Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Christianity and Culture in the Middle Ages. Essays to Honor John Van Engen

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Christianity and Culture in the Middle Ages. Essays to Honor John Van Engen

Article excerpt

Medieval Christianity and Culture in the Middle Ages. Essays to Honor John Van Engen. Edited by David C. Mengel and Lisa Wolverton. (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press. 2014. Pp. xiv, 522. $68.00. ISBN 978-0-268-03533-4)

The chapters assembled in Christianity and Culture in the Middle Ages explore European history across centuries and regions. The volume's coherence and charm arise from the hommage offered by each contribution to an inspiring historian and teacher-John Van Engen. Van Engen's work has treated diverse areas of medieval religious life, as the list of his publications offered on pages 501-506 shows. He has impressively studied twelfth-century monastic life and thought, as well as religious initiatives developed by and for lay people-often women-in the cities of north west Europe in the later Middle Ages. He also wrote an influential article "The Christian Middle Ages as an Historiographical Problem"1 which forms the volume's leitmotif.

Part I, "Christianization," includes four 'think pieces' which cut across the centuries: R I Moore offers a masterly historiographical survey of the term 'cathar' since 1849; Lisa Wolverton combines historiographical reflection with analysis of written and material sources to support a new reading of the Christianization of Bohemia, highlighting regional influences on religious culture; Catherine Caldwell Ames reflects historiographically on the emergence of a diverse "medieval religion," especially through attention to what used to be called "popular religion," in the later twentieth century.

Part II, "Twelfth Century Culture," opens with three nicely honed lessons in reading texts and images. Maureen Miller calls for the discipline of context to be applied in the treatment of twelfth-century art, as against the search for "art of reform"; Jonathan Lyon observes the use by Otto of Freising of classical language- especially the term "tyranny"-to describe new institutional and political dilemmas in the twelfth-century Empire; Rachel Koopmans nicely identifies networks of influence and patronage in the testimonial letters incorporated into collections of Becket miracles. The section ends with two chapters based on broad themes: Dyan Elliott explores how bold intellects imagined counter-factually in fruitful ways, while Giles Constable shows-often in similar communities-the continuing centrality of the Cross in devotional and liturgical lives. …

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