Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Medieval Religion: New Approaches

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Medieval Religion: New Approaches

Article excerpt

Medieval Religion: New Approaches, edited by Constance Hoffman Berman. Routledge, April 2005. $34.95

This work on medieval church history is part of the Rewriting Histories series, which focuses on the new findings on historical themes that have come out in the last twenty years or so. As is evident from the title, the present work amplifies our understanding of the various facets of medieval religion, namely, religious speculation and social thought, reform and growth in the clerical hierarchy, women and the practice of asceticism, and contemplation and increasing violence and exclusion. A collection of fifteen scholarly essays that attempts to "revise" the dominant views presented in historical studies of the medieval world, the work thus challenges the standard interpretations. Fascinating in many ways for the points of view presented (and thus for those being challenged)-for example, that crusades were understood by the crusaders themselves not as a holy war but as an act of love, that women were far more integral to the religious life than has been acknowledged (to the extent that supporting religious women became a means for men's own salvation), and that, contrary to the prevalent view of the absolutely authoritative papacy in the medieval church, the cardinals have been shown to have exercised a significant advisory power-these findings will continue to influence the subsequent research that will be undertaken in the field. …

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