Most medievalists would be able to cite an example of the close parallels in symbolic thinking about the city and world in the Middle Ages, whether along the lines of ideas of Rome as caput mundi or Augustine’s Two cities.
Shortly before he left them, Christ told his disciples that the end of the world was imminent, and would be heralded by a time of tribulation. There would be wars, plagues, famines and false prophets. It would also be a time of evangelical enterprise, during which the word of God would be carried to the ends of the earth.
The late Middle Ages are a challenging period to survey and synthesise. Any attempt to summarise their complexity, chaos, and dynamism within a restricted publisher’s word limit and at the same time provide an effective textbook for undergraduates is fraught with issues of coverage, comprehensiveness, and accessibility.
A Sacred City. Consecrating Churches and Reforming Society in Eleventh-Century Italy / Louis I. Hamilton
Hamilton’s book is an important contribution to our understanding of church reform in the 11th century.
Ever since R. I. Moore published his The Formation of a Persecuting Society in 1987, we have increasingly come to understand medieval society in terms of its treatment of its ‘others’: Jews, lepers, heretics and so forth.(1) New bureaucratic structures starting in the 11th century established themselves by persecuting these minorities.
The challenge in writing a comparative review of Kate Lowe’s fine study of early modern Italian convents Nuns’ Chronicles and Convent Culture with Sarah Dunant’s gripping novel Sacred Hearts is to find ways of making sense of the experience of reading both beyond stating the obvious.
Ritual and Space in the Middle Ages. Proceedings of the Harlaxton Symposium 2009 / ed. Frances Andrews
This collection of essays, first presented at the Harlaxton Symposium in 2009, brings together a range of researchers interested in the intellectual and cultural history of Europe, under two equally broad and controversial themes. Frances Andrews's introduction goes some way to binding the ideas together.
When Pero Tafur visited Bruges in 1438 he had a keen eye for the material wealth of the town and the splendor in which its citizens seemed to indulge. In his famous travel diary he noted that ‘without doubt, the goddess of luxury has great power here, but it is not a place for poor men, who would be badly received here.
Nuremberg in the later Middle Ages was one of the most prominent cities in central Europe: a free Imperial city, the location of the imperial regalia and the place where Imperial Diets were held, it was also a wealthy centre of economic life, one of the largest cities in German-speaking Europe, and an important manufacturer of many industrial products, in particular weapons.
Michel Foucault famously described sodomy as an utterly confused category. The same could be said for marriage, especially during the Middle Ages, as the two studies under review demonstrate. Like sodomy, marriage is a category traversing several fields – law, culture, religion – that bites into people’s flesh.