Discover the hidden symbols and complex layers of meaning in the structure and decoration of some of the world's most beautiful buildings – with art historian Richard Stemp as your guide
Who is depicted in that stained glass window? What is the significance of those geometric figures? Why are there fierce-looking beasts carved amidst all that beauty? Is there a deeper purpose behind the play of light and space 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 recognise the meanings and stories deliberately encoded into them. For worshippers these were places of religious education and an awe-inspiring feast that satisfied 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 and Cathedrals provides a three-part illustrated key by which modern visitors can understand the layout, fabric and decorative symbolism of Christian sacred structures – thereby bringing back to life their original atmosphere of awe and sanctity. Part One is an analysis of structural features, outside and in, from spires and domes to clerestories and brasses. 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, revealing the evolution of styles – from basilicas through Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic and beyond. For all those who seek to know more about Christian art and architecture, this richly illustrated book will instruct and delight in equal measure.