Margaret Visser's desire to find answers to her own questions -- as a traveler, a believer, and an insatiable "anthropologist of everyday life" -- led her to undertake this unique and revelatory book. Guiding the reader through a church outside Rome, Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura, she draws upon history, theology, anthropology, and folklore to ...Read MoreMargaret Visser's desire to find answers to her own questions -- as a traveler, a believer, and an insatiable "anthropologist of everyday life" -- led her to undertake this unique and revelatory book. Guiding the reader through a church outside Rome, Sant'Agnese fuori le Mura, she draws upon history, theology, anthropology, and folklore to illuminate the spiritual meanings embedded in its architecture.Read Less
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Publishers Weekly, 2001-02-26 Visser, described as "an anthropologist of everyday life," has written an enthralling, absorbing and exquisitely researched study of what she calls an "ordinary church." For her subject matter she chose a small but ancient Christian church dedicated to St. Agnes that sits half-buried outside the walls of Rome. Tired of endless tours through world churches in which guides provide lists of facts about dates and architects, Visser aims to bring one small church alive by exploring the stories, meanings and rituals built into each piece of the building. Using the physical layout of the church as the structure for her book, the author takes each staircase, window, fresco, catacomb and chapel as an entryway to fascinating details of mythology, history, early Christian theology, Roman culture and contemporary practice. Visser brings an obvious love and respect for her subject matter and demonstrates remarkable depth in her knowledge of the church's milieu from details on the origins of the halo in religious art, to the techniques of mosaic building, to the historical development of virgin-hero myths. In some ways the author is an archeologist as much as an anthropologist: she digs through layers of history to reveal the depth and breadth of one small building, and peels back layers of meaning in the words and images that adorn it. For the reader, this is rich and thoughtful armchair traveling of the best kind. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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