Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Medieval Christianity: A New History

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Medieval Christianity: A New History

Article excerpt

Medieval Christianity: A New History. By Kevin Madigan. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015, Pp. xxiv, 512. $ 27.50, cloth.)

Medieval Christianity is a new study of the period from the conversion of Constantine to the Renaissance written by Harvard Divinity School professor Kevin Madigan. Madigan is an extremely well-published scholar in a variety of historical sub-topics having to do with medieval Christianity. In spite of his erudition, Madigan writes modestly as a historian who recognizes the contributions of past scholars. The study begins with the background of Christianity in the Patristic era. As is well known, Christians were a persecuted minority in the Pax Romana. Yet, because of their strong political organization, as well as their willingness to suffer persecution and die for the faith, they persisted and eventually attracted Constantine and other Roman elites to the faith. Constantine's support did not, of course, make Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire (that only occurred under Theodosius in the late fourth century). Nevertheless, it did inexorably tie the Christian Church to the political order, a pattern that would reproduce itself both in the medieval Byzantine world and barbarian kingdoms of the West.

The rest of the book describes how various movements within western Christianity sought to come to terms with the profound shift from being a persecuted minority to a state-institutionalized religion. Throughout the period subsequent to the collapse of the Roman Empire in 476 A.D., the western Christian Church sought to establish alliances which would ensure its continuing power and indeed, mere existence. This initially took the form of the conversion of Clovis the Frank from Arianism to Nicene Christianity. Such move initiated an alliance between the Franks and the Latin Church. With the collapse of the Merovingian dynasty, the popes sought a permanent alliance with the Carolingians. …

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