

Now, having said that, the reason that this book is so large and heavy is because it is filled with 300 pages of large-format, full-color photos. The images, a trademark of all the books that Tolman produces, are everything that you wish your own photos could be.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Treasure Trove
Quality throughout. Good balance of text and pictures, though sometimes wished for more information, I wouldn't like it at the expense of the lavish imagery… I don't think the... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Isumbras
2.0 out of 5 stars ho hum
strong pictures and strong smell. Must have been in the warehouse for a long time! Some of the pics are breath-taking, but most are not. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Jkghgg
5.0 out of 5 stars Gloria In Excelsis Deo!
There are some issues with clarity as far as the text's translation is concerned but the reproductions and the layout are superb. Excellent value as well.
Published 15 months ago by edoardo mungiello
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful
This is the most beautiful book I have in my private library. The historical research is pretty vigorous. Photos and texts are very well arranged. Read more
Published on February 17, 2012 by Zolpenstein
4.0 out of 5 stars Ars Sacra:Daunting Project, Mixed Results
How to sum up the nearly two thousand year history of Christian art in one volume? Sort of a different application of St. Read more
Published on January 23, 2012 by Frank Baransky
3.0 out of 5 stars ARS SACRA: Christian art in the western world
This was a gift I gave for Christmas, and therefore I cannot give a review.
Once I hear back from the recipient I may be able to respond.
Published on January 9, 2012 by tonie becker
5.0 out of 5 stars ARS SACRA: Christian Art in the Western World
An absolutely beautiful book! All ready for Christmas and long after that! It is a treasure and a family heirloom!
Published on November 29, 2011 by Gabriel Lee Dao Ning
5.0 out of 5 stars great value and great book
For such a publication, it is real value for money. The photos are beautiful and the commentaries are so informative. Read more
Published on August 13, 2011 by Francis
4.0 out of 5 stars Ars Sacra
This is a great book and a unique one. The photography is excellent. Only problem is the book weighs a ton. Read more
Published on June 20, 2011 by KA
5.0 out of 5 stars MORE DETAILS
ARS SACRA: Christian Art in the Western World
The books offered by Amazon are spectacular. It's great to buy as many books cool, even for those who live in other countries. Read more
Published on April 1, 2011 by MAGALHAES
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