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The Secret Language of Churches & Cathedrals: Decoding the Sacred Symbolism of Christianity's Holy Buildings Hardcover – January 1, 1999


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

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Duncan Baird (January 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844839168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844839162
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 9.6 x 12.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Richard Stemp lectures at the National Gallery, Tate Modern and Tate Britain. He wrote and presented the TV series Art in the National GalleryA" for Channel 4. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 8 customer reviews
It's a large coffee table sized book.
Catherine
Anyone who is artistic and appreciates fine work would love this book.
Twinkle Toes
This book exceeded my expectations on every level.
BRUCE SCULLY

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Jean E. Pouliot on May 28, 2011
Format: Hardcover
First of all, let's clear up a misnomer in the title of this fabulous book: there aren't many things that are *secret* in the church architecture and art, but there are many things that are *unknown.* It's these little-known aspects of the theology and scripture, built into church walls, ceilings and art that are often obscure to those unfamiliar with church stories.

"Secret Language" is a Richard Stemp's gorgeous, very well-researched and exquisitely photographed study of the theological themes that pervade church art and architecture. Better still, it is written by a person who is at once sympathetic to the stories and knowledgeable about them. We begin to understand obvious aspects of churches - like their mass, height and upward direction as suggesting the solidity of church and their desire to direct our inner gaze upward to God. Sounding boards above pulpits not only focus the preacher's words to the congregation, but signal that the word itself is worth listening to. Accompanying the descriptions are photos of some of the most beautiful churches to be found. Because of the flourishing of church decorating during these periods, there is a fuller focus on the Romanesque, medieval and baroque periods. But there are a few modern churches in the book as well, including and the Crystal Cathedral in LA and my beloved Trinity Church in Boston.

Stemp also probes the meanings of many of the world's famous paintings and altarpieces. These include Grunewald's gruesome Isenheim altarpiece, with its greenish, poxed Christ presiding over a hospital chapel. The Van Eyck's Ghent altarpiece is also beautifully rendered and its main details parsed out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Catherine on January 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had only the description to go by and was concerned that it wouldn't meet my needs. It was more that I could have expected. It's a large coffee table sized book. That does make it awkward to read --and it has such good information you want to do more than look at the wonderful photographs. However, the large size does allow for a better view of the pictures.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Twinkle Toes on June 21, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I gave this book to a friend as a gift, and he loves it. The pictures are gorgeous and the explanations are very detailed. Anyone who is artistic and appreciates fine work would love this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By BRUCE SCULLY on September 3, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book exceeded my expectations on every level. It is written by an serious author who clearly researched his subject and has not allowed himself to be corrupted by revisionist history or political correctness. The photographs are large and beautifully reproduced;every detail the author refers to is plainly visible.The text is reserved and restrained, but contains a wealth of information and detail.
Everything about this book is exceptional, from the quality of the writing to the quality of the paper. It even has a ribbon bookmark. When is the last time you saw one of those?
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