Christendom: The Triumph of a Religion, AD 300–1300

Knopf. Apr. 2023. 736p. ISBN 9780451494306. $35. RELIGION
There currently exists an abundance of historical works chronicling the history of Christianity. Authors like Owen and Henry Chadwick, Jaroslav Pelikan, Justo Gonzalez, and Kenneth Latourette immediately come to mind. Heather’s (medieval history, King’s Coll., London; Rome Resurgent) work differentiates itself in a subtle way: it frames itself as a history of Christendom, which is both a geographical and a political entity, constellated in various ways and at various times around the Roman pope. His chronological period is European history from the conversion of Constantine in the early fourth century to the baptism of a Lithuanian grand duke in 1250, thereby