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Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe (Hinges of History) Hardcover – October 24, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Cahill's latest engaging romp through pop intellectual history (after Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea) focuses, despite the subtitle, not on fringe cults, but on the mainstream of medieval Roman Catholic thought. Instead of obscurantist dogma, he finds a ferment of implicitly progressive ideas that laid the groundwork for modernity. The veneration of the Virgin Mary, he contends, prompted a boost in women's status, exemplified by the mystic nun Hildegard of Bingen, who gained public status and power as a spiritual figure. The papacy's claim of spiritual authority independent from temporal power contained the seeds of modern notions about the separation of church and state, democracy and the legitimacy of political dissent. And the perennial head scratching over the doctrine of transubstantiation, he argues, stimulated the beginnings of both empirical science and artistic realism. Cahill's treatment is more impressionistic than systematic, and built around lively profiles of iconic medievals like Abelard and Héloïse, Francis of Assisi and Giotto, whose paintings get a long, lavishly illustrated exegesis. The author wears his erudition lightly and leavens his writing with reader-friendly anachronisms, likening Hildegard to blues chanteuse Bessie Smith and calling the Franciscans "the world's first hippies." The result is a fresh, provocative look at an epoch that's both strange and tantalizingly familiar. Photos. Color illus. throughout. (Oct. 24)
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"Like a favorite college professor who could make any subject fascinating and understandable, Thomas Cahill takes us on an intoxicating journey through medieval Europe in Mysteries of the Middle Ages. Throughout it all, you are keenly aware that the author wants you to fall in love with this pivotal period in Western civilization every bit as much as he did....Cahill spans centuries of history beautifully and seamlessly, giving readers a lovingly painted picture of the high Middle Ages and how its sensibilities evolved to shape ours today."
--The Los Angeles Times
"A prodigiously gifted populizar of Western philosophical and religious thought spotlights exemplary Christians in the High Middle Ages...Cahill serves as an irresistible guide: never dull, sometimes provocative, often luminous."
Praise for Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea
“Fascinating…Commendable…Cahill has an impressive knowledge of the Greek world.…His admirable skill at summing up movements of enormous complexity surfaces throughout the book.”
“Astonishing…If anybody can get us reading about Homer, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Thucydides, Xenophon and more, Cahill will.”
Praise for Desire of the Everlasting Hills
“Each of [Cahill’s] books offers moments of genuine insight into the workings of culture, literature, and the human heart.”
“With grace, skill, and erudition, he summarizes obtuse semantic and historical arguments, highlights the findings most relevant to lay readers, and draws disparate material together in his portraits of Jesus, his mother, Mary, and the apostle Paul.”
—Washington Post Book World
Praise for The Gifts of the Jews
“Captivating…Persuasive as well as entertaining…Mr. Cahill’s book is a gift.”
—New York Times
“Cahill’s clearly voiced, jubilant song of praise to the gifts of the Jews is itself a gift—a splendid story, well told.”
Praise for How the Irish Saved Civilization
“Charming and poetic…an entirely engaging, delectable voyage into the distant past, a small treasure.”
—New York Times
“Cahill’s lively prose breathes life into a 1,600-year-old history.”
Top customer reviews
Summary: entertaining and enlightening for its details, but far from the best history I've listened to this year.
His writing of Hildegard of Bingen is remarkable. She is one of my favorite females of the Middle Ages and just recently has come to world wide attention for her insight into life.
My expectations for this book were far more then I thought. Thank you Mr. Cahill for bringing the Middle Ages to a wonderful light.
True, there are moments when Mr. Cahill's political views of current affairs are intrusive, even irritating. And he loves to revel in some of the juicy, eyebrow-raising events in his subjects' lives. But, on balance, those are small deviations from the bulk of his work. And, I must confess, my enjoyment of this book is greatly influenced by the fact that I knew little about this period of history. So, his stories of the people & events of the time period were a fresh, new discovery for me. If I were not such a novice to the subject, I would likely have a less enthusiastic response to the book. But, for a novice to the Middle Ages, it is a lively and stimulating look at this period of our history.
Most recent customer reviews
Mysteries of the Middle Ages is my fourth title by Thomas Cahill. So call me a fan.A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th CenturyRead more