Mark Lanier, one of the top trial attorneys in the United States and founder of The Lanier Law Firm, has always loved books. Housing them is just as much of a passion.
Lanier, who lives in Houston, pays homage to his priceless collection of books and those of others with his Lanier Theological Library, a sight to behold for book lovers around the world. It draws everyone from scholars to the just curious and provides a peaceful respite from the Houston bustle.
Lanier started with a small, intimate library built in his home. When his collection outgrew the space, he moved it to an adjacent building on his property and began cataloging it with the help of librarian Sharon Cofran. His collection reflected his varied and wide interests, with an academic tome on Judaism shelf-side to a book on delivering effective PowerPoint presentations. Inspecting the books, Lanier decided that his collection should serve others, outside of his four walls.
Integral to Lanier’s vision was his desire to spread the truth of the Kingdom and the Good News of his faith. Lanier has a degree in biblical languages, and has himself authored two books: Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith and Atheism on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Case for Unbelief.
In 2010, Lanier flew to England where his son Will was studying at Oxford. In a whirlwind tour of all his favorite libraries, he and Will clandestinely took measurements, noting lighting, ceilings, windows – even bathroom – design. On the plane ride home, Mark did a ‘mashup’ of everything he liked and presented an architectural drawing to his friend and contractor, Curtis. They broke ground and in under six months, the Lanier Theological Library was complete and ready to open in October 2010.
The library is a beautiful structure, blending early English architectural elements from famous libraries to form its own unique identify. It is a serene, almost reverent place, with the quietest of hushed whispers and a sense of calm and peace. People from all over the world visit to appreciate the beauty of the library and to soak in the wisdom of the books that fill the shelves.
To build the library holdings into something that academics, scholars, theologians, and lay people interested in philosophical questions would find of substantial value, Lanier hit on the idea of using the library as a repository for the personal libraries of well-known academics. Frequently, upon retirement or as the legacy left to dependents, these personal libraries get sold in bits and pieces. By preserving them at the LTL, they not only serve as excellent resources, but as a testament to the scholarship of the person. Currently 14 of these collections are housed in wings and alcoves of the library, designated with each individual’s name.
The library now has just over 100,000 volumes that range in scope and subject, including Christianity, logic, psychology, ethics, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, doctrinal and practical theology, philosophy, archaeology, and aesthetics.
The library also includes a number of historical artifacts that are curated and displayed, including a Dead Sea scroll fragment, a Qumran Scroll jar, two early King James bibles, and a substantial C.S. Lewis collection of letters and books.
Included in the area that is open to the public is a 6th century chapel modeled after the oldest Christian church in Tomarza, Turkey, which is now in ruins. The architecture was developed as a teaching tool to aid in spreading the good news of Jesus. The cross-shaped plan with a dome over its central axis is a potent reminder of the sacrifice at the cross. The ceiling in the Lanier Stone chapel is especially beautiful, painted with scenes from the Old Testament and New Testament, complete with scripture quoted in the original Hebrew and Greek. The windows are of alabaster, consistent with the lack of glass as a building material in the 500’s. Like the library, it too is a quiet place of contemplation and prayer.
Director of Communications Janet Siefert said, “As a scientist but not a theologian, there is a unique pleasure in being a patron of the LTL. The ability to have access to the written resources as well as the personal dialogue with visitors and patrons across geographic and cultural backgrounds has been a true spiritual blessing to me.”
The library and chapel are open to everyone for the purpose of study, research, prayer, and contemplation. For more information on the collections, access to the catalog, and policies, news, and events, please go to laniertheologicallibrary.org