Medieval Christianity: A New History by Kevin Madigan
An expansive guide to the medieval world, with new attention to women, ordinary parishioners, attitudes toward Jews and Muslims, and more
For many, the medieval world seems dark and foreign—an often brutal and seemingly irrational time of superstition, miracles, and strange relics. The aggressive pursuit of heretics and attempts to control the “Holy Land” might come to mind. Yet the medieval world produced much that is part of our world today, including universities, the passion for Roman architecture and the development of the gothic style, pilgrimage, the emergence of capitalism, and female saints.
This new narrative history of medieval Christianity, spanning the period 500 to 1500 CE, attempts to integrate what is familiar to readers with new themes and narratives. Elements of novelty in the book include a steady focus on the role of women in Christianity; the relationships among Christians, Jews, and Muslims; the experience of ordinary parishioners; the adventure of asceticism, devotion, and worship; and instruction through drama, architecture, and art. Madigan expertly integrates these areas of focus with more traditional themes, such as the evolution and decline of papal power; the nature and repression of heresy; sanctity and pilgrimage; the conciliar movement; and the break between the old Western church and its reformers.
Illustrated with more than forty photographs of physical remains, this book promises to become an essential guide to a historical era of profound influence.
Kevin Madigan’s “Medieval Christianity: A New History” is an outstanding book that offers a fresh and captivating perspective on the medieval Christian world. Madigan’s integration of new themes such as the role of women, the relationships between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and the experience of ordinary parishioners, makes this book a highly engaging and insightful read.
Madigan’s approach to the subject is inclusive, as he attempts to integrate what is familiar to readers with new narratives and themes. The author’s writing style is both informative and engaging, providing an easy-to-read narrative that makes the book accessible to both scholars and general readers. The book is also highly illustrated, with more than forty photographs of physical remains, providing a visual accompaniment to the author’s words.
Overall, “Medieval Christianity: A New History” is a highly recommended read for anyone interested in the medieval Christian world. Madigan’s unique approach to the subject and his inclusion of new themes make this book an essential guide to understanding this complex and fascinating era.
Genre: Non-fiction history
Age Range: Adult
Start Rating: 4 stars
Publication Date: 24th November 2015
Author: Kevin Madigan
Kevin J. Madigan is a Christian historian who has been teaching at Harvard since 2000. He is a member of the Faculty of Divinity and has served on various committees, including the Medieval Studies and Center for Jewish Studies.
In 2009, he was appointed Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School. Madigan is married to Stephanie Paulsell, who is also a professor at HDS, and they have one child currently attending Harvard Law School. In 2020, the couple became Faculty Deans of Eliot House, an undergraduate residence at Harvard College.
Halverson, J. (2016, April 15). Medieval Christianity: A New History – Christian Scholar’s Review. Christian Scholar’s Review. https://christianscholars.com/medieval-christianity-a-new-history/
Guest. (2017, May 8). Review of “Medieval Christianity” – Kevin Madigan by Steve Watts. WTC Theology. https://wtctheology.org.uk/theomisc/review-medieval-christianity-new-history-kevin-madigan/
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