Friday 19 February 2021

The Church and the Middle Ages 1000–1378 - Steve Weidenkopf - Reclaiming Catholic History Series Book 4

The Church and the Middle Ages (1000–1378)
Cathedrals, Crusades, and the Papacy in Exile
Reclaiming Catholic History Series Book 4
Mike Aquilina (Editor)
Ave Maria Press
ISBN 9781594719530
eISBN 9781594719547

I have greatly enjoyed the other three volumes in this series that I have read. The Church and the Roman Empire by Mike Aquilina, The Early Church by James L. Papandrea, and The Church and the Modern Era by David M. Wagner. The books in the series are be released out of order. There will be seven volumes in this series. Mike Aquilina is the general editor of the series and has been doing an excellent job. I approached this volume with great interest. The time period covered is one of personal interest and many years of study. I can easily state that this volume was an excellent read. This book and the whole series to date are excellent reads. I spent 20 years as an undergraduate, for the most part because I loved learning. My last degree was in Religious Studies with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought. I would have loved this book and those I have read in this series as resources. This book would have also been an excellent resource for some of my history courses.   

Many years ago when I did an Introduction to Church History course at Conrad Grebel College at the University of Waterloo, our professor, Arnold Snider, often said throughout the year, “I do not care as much about dates and names and places, as the story of Christianity. On your final exam the main question will be ‘Your uncle Billy at Christmas dinner says: ‘I hear you did the history of Christianity, tell us the story in your own words?’” And that was one of the essay questions on the exam. This book and the three others I have read in the series would have been great resources for that course. And If I had had them then I would have been pulled out often for essays, papers and research. This is a great read in an excellent series. But the books are written in such an engaging manner that any Catholic could pick them up and benefit from reading them. And this one is on one of the harder periods of Church History. I will tell you that Weidenkopf does care about dates. Often putting them after a person from history is mentioned.

This fourth volume published in this series, Reclaiming Catholic History, and it is the fourth book in the series. The series is being edited by Mike Aquilina and the first published volume is by him as well. About this series we are told by Aquilina:

“The history of the Catholic Church is often clouded by myth, misinformation, and missing pieces. Today there is a renewed interest in recovering the true history of the Church, correcting the record in the wake of centuries of half-truths and noble lies. Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History series, edited by Mike Aquilina and written by leading authors and historians, bring Church history to life, debunking the myths one era at a time.”

And each of the four I have read so far are excellent volumes. And I eagerly await the release of each new book in the series. The chapters in this volume are:

Reclaiming Catholic History: Series Introduction
Chronology of The Church and the Middle Ages (1000–1378)
Introduction: What’s in a Name?

Chapter 1: Medieval Man in a Medieval World
     Up Close and Personal: Abbot Suger of St. Denis
     You Be the Judge: Were serfs slaves?

Chapter 2: The Papal Reform Movement Begins
     Up Close and Personal: St. Peter Damian
     You Be the Judge: Were popes chosen by the people?

Chapter 3: The Great Schism and Norman Conquest
     Up Close and Personal: St. Bruno of Cologne
     You Be the Judge: Is the filioque an unauthorized addition to the Creed?

Chapter 4: The Investiture Controversy
     Up Close and Personal: Matilda of Tuscany
     You Be the Judge: Did the Catholic Church mandate celibacy in the Middle Ages in order to acquire land and wealth from the clergy?

Chapter 5: The Crusading Movement: Part 1
     Up Close and Personal: Godfrey de Bouillon
     You Be the Judge: Were crusaders motivated by greed and land?

Chapter 6: The Crusading Movement: Part 2
     Up Close and Personal: Jean de Joinville
     You Be the Judge: Did Pope St. John Paul II apologize for the Fourth Crusade?

Chapter 7: Crisis in England and the Beggar Monks
     Up Close and Personal: St. Anthony of Padua
     You Be the Judge: Was St. Francis a radical lover of animals and flowers?

Chapter 8: Medieval Inquisitors and Scholars
     Up Close and Personal: Bernard Gui
     You Be the Judge: Were millions of people tortured and killed by the Inquisition?

Chapter 9: Trouble in the Papacy
     Up Close and Personal: St. Bridget of Sweden
     You Be the Judge: Did the Church blame the Black Death on the Jews?

For Further Reading

This book is another excellent resource. It would be a great resource for secondary school students and for university undergraduates. It would also be a great read for anyone interested in church history. It is both engaging and entertaining. Overall, I think it is a great book! Most chapter’s in this volume and those in the series so far follow the same format, first the main history. Then two focused sections. The first is Up Close and Personal and is a profile of a specific person or people. Usually, saints or blessed. The next is a section called You Be The Judge, which goes deeper into a question, point of interest or conflict. The book would be worth reading for either of these sections. But The whole thing is extremely well written. The people profiled in the Up Close and Personal are a mix of saints, religious and political leaders.

Steve Weidenkopf does a great job of presenting a balanced view. It is well researched and presented inline with Church teachings. He tackles probably some of the toughest events in the series. He draws extensively from some of his previous works, and always indicates when that is so.    

I stated it before and I declare it again, I have greatly benefited from reading this volume. And I am certain you will as well. I know that I will be reading the remaining three volumes in the series as they release. And will circle back and reread them in chronological order after all 7 are available. Another excellent read in a fantastic series!

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2021 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History Series:
The Early Church - James L. Papandrea
The Church and the Roman Empire - Mike Aquilina
The Church and the Dark Ages
The Church and the Middle Ages
The Church and the Reformations
The Church and the Age of Enlightenment
The Church Facing the Modern Era

Books by Steve Weidenkopf:
The Glory of the Crusades
The Real Story of Catholic History
20 Answers: The Reformation
Timeless: A History of the Catholic Church
Epic Study Set: A Journey Through Church History: Questions & Responses with Alan Schreck
The Church and the Middle Ages - David M. Wagner 


Unknown said...

I am currently making my way through Triumph, by Crocker> I was wondering if you read that one, and how you would compare it to with Weidenkopf's History. Years ago, I took his "Epic" study - that was wonderful -- learned so much. He talks almost as fast as you read, though!

Susan Wanke

Steven R. McEvoy said...


I have not but will look for it.