Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sacred History. Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Sacred History. Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World

Article excerpt

Early Modern European Sacred History. Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World. Edited by Katherine van Liere, Simon Ditchfield, and Howard Louthan. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2012. xxiv, 339. $125.00. ISBN 978-0-19-959479-5.)

This volume grew out of two colloquia held respectively at Calvin College (Grand Rapids, MI) in 2008 and at the University of Notre Dame's London Centre in 2010. Some participants at the second colloquium (such as J. L. Quantin, Alexandra Walsham, and Matthias Pohlig) are not represented in the present volume any more than are Margaret Meserve, Alison Frazier, and Joanna Weinberg who are also acknowledged in the preface (p. xiii). The volume contains thirteen papers divided into three sections-Church History in the Renaissance and Reformation, National History and Sacred History, and Uses of Sacred History in the Early Modern Catholic World. The contributors include established scholars such as Anthony Grafton and Euan Cameron as well as those of the younger generation such as Giuseppe Guazzelli and Adam G. Beaver. Although on the whole the collection is interesting and well balanced, none of the papers deal with the specific theme of sacred history, devoting attention instead to ecclesiastical history (Baronius and the so-called Centuries of Magdeburg figure particularly prominently) and its interaction with national history on the one hand and contemporary religious politics on the other. In fact, Sulpicius Severus, the "inventor" of historia sacra is only mentioned once in passing (p. 77), whereas the fact that Flacius Illyricus, the initiator of the Centuries, rediscovered and published him in 1556 is not covered. No mention either is made of van Andel's study The Christian Concept of History in the Chronicle of Sulpicius Severus (Amsterdam, 1976).

In fact, historia sacra was viewed by Sulpicius Severus and others in his wake as a condensation and continuation of the biblical account of history in a cultivated Latin style, intended to appeal to readers of Roman historical authors such as Sallust or Tacitus and avoiding allegorical interpretation of sacred events. …

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