Faculty & Staff Directory

Denis R. McNamara, Ph.D.

Associate Director and Associate Professor in the Liturgical Institute

B.A., History of Art, Yale University; M.Arch.H. and Ph.D., Architectural History, University of Virginia. Author of Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago (2005), Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy (2009), How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture (2011) and articles and reviews in Arris, Chicago Studies, Communio, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Assembly, Sacred Architecture, Letter and Spirit, and Environment and Art Letter. Academic specialties include the theology of liturgical art and architecture, classicism, and sacramental aesthetics. Member of the Society of Architectural Historians, Society for Catholic Liturgy and the Institute for Classical Architecture.


How To Read Churches: A Guide to Ecclesiastical Architecture

Small enough to fit in a pocket yet serious enough to provide real answers, this primer is a must-have for architecture and history buffs, tourists, and churchgoers interested in decoding the styles and symbols of religious buildings. Every building contains clues embedded in its design that identify not only its architectural style but also who designed it, what kind of congregation it was built for, and why. This practical yet charming handbook is the key to decoding the style, history, evolution, and social significance of religious buildings. Not strictly limited to churches, it also covers abbeys, chapels, and monasteries, among other structures. Organized according to architectural element (windows, domes, arches, etc.), each element is presented in chronological order. Additional chapters explore the architectural influence of geography, history, and various creeds, along with an illustrated timeline showing how, where, and in many cases why certain church features evolved through the centuries. There is also a useful introduction to naming each component of a church, from vaults to buttresses and transepts to apses. All entries are illustrated with period engravings and line drawings. This book will be invaluable for architecture buffs and anyone who has ever wondered why classic New England churches are white with little ornament, why Quaker meetinghouses have no altars, or why Episcopalians traditionally favored the Gothic style.

Rizzoli, 2011, 256 pages.

Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy

This unique book Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy delves into the deep meanings of liturgical art and architecture, and by association, the Sacred Liturgy itself. It is meant to help pastors, architects, artists, members of building committees, seminarians, and everyone interested in liturgical art and architecture come to grips with the many competing themes which are at work in church buildings today. The object of Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy is help the reader to drink deeply from the wells of the tradition, to look with fresh eyes at things thought to be outdated or meaningless, and glean the principles which underlie the richness of the Catholic faith.

The book examines:

Architectural Theology Scriptural foundations of church architecture

Classical tradition of architecture

Iconography as eschatological flash

Where we are now in the Age of the church

Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy is a  foundational sourcebook for studying, designing, building, and renovating Catholic churches, this book is intended to find the middle of the road between differing and sometimes conflicting theories of liturgical architecture.  It will give architects and building committees the theological language and tools to understand the elements of church design by examining past architecture and will help decision makers link these principles to their current building projects.

Hillenbrand Books, 2009, 256 pages.

There are no associated papers or presentations.