Visser, Margaret. The Geometry of Love: Space, Time, Mystery, and Meaning in an Ordinary Church. New York: North Point Press, 2000.
Reason read: Saturnalia Solstice in Rome happens in December.
Author fact: Visser was born in South Africa.
The Sant’ Agnese fouri le Mura church is named for a twelve year old girl named Agnes who was murdered in 305 A.D. Her throat was cut after she refused to marry the son of a Roman prefect. The name literally means “Saint Agnes Outside the Walls”. In addition to a physical description of the church Visser supplies a mental and spiritual picture as well. She takes the reader on a journey back to the roots of Christianity with etymology lessons thrown in for good measure. My favorite part was the comparison of church to theater. Of audience and performance. Evocation of imagination and emotion in both arenas. Geometry of Love is for anyone with a good imagination and wants to “see” Sant’ Agnese fouri le Mura church for him or herself.
My one criticism is the etymology. Visser pauses to tease apart words to reveal their deeper meaning quite often. Words like remember, mind, theatre, nave, orientation, gospel, error, heresy, pilgrim, passion, orthodoxy (I could go on and on and on) are explained. It reminded me of trying to have a conversation in the woods with a good friend who happened to also be an avid birder. Every sentence was punctuated or interrupted with “Did you hear that? That was a female Hylocichla mustelina…adolescent, of course.” And then we would pause to listen to the bird that, to me, sounded like every other brown bird in the trees. Having a normal back and forth conversation was damn near impossible.
Quotes I liked, “…the sea is a major metaphor in Greek literature for fate and necessity, or circumstances otherwise beyond human control” (p 62), “Today, the lambs arrive at Sant’ Agnese’s by car” (p 120), and “For anyone who is not spiritually allergic to churches, to walk into a beautiful church is to encounter understanding, to hear echoes of the soul’s own experiences” (p 125).
Book trivia: Despite the fact this book focuses on a particular church there are no photographs of it in Geometry of Love. Bummer. I really would have liked to see the statue of Agnes since Visser describes it so lovingly.
Nancy said: Geometry of Love is “the study” of the Sant’ Agnese fouri le Mura church.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Roman Holiday” (p 189).