For many, the medieval world seems dark and foreign—a miraculous, brutal, and irrational time of superstition and strange relics. The pursuit of heretics, the Inquisition, the Crusades, and the domination of the "Holy Land" come to mind. Yet the medieval world produced much that is part of our world today, including universities, the passion for Roman architecture and the emergence of the Gothic style, pilgrimage, the emergence of capitalism, and female saints.
This new narrative history of medieval Christianity combines what is familiar and unfamiliar to modern audiences. Elements of novelty in the book include a steady focus on the role of women in Christianity; the relationships among Christians, Jews, and Muslims; the experience of ordinary parishioners; the adventure of asceticism, devotion, and worship; and instruction through drama, architecture, and art. Kevin Madigan expertly integrates these areas of focus with more traditional themes, such as the evolution and decline of papal power, the nature and repression of heresy, sanctity and pilgrimage, the conciliar movement, and the break between the old Western church and its reformers.