on 24 June 2001
The relatively simple Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura just outside the walls of Rome comes under the scrutiny of history, theology, anthropology & folklore to illuminate its physical & spiritual architecture.
Margaret Visser guides us through this organic aged basilica, from its apse to its nave, its catacombs to its campanile, she opens our eyes to its symbolism, its layers of religious expression, the Christian fascination with lambs & virgins, the meaning of martyrdom & the provenance of relics.
Effortlessly, this tranquil & earnest author moves us back through the ages to reveal, like the ancient stones she walks past, the erstwhile Roman attitudes toward our mortal remains & then through Christianity's infancy, in all its forms & purposes.
Part archaeology, part love story, part poetry & part tourist guide, The Geometry of Love is a quintessential read & I fell in love with columns all over again!
A superb example of writing about what you know - this author bequeaths us a unique & enfolding account of the why, where, who, when & what of a charming house of worship.
Taking one small church, St Agnes Outside the Walls, in Rome, as her starting point, Margaret Visser has written a fascinating and absorbing account that relates this one church to all churches, and examines the theology, architecture, history, symbolism and just about everything you can possibly think of to do with religion and church buildings. Her research has been thorough and painstaking but she wears her knowledge lightly. Short chapters means the reader can pace his or herself – it’s certainly not a book that can be read in large chunks. Not that Visser’s writing is dense or inaccessible – not at all. But there’s so much to take in that I certainly found little and often was the best approach. This book is a true treasure trove of facts and ideas and concepts, and I learnt a great deal. But oh how I longed for some illustrations. The book cries out for them. Such a shame that the author or publisher decided not to add any. That apart this is a wonderful book and essential reading for lovers of churches everywhere.
on 5 January 2010
I found this book a revelation in looking at and understanding a building as bricks and mortar, initiatives for its construction, development and use, a mirror of its age etc. etc. The depth and the sensitivity of her looking, coupled with deep knowledge of the deep meanings and history of words,art, architecture, philosophy, and Catholicism and numerous other -ologies and ism's have enthralled me for weeks, as I read the book slowly and carefully to fully savour it all.
This is a book to have on a shelf by you and to be re-visited every year.
This is a lovely book. It effortlessly illuminates the often difficult field of early christian ritual and attitude, showing how these ancient foundations have evolved through the centuries into the faith we see today. It demonstrates how to 'read a church', making quite complex architectural forms and principles comprehensible to the non-specialist, but it also shows how they have been driven and evolved through the impetus of a faith which is most movingly shared.