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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2011
Visit any European city and you will inevitably be struck by the majesty of its huge cathedral. You might occasionally wonder what they all really represent. Professor Southern's `church history as an aspect of secular history' explains the way in which the medieval church was effectively the state.

He describes how the Roman Church replaced the Roman Empire in Western Europe as the latter declined, and went on to develop in power between the eighth and fourteenth centuries. Capitalising on the regional unity established by the Romans, the papacy was able grow in stature, and by the 12th and 13th century, was the dominant secular force in Europe.

Professor Southern sifts through the documentary evidence cataloguing the activities of popes, cardinals, bishops, monks, and lesser clerics - effectively the politicians, judiciary, police, and workforce of the church.

Running alongside their religious activity ( not examined here) was a strong secular identity. Rulers were coerced, by the threat of excommunication, to maintain the pope's edicts. No war could be declared unless the church first decreed its cause to be sacred. The Pope himself waged war on `unbelievers'. Heresy was a capital offence. Non-Christians such as Jews were denied citizenship. Monks devoted themselves to praying for the souls of prominent landowners, who in return bequeathed swathes of their estates.

The church's influence declined during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as non-religious thought and action gradually separated out and overcame it.

But, by then, those cathedrals were built.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I have referred to this book numerous times whenever I seek clarification or explanation in any matter regarding the Church in the Middle Ages. I have found it, always, to be an exceptionally clearly written and interesting book which offers a very comprehensive overview of the Church, Religious Orders, the Papacy and all related matters in the period from about 700 to 1550. This includes the break with the Eastern Church, the Avignon Papacy, the Great Schism and the growth of Papal political identity at the risk of its ecclesiastical identity during this period.

While the book is not large (about 360 pages) every word is gold. There are no wasted sentences in this book. It's all valuable information, which can be gleaned quickly and clearly by any student of this time.

R W Southern is a well-respected author who particularly covers religious history extremely well. I have earlier read and thoroughly enjoyed his biography of Anselm, St Anselm: a Portrait in a Landscape when endeavouring to come to grips with Anselm's Ontological Argument for the existence of God.

Highly recommended for any student or any general reader who wishes to understand the religious history of the Church in the Middle Ages. This book is the second volume in the Penguin History of the Church - I can also highly recommend volume 1 - The Early Church, by Sir Henry Chadwick, and Volume 3 - The Reformation, by Owen Chadwick. All very good and highly recommended.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 28 October 2004
R.W Southern has provided us with a medieval church history which in my oppinion is remarkable in the way he gives the reader an understanding of the deep underlaying basis for thought and action of the period. The book is unsual with a very long and excellent introduction to the period. This gives the reader a solid foundation for explaining the more detailed religious episodes that shaped the church during the middle ages! It starts from high up and with the most important religious movements into more and more detail and this in a very impressive manner! He never seem to digress but keep his eye fixed on the story he want to tell and have outline from the very beginning! Its a perfect book for layman wanting to turn scholor and technically as how-to-write-a-scientific-book one of the most impressive books I have read! If you want to try and understand the medieval mind then this is a very good place to begin!
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on 23 May 2015
The Penguin History of the Church 2:Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages The book covers the period from the eight to the sixteenth century ,and It becomes a time with pope and archbishop, bishops and monastic orders.There is a big chapter of the church of the pope. And the time is ready for the Reformation.
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