Belief and Culture in the Middle Ages: Studies Presented to Henry Mayr-Harting

Belief and Culture in the Middle Ages: Studies Presented to Henry Mayr-Harting

Belief and Culture in the Middle Ages: Studies Presented to Henry Mayr-Harting

Belief and Culture in the Middle Ages: Studies Presented to Henry Mayr-Harting


Are there angels within spitting distance of men? What did Pope Gregory the Great think of pagans? Were the monks of Battle compulsive forgers? Is temptation always a bad thing? These and many other fascinating questions are explored in this book. Commisssioned in honour of the distinguished medieval historian, Henry Mayr-Harting and reflecting the range and focus of its honorand's interests, the twenty-five essays provide a panoramic and stimulating exploration of the interrelated fields of belief and culture in the middle ages. Sanctityand sacred biography, seduction and temptation, forgery and litigation, patronage and art production, conversion and oppression were all part of the rich fabric of medieval Christian culture that is scrutinized here. Individually the studies shed new light on a series of key issues and questionsrelating to the cultural, religious, and political history of the sixth-century church, of Anglo-Saxon and Norman England, and of Carolingian, Ottonian, and Investiture Contest Europe; while collectively they illuminate the interaction of Christianity and politics, of secular and sacred, and ofbelief and culture from late antiquity to the thirteenth century.


This book was conceived as a tribute to Henry Mayr-Harting, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History in the University of Oxford, most distinguished of scholars, most generous of friends, and of colourful medievalists surely the most vivid.

Henry was born in Prague in 1936. Educated at Douai and Merton College, Oxford, he became Lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Liverpool in 1960, moving to St Peter's College, Oxford, eight years later. St Peter's was still his academic home when we began planning our volume; what we did not, of course, know at that point was that his sixty-fifth birthday would find him down the road at Christ Church.

So broad is the range of Henry's interests and so large the circle of his academic friends that it was impossible for a single volume—even one of more generous proportions than the usual English Festschrift—fully to reflect the former and adequately to include the latter. Yet if one were to identify leitmotifs in the honorand's work they would surely be 'to take the religion of other people and other ages seriously as religious', and not to 'allow cultural and political life to float free of each other … By political life I do not mean only ideology, but also real politics, royal, aristocratic, ecclesiastical, monastic and missionary'; and it is these that lie behind the conception of the present collection. the resulting essays, treating subjects that range in date from late antiquity to the thirteenth century, exploring the activities of individual prelates, potentates, and patrons, drawing upon the evidence of Rules, vitae, letters, treatises, charters, palaeography, and art history, all in their different ways illuminate the interaction of Christian belief and culture, and illustrate their central role in the study of medieval history as a whole.

It is a pleasure to record the enthusiasm that, from its inception, this project elicited not only from all the authors here represented, but also from those other potential contributors whose field of work or suggested topic did not, regretably, suit the design and form of the volume—an enthusiasm which undoubtedly reflects the affection and admiration with which Henry is regarded. Equally worthy of note is the fact that amidst manifold other responsibilities and commitments, the participants in the finalized volume met the various requests and deadlines with efficiency and good humour. It is a matter of satisfaction that the volume is published by Oxford University Press, thereby

Henry is (with customary zest and good humour) chronicling his first decades in his memoirs.

Henry Mayr-Harting, Ottonian Book Illumination: An Historical Study, 2 vols. (London, 1991), I, 7
and 9.

Quaedam philomela non cecinit.

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