A haunting evocation of the ruined country estates of the Russian aristocracy of the 18th and 19th centuries. Revolution, civil war, invasion, anarchy and casual indifference have conspired against many of the grand buildings of Russia’s rich and complex past. While the architectural riches of Moscow and St Petersburg still exist for everyone to see, when the photographer Simon Marsden and author Duncan McLaren entered the Russian countryside, away from the obvious tourist trails, they encountered a very different world... More
Lalibela: Wonder of Ethiopia: The Monolithic Churches and their Treasures
344 pages, hardback, 300 x 240 mm, 290 colour illustrations
ISBN: 978 1 907372 19 3
Jacques Mercier and Claude Lepage
The Unesco World Heritage site of Lalibela in Ethiopia is one of the most extraordinary places in the world. It contains eleven churches, all of them hewn from the native rock in imitation of buildings. However, Lalibela and the Ethiopian kingdom remained unknown in the West until the account of the first Portugese embassy to Ethiopia was published in the 16th century.
The site has traditionally been dated to the 12th or 13th century, with the legend attributing its founding to King Lalibala, ruler of a newly united kingdom a number of centuries after the fall of the sacred capital Aksum, which had converted to Christianity in the 4th century. More recently, dates as early at the 7th century or as late as the 15th century have also been proposed by academics. However, nothing of its accepted or assumed history can be regarded as certain.
In order to arrive at some certitude, the authors of this book dissected and thoroughly analyzed the architectural evidence, extending their study to the decorations, mural paintings and sculptures, church furnishings, manuscripts and crosses associated with the site. This was a daunting task, requiring a knowledge of Ethiopian culture and its languages as well as that of the surrounding cultures that the authors are rare in possessing.The reader's understanding progresses through a multiplication of the themes and perspectives, making this book a fascinating detective story!
After this gradual revelation of fact-finding, the churches are dated and attributed to a single founder, whose politico-religious project is identified. The original functions of the various monolithic buildings – churches and palaces – are sketched with verisimilitude; a mystical programme rooted in the most sacred components of the churches is highlighted and explained. Lalibela thus appears well integrated into the environment and local and international history, while retaining its originality. The designers of the site and their theological advisors, while addressing issues debated in Byzantium, gave them visual expressions unique in the Christian world. These are unveiled and explained in this book for the first time.
Both Jacques Mercier and Claude Lepage are distinguished scholars of Ethiopia. Claude Lepage is Emeritus Professor, Chair of Byzantine Art, at the École Practique des Hautes-Etudes, Paris, co-author with Jacques Mercier of Art éthiopien: Les églises historiques du Tigray. Jacques Mercier is honorary Researcher at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique, Paris, and author of Vierges d'Éthiopie. Portraits de Marie dans la peinture éthiopienne and L'Arche éthiopienne. Art chrétien d'Éthiopie. In 2009 he edited Ethiopian Church – Treasures and Faith for the Ethiopian Othordox Twahido Church.
"This truly breathtaking book is the first to focus on this extraordinary site in all its many dimensions – historical and cultural, archaelogical, architectural, art historical and documentary. It is complimented by some astounding and evocative photographs." Church Building and Heritage, September – October 2012
"... Mercier's and Lepage's Lalibela remains a book wholly worthy of its subject." The Spectator, 22 September 2012
Prompted by the recent discovery of an impressive three-metre tall late Gothic drawing of a soaring tower and spire, this book offers a rare insight into the processes of designing and building a major Gothic project. The drawing’s place and date of creation are unknown, and it corresponds to no surviving Gothic tower. Equally mysterious is the three-quarter, top-down perspective from which the tower is represented, without parallel in any other medieval drawings. Who drew this? When? And what did he hope to convey with his choice of a top-down representation of the tower? Building a Crossing Tower explores these questions, and uncovers the dramatic circumstances in which this drawing was created. More
This groundbreaking architectural history of modern Oxford examines the stylistic dictates and historicizing whims of academic and civic patrons since 1815, demonstrating how they invariably eschewed the radical and cutting-edge in favour of ‘the comfort of the past’, using traditional idioms which lent the client status and reassurance. More
Vartan of Nazareth: Missionary and Medical Pioneer in the Nineteenth-century Middle East, is the little-known story of a medical pioneer and missionary who founded a hospital in Nazareth 150 years ago. This book traces the remarkable life of Pacradooni Kaloost Vartan, the son of a poor Armenian tailor in Constatinople (modern day Istanbul). Born in 1835 at a time of great change in the Ottoman Empire, the young Vartan attended the first American missionary school in the imperial city. He left school to join the British Army as an interpreter in the Crimea and, having witnessed the rigours of battlefield medicine, he was drawn to a career as a surgeon and physician. More
To celebrate Brooks’s 250th anniversary, this beautiful commemorative volume looks afresh at some historical aspects and the architecture of the Whig club, and presents much original research, including essays on the club’s archives – among the most complete in Clubland – and an illustrated catalogue of the important collection of paintings, drawings, sculpture and prints, including the pictures on loan from the Society of Dilettanti. More
The necropolis of Shah-e Zende at Samarkand represents a summit in the art of ceramic wall coverings in the Islamic world. Few studies have focused on the funerary ensemble of the Shah-e Zende and this is the first to describe these monuments in all the details of their decoration and its techniques and motifs, as well as the different types of ceramics used and their composition. Perched on a steep cliff overlooking the ancient city of Samarkand, today the ghost town of Afrasiyab, the necropolis remains largely unknown to art historians and certainly to the public. More
The architectural writings, recordings and films of the poet Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984) are here celebrated in this catalogue accompanying a major exhibition at Sir John Soane's Museum. Marking the centenary of Betjeman's birth, the catalogue and exhibitions will bring together rare archive material, both photographic and textual, in celebration of his life-long passion for architecture. More
The city of Venice holds a special place in the global imagination. This book explores the creation of one of its largest surviving depictions, which has remained almost unknown to the wider public since its creation exactly four centuries ago. Signed and dated 1611, the painting is the work of a notable early seventeenth- century Bolognese artist, Odoardo Fialetti. His huge bird’s-eye view of the watery townscape is enlivened by first-hand observation of tiny vignettes of Venetian life. Eight square metres in size, this remarkable painting is a tour-de-force among depictions of cities. More
The lagoon in which the city of Venice rises is no more than a few thousand years old - not much older than the city itself. And it may not last another hundred, such is the damage that not only the city but also the lagoon have suffered during the twentieth century. This book succinctly examines the severe threat from human intervention and incursions on the one hand and on the other from climate change and natural erosion, and the oprions for the future. More
This book presents an overview of the restoration Venice has undergone in the last two hundred years. It is a mistake to think that Venice has been preserved in aspic. A great deal changed after the Fall of the Republic in 1797, and continues to change. Having read this book, you will never look upon Venice’s streets, houses and canals in the same way again. More
OUT OF PRINT “I am not a modernist but ... I agree with the modernists in every way except that I think their brand of modernism is not very good.” Raymond Erith looked to achieve what he called the true “economy of means”, using traditional means to create original buildings with progressive ideas behind them. More