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4.3 out of 5 stars49
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 19 September 2010
There are three different versions of this book: the original small red version which has the full text but very few pictures How to Read a Church: A Guide to Images, Symbols and Meanings in Churches and Cathedrals; the large white version which is a coffee table book and has lovely pictures How to Read a Church; and the 'pocket' version which appears on a different page Pocket Guide to How to Read a Church. The latter has an edited version of the text but most of the same pictures that come in the largest version. There are more details in my review on that page. Now that there is a TV series by the author its worth pointing out that the books pre-date the programmes and are not 'the book of the series' although I think if you like the programmes you will also enjoy the book.
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on 7 October 2004
I had a copy of the original version of this book - its really interesting and describes the main images and symbols seen in Western Churches and makes a visit to these buildings so much more enjoyable and rewarding. Its also a good read in its own right. Many of the main biblical stories are retold (and the images associated with them explained) and the author also sets out some of the other stories about biblical characters that are more myth (that is they are not in the bible) which can be depicted in churches. This new edition seems to be more or less the same text but looks and feels completely different. It is larger (more a book to leave at home than one to take with you on a tourist trip), well designed with lots of colour photographs of the images exlained in the text. It is a real feast for the eye and would make a good present for anyone who likes making visits to churches and cathedrals.
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on 21 February 2005
I enjoyed reading this book and will refer to it often in the future. One of my pleasures is to visit cathederals and churches to appreciate the architecture, the history and place in communiy - but I had little detailed knowledge.
This book covers a wide variety of topics, some of which are: the orientation of the church; types of halos (5 are well illustrated using clear line drawings); the masons designs of gargoyles; the roles of Jesus, Mary and the Saints (as a non practicing Christian this was very useful); it even has a descriptive drawings of the vestments of bishops and priests (and how many of you know what a Rochet or an Alb is, and who wears it).
The writing style is informative and economical - no wasted words, but the ideas and knowledge are conveyed well
The copy I got from Amazon is hard cover, but is easy to carry as it is only approx 135 mm by 210 mm with 246 pages. The photos are in black and white.
This book is a bargain - buy it.
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on 4 January 2009
I'm no church historian and not religious in any way, but I found this book totally absorbing and fascinating as an explanation of the imagery and decoration found in churches. I found the book by accident, borrowed an old paperback copy to read and then decided to treat myself to this beautiful version which has many more photos and illustrations to help you see what Dr Taylor is describing.

The book covers all sorts of information about the saints, carvings, pictures and symbols you might see in a church, their stories and what the images may have meant to the people making them or looking at them in a time when most people couldn't read. The book is very easy to read and quite fascinating. There is also a list of saints, their stories and the ways they can be recognised in pictures/carvings and there is a useful glossary of terms. These make the book perfect as a reference as well as great to read as a whole.

I've rarely been tempted to write to an author in praise of a book (and I've read a lot!), but this was an exception.

My only small gripe is the lack of explanation of non-Christian symbols and carvings in churches (green men, woodwoses, little pagan figures etc) that often crop up in early church designs before we were 'fully integrated' :-)
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on 3 December 2011
Superb book but note there are 3 versions/editions of this book and Amazon have got them confused. The AMAZON price of 5.50 is for the smaller earlier version, not for this book which is the later illustrated 2004 edition. Hover your cursor over the prices box and you will see different cover pictures. Be carefull when purchasing. No-where can I find Amazon actually selling THIS 2004 book.
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on 19 May 2012
the author goes into detail about details of churches, but doesn't mention the obvious. That is: the characteristic Christian symbols incorporated in the architecture itself.

Thus: cathedrals were built in the shape of a cross, representing Christ's cross on Calvary, which is why the crossing of the two axes, though perpendicular to each other, is not at the centre of the main east-west axis. The main longtitudional axis of cathedrals and churches was always east-west, to that both the building and the congregation face east, to Jerusalem. The altar is placed at the east end, not quite at the very end, but where Jesus' head would lie on the cross. The spires point towards heaven.

These are details contained in oral tradition - I learnt these from my teachers at school in the 1950's and 1960's.
It may be that it is because these points are so obvious that they have been omitted from most written works, including a lot of guides produced by individual churches and cathedrals.
Otherwise, a very good book
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on 5 November 2012
I possess the hardback copy of this book and it is hugely informative and very clearly written. It isn't just a good guide to charches, but also something of an accessible primer to Christianity too (as books such as Richard Taylor's will increasingly have to be in our ever-more secular world). The only reason I'm giving it four stars rather than five is its binding. While I can understand cheap novels being glued to the spine, it strikes me that something more durable is necessary for a reference work, and it annoys me to buy them only to discover that they are less than sturdily bound. I like this book, and would like to think it will last. After all, books on this sort of subject shouldn't go out of date very often. The trouble is, it's very difficult to tell from Amazon WHAT sort of binding a book has. I feel a bit precious raising this, but it is an issue.

To sum up: brilliant book, Mr Taylor, but do have a word with your publisher.
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on 5 May 2009
This book sets out to explain churches to people who don't know much about them, and even some who do.

Although it is simply written and set out, it contains a wealth of information, not easily accessible elsewhere, the about symbolism and purpose of church buildings. It gives clues about what to notice, and about the symbols to be found in pictures and on tombs.

The book will enrich any visit to a church - and could give teachers some interesting ideas about how to enliven and deepen lessons involving churches and church visits.

Simple, well done, excellent.
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on 22 January 2012
How To Read A Church: A Guide to Images, Symbols and Meanings in Churches and CathedralsThis followed on at my wifes request after seeing the TV show, she has enjoyed the book very much and it will accompany her anytime we visit a church. (often)
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on 12 December 2012
The book of the series is a gentle walk through the history of British church architecture. It covers all the usual suspects such as the Saxons, the Normans, the Gothic period, the Oxford movement and so on. The written word allows Richard Taylor to add more depth to his analysis but does lose a bit of the charm of the TV series. The trade-off is well made however. iThe style is an engaging, easy and informative. The emotional link which is obvious in the TV programme is less obvious but the subject matter moves along well enough. Highly recommended as a primer for those interested in learning more and in gaining insight into the churches which dot the country.
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