This beautifully illustrated publication of Durandus’ Rationale brings us the most complete Medieval treatise of its kind with all the richness and depth of the living, enduring tradition about which he wrote. In 1284 C.E., the renowned canonist and liturgical writer, William Durandus, wrote:
‘How sad, in these times there are many who seem to hardly have any understanding of things they daily engage in, pertaining to the practices of the Church or her divine worship. Nor do they know what they signify or why they were instituted.”
His work on sacred symbolism addressed this dilemma for the clergy and thus laity of his own time—and now does so, for ours.
In the world today, where so many are searching for and exploring the roots of Christian spirituality and practice, Durandus’ words ring as true for us as they did in his own time. Durandus’ Rationale remains the standard authority for the ritual of the thirteenth century church and for the spiritual significance of the art, architecture, holy rites, sacraments, and vestments used therein. In this fully illustrated edition, Durandus’ work is brought to life by a plethora of pictures showing relevant churches, artifacts, and raiment—nearly all from the 12th and 13th centuries, that clarify and illustrate the text, and which are set against modern photographs of the church and its rites today. A connection is demonstrated between the past and present which allows us with vividness to trace the roots of our spiritual practice while providing attention to scholarly detail and exploration of the symbolism of a living spirituality.
Within his work, Durandus writes: “White vestments to some degree lead us to understand the beauty of our souls, which is to say the glory of our immortality which is not openly manifest to us.” In the thirteenth century, much of Christian symbolism became established. Every detail of a cathedral, such as Chartres, contained profound meaning. To step into church was to step into the heart of Christian faith and to experience the living reality of the Divine presence, and the counsels of the Old and New Testament. The altar itself refers to the human heart and was understood as “the soul of Everyman.”
In this work, Durandus, and essays explaining and discussing his work by these scholars who translated his opus from Latin, lead us into an understanding of how the architecture, sacraments, and vestments of the priests symbolize and lead both laity and clergy toward spiritual purification and progression in the inner life. This is a must read for anyone interested in art history, symbolism and the Medieval world or who simply wishes to understand the Medieval roots out of which Christian practice has arisen today.