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Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy Hardcover – November 9, 2009


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Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy + How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture + The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals: Decoding the Sacred Symbolism of Christianity's Holy Buildings
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Hillenbrand Books; Studies Series edition (November 9, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595250271
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595250278
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 8.5 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #231,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"I believe that this book by Denis McNamara is the kind of mystagogy Pope Benedict called for. I believe it is the kind of mystagogy the ancient Fathers would wish for their own churches. Dr. McNamara knows that to contemplate sacred space is not merely to trace influences in an evolutionary diagram back to Vitruvius. To understand a church requires more than a genealogy of tourist postcards. It requires an interior life. It requires a hope of heaven. It requires a revelation. It calls for mystagogy. All of which are evident in the pages of this book.
Dr. McNamara has given us something we desperately need, something rare and great: at once an achievement of scholarship, a work of mystagogy, and an act of piety." --Scott Hahn, Founder and Director, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

"With his Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy, Dr. Denis McNamara has made a most significant contribution to the theology of the Sacred Liturgy, in the line of the luminous writings on the subject by Pope Benedict XVI, both before and after his election to the See of Peter. Dr. McNamara argues convincingly and well that the lex aedificandi, that is, the norm of building in what pertains to churches and chapels, like the lex orandi or norm of praying, by its very nature, gives expression to the lex credendi or norm of faith itself.
Among the many rich elements of Dr. McNamara's profound and comprehensive study of Sacred Architecture is his most timely application of the "hermeneutic of continuity," that is, the interpretation of Sacred Architecture in the light both of the roots of Christian worship in Jewish worship and of the organic development of Sacred Worship, down the Christian centuries. Dr. McNamara helps us to understand how a church or chapel is at one and the same time the House of God and the House of the Church.
I wholeheartedly commend the work of Dr. McNamara to all who want to deepen their understanding of sacred architecture, who desire to be schooled in the Church's lex aedificandi. In a particular way, it is my hope that his study will become a standard reference for seminarians and priests, and for all who have responsibility for the building and maintenance of churches and chapels. For every attentive reader, Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy will not fail to offer a most significant contribution to the life of faith and worship." --The Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis

"This comprehensive volume answers the two questions that should initiate any discussion about the future of liturgical architecture: Why and How. Why should a church look like a church? How do we "read" a church to know if it does? The answer to these fundamental questions does not come out of ideology or archaism, but from a theological analysis of Beauty and a review of architectural principles. McNamara has the uncommon capacity to speak about both, as he describes the church as a sacramental building. McNamara's progression from eschatological icon and Beauty to the architectural principles of decoration and ornament to a careful reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium is ingenious. If congregations facing a renovation, priests facing a building committee, and church architects facing a project were to really struggle with the content of this book, it would change the kind of churches that we build. The book has the potential to change the future. What would happen to church architecture for the next fifty years if this book were to be read seriously?" --David Fagerberg, Associate Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame

With his Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy, Dr. Denis McNamara has made a most significant contribution to the theology of the Sacred Liturgy, in the line of the luminous writings on the subject by Pope Benedict XVI, both before and after his election to the See of Peter. Dr. McNamara argues convincingly and well that the lex aedificandi, that is, the norm of building in what pertains to churches and chapels, like the lex orandi or norm of praying, by its very nature, gives expression to the lex credendi or norm of faith itself.
Among the many rich elements of Dr. McNamara's profound and comprehensive study of Sacred Architecture is his most timely application of the hermeneutic of continuity, that is, the interpretation of Sacred Architecture in the light both of the roots of Christian worship in Jewish worship and of the organic development of Sacred Worship, down the Christian centuries. Dr. McNamara helps us to understand how a church or chapel is at one and the same time the House of God and the House of the Church.
I wholeheartedly commend the work of Dr. McNamara to all who want to deepen their understanding of sacred architecture, who desire to be schooled in the Church's lex aedificandi. In a particular way, it is my hope that his study will become a standard reference for seminarians and priests, and for all who have responsibility for the building and maintenance of churches and chapels. For every attentive reader, Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy will not fail to offer a most significant contribution to the life of faith and worship. --The Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop Emeritus of Saint Louis

