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  • Ierotopi Cristiani alla luce della riforma liturgica del Concilio Vaticano II. Dettami di Conferenze Episcopali nazionali per la progettazione di luoghi liturgici. Prime indagini by Tiziano Ghirelli
  • Clara Bargellini
Ierotopi Cristiani alla luce della riforma liturgica del Concilio Vaticano II. Dettami di Conferenze Episcopali nazionali per la progettazione di luoghi liturgici. Prime indagini. By Tiziano Ghirelli. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2012. Pp. xxiii, 833. €110,00. ISBN 978-88-209-8713-8.)

The Second Vatican Council occasioned profound changes in the Roman Catholic liturgy, which has resulted in significant alterations in liturgical spaces throughout the world. This volume considers a significant number of these experiences and the problems of the reconfiguration of church interiors in the fifty years since the Council. The questions posed by liturgical changes and their expression in specific sacred spaces (ierotopi) is faced here with information, sensitivity, and intelligence.

The text begins with a substantial and very useful historical introduction (about 100 pages) on the church building and its decoration from the origins of Christianity up to the 1963 decrees of the Second Vatican Council. Those who study the history of Christian architecture can profit from this information, as it helps scholars to think about these buildings beyond their formal and technological histories and consider their concrete functions and uses by celebrants and congregations over the centuries. A chapter follows that explains the indications and instructions of the Council with respect to liturgy and its spaces, based on the analysis of the Council documents. The third chapter is an analysis of episcopal documents from 1964 (France) to 2006 (England and Wales). Six of these documents are reproduced in an appendix at the end of the volume. These have their origins in the bishops’ conferences of Spain, Germany, Ireland, Canada, the United States, and England and Wales. Furthermore, this third chapter also includes an extensive discussion of Italian episcopal documents directed at artists, architects, and liturgists after the Council. The idea is to provide the necessary premises for an understanding of the last chapters, which are case studies.

Indeed, chapters 4 to 7 discuss specific questions and particular situations. Chapter 4 is about the spaces of liturgy and the sacraments according to the Council. It has the tone of a well-stated “wish list”—that is, what is expected and would be the ideal toward which reform should tend. The fifth chapter presents a series of Italian case studies of architectural arrangements and changes after the Council. The places studied are all cathedrals, which have, of course, received the most attention by the hierarchy and clergy intent on following the Council’s directives about liturgical reform. The buildings are the cathedrals of Milan, Trapani, Padua, Pisa, and Termoli. In each instance, the history of the building and its particular problems are summarized, and the changes are explained and assessed. In all cases, very useful illustrations and plans are provided. Chapter 6 is devoted to the cathedral of Reggio Emilia, the building most familiar to the author and one in which he participated in reform work. [End Page 803] Throughout the entire discussion of these alterations and their processes, Ghirelli puts forward the need for modern artistic expressions of great quality for the adequate celebration of the liturgy in the Western tradition.

The author has made a formidable effort in this volume at gathering together information about decisions made, and some of the discussions and problems that have accompanied them. The list of official church documents about the Council reforms and how to carry them out, the ample bibliography, the documents in the appendix, and the outstanding and generously ample selection of historical and new photographs and plans are meant for liturgists, artists, and architects, but the collection of these materials—and the author’s commentaries and considerations—make for fascinating reading by historians as well. The book will be of special use as guidance for the changes being carried out in historically important buildings throughout the Catholic world.

Clara Bargellini
Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México


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