Hawksmoor's London Churches: Architecture and Theology

Article excerpt

PIERRE DE LA RUFFINIÈRE DU PREY. Hawksmoor's London Churches: Architecture and Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Pp. xviii + 179, illustrations, bibliography, index. $37.50.

With the tide of this book, Professor du Prey promises to fill in a significant gap in the study of English church buildings. Students of the Victorian church have long enjoyed studies which have done justice to the complex interplay between Christian theology and church architecture, but those interested in the church in the long eighteenth century have been offered little. Despite the number of books on Hawksmoor, his mentor Sir Christopher Wren, and his contemporary James Gibbs, the received wisdom has continued to see their churches as architecturally distinguished but theologically insignificant, as little more than magnificent preaching boxes for a somnolent church. Happily, this book fulfills the rich promise of its title, and it should establish eighteenth-century Anglican ecclesiological studies on a new foundation.

In his excavations preparing for this new foundation, du Prey, bringing to bear his expertise as an architectural historian and a sensitive and open theological sensibility, has uncovered a great wealth of rare and neglected material. He introduces his reader to the contemporary mentality through the fascination that scholars and architects of the period have for the remains (both physical and written) of primitive antiquity. In particular, there was a vogue for the imaginary restitution of the wonders of the ancient world, among which they numbered the Temple in Jerusalem and Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. These preoccupations complemented the Church of England's own emphasis on the primitive Christian church as a primary formative influence on the developing Anglican identity. …


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