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5.0 out of 5 stars Good Summary, 6 Nov. 2012
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This review is from: Religion in the Medieval West 2ed (Arnold Publication) (Paperback)
This book provides an excellent summary of not just how the church was organised (easy to find out from many books) but how religion was perceived and understood by both lay and clerical people of the period. Topics covered include how lay folk were instructed in their faith and what they could be expected to know. How lay beliefs about heaven and hell (literally a palace with angels and a firy pit with devils) differed from learned understanding (that these were metaphors). And how religious doubts, heresy and alternative belief systems fitted into the structure of the wider church.

Hamilton presents a far more nuanced and tolerant religion than the popular image of the medieval church. He demonstrates how they had answers to the popular problems posed by religion (why does evil exist?) and explodes a few myths about church attitudes (vernacular translations of the bible were by no means banned). He also gives some explanations for why attitudes of the Reformation developed and why the Catholic church opposed them.

Each subject is only touched on briefly in what is a fairly slim book, but he packs in a lot of information, and provides some suggestions for further reading. The styles is easy to read and terms are explained as he goes along so you don't need to have a detailed understanding of Catholic Christianity to follow the argument. There is also a glossary at the end.
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Religion in the Medieval West 2ed (Arnold Publication)
Religion in the Medieval West 2ed (Arnold Publication) by Bernard Hamilton (Paperback - 29 Aug. 2003)
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