Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417

Article excerpt

Poets, Saints, and Visionaries of the Great Schism, 1378-1417. By Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski. (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press. 2006. Pp. xiv, 240. $45.00.)

Whereas most books on the Great Schism have considered it from the point of view of ecclesiastical and/or national politics, this is a study of literary and artistic works produced in response to that calamity. It moves from a discussion of reactions to the schism of 1179, which throws some light on the later affair (via the works of Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth of Schonau, and John of Salisbury), to two chapters on saints and visionaries (Birgitta of Sweden, Catherine of Siena, Pedro of Aragon, Constance of Rabastens, Peter of Luxembourg, Vincent Ferrer, Marie Robine, Ursulina of Parma, Ermine de Reims, and Jeanne Marie de Maillé), followed by what the writer calls poetic visions by Philippe de Mézières, Eustache Deschamps, Honoré Bovet, and Christine de Pisan.The final chapter is about prophecy and in particular the 'pope prophecies' andTelesphorus.The work should introduce scholars who have concentrated too much on politics to a world of discourse which is not very familiar. One strength of the book is its discussion of some relatively unfamiliar authors whose works may not be readily accessible to students. Some of these writers were lowly persons, and the book certainly reveals the reactions to the crisis of some very unpolitical Christians.

The book is relatively sparing in giving the political and historical background and to the present reviewer, a historian, it lacks historical nuance. The literature in question frequently reminds one of the polemics of some modern members of the Anglican communion against those who disagree with them. A dialogue of the deaf is to an extent represented here.The author says (p. 162) that the solutions in the texts discussed were "eminently reasonable, exactly what was needed to solve this intractable problem. …

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