I believe that this book by Denis McNamara is the kind of mystagogy Pope Benedict called for. I believe it is the kind of mystagogy the ancient Fathers would wish for their own churches. Dr. McNamara knows that to contemplate sacred space is not merely to trace influences in an evolutionary diagram back to Vitruvius. To understand a church requires more than a genealogy of tourist postcards. It requires an interior life. It requires a hope of heaven. It requires a revelation. It calls for mystagogy. All of which are evident in the pages of this book.
Dr. McNamara has given us something we desperately need, something rare and great: at once an achievement of scholarship, a work of mystagogy, and an act of piety. --Scott Hahn, Founder and Director, St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology

About the Author

Denis R. McNamara, an architectural historian who specializes in American church architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries, holds a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He has written and lectured widely on the history and theology of ecclesiastical architecture, and has served on the Art and Architecture Commission of the Archdiocese of Chicago. He is currently Assistant Director and faculty member at the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary, and serves as a liturgical design consultant.

Customer Reviews

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I have long searched for a book that would teach me "How to Read a Church."
Claire
"Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy," should simply be their required reading for its expertise, theology and inspiration.
Dolores J. Madlener
While the book is scholarly, it is approachable to the interested lay person.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Our parish is in the midst of evaluating the worship space we have now. The unspoken pain of many of our parishioners in the current architecture has been given a voice through this process and this book has been a powerful starting point for study. It eloquently expresses what so many Catholics know from their interior but have a hard time expressing - that "my church doesn't look like a church".

I believe this book will serve as a starting place for the emerging discussion on what went wrong with architecture following the Second Vatican Council. While the book is scholarly, it is approachable to the interested lay person. Difficult terms are bolded and defined on the page that they appear. Vivid and clear examples are given in pictures and photos in each chapter, and the reader comes away with a strong sense of "what went wrong" and where to go from here.

The reader will first be taught that beauty is not 'in the eye of the beholder" and therefore Catholics are not lost to the whims of modern liturgists and architects. "An object is beautiful when it most clearly and fully reveals its ontological reality, the very reality of its being as understood in the mind of God." A church that looks like a meeting house or factory is not beautiful for this reason - it doesn't look like a church.

The text then moves to the scriptural foundations of architecture laying a path for "theological architecture" beginning in ancient Israel (shadow) to the New Testament (living stones) to today, the Church as a vision of heaven (does your Church look like a vision of heaven or chaos or emptiness?).

Part III covers the classical tradition in decoration, ornament, and columns - their meaning, and their use to express an elevation to a heavenly reality.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John Powers on December 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Denis McNamara has delivered a framework for church architects and building projects that has been needed for many years. Denis takes from theory and spiritual concepts to deliver brick and stone examples. This book is full of photos and methodologies of how churches are built, explaining the traditions, theology, and techniques used to in representing heaven on earth, via a built structure.

The book is accessible to laymen, builders, and clergy. It is also informative from a historical perspective as to what theories have led us to the way churches look over time. The audience need not be a specialist to enjoy this, but a specialist can certainly use this as a tool in building projects.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Dolores J. Madlener on February 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm not writing this for artists, architects, pastors, seminary students, designers, liturgists, contractors, or professors. "Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy," should simply be their required reading for its expertise, theology and inspiration.
The author, architectural historian Denis McNamara, is assistant director and faculty member at the Liturgical Institute of the University of St. Mary of the
Lake/Mundelein Seminary near Chicago.
This review is for today's voiceless parishioners who, without the kind of information in this book, have no constructive opinion as to what their church building's interior renovation or new construction will ultimately look like.
North, South, East and West from Holy Name Cathedral in the Archdiocese of Chicago, there are some of the most awesome churches in Christendom. Most were built in a different era, when, as author McNamara says, the church building was "a sacrament of the city of heaven." If one of these is your house of worship, thank God, and read this book to better appreciate what you have. (In fact, McNamara's first book, "Heavenly City," showcased Chicago's outstanding houses of God.)
If your Sunday Eucharist is offered in a "Disneyland gothic," or glorified gymnasium, read this book to be better informed on what you're missing.
Granted, no matter how mundane the parish place of worship may be, it is filled with happy and sentimental memories. It is filled with loving neighbors, as well as the ghosts of those who went before -- those who cooked the chicken dinners that built those walls in our founding pastor's price range.
"Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy," is a book to curl up IN. You'll savor its 225 pages and 425 stunning photographs if you're into the topic.
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More 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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