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The Rationale Divinorum Officiorum of William Durand of Mende

A New Translation of the Prologue and Book One

Edited by Timothy M. Thibodeau

About the Book

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 ranks with the Bible as one of the most frequently copied and disseminated texts in all of medieval Christianity.

This book marks the first English translation of the prologue and book one of the Rationale in almost two centuries. Timothy M. Thibodeau begins with a brief biography of William Durand and a discussion of the importance of the work during its time. Thibodeau compares previous translations of the Rationale in the medieval period and afterward. Then he presents his translation of the prologue and book one. The prologue discusses the principles of allegorical interpretation of the liturgy, while book one features detailed descriptions of the various parts of the church and its ecclesiastical ornaments. It also features extensive commentary on cemeteries, various rites of consecration and dedication, and a discussion of the sacraments.

About the Author

Timothy M. Thibodeau is professor of history at Nazareth College of Rochester, New York. He earned a B.A. in history from the University of Maine, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in medieval history from the University of Notre Dame.


"We are indebted to Thibodeau for making this accessible to students and scholars, and the more general reader, for a long time to come." -- Kenneth Stevenson, Journal of Theological Studies