"The Glory of Christendom" is the third volume in Warren H. Carroll's amazing "History of Christendom" series. With each successive installment, Carroll's narrative and storytelling continue to reach new heights; his research and documentation are impeccable; the presentation of the facts and proposed conclusions are informed, enlightened, objective, and stimulating. The author's ability to draw the reader into particular scenes of history is akin to a master painter drawing a viewer into his painting: the landscape comes alive; the characters begin to move.
Volume one explained the pre-Christian era and its birth up to the time of Constantine. Volume two described the child church's struggle for survival against heresies and enemies from both within and without. Volume three shows the maturation and flowering of Christendom, peaking with St. Francis and St. Thomas Aquinas. The unity and majesty of Christianity, the fruits of Faith in Jesus Christ, appeared ready to change the world for the good and for all time. Alas it was not to be; at least not yet. The struggle will continue.
The actors on this stage of the Christian story are powerful and unforgettable: St Bernard, the rousing embodiment of Christianity through his adult life; St. Louis IX, that pillar of a Christian Monarch; St. Catherine of Sienna, whose piercing words admonished popes and kings alike; the evil Frederick II, a portent of tyrants to come; the immensity and holiness of the mind of St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Joan riding into battle with the cross to save France. The worldly and spineless popes who would weaken the Church for the battle in the centuries ahead; and Isabel of Spain, the Catholic Queen: can a person in this age fall in love with the strength, holiness, and bravery of a woman who ruled against all odds over five-hundred years ago? The answer is a resounding "yes".
There are so many more characters that bear mentioning, but I dare not test the patience of the readers of this review. If you hunger for truth in history, if you love storytelling excellence, and if you thirst for the knowledge of the Christian past (both the good and the bad), pick up this series; you will not regret it.
The chapter names are copied below to give you a better idea of the topics and organization of "The Glory of Christendom." I could write so much more in praise of this work, but I'll stop here and let the curious discover it themselves.
The Coming of the White Monks
The Age of St. Bernard of Clairvaux
The Church Checks Royal Power
St. Francis and St. Dominic
Destruction of the Tyrant Emperor
The Climax of Christendom
The Nemesis of Power
Popes Away From Rome
Shadow and Lightning
The Great Western Schism
The Rise of Isabel the Catholic
Renaissance Fulfilled, Reform Forgotten
One very important and very welcome change in this volume is the switch to the use of footnotes vs. endnotes employed in volumes one and two. This makes reading flow much, much more smoothly. As in the previous volumes, the bibliographical notes and comments are very useful for further research. Ignore the off-the-wall statements by negative reviewers of this book; I don't know what score is attempting to be settled against Dr. Carroll, but they couldn't be more wrong about the nature, beauty and truth of his writings.