Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Vatican

 VaticanThe Vatican – Secrets and Treasures of the Holy City
Written by Father Michael Collins
Published at DK Canada

About the Book

A visually stunning and uniquely informative insider's view to the great treasures and daily life in the Holy City, The Vatican is a unique behind-the-scenes look at the world's smallest nation and the spiritual center of the Catholic Church.

Written by an accomplished church historian and produced with the full cooperation of the Vatican, this beautifully illustrated guide delves into the 2,000-year-long history of the Vatican. It discusses papal influence, daily life and governance of the world's largest religious body, and the art collections and other priceless treasures rarely seen by the public.

Updated to include Pope Francis, the 266th pope of the Catholic Church.

My Thoughts

I was raised in the Catholic Church – well let’s just say that I was baptised, did my communion and confirmation.  I would go to church when visiting my maternal grand-mother, at Easter and Christmas.    But I was also involved in the girl guides which had more links with Catholicism back in the days than nowadays.   In 1984, the Pope John Paul II came to visit Canada.  I was part of the group of young people who danced on September 11th, 1984 at the Montreal Olympic Stadium.  

The main reason why I asked to review this book is because I wanted to surprised my in-laws with it on their birthday – both are born in March.   They are devout Catholics and I knew that they would enjoy reading this book on their spare times.  

So the book is beautifully illustrated with hundreds of photos throughout the years and inform the reader in details about the history behind the papacy and the Vatican.   Here’s the table of content of the book:

  • Calendar: This section gives you a glimpse of what the Vatican looks like during the Christmas season, the Easter season, Summer and Fall.   In this section my favourite photo is the one of Christmas with the life-sized nativity and the tree behind it.   Apparently the tree is donate every year by a different country.
  • History: In this section, you will learn more about how the papacy started and grew through the years.   You will travel in time through the Roman Era, the Early Middle Ages, the Late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Enlightement, the 19th Century and the Modern Era.
  • Architecture: The architecture of St. Peter’s, Casina of Pius IV, Santo Stefano, the Vatican gardens, the Lionine Wall, the Vatican Museums, the Apostolic Palace, the Raphael Rooms, the Chapel of Nicholas V and the Sala Ducale is presented in this section of the book.
  • Daily Life: What is the life within the walls of the Vatican?  Discover it here within the City Walls, the Papacy and the Holy See.
  • People: Learn more about Pope Francis, the Vatican Diplomat, The Treasury Curator, the Ceremonies Assistant, The Choir Boy, The Sister of Charity, the Seminarian, the Head of the Floreria, the Mosaic Restorer, the Painting Restorer, the Papal Photographer, and the Swiss Guard.
  • Treasures: In this section you will get the privilege to observe the Papal Tiaras, the mitres, the Papal accessories, the Mass Vestments, the Pectoral Crosses, the Papal Jewelry, the croziers and staffs, the processional crosses, the incense holders, the table crosses, the candleholders, the paxes, the monstrances, the ciboria, the chalices, the cruets, the bells, the water vessels, the missals and the ceremonial tools.
  • Chronology of Popes: Learn the whole chronology of Popes through the years.  Just for fun I decided to check how many Popes were in post since I was born.   Since 1969, five Popes were the leaders of the Catholic church – Paul IV, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
  • Glossary and Index

Each photo and image included in this book will highlight a specific part of the Vatican.  Even if you have never had the opportunity to visit the Vatican, you have the feeling that you are right there exploring the surroundings.   I know that my maternal grand-mother would have liked this book as she was a devout Catholic.   She prayed often for the Pope when she was alive and was very active in her church.   Looking at the photos included in this book, I know she would have love traveling to the Vatican even if it was just through the pages of a book.

Needless to say, some of these pictures are breathtaking and gives a different perspective than if you would visit the Vatican.   I particularly like the fact that there is much explanations about the architecture found within the walls of the Vatican.  You can also visualize and admire the numerous statues and art found on the walls of the Vatican.  I am amazed of the extent of work found within the Vatican from the mosaics to the textured surface made out of small pebbles,shells and glass which were novel materials back in the 16th century.   Seeing all the photos included in this book, I am pretty sure that it will allow you to enter private places not accessible otherwise. 

I even learned a few things while looking through the book.  For example, there is a Gallery of Maps which takes its name from the 40 maps frescoed on the walls.   These maps represent the Italian regions and the papal properties at the time of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585).  They are an important record of the 16th century history and cartography.  In the People section, you will have a glimpse in the lives of the some of the people surrounding the Pope on a daily basis.   Through the pages you can get familiar with the kind of days these people have when working at the Vatican.

If you have a devout Catholic in your life, this book will definitively be a marvelous gift to this person.   Knowing how my in-laws are quite involved in their church, I think this book will be a blessing to them.  

The Vatican is available at your favourite bookstore, even amazon.ca and amazon.com.

Disclaimer: Thanks to DK Canada for sending me the above mentioned title for review purposes. I was not monetarily compensated for this review. Please note that the review was not influenced by the Sponsor in any way. All opinions expressed here are only my own.

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