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Unlocking the Church: The lost secrets of Victorian sacred space
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William Whyte
Unlocking the Church: The lost secrets of Victorian sacred space by William Whyte at Abbey's Bookshop,

Unlocking the Church: The lost secrets of Victorian sacred space

William Whyte


Oxford University Press

Religious buildings;
History of architecture;
Social & cultural history;
Church history


240 pages

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The Victorians built tens of thousands of churches in the hundred years between 1800 and 1900.Wherever you might be in the English-speaking world, you will be close to a Victorian built or remodelled ecclesiastical building. Contemporary experience of church buildings is almost entirely down to the zeal of Victorians such as John Henry Newman, Henry Wilberforce and Augustus Pugin, and their ideas about the role of architecture in our spiritual life and well-being.

In Unlocking the Church, William Whyte explores a forgotten revolution in social and architectural history and in the history of the Church. He details the architectural and theological debates of the day, explaining how the Tractarians of Oxford and the Ecclesiologists of Cambridge were embroiled in the aesthetics of architecture, and how the Victorians profoundly changed the ways in which buildings were understood and experienced. No longer mere receptacles for worship, churches became active agents in their own rights, capable of conveying theological ideas and designed to shape people's emotions.

These church buildings are now a challenge: their maintenance, repair or repurposing are pressing problems for parishes in age of declining attendance and dwindling funds. By understanding their past, unlocking the secrets of their space, there might be answers in how to deal with the legacy of the Victorians now and into the future.

By:   William Whyte
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 223mm,  Width: 165mm,  Spine: 25mm
Weight:   404g
ISBN:   9780198796152
ISBN 10:   0198796153
Pages:   240
Publication Date:   October 2017
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active


William Whyte is Professor of Social and Architectural History and Vice President of St John's College, Oxford. His last book, Redbrick: a social and architectural history of Britain's civic universities was shortlisted for the Longman-History Today prize and the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain. He serves as associate priest in the parish of Kidlington and writes regularly for the Church Times.

You will never look at your local church in the same way again. With an eye for the telling detail, William Whyte has become a master at reading church buildings. Elegantly written, it must be impossible to read this book without pleasure or profit. * Canon Dr Giles Fraser * In this erudite, engaging and witty book, William Whyte gives us a brilliantly original account of how the Victorians profoundly reshaped church buildings and their use, and demonstrates how much the Victorians continue to influence our ideas about churches today - often in surprising ways. * Jane Shaw, Professor of Religious Studies, Stanford University * This beautifully written book is an erudite yet very accessible and entertaining study of the relationship between Victorian church architecture and faith. The Victorians built and restored tens of thousands of churches. Understanding more about them and, through them, the faith that inspired them, is to gain invaluable insights into our national history and identity. This book enables just that. * The Rt Reverend Dr John Inge, Bishop of Worcester * A country mile distant from the heavy prose of the Victorian churchmen, Whyte writes nimbly and wittily about the resacralisation of Britain through the vast church building of the 19th century. * Oxford Today * Alarmingly learned and constantly entertaining. * Peter Mullen, Catholic Herald *

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