A HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN 100 OB­JECTS

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight History/Historical -

Mike Aquilina, Grace Aquilina, Ave Maria Press (OC­TO­BER) Soft­cover $24.95 (256pp), 978-1-59471-750-5

A pan­e­gyric to Catholi­cism, Mike and Grace Aquilina’s A History of the Church in 100 Ob­jects sur­veys the Catholic Church’s history through its ma­te­rial cul­ture. Declar­ing that “Catholi­cism is in­deed a re­li­gion of ‘stuff,’” this book fo­cuses the story of var­i­ous ob­jects as foun­da­tional in history’s con­struc­tion as both ar­ti­fice and ar­ti­fact.

Di­vid­ing the book into seven historical eras, the stuff of Catholi­cism is dis­trib­uted across the cen­turies and spans high and low art and cul­ture. An il­lus­tra­tive phys­i­cal ob­ject is the only hard qual­i­fier for in­clu­sion, so the hun­dred ob­jects are highly var­ied. Each en­try con­tains an im­age fol­lowed by a few brief, homily-like pages of text that sit­u­ate each item within a larger historical re­li­gious con­text.

This book aims, first and fore­most, at Catholic laity. It is trans­par­ent in this ori­en­ta­tion, and the au­thors’ ap­proach to Church history is straight­for­wardly con­ser­va­tive and ortho­dox. Thus, some items, like saint’s relics, are ex­pected, and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing text skews to­ward de­vo­tional.

Other in­clu­sions, like a pic­ture of bells in a bell tower, go un­ex­pected places—in that par­tic­u­lar case, to the Magna Carta and the foun­da­tion of modern democ­racy as an out­come of English Catholics rising up against an un­just ruler in­ter­dicted by the pope. Of­ten in­tri­cate in its con­nec­tions, world history is shown to be syn­ony­mous with Catholic history.

Stat­ing that “ar­ti­fi­cial­ity is un­avoid­able, and di­vi­sions are in­evitable—and help­ful,” this book con­structs, or­ga­nizes, and show­cases Catholic history and iden­tity from the inside out. Its in­ti­mate per­spec­tive of­fers a broad sam­pling of Catholic sen­si­bil­ity in Western Euro­pean so­cial and re­li­gious history.

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