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The Geometry Of Love: Space, Time, Mystery And Meaning In An Ordinary Church
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The Geometry Of Love: Space, Time, Mystery And Meaning In An Ordinary Church

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  148 ratings  ·  26 reviews
"More than any other kind of edifice, a church is intentionally meaningful in all its aspects, and Visser decided to find out what it was trying to express, in its nuances as well as in its grand gestures. She deliberately chose a relatively simple church just outside the walls of Rome, Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura, and takes in history, theology, anthropology, and folklore, ...more
Published (first published 2000)
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Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

Usually when I get approved on Netgalley, I try my best to write at least 250-500 words. I find that for this book I cannot do so.

Simply put: This is the best book I have ever read about a church or other building.

I collect and read Pitkin guides as if they are going out of style. But this book blasts them all to shame. I pre-ordered a Kindle copy after reading the digital ARC.

In this book Margaret Visser gives a complete guide to the church of Sant’Agnese di f
This book contains a wealth of detail about Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura, a third-century shrine housing relics of a young virgin-martyr, St. Agnes (died c. 304, feast January 21). Margaret Visser explores the church and the catacombs underneath, delving into art, architecture, history and religious symbolism. While I enjoyed reading this immensely, and would recommend it without hesitation to anyone who is interested in early Christianity, I felt the abundance of facts to be slightly bewildering a ...more
An interesting consideration of the "meaning" of a church building. Although Visser describes her subject as "an ordinary church", historically, archaeologically and architecturally it is far from being at all ordinary. Somewhat like a guided tour of the church, but with such a erudite guide leading the way. It does make one want to either visit the church, or look on line for images - which were very sadly lacking in this paperback version. I would have liked illustrations and floor and area pl ...more
B. Rule
May 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was an incredible monument of the glory of Roman Catholic/Christian culture, just like the church of Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura that it chronicles. Visser does not purport to provide an objective account, but instead invests this tour with a passion deeply befitting the subject. She's the learned tour guide you hope to find in Rome. She's witty, engaged and invested in the history of place, erudite and quick with an informative etymology or an illuminating anecdote, but with a clear-eye ...more
Anne Van
A very readable and enjoyable book by the writer of "Much Depends on Dinner". This time the writer brings a wealth of material, from Roman history, archaelogy, mythology, and architecture in thinking about one particular church in Rome. This is an early Christian church dedicated to St. Agnes. Much thoughtful writing about the Catholic church and catechism.
Sep 14, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
i love visser's books about food, but this church book was just a bit much for me. since i'm getting old and life is short, i didn't finish it.
Eileen Iciek
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding book about a small church in Rome. Although just about a small church, it covers so much more than you might imagine - church history, art, architecture from the late Roman period, mosaics, history in general. A lot packed into this little book.
Jo Beth
Aug 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
deep research and well written. If you are fascinated by cathedrals or churches architecture and meaning, then you will enjoy this book. She is passionate about her subject which lends interest to the highly researched and detailed information.
Aug 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 cert ...more
Dwight Penas
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a sublime book. I don't know how to categorize it to friends. It is a classicist "reading" an ancient building. But this book is an intricate web of history, etymology, architecture, theology and liturgical theology (all of it excellent). It was so rich that I could only read a couple sections at a time. Then I'd have to pause to think, or to catch my breath. I mean, it took me a while to get my mind around "narthex" as a fennel bulb. Just to have such information -- if not insight -- wa ...more
Aug 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Visser is a fabulous writer with a depth of insight that takes one's breath away. She is dedicated to seeking meaning in the ordinary, like dinner (see other books), and in this jewel takes us on an excursion to St Agnes Outside the Walls. Using St Agnes as a model of the ordinary church, Visser explains every detail of the architecture of the church building, which signifies the architecture of our search for God. I read and re-read this book; it's fabulous. One can just read the chapter on the ...more
Nov 22, 2016 rated it liked it
Often brilliant and occasionally flawed anthropological reflection on a specific church in Rome, that brilliantly reflects some key symbols and themes (altars, bells, feminism) while retaining an interesting narrative. Some sensational choices of language mar sections - the author is a self-confessed subjective observer (a Catholic writing about Catholic history). Some sections, particularly those relating to contemporary public response to the place of a church, feel underdeveloped. The book ne ...more
Oct 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The multi-faceted history of this church and the people who had a hand in inspiring, creating, and adding to it and the complex surrounding it were fascinating! This St. Agnes is "my" saint, and reading this book propelled me to visit Rome during her (and my) feast day, January 21, and the author described the mass and ceremony perfectly. The only shame was that I didn't get to go inside Constantia's adjoining mausoleum.
Dec 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Visser takes one church and deconstructs it. I've been in many churches over the years, albeit never to this one (Sant'Agnese fuori le mura in Rome), but this book makes me understand how very little I know about them. She looks at every aspect of Sant'Agnese fuori le mura, its architecture, its rich history, its physical location. Fascinating read.
There are parts of this book that are extrodinary and a true inspiration to one's faith. It is remarkable to read stories of the early years of the Chrisitan faith. At times it was hard reading, but that fault was more than made up with extraordinary revelations
Dec 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The recommendation on Slowtravel said something like "you will never look at a church in the same way." The reviewer was spot-on. If you're going to spend any time in Rome, this is definitely one of the best travel books I have read--I would recommend even if you are not going to Rome, lc
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant thing. Pretty dense, but I'm damned if I'm going to knock a point off for being dense. By the end, probably the best part of a really good book, it felt like the achievement of some kind of pilgrimage.
Nov 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating yet simple book. By simple I do not mean simplistic, but simply and beautifully written. Her word portraits are wonderful along with her digressions and asides.
Conrad Haas
Dec 08, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
The book gave good descriptions of how space, time, and meaning found in an ordinary church. Much can be learned from just thinking about what we see when in a church.
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really loved the topic. With so much description and so many architectural terms, photos, drawings, maps would have improved it greatly!
Many layers of meaning for threshold, narthex, nave, altar, apse, left, right, outside, crypt and tower, and tomb...
May 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love architectural anthropology!
Jul 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As an inveterate visitor of ancient churches, what I've found invaluable is Visser's thorough lesson on how to read a church, especially an Italian Catholic one.
Sara Lige
Oct 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book - found it utterly fascinating
I know that it's hard sometimes to believe that it is there, but despite the odds it really is.
Amy Welborn
rated it it was amazing
Apr 25, 2012
Deborah Black
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Nov 20, 2008
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Margaret Visser writes on the history, anthropology, and mythology of
everyday life. Her most recent book is The Gift of Thanks, published by HarperCollins. Her previous books, Much Depends on Dinner, The Rituals of Dinner, The Way We Are, and The Geometry of Love, have all been best sellers and have won major international awards, including the Glenfiddich Award for Foodbook of the Year in Britain

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