Catholica: The Visual Culture of Catholicism (Hardcover)

Catholica: The Visual Culture of Catholicism By Suzanna Ivanic Cover Image

Catholica: The Visual Culture of Catholicism (Hardcover)

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This richly illustrated book provides the visual keys for any art lover to decode and understand the iconography, tenets, sites, and rituals of the Catholic faith through accessible analysis of its visual and material culture.


Focusing on a carefully curated selection of Catholic art and artifacts, this volume explores the influence of iconography and the mystic power of a range of ritual objects. Expert Suzanna Ivanic identifies hidden visual symbols in paintings and examines them close-up, building a catalog of key symbols for readers to use to interpret Catholic art and culture.


Catholica is organized into three sections—”Tenet,” “Locus,” and “Spiritus”—each with three themed subdivisions. Part one introduces the centerpieces of the faith, surveying symbolism in the artistic representation of the holy family, apostles, and saints in stories from scripture. The second part examines places of worship, identifying the essential elements of the cathedral and presenting evocative images of roadside shrines. The third part explores celebrations and traditions, in addition to personal devotional tools and jewelry.


For each of the nine central themes of the faith, introductory text is followed by pages that look in-depth at paintings and artifacts, identifying and explaining the symbolism and stories depicted. As the book progresses, readers build up their knowledge of the entire Catholic visual code—the symbols that define Catholic practice, the attributes of the saints, the parts of the cathedral—allowing them to interpret all Catholic imagery and objects wherever they find them and consequently to better understand the tenets, sites, and rituals of this faith.



Suzanna Ivanic is a lecturer in early modern European history at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on religion, material and visual culture, and travel in Central Europe.
Product Details ISBN: 9780500252543
ISBN-10: 0500252548
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Publication Date: June 7th, 2022
Pages: 256
Language: English
Expertly distill[s] two millennia of Catholic art into one invigorating cultural survey... Particularly engrossing is Ivanic’s scrupulous 'decoding' of spiritual symbolism that pervades everything from the intricate flourishes of cathedral facades to street murals and secular paintings... Art connoisseurs will be mesmerized by this sumptuous and superbly written guide.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)