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New Medieval Books: God’s Own Language

God’s Own Language: Architectural Drawing in the Twelfth Century

By Karl Kinsella

MIT Press
ISBN: 9780262047746

An examination of twelfth-century architecture using the writings and drawings of Richard of Saint Victor. These drawings appear in a biblical treatise depicting a temple, and might be the earliest architectural representations that we have.

Drawing from a manuscript of In visionem Ezechielis – BNF MS Latin 3438


In the middle of the twelfth century, Hugh’s protege Richard of Saint Victor (d.1173) wrote a biblical commentary – known by its Latin title In visionem Ezechielis (On Ezekial’s vision) – which considered the series of buildings that the prophet Ezekial described in a vision of a temple the Israelites were prophesied to build. The title is modern, but it reflects the contents accurately with its emphasis on the importance of seeing what the prophet saw, and also the importance of the reader seeing the drawings in the commentary. It is then a vision in two ways, one belonging to the prophet and a second for the contemporary reader who has visions of Ezekial’s experience. There are over a dozen plans and elevations to help readers visualize the buildings Ezekial saw, making Richard’s interpretation of the biblical past plain for all to see.


Who is this book for?

This is a very useful book for those interested in the history of architecture – in fact, the book make them claim that it “radically extends the origin of modern architectural representation by almost four centuries.” Those researching twelfth-century medieval religious thought will also have use for this book.

The author

Karl Kinsella is a lecturer in art history at the University of Aberdeen, where he specializes in architecture and manuscripts. See also his article The subtle art of elevation on Aeon.


You can learn more about this book from the publisher’s website.

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