The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum
572 pp Fully illustrated. “One of the most important medieval books on divine worship.” – Encyclopedia Brittanica
The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum is arguably the most important medieval treatise on the symbolism of church architecture and rituals of worship. Written by the French bishop William Durand of Mende (1230-1296), the treatise is ranked with the Bible as one of the most frequently copied and disseminated texts in all of medieval Christianity. It served as an encyclopedic compendium and textbook for liturgists and remains an indispensable guide for understanding the significance of medieval ecclesiastical art and worship ceremonies.
Providing the meanings that were originally associated with the art, architecture, rites, and vestments of the Church, this account transforms the worship experience by teaching what certain elements are used and why they are used. Claiming architects should be filled with the spirit of faith and knowledge of the meanings of all structural details and designs of the church, the author illuminates the meanings of the physical elements like the nave, the altar, the cross, and bells. He also clarifies the mystical significance of the chancel site, the glazed windows and pillars, the bell and its clapper, the altar cloths, and how the steps leading up to the altar refer both to Jacob’s Ladder and to the degrees in worshippers’ hearts.
This beautifully illustrated publication of Durandus’ Rationale brings us the most complete Medieval treatise of its kind with all the richness and depth of the living, enduring tradition about which he wrote. In 1284 C.E., the renowned canonist and liturgical writer, William Durandus, wrote:
‘How sad, in these times there are many who seem
to hardly have any understanding of things they daily
engage in, pertaining to the practices of the Church
or her divine worship. Nor do they know what they
signify or why they were instituted.”
His work on sacred symbolism addressed this dilemma for the clergy and thus laity of his own time—and now does so, for ours.