Easter Reading from Yale

Yale University Press presents a wide variety of books for the Easter period, looking at Christian art, history and architecture.

For those of the Christian faith Easter is a hugely significant time of the year. Today we’re looking at a number of recently-published Yale books that examine the history of the faith, but also the effects of Christianity on art, culture and architecture.

The Sacred Image in the Age of Art
Titian, Tintoretto, Barocci, El Greco, Caravaggio
by Marcia B Hall

Underlying the religious art of the Renaissance is a tension between the needs of the Church and the impulse to create great works. This beautifully illustrated book presents sacred images from the 15th and 16th centuries, leading up to two pivotal events in 1563. The Council of Trent, which signified the beginning of the Counter-Reformation, defined requirements that curtailed the freedom of painters and patrons in creating art for churches, while the founding of the Accademia del Disegno in Florence symbolically acknowledged that artists had achieved the status of creators not craftsmen. Marcia Hall takes a fresh look at some of the greatest painters of the Italian Renaissance not typically associated with sacred imagery and shows how they navigated their way through the paradox of ‘limited freedom’ to forge a new kind of religious art. Read More

Titian, Christ Carrying the Cross (from The Sacred Image in the Age of Art by Marcia B Hall)

Holy Bones, Holy Dust
How Relics Shaped the History of Medieval Europe
by Charles Freeman

Relics were everywhere in medieval society. Saintly morsels such as bones, blood, milk, hair, teeth, and clothes, and items like the Crown of Thorns, coveted by Louis IX of France, were thought to bring the believer closer to the saint who might intercede with God on his or her behalf. In the first comprehensive history in English of the rise of relic cults, Charles Freeman takes readers on a vivid, fast-paced journey from Constantinople to the northern Isles of Scotland over the course of a millennium. In “Holy Bones, Holy Dust”, Freeman illustrates that the pervasiveness and variety of relics answered very specific needs of ordinary people across a darkened Europe under threat of political upheavals, disease, and hellfire. But relics were not only venerated – they were traded, collected, lost, stolen, duplicated, and destroyed. They were bargaining chips, good business and good propaganda, politically appropriated across Europe, and even used to wield military power. Freeman examines an expansive array of relics, showing how the mania for these objects deepens our understanding of the medieval world and why these relics continue to capture our imagination. Read More

A late twelfth-century enamelled casket, showing the murder and the subsequent burial of Thomas Becket (from Holy Bones, Holy Dust by Charles Freeman)


Fires of Faith
Catholic England Under Mary Tudor
Eamon Duffy

The reign of Mary Tudor has been remembered as an era of sterile repression, when a reactionary monarch launched a doomed attempt to reimpose Catholicism on an unwilling nation. Above all, the burning alive of more than 280 men and women for their religious beliefs seared the rule of ‘Bloody Mary’ into the protestant imagination as an alien aberration in the onward and upward march of the English-speaking people. In this controversial reassessment, the renowned reformation historian Eamon Duffy argues that Mary’s regime was neither inept nor backward looking. Led by the queen’s cousin, Cardinal Reginald Pole, Mary’s church dramatically reversed the religious revolution imposed under the child king Edward VI. Inspired by the values of the European Counter-Reformation, the cardinal and the queen reinstated the papacy and launched an effective propaganda campaign through pulpit and press. Even the most notorious aspect of the regime, the burnings, proved devastatingly effective. Only the death of the childless queen and her cardinal on the same day in November 1558 brought the protestant Elizabeth to the throne, thereby changing the course of English history. Read More

Constructing the Ineffable
Contemporary Sacred Architecture
Karla Britton

Throughout the history of the built environment, there has been no more significant endeavour than the construction of houses of worship, which were once the focal point around which civilizations and city-states developed. “Constructing the Ineffable” is the first book to examine this topic across continents and from the perspective of multiple faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Baha’i. It addresses how sacred buildings such as churches, mosques, synagogues, and memorials are viewed in the context of contemporary architecture and religious practice. Featuring more than a dozen essays by a broad range of leading international architects, historians and theologians, “Constructing the Ineffable” offers a fundamental exploration of defining and understanding contemporary sacred spaces. This thought-provoking book also invites readers to consider the powerful influence of religion on civic life and to discuss the role that design and construction play in religious buildings. Read More

This first in-depth survey of Scotland’s medieval church architecture covers buildings constructed between the early 12th century and the Reformation in 1560. From majestic cathedrals and abbeys to modest parish churches and chapels, Richard Fawcett places the architecture in context by considering the varied sources of ideas that underlay church designs. Over the centuries, Scottish patrons and their masons moved away from a close relationship with England to create a unique late medieval architectural synthesis that took ideas from a wide range of sources. The book concludes with an account of the impact of the Reformation on church construction and design. Read More

Glasgow Cathedral (from The Architecture of the Scottish Medieval Church 1100-1560 by Richard Fawcett)

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