Christmas 2022: Saint Michel, Notre

Saint Michel

Under the direction of Giorgio Otranto and Sandro Chierici

Venison, 260 p., €49

With his large wings and his sword, Saint Michael is one of the familiar religious figures in France, whether we simply think of the golden archangel overlooking the Marvel of Mont-Saint-Michel or the Saint-Michel fountain in Paris… In number of churches and museums, we also see him holding, with a gesture full of accuracy, the scales of the weighing of souls. But what do we know exactly about this archangel and his influence on the religious, cultural and artistic history of Europe? This scholarly volume, to which some twenty European historians have contributed, looks back on the exceptional aura of this angelic figure, who was one of the most venerated saints in the Christian world.

The oldest mention of Michel’s name is not found in the Book of Danielin the Hebrew Bible, but in an apocryphal text, the Book of Watchers, older. For the exegete Renzo Infante, the traditions about him thus predate the IIIe century BC. In this Book of WatchersMichel is presented as “one of the holy angels, he who is provost over the goods of the people, and over chaos”. In the Book of DanielIt is “the great prince” who watches and fights for the sons of Israel.

In the Christian West, Michel began by being the angel of the heights, where his
worship has often succeeded that of the ancient divinities. Considered a
mediator between heaven and earth, he was quickly recognized as having a power of “defense of humans, in the physical, moral and spiritual domain”, explains the medievalist André Vauchez. He was expected to drive out evil spirits and dark thoughts, to deliver the captives and the possessed, to console the widow and the orphan. From the XIe century, its role evolves towards that of guide of souls in the afterlife and of “Provost of Paradise”whose entry it controls.

Exploring Europe in the wake of the beautiful archangel, the book offers rich thematic chapters by country, taking us on a journey to a number of sites, from large sanctuaries to monumental churches to chapels, oratories and simple wooden churches. For Giorgio Otranto and Sandro Chierici, devotion to Saint Michael helped create ” a
cultural language shared by Europe, the Byzantine Mediterranean and the Orient”
and to distribute “a culture of solidarity and hospitality”, thanks to the network of sanctuaries. So much so that we can consider Michael as the first saint truly “European”.


Notre-Dame de Paris, Science at work

Under the direction of Philippe Dillmann, Pascal Liévaux, Aline Magnien and Martine Regert

CNRS/Le Cherche Midi/Ministry of Culture, 176 p., €35

To the trauma of the fire at Notre-Dame cathedral prompted an impressive scientific project mobilizing historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and materials and digital specialists. This book, illustrated with numerous photos, recounts the work of these researchers to better understand the monument and its history. It draws up a good inventory of this research, but we can regret that the texts are not signed by the specialists quoted on the back of the cover and that his writing – consequence of this editorial bias? – be a little sanitized. Lovers of Notre-Dame will nevertheless find something to feed their curiosity there.


jesus the encyclopedia and After Jesus

Collective works

Albin Michel, two volumes, 1,572 p., €49.90

These two encyclopaedic works, essential for understanding the birth of Christianity, are now brought together in a box. With jesus the encyclopediapublished in 2017 and directed by Mgr Joseph Doré and Christine Pedotti, it is a multidisciplinary approach around Jesus that is proposed, with the help of historians, exegetes, but also philosophers and writers from various religions.

In the second volume, After Jesus, the invention of Christianity, under the direction of Roselyne Dupont-Roc and Antoine Guggenheim, it is the first centuries that are deciphered. No less than eighty specialists evoke “this tumultuous time of all possibilities” for the nascent Church. Two reference books to return to the source of Christianity.



by Christophe André

The Iconoclast, 332 p., €35

“I discovered that I had an immense need for consolation. » Starting from this personal experience, Christophe André explored this sensitive dimension of consolation, “those we receive and those we give”. The book, published in January 2022, is the subject of an edition illustrated by large pictorial works: “Art solves nothing of our difficulties, but it gently and forcefully diverts our attention from sadness alone, exposes us to the beauty of the world and of humans”, says the psychiatrist author. From Rothko to Matisse, via Hopper or Caravaggio, works of art are as consoling as the text: “When we take the time to contemplate a work in the sole company of our breath, it happens that the uncertain and fragile face of consolation appears. »


Taoist philosophers (volume I) Lao zi, Zhuang zi, Lie zi
Texts translated, presented and annotated by Rémi Mathieu
La Pléiade, Gallimard, 1,136 pages, €65

Philosophical Taoism is the second of the three doctrines which contributed to forging Chinese culture, after the school of Confucius (in the Ve century BC. J.-C.) and before Buddhism at the beginning of the Christian era. This volume allows you to discover the writings of Lao zi, Zhuang zi and Lie zi, considered to be the creators of this school, marked by meditation and the practice of dao (the “way”), an enigmatic notion, both a path of life, an immutable and constant force, the principle and motor of all things. The texts of these scholars withdrawn from the world, engaged in self-improvement, combine philosophical discourse, poetry, aphorisms and mythological stories. Enchantment and mystery keep the intelligence awake.

Christmas 2022: Saint Michel, Notre-Dame de Paris, Taoism… five ideas for beautiful books on spirituality to offer