Archives For Medieval


January 28 is the feast day of St. Thomas Aquinas, perhaps the most important theologian in the history of the church.

Aquinas was an astute student of the first millennium of Christian theology, and his works have been read over the intervening centuries as a solid representation of the Christian theological tradition. Over the last century, the theological witness of Aquinas has dimmed a bit (as has the project of systematic theology that he initiated), but agree with him or not, his influence on Christian theology, but also Western philosophy and culture cannot be ignored.


We offer this guide as a helpful way to begin reading the works of Aquinas…

Continue Reading…


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1594206112″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”220″]The Desire for the Beauty of the Book
A Feature Review of 

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World
Christopher De Hamel

Hardback: The Penguin Press, 2017.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Jonathan Homrighausen

*** WATCH brief clips of the author
    discussing some of these manuscripts!

Every book tells a story. At first glance this is obvious: books hold words that can fashion imagined worlds in the minds of its readers. But add another dimension: the stories told by every individual physical book. If there is an “ex libris” in the front, whose was it? Were its owners significant? If it is dirty and ragged, what trials did it endure?

Continue Reading…


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”250″ identifier=”1594206112″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”165″]One of the best new book
releases of this week
is …


Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World
Christopher de Hamel

Hardback: The Penguin Press, 2017.
Buy Now:  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”1594206112″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]

Here are several brief videos featuring Christopher de Hamel
that introduce the captivating world of medieval books…

BBC Video that introduces de Hamel’s book…

Continue Reading…


Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)

   [easyazon_image align=”center” height=”500″ identifier=”1594206112″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”329″]

[easyazon_link identifier=”1594206112″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World[/easyazon_link]

Christopher de Hamel

*** Read a review from The Guardian



Continue Reading…


St. Stephen Today is the Feast of St. Stephen, whose story is told in Acts 6:8-8:2

Here is a poem of uncertain medieval origin for the occasion.

(This version in modern English is from The Oxford Book of Ballads, Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed., 1910)

St. Stephen and King Herod.


SAINT STEPHEN was a clerk
In King Herod’s hall,
And servéd him of bread and cloth
As every king befall.
Continue Reading…


838861: Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy: Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians

A Brief Review of

Shapers of Christian Orthodoxy:
Engaging with Early and Medieval Theologians

By Edited by Bradley G. Green.
Paperback: IVP Academic, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

Reviewed by John Schaaf.

With an eye to the original context in which they were written, the authors in this collection of essays, edited by Bradley G. Green (Ph.D. Baylor University), seek to place some of the early and medieval church’s most influential theologians in within their original context. In so doing, their theological constructs become more understandable and, thus, more palatable. The work engages such early theologians as Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, the Cappadocian fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianus) and Augustine. Additionally, it examines two of the best-known medieval theologians, Anselm and Thomas Aquinas.

In each chapter the finer points of the theologians’ positions are briefly expounded upon (after a short biography) leaving the reader with enough insight to gain a concise understanding while still leaving a thirst for more, as one repeatedly reads short excerpts of the theologians’ positions in their own words. Such a practice could only serve to encourage the reader to seek out the primary materials that are listed at the end of each chapter. Coupled with prolific footnotes and lists of primary materials is a succinct bibliography of secondary materials infused with commentary to lead the reader toward the materials that may be best suited for their interests.

Continue Reading…


“A Spring of Water in a Burning Wasteland

A Review of
St. Francis (Christian Encounters Series)
by Robert West.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

St. Francis (Christian Encounters Series)
Robert West.
Paperback: Thomas Nelson, 2010.
Buy now: [ ]

St Francis - Christian Encounters Series - Robert WestAt some point, the editors of the “Christian Encounters” biography series from Thomas Nelson must have faced the dilemma of whether or not to include a volume on St. Francis.  On one hand, as perhaps the most recognized figured within Christianity outside the first century, he would certainly merit inclusion among the other notable Christians in this series.  However, as such a renowned and recognized figure, the question of whether the world really needs yet another biography of Francis must have crossed the editors’ minds. Of course, we know now that they did indeed choose to include a biography of Francis and Robert West’s work does not disappoint, offering us an enjoyable and educational introduction not only to St. Francis, but also to the world in which he lived, at the height of the medieval era.  West’s biography is neither literary – like the tales of Francis’s life penned by Chesterton or Kazantzakis – nor hagiography (like, for instance, Brother Ugolino’s The Little Flowers of St. Francis), neither is it a lifeless history text full of facts about Francis.  West’s biography, instead, is a fine example of what I would call narrative history.   Written with careful attention to language, one can imagine this account being told aloud in the oral tradition, and yet it is also attentive to what is known historically about Francis and the times in which he lived, and is careful not to mythologize him.  West’s biography is one of the finest introductory biographies of St. Francis that I have encountered, and would be an enjoyable read even for students as young as middle school.

Continue Reading…


Two New Books on Medieval History.

The Great Medieval Heretics:
Five Centuries of Religious Dissent
Michael Frassetto.
Paperback: Bluebridge, 2010.
Reviewed by Jeff Richards.

The History of the Medieval World:
From the Conversion of Constantine
to the First Crusade
Susan Wise Bauer.
Hardback: Norton, 2010.
Reviewed by Jeff Rhodes.

I’ll be upfront, I’m not sure what I really think about heresy and orthodoxy. I find myself caught between wanting to believe what is correct, and have others do the same, and the freedom to let Jesus be, as Presbyterians might say, the “Lord of the conscience.” Even though people aren’t being killed for teaching people “wrong” Christian beliefs anymore — at least I haven’t heard or read about it — what someone believes and doesn’t believe about Jesus, God and people is still a big deal, and gets a lot of attention. Mark Driscoll, friend of Rick Warren and pastor of a mega-church in Seattle, has recently co-written a book about Christian doctrines and how every Christian should believe them. Although mostly just history for some, it seems the rage against heresies and heretics is alive and well. While religion seems to inherently draw a line somewhere in the sand, the understanding of heretical or “wrong” Christian views – or at least how one deals with them and the people who believe them – seems to be coming to a head in the post-modern world.

Michael Frassetto focuses on some of the medieval heretics and their affect on the established, and regarded as orthodox, Church in his book, The Great Medieval Heretics.

Continue Reading…


ERB Editor Chris Smith
Reviews Nora Gallagher’s THE SACRED MEAL

The “Ancient Practices” series from Thomas Nelson – with its deep historical rooting and careful theological attentiveness – is rapidly becoming one of my favorite ongoing series of books. Thus, I was pleased to see the release of two new volumes. The first of these volumes is Nora Gallagher’s THE SACRED MEAL, which explores the meaning of the practice of Eucharist (or communion, as it is called here Englewood and in many other churches). Gallagher eloquently reflects upon the communal nature of the Eucharist, the stages of participating in the Eucharist (waiting, receiving and afterward) and then explores the theological meaning of the bread and the cup as it has been honored in various traditions at various times in church history.

Read the full review:

The Sacred Meal (Ancient Practices Series).
Nora Gallagher.

Hardback: Thomas Nelson, 2009.
Buy Now: [ ]

The POPMatters Review of
Chris Wickham’s The Inheritance of Rome:
Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000

The Roman Empire and the Renaissance loom large on the timeline of human history, two great epochs of accomplishment and achievement that demonstrate our ability to shape and exert control over our world. The Middle Ages, so titled because they exist between those two monumental pillars of civilization, are often seen as the inverse, when humankind languished in an uncertain, anarchic world.

Chris Wickham, professor of medieval history at Oxford, challenges this point-of-view, arguing that the Middle Ages must be considered not just as a speed bump on the path of progress but rather on its own merits, as a complex and intricate system that emerged in response to a changing environment. His book, The Inheritance of Rome, is a very meticulous, overwhelmingly detailed account of an era largely unfamiliar to modern readers. It is, at times, exhausting and cluttered, but also laden with interesting passages that shed light on this volatile period in history.

Read the full review:

The Inheritance of Rome:
Illuminating the Dark Ages 400-1000.

Chris Wickham.

Hardcover: Viking, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

ORION Magazine Reviews Poet Charles Wright’s
Newest Collection, SESTETS

THE POEMS in Wright’s astonishing nineteenth collection of poetry serve as a loyal lighthouse to the reader: a sure and steady beam that pulses, discovers, and searches out—all while allowing the reader that important and necessary pause to let his lines haunt and delight. When one thinks of “sestets,” six-lined poems, one would normally assume compression and density of taut lines. Not so: these expansive and gratifying poems often perform a sort of intimate “aside” to the reader. Wright breaks or “drops” the line part way into a singular line, as if to nudge the reader to pause for a bit and contemplate the themes of mortality and nature that often appear in these poems. What comes after the visual drop on the page is usually a somber reflection or a surprising twist on the previous image. The poems are almost bursting with notions of what it means to be at once at odds and in harmony with nature, and the visual drop deftly allows for this juxtaposition. Consider: “This is the light its wings dissolve in / if it ever gets out from underground.”

Read the full review:

Charles Wright.

Hardback, FSG, 2009.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]


“Refreshing Our Memory”

A Review of
The Westminster Handbook
to Medieval Theology.

edited by James Ginther.
Medieval Christianity in Practice.
edited by Miri Rubin.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

The Westminster Handbook
to Medieval Theology.

James Ginther, ed.
Paperback: WJK Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Medieval Christianity in Practice.
edited by Miri Rubin
Paperback: Princeton UP, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Westminster handbook of Medieval TheologyScripture shows us that God has chosen a people to bear witness to God’s work in the world.  Since the church is God’s people in the world today, we can only come to know our identity by remembering the faithful people of God who have gone before us.  There are many stories of faithfulness contained within the pages of the Bible (e.g., the stories of Heb. 11).



Medieval Christianity in PracticeHowever, there are also many stories that testify to God’s ongoing work in creation that are not included in Scripture.  The second century account of the martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas begins:

If ancient illustrations of faith, which both testify to God’s grace and tend to mankind’s edification are collected in writing so that by the study of them, God may be honored and humanity may be strengthened, why should not new instances also be collected, that shall be equally suitable for both purposes?

All stories of God’s work in history serve to remind us of who God is and of the divine plan for reconciling human kind and all creation.  Given that we tend to forget what God has done and is doing, there is a desperate need to have our memories refreshed with stories of the faithfulness of God’s people. If there is one particular era of church history that is little known, frequently misunderstood and of which we are very much in need of having our memories refreshed, it is the period – from roughly 600 to 1500 A.D.  Two excellent new books do well at illuminating the stories of God’s people in this much maligned era.

Continue Reading…