THE CHRISTIAN TRAVELLERS' GUIDES: To France, To Britain, To Italy, To Germany
General Editor Irving Hexham
(Zondervan/HarperCollins 2001, 240pp approx, $29.95 each. Available from AD2000 Books)
For those wanting to know a nave from a narthex or the ambulatory from the apsidial chapel, these are the books for you.
In what is clearly a labour of love, general editor, Irving Hexham, feels obliged to confess that these most accessible guidebooks grew from serious study undertaken by himself and his colleagues (he is professor of religious studies at Calgary in western Canada) and financed by his university and the Canadian Government.
Hexham prefaces each with a short explanation. These guidebooks, he writes, are "designed to awaken an awareness of Europe's Christian heritage among evangelical Christians, although we hope all Christians and others who are simply interested in Christianity will also find them useful".
He is as good as his word. While having a somewhat Protestant flavour in parts - principally in the introductory histories - Hexham is at pains to emphasise the cultural and artistic highpoints of all denominations.
His approach is straightforward and consistent throughout: a concise, informative history lesson, followed by an examination of the country's music, art and architecture, then an alphabetical listing of the country's important religious sites and, finally, a glossary of religious terms.
Interspersed throughout are pen-portraits of significant figures, e.g., John Ruskin, Julian of Norwich, Donatello, Galileo, Hildegard von Bingen, Martin Niemšller, Georges Bernanos and Charles Péguy; and self-contained capsules of information on subjects from the Carolingians and the Glastonbury myths to the Thirty Years' War and the Enlightenment.
These are streamlined volumes from which all extraneous material has been discarded and they are pitched at a specific but growing audience.
F. T. Long is a Melbourne Catholic writer.