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Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World (Hinges of History) [Paperback]

Thomas Cahill
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

12 Aug 2014 Hinges of History (Book 6)
In Volume VI of his acclaimed Hinges of History series, Thomas Cahill guides us through a time so full of innovation that the Western world would not again experience its like until the twentieth century: the new humanism of the Renaissance and the radical religious alterations of the Reformation.
       This was an age in which whole continents and peoples were discovered. It was an era of sublime artistic and scientific adventure, but also of newly powerful princes and armies—and of unprecedented courage, as thousands refused to bow their heads to the religious pieties of the past. In these exquisitely written and lavishly illustrated pages, Cahill illuminates, as no one else can, the great gift-givers who shaped our history—those who left us a world more varied and complex, more awesome and delightful, more beautiful and strong than the one they had found.  

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Product details

  • Paperback: 341 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Books (12 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495585
  • Product Dimensions: 20.9 x 13.2 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 467,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By Robert Morris TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is Volume VI in Thomas Cahill's "Hinges of History" series and as he explains, the European rediscovery of classical literature and culture precipitated "two very different movements that characterize the sixteenth century: the Renaissance, first in Italy and then throughout Europe. New knowledge of Greek enables scholars to read the New Testament in its original language, generating new interpretations and theological challenges that issue in the Reformation. Though the Renaissance and the Reformation are very different from each other, both exalt the individual ego in wholly new ways."

The timeframe extends from 1282 and the Sicilian Vespers until 1615-1669 when there are extraordinary examples of believers "who have internalized their faith so personally and deeply that it has lost all comradeship with the combative religious assertions of the partisans who waged the Thirty Years' War." There are hundreds of examples of those Renaissance artists and Reformation priests who established the foundation for subsequent ancestors throughout what is generally referred to as the "civilized" world.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book because Cahill is as eloquent as he is erudite, eager to share what he has learned almost four centuries during which he examines exemplify the best and worst of the human race. His vivid, at times unsettling descriptions of various forms and techniques of torture and execution are juxtaposed with almost rhapsodic celebrations of great works of art and those who created them. There is also a wealth of information and insights about economics, exploration, politics, warfare, religious intrigue, secular corruption, cowardice, heroism, martyrdom...as indicated earlier, the best and the worst of the human race.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 14 Oct 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  79 reviews
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting, Surprising History from One of the Best! 11 Nov 2013
By LucyBell2 - Published on Amazon.com
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!
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Diminishing Returns 28 Jan 2014
By Timothy Haugh - Published on Amazon.com
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.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Painless History 27 Nov 2013
By Bonita A. Brinamen - Published on Amazon.com
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.
40 of 50 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 16 Nov 2013
By John M - Published on Amazon.com
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?
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hinges of hstory wins again 26 Nov 2013
By James D. Held - Published on Amazon.com
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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