Thursday, June 11, 2009

Symbols of the Early Church

Signs and Mysteries: Revealing Ancient Christian Symbols by Mike Aquilina, illustrated by Lea Marie Ravottit

This little book outlines some of the symbols found in early Christian art and decorations. After a brief introduction, Mr. Aquilina presents twenty-five chapters, each one covering a symbol, everything from fish and dolphins to the ankh and the labarum. Each chapter is brief but filled with information. This book could be a great reference when studying early Christianity, especially early Christian art. I especially appreciated the author's candor when describing what some historians theorize but what can never be proven. At the end of each chapter, he lists his sources, divided clearly into ancient and modern.

The illustrations clearly show real examples of each of the symbols. Though strange that some pieces described in the text were not used as the examples, the illustrations are wonderful. After reading The Apostles, followed so quickly by this one, we'll have to be sure to add Ravenna to our itinerary the next time we vacation in Italy.

The book, though, has a major drawback. The typeface and font color made the text difficult to read. The color is the same as the illustrations and it's wonderful for those, but it seemed too light to me for the text. (I asked Kansas Dad his opinion and it's the first thing he noticed as well.) It's a small price to pay for some insight into Christian symbols, many of which still figure prominently in Catholic churches, but I hope they will consider other options when they print the paperback edition.

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. I have not received any payment for this review, but I did receive a free copy of the book Signs and Mysteries. Learn more about joining the reviewer program here.

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