♦ The Civilization of Eastern Christians. A journey through time and the world
from Charles Personnaz
Albin Michel, 194 p., 39 €
Open a book to go on a trip. A rare moment and a promise kept with this magnificent work on Eastern Christians, their history and their presence today. Who are they ? Multiple illustrations reproducing mosaics, icons, frescoes and other photos allow you to discover its cultural richness. Thanks to the text which adorns them page after page, the reader understands their identity, a word which in their case is in the plural. The trip, not to say the pilgrimage, organized around the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, plays its role as an instructor, immersing the reader in the history of civilizations and Churches that are poorly or not known.
The Civilization of Eastern Christians is a necessary book for Western Christians, who wrongly believe to be the true root of Christianity. “The eminent place of Rome in the Empire and then in the Church cannot obscure the extraordinary dynamism of the eastern diffusion of Christianity. » An essential element is forever attached to the Orient: the birth of monasticism, the archaeological, architectural and iconographic traces of which we follow. “A geography of sanctuaries, monasteries, hermitages is being developed, sketching an archipelago throughout the region whose basin remains relevant today: monasteries of Upper Egypt, Wadi-Natroun (lower Egypt), the Red Sea, the Sinai, the Judean Desert, Jerusalem, the holy valley of Lebanon or Tur Abdin on the border between Turkey and Syria. »
The erudite writing never overwhelms the reader with its knowledge and allows us to understand that we can cross the Armenian mountains, the city of Isfahan in Iran and push on to the south of India. History thus reread bears scars, those of time, wars and rivalries between religions, but does not close without a breath of hope in the face of what the human soul is capable of.
♦Louis Janmot. The Poem of the Soul
by Stéphane Paccoud and Servane Dargnies de Vitry
Musée d’Orsay In Fine éditions d’art, 192 p., €35
The Lyon painter Louis Janmot (1814-1892), student of Ingres and admirer of Delacroix, is a singular and little-known artist, driven by a deep faith. His extraordinary Poem of the Soul, to which he devoted more than half a century, retraces the initiatory journey strewn with pitfalls of a soul incarnated as a young man on earth. The two cycles of 34 paintings and charcoal, and the poem itself, compose an extraordinary work that invites contemplation.
♦ Atlas of sacred places
de Daniel Duigou, illustrations de Karin Doering-Froger
Arthaud, 112 p., 25 €
What do Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, the city of Teotihuacan, in Mexico, and the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet have in common? All are sacred places where, in one way or another, some form of the divine is believed to manifest. Alternating texts and illustrations, this beautiful book draws up a non-exhaustive but original list.
Alongside expected religious sites – the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the ziggurat of Babylon, the Ganges in India – appear the UN headquarters in New York, or the James-Webb telescope, “somewhere in the cosmos.” His photos, which reveal new galaxies, question man’s place in the Universe as well as his future, “as sacred as the memory of history.”
♦ Saint Hildegard of Bingen, genius of the Middle Ages
by Emmanuelle Philipponnat and Father Pierre Dumoulin
Mame, 224 p., 35 €
A genius of the Middle Ages, Hildegard of Bingen still has “a lot to tell us today,” says Sister Elaiè Bollen, from the monastery of Sainte-Lioba (Bouches-du-Rhône), in the preamble to this beautiful work. Because, to man “so often helpless in the face of the mystery of his own birth”, it “indicates the path to true happiness”.
To decipher this happiness according to Hildegard, this Benedictine musician, doctor of the soul and the body, this book richly illustrated with 45 illuminations, deciphered, shows her spirituality, her visions, her view of Creation, her therapy and her recipes .
♦ Canonical and apocryphal gospels
Gallimard, 1 136 p., 75 €
“Jesus took soft clay from the ooze and made twelve birds from it. It was then the Sabbath day. » The episode taken from the Story of the Childhood of Jesus is well known. The Story of Joseph the Carpenter or the Gospel According to Mary are all apocryphal texts and yet witnesses of a quest of their authors.
Stories “downgraded” by religious authorities and yet which have nourished the popular imagination, from the nativity scene to stories of resurrection. So many texts carried by tradition, hidden and revealed, which rub shoulders here with the four canonical Gospels, when they do not resonate. An instructive read, which the faithful should not take literally.
♦ Hidden wisdom of monasteries
Mame, 128 p., 20,90 €
The monasteries told by those who live there. The authors visited ten abbeys in France, from Notre-Dame de Jouarre (Seine-et-Marne) to Sainte-Marie du Rivet (Gironde), via the Saint-Honorat abbey in Lérins (Côte d’Azur ). At each stop, photographer Guillaume Rivière captures the monk and nun in his daily activities, while Samuel Pruvot and Marie de Varax listen to the confidences of the men and women of prayer. We let ourselves be taken in by the simplicity and beauty of monastic life.
“I searched for a long time to find out where the Lord wanted me,” confides Sister Thérèse-Marguerite de Jésus, Carmelite at the Carmel of the Incarnation and the Holy Family in Angers. If they share their questions, these contemplatives also reveal the secret of silence, of prayer, of community life.