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Speaker Series: Dr. Denis McNamara

September 2, 2017
Dr. Denis McNamara

Presents  "Iconic Images for the Western Church: Balancing Specificity and Universality"

11:00 am, St. John Cantius

St. John Cantius Parish Hall

Synopsis: After decades  which seemed to downplay the importance of sacred images in Catholic worship, recent years have shown a revival of figural art, from large murals to small devotional works. In this talk, Dr. McNamara explains the foundational nature of sacred images as a constituent part of Catholic worship. Drawing upon the theology of the Christian East, the lecture introduces the sacred image in a sacramental context as a revelation the “signs and symbols of heavenly realities” requested by the Second Vatican Council, and will introduce the distinct nature of liturgical, devotional and historical images and the particular demands each makes on the artist.

October 29, 2017
Speaker: Dr. Denis McNamara

"Talk: “Incarnation and Transfiguration Rediscovering the Iconic Nature of Church Buildings.”

2:45 pm, St. John Cantius

St. John Cantius Parish Hall


Synopsis: In the Incarnation, God took on flesh so that He could be seen and encountered, and in the Transfiguration, Christ’s very flesh became radiant with heavenly glory. Church architecture draws from these biblical events to demonstrate that church buildings can reveal both God and heavenly glory, the building blocks of liturgical beauty. Church architecture, then, has a revelatory biblical foundation rooted in the Temple of Solomon, the “living stones” of the New Testament, and the Heavenly Jerusalem of the Book of Revelation and allows worshippers to see beyond this world and encounter their hoped-for heavenly future.

Bio: Dr. Denis McNamara is Associate Director and Associate Professor at the Liturgical Institute of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, a graduate program in Liturgical Studies founded by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago in the year 2000, where he teaches courses on the Liturgical Movement, Liturgical Art and Architecture, Liturgical Inculturation, The Liturgical Year and Sacramental Aesthetics. He holds a BA in the History of Art from Yale University and a PhD in Architectural History from the University of Virginia, where he concentrated his research on the study of ecclesiastical architecture of the 19th and 20th centuries.


Dr. McNamara makes a specialty of bridging the gap between the Church’s great artistic tradition and the documents of the Second Vatican Council. He has also done groundbreaking research on the sacramental meaning of the classical architectural tradition.


He has served on the Art and Architecture Commission of the Archdiocese of Chicago and works frequently with architects and pastors in church renovations and new design.

He has appeared on Catholic and secular television and radio and is a frequent presenter in academic as well as parish settings. His ten-part YouTube video series on Catholic art and architecture has received over 75,000 views and he is co-host of the podcast on the sacred liturgy called “The Liturgy Guys.”


Dr. McNamara is the author of numerous articles on art and architecture in Communio, Rite, Chicago Studies, Sacred Architecture, Environment and Art Letter, Assembly, The Priest, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Sacred Architecture, Letter and Spirit, The Classicist and Arris: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians. 


His book Heavenly City: The Architectural Tradition of Catholic Chicago (Liturgy Training Publications, 2005) appeared on the Catholic Bestseller List and won a Benjamin Franklin Award from the Independent Booksellers Association as well as two first place awards from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association. His 2009 book Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy (Hillenbrand Books), was honored in two categories by the Catholic Press Association and his newest title, How to Read Churches: A Crash Course In Christian Architecture (Rizzoli, 2011) and was published in English, German, Spanish, Romanian, Japanese, Russian, Italian and French.


In August of 2013 he was invited to the Diocese of Christchurch, New Zealand, to educate clergy and laity and consult on the reconstruction of the diocese’s cathedral and parishes after two major earthquakes severely damaged the city’s historic buildings.

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