Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Liturgical Look at A.W.N. Pugin

This afternoon -- in the midst of a rather awful Winter storm that seems to have been making the news wheresoever it has hit -- I've been spending some time reading from a work that I hope to provide a review for soon. It is quite interesting in approach and I wished to share with the NLM readership a little bit about it -- the little that I yet know of it at any rate.

The book is published by the Edwin Mellen Press and is authored by Dr. Christabel Powell, an architect and post-doctoral research fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford.

The book is Augustus Welby Pugin, Designer of the British Houses of Parliament: The Victorian Quest for a Liturgical Architecture. (Link to Book).

The subtitle reveals the particular interest I have in this title. Rather than simply being a study of the architectural work of Pugin (which is meritorious in its own right of course), the book apparently sets out to examine the theological and liturgical underpinnings that might have informed Pugin's work and worldview.

Dr. Sheridan Gilley of Durham (who also spoke at CIEL Oxford in 2006) provided a preface which included the following:

“Pugin was a great architect and designer, and so has principally been of concern to artists and architectural historians, who may, like Kenneth Clark, have noted the pungency of his writings, but have done little to probe the non-architectural sources of his inspiration. It is the great merit of this work by Dr. Christabel Powell to have done so, by investigating his interests in theology, history and liturgy, from the principle that his was essentially a liturgical imagination. It was the old western rite of the Latin Mass which lay at the heart of his conception of church building, and indeed of his whole idea of a Christian civilization and culture, and the Gothic or ‘Christian Pointed’ style itself was only the supreme setting and expression of a type of worship which may, at other times and places, have found its embodiment in other architectural and artistic forms ... By situating Pugin so firmly in his period, Dr. Powell has put other Pugin scholars in her debt, and provided a fuller picture of one of the most fascinating and complex figures of the Victorian age.”

This paragraph certainly set off my own eagerness to delve into this title.

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