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Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World (Hinges of History) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 29, 2013

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Frequently Bought Together

Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World (Hinges of History) + Mysteries of the Middle Ages: And the Beginning of the Modern World (Hinges of History) + Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus (Hinges of History)
Price for all three: $51.10

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Product Details

  • Series: Hinges of History (Book 6)
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese (October 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495578
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #51,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

From Sailing the Wine Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter (2003) to his recent book on the flowering of the High Middle Ages, Cahill has proven that he can bring even the most obscure epochs back to life. In this sixth of seven projected volumes in his Hinges of History series, Cahill arrives at his most turbulent era yet: the Reformation and Renaissance. Replete with a larger-than-life cast of explorers, innovators, imperialists, and reformers, the era seems built for Cahill’s masterful storytelling. Although it is rigorously researched, the book abounds in the serendipities that make for the best fiction: Columbus discovers the New World by accident and Gutenberg modifies a winepress to print books. Even the tragic fall of Constantinople and the horrors of the bubonic plague yield unexpected opportunities. The text is delightfully sprinkled with clever notes and asides as well as dozens of illustrative images and poems. Heretics and Heroes is proof that truth is stranger than fiction—and that it can be just as entertaining. --Brett Beasley


"It's hard to imagine a more palpable or engaging history of venal popes and the horrific torture and burning of heretics in the 1500s than Thomas Cahill’s Heretics and Heroes, the sixth in his Hinges of History Series. Cahill is our king of popular historians, and rightly so. He is eminently learned and wise, fluent in several languages, and opinionated and unsparing in his view of history. . . . In a little over 300 pages, Cahill encapsulates several dozen major artistic, political and ecclesiastical figures across a spread of several centuries. He touches on so many subjects, is so knowledgeable on everything he touches on, is so pithy and sharp, it doesn’t matter if you know a little, a lot or nothing at all about Renaissance art or Northern Europe’s rocky break from Catholic Rome. Cahill, you feel, would be the ideal dinner or driving companion. In spirit and in narrative strategy, he’s the modern equivalent of popular journalist-historians like John Hersey, Jim Bishop and Walter Lord, who brought factual insight into events blanketed by popular myth." The Dallas Morning News

"Cahill is a felicitous writer. . . . [H]is erudition is impressive and engaging. No reader will doubt his enthusiasm for or knowledge of great Renaissance masters such as Donatello, Masaccio and Botticelli, as well as the freakishly talented Leonardo and that ruffian Caravaggio. Almost as important, Heretics and Heroes is illustrated in a lavish and handsome fashion. Anyone looking for a refresher on Renaissance art . . . or on Reformation conflicts and the subsequent wars of religion could do far worse than to pick up this breezy but reliable guide." The Washington Post

"The writing is crisp, conversational, and matched by very few non-fiction writers out there today. The great achievement of Heretics and Heroes is Cahill's seemingly effortless illumination of the Renaissance and the Reformation. I have learned a lot from what Cahill has done here." —James S. Shapiro, Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, and author of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?

"Cahill cheerfully explains the enduring value of the Renaissance and Reformation movements to 21st century Western principles, injecting humor and a conversational style into well-written and easily accessible chapters centering on controversial issues and mesmerizing personalities. . . . Well-chosen illustrations and discreetly placed asides clarify his arguments. . . . Cahill writes passionately about the era’s transformational art, the unexpected benefits of the Black Plague, and the intellectual struggles over secular and papal power, resulting in an entertaining yet thought-provoking examination of Western civilization." Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Cahill sets his delightfully analytic mind to the major transformations prompted by the Renaissance and Reformation . . . [he] makes it seem so simple to connect the dots, as the 14th through 16th centuries witnessed changes to every facet and walk of life--from the expulsion of the Moors in Spain to the emergence of nations and massive religious upheaval. The breadth of Cahill's knowledge and his jocular style of writing make for a remarkable book."Kirkus Reviews, starred review

More About the Author

Thomas Cahill, former director of religious publishing at Doubleday, is the bestselling author of the Hinges of History series.

Customer Reviews

Unfortunately, one can only skim the surface in a 300 page book.
J Martin Jellinek
Mr. Cahill's style is entertaining, easy to read and brings the characters to life.
ron ald zezima
If you have not read Cahill's books you have missed a great look at our .past.
Cat Lady

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By LucyBell2 on November 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
First please let me say that this book is a beautiful physical object. The jacket and end papers are simply gorgeous. As is the design of the book--it is generously illustrated with full color art plates to help the reader better understand the periods that Mr. Cahill is writing about.

Now on to the content. Mr. Cahill writes so engagingly about the distant past. That's why I eagerly await his books, even if I think I might not normally be interested in the topic. Take this book. If you asked me before reading it if I would enjoy learning about Martin Luther and the Reformation I'd say "probably not." But Cahill makes it come so thrillingly alive and now I know WHY I should care about Martin Luther and most importantly I now do.

From the Black Death to the Borgias to Michelangelo to yes, Martin Luther, HERETICS AND HEROES is full of riveting stories about the past. The NYT today had an excellent article about education and in it was a quote about the study of history: "The goal of teaching history has always been to make good citizens." This is from a professor at Yale named Thomas Thurston. Well, I think Mr. Cahill's books can go a long way towards making good citizens out of readers. And you'll enjoy the ride!
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I wish I could say that in the intervening seven years since the publication of Mysteries of the Middle Ages, the previous volume in this series, Mr. Cahill had been able to get back to the simple pleasures of history that made the first four volumes of “The Hinges of History” fun to read. Unfortunately, though he rights the ship somewhat in Heretics and Heroes, he struggles to find the voice of his earlier, better work.

His biggest problem remains the digressions that have become so prominent in his recent work. Though he kept most of his comments in the extensive footnotes this time rather than (irritatingly) in the body of the text, his thoughts on modern controversial issues are distracting from his topic. At least he kept his tone more subdued and less offensive this time around, but his blatant editorializing really has no place here.

Additionally, for the first time, Mr. Cahill’s subject led him to no real through-line for his history. In the past we’ve learned (at least from Mr. Cahill’s argument), how the Irish saved civilization, why the Greeks matter, how feminism rose during the Middle Ages, etc. This time, however, though we get some nice background on Renaissance art and the Protestant Reformation, there’s nothing toward which we are pointed other than, vaguely, “our world”. This book lacks some of the punch of his earlier work.

In many ways, this series has been one of diminishing returns, particularly in the last two volumes. But, out of respect for the enjoyment I had in the first four volumes, I keep sticking with Mr. Cahill. One volume left, we’re told. I hope it’s not too late for him to get back to the kind of book with which he started—fewer footnotes, clear argument, a focus on history, and, most importantly, and enjoyable ride.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Bonita A. Brinamen on November 26, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I've read all of Cahill's history books and this one continues where "Mysteries of the Middle Ages" left off. I find his writing to make for an interesting read while discussing sometimes complicated material. So if you're into history, philosophy or theology , I highly recommend this book.
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42 of 52 people found the following review helpful By John M on November 16, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I have enjoyed the Hinges of History series and was really looking forward to this volume, which has been a long time coming. It has many of the same excellent qualities as the earlier volumes- highly readable, easily digestible history with wonderful discussions of the contributions of artists, poets and writers. For some reason, this book does not contain any discussion of major musicians of the period - an absence Cahill admits but shuts off. Was it really impossible to add 10-20 pages? More problematic, this volume also contains some of the weaknesses of Cahill's other books, but on a much grander scale. I am referring to his tendency to advance his own political agenda via footnote. This is a book about the 16th Century yet there is diatribe on nearly every page about some conservative Cahill wants to knock - Jesse Helms, Pat Robertson, Pope john Paul II all make the hit list. He also has an obnoxious tendency to name drop -- do we really need to know he was friends with Jackie Onassis thirty years ago and she agreed with him on some issue at the time? I'm sympathetic to many of Cahill's views on politics and religion, but where these occasional notes in earlier books could be charming, they are so frequent and so tangential in this book that they distract from the subject. His editors need to reign him in. I'll still read the next one though. hope it doesn't take another 4 years.

Also, For some reason, my hardcover has a different subtitle: "How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World." Perhaps the failure to cover music by deadline explains the change?
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By James D. Held on November 26, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This series is terrific! Cahill makes history come alive like one was reading a great novel--the story is great. I decided I had to have each of them in hardback, so Amazon has been a great help in acquiring the older ones, too.
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