The Secret Language of Sacred Spaces: Decoding Churches, Temples, Mosques, and Other Places of Worship Around the World

Duncan Baird. 2013. 224p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781848991118. $35. REL
Using the coffee-table book format to good advantage, Canon (British journalist; Cathedral: The Great English Cathedrals and the World That Made Them, 600–1540) combines clear text with stunning and numerous color images to explore sacred architecture. He focuses on the especially significant or influential extant buildings erected by major religions throughout the world from earliest times to recent decades. Canon's strength lies in drawing upon often stunning photos to reveal how varied traditions used design elements to express differing understandings of worship, values, access, and hierarchy and how those changed over time. The book includes double-page sidebars (on, e.g., Wells Cathedral, Somerset, England; Angkor Wat, Cambodia; Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey; the Acropolis, Athens, Greece; the Synagogue at Beth Alpha, near Beit She'an, Israel; the Friday mosque Masjid-i Gawhar Shad, Mashhad, Iran; Borobudur Temple, Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia; Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China) that rely upon the details of specific sites to illuminate the general.
VERDICT Recommended for those seeking a highly comparative, somewhat academic, and lavishly illustrated treatment of the study of world religions as reflected in the design and execution of their sacred spaces.
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