Surfeit of meaning

Sacred symbolism
Durandus? Who’s that? I had never heard of him until someone lowered The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum onto my lap during a recent trip to Louisville. Seldom will one find a more engrossing book on sacred symbolism than this effort by Guilielmus Durandus (1230-1296) to instruct clergy and others on the meanings of liturgy, Christian art and medieval ways of life.

Globbed together in the book are translations from 1842, 1854 and 1899 of various parts of the Rationale and of some parallel books, all charming in their archaism. Fons Vitae director Virginia Gray Henry-Blakemore ( enriched the book with topical photographs. Durandus found scripturally based significance in door handles, girdles and other churchly artifacts. Someone accused him of finding meaning “in everything he saw,” but that’s less of a fault than finding no meaning in anything and still writing, which happens often today.


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