|A Brief Review of
By Edwin Mullins
Reviewed by Alex Joyner.
Plague! Soaring cathedrals and palaces! Corrupt clerics! Glittering excess! When I teach Reformation history to United Methodist pastors I try to avoid this tabloid summary of the Church in the medieval period. Instead I focus on the deep and pervasive spirituality of the European populace, the real theological achievements of the Scholastics, and the radical commitments of the monastics. It feels important to acknowledge that there were losses as well as gains in the transition to the modern world.
Edwin Mullins’ book The Popes of Avignon: A Century in Exile is not going to disabuse students of too many of the prejudices formed by looking at church history through the lens of the Protestant reformers, but it provides an interesting tour through a neglected period when the center of Western Christianity shifted to a small city in Provence. From 1308 until 1378, as central Italy devolved into instability, the popes made their home in what is now southern France. The period coincided with a time of French ascendency and the first of the Avignon popes, Clement V, was a virtual puppet of the French monarch.