Auteur: Adriaan H. Bredero
Though buffetted on all sides by rapid and at times cataclysmic social, political, and economic change, the medieval church was able to make adjustments that kept it from becoming simply a fossil from the past rather than an enduring institution of salvation.
The dynamic interaction between the medieval church and society gives form to this compelling and well-informed study by Adriaan Bredero. By considering medieval Christianity in full relation to its historical context, Bredero elucidates complex medieval realities—many of which run counter to common modern notions about the Middle Ages. Bredero moves beyond the usual treatment of history by framing his overall discussion in terms of a fascinating and relevant question: To what extent is Christianity today still molded by medieval society?
The book begins with an overview of religion and the church in medieval society, from the early Christianization of Western Europe through the fifteenth century. Bredero counters earlier romanticized assessments of the Middle Ages as a thoroughly Christian period by arriving at a definition of Christendom, not in its original sense as the empire of Charlemagne, but rather as the countries, people, and matters which stood under the influence of Christ."
Other chapters develop the following topics:
• medieval conceptions of reality that are prone to modern misunderstanding, such as a view of time that distinguished the distant, "ancient" past an ideal, golden age from the recent, "modern" past an inferior, sub-Christian time a concept that led to the rise of millenarianism.
• the role of Jerusalem in Western Christian thought as a goal for pilgrims, a motivation for the Crusades, and a source of holy relics
• the "Truce of God" movement as an attempt by bishops to restore peace, along with an analysis of its motives, limitations, and consequences
• the rise of the Cistercian and Cluniac orders as reform movements within monasticism, with particular attention to the role of Bernard of Clairvaux
• the veneration of saints, the nature of sainthood, and growing authority of the pope in determining who was to be called a "saint".
• Peter Abelard and his peculiar adversities
• the evolution from the ideals of Francis of Assisi to the lifestyle of the Franciscan order. In an important and particularly intriguing chapter, Bredero deals with anti-Jewish feelings in the Middle Ages, examining how both the medieval church and society at large persecuted the Jews.
ADRIAAN H. BREDERO is emeritus professor of medieval history at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He is the author of Cluny et CIteaux au XIIe Siecle and Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153): Between Cult and History