"Lively and lucid."
The New York Times Book Review
"With uncommon insight and clear, unadorned prose, Philip Freeman supplants old myths with a true-life tale no less wondrous....[A] fine biography."
Tim McNulty, The Seattle Times
"Mr. Freeman's book succeeds where others have failed by giving us a wholly human portrait of Patrick the boy, the slave and the missionary."
Michael Judge, The Wall Street Journal
"Freeman's imaginative but fact-based reconstructions of significant events in Patrick's life, such as his kidnapping, read like the most exciting popular fiction."
In this entertaining but slight history of the famous Italian landmark, Shrady (Sacred Roads: Adventures from the Pilgrimage Trail) quickly recounts the saga of the bell tower that was begun in 1173 and has captivated the world's imagination ever since. He summarizes the tower's history, including its importance for the city of Pisa, which was a great maritime republic during the Middle Ages; explains why the story of Galileo's use of the tower to conduct experiments on falling objects was probably fabricated by one of the master's disciples; discusses the 19th-century Romantic poets' fanciful idea that the tower's tilt was deliberate on the part of its anonymous architect; and tells the story of the tower's near destruction by the Allies in WWII after they discovered that the Germans were using it as an observation post. Because the tower is built on unstable subsoil, it started to lean toward the south soon after construction began, and over the centuries the tilt increased at an alarming rate. Shrady discusses the numerous commissions that have studied the problem and outlines unsuccessful stabilizing attempts, including a plan approved by Mussolini that nearly toppled it. Shrady's brief account of the tower's probable fate is concise and engaging, but it contains nothing new. It's the book's format that is unusual: the cover and the pages cut on a slant, like the tower, a marketing gimmick that will most likely relegate the book to the souvenir shelf. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Those seeking the reality behind the legends of Patrick of Armagh would do well to start with this useful and highly readable examination of the saint's life. Freeman (classics, Washington Univ., St. Louis; Ireland and the Classical World) roots his investigation in two authentic documents that come from Patrick himself-his Letter to Coroticus and the Confession, a defense of his ministry. The examination of these sources within the contemporary context of Patrick's era reveals no all-conquering demigod but a semi-educated man of tremendous faith and courage. We see a Patrick who shows great care and concern for his new converts (especially slaves and women), whose life was constantly in danger from pagan Irish chieftains, and whose position was undermined regularly by jealous colleagues in Britain. Freeman's imaginative but fact-based reconstructions of significant events in Patrick's life, such as his kidnapping, read like the most exciting popular fiction. For those who wish to read further, a six-page annotated bibliography is included. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/15/03.]-Christopher Brennan, SUNY Coll. at Brockport Lib. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-Readers will be drawn into the story of St. Patrick by the short preface that tells how the teen Patricius, accustomed to a life of ease and luxury in Roman Britain, was surprised and subdued in his parents' villa by Irish slave traders who led him and household servants in chains to boats that took them to the feared barbaric island. Freeman has based his biography on medieval copies of two letters written by Patrick near the end of his life. Each chapter opens with a few lines from one of them. The author has fleshed out the story using information from archaeological finds, Roman and medieval records, and Papal documents. When discussing Patrick's home, education, or experiences in Ireland, Freeman notes that he is describing what was typical in the fifth century. As readers learn about Patrick's captivity, servitude, and escape, they also find out about life in Roman Britain and Ireland. Marriage, fostering, the role of kings, and the practices of the druids are only a few of the topics covered. This is not a heavy academic tome; explanations are simple and clear. A time line, pronunciation guide, and 13 black-and-white photographs of archaeological sites and artifacts are included.-Kathy Tewell, Chantilly Regional Library, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A slim, top-drawer chronicle of Pisa’s wonderful, drunken campanile. For more than 800 years, the Romanesque bell tower "has teetered on the brink of oblivion, but neither earthquakes, war, misguided architectural interventions, nor the relentless onslaught of contemporary tourism has ever managed to topple it," writes Barcelona-based journalist Shrady (Sacred Roads, not reviewed) in this clear-eyed yet delightfully infatuated tribute to the tower. He sings its praisesthe lustrous marble, the weightless open galleries: a column of columnswhile at the same time sending a few of its myths to the trash bin. It lists, for instance, not because of devious laborers or incompetent craftsmen or God, but because it was built on the shifting ground of a bog; nor is it likely that Galileo ever threw anything more than a gaze from the top of the tower. Still, there are mysteries: Who was the architect, why did construction start and stop and start and stop again and again, and why, with its progressive degrees of inclinationslowly, implacably on the move until it was over five degrees out of plumbhas it not simply gone south? Helping to make sense of this unintentional folly, Shrady situates the campanile within the sublime landscape of the Campo dei Miracoli, with its cathedral, hospital, baptistery, and graveyard, and also within the greater context of Pisa’s rise and fall as a city-state and maritime power. We also meet the many individuals who had a hand in the centuries-long construction of the tower, and the commissions seeking to right the tower’s skew, including Mussolini’s near-disastrous tinkerings (Il Duce hated the tower, making it that much more lovable). Andrunning through the story is the tower’s evolution from civic embarrassment to a source of pride: "this tilting, defiant campanile symbolizes all that is wondrous and strange in a world that is fast losing good measures of both." Comfortably erudite, Shrady covers the tower’s history without diminishing its gratifying improbability. (17 illustrations; the book itself will be printed in a slanted format) Agent: Christy Fletcher/Carlisle & Co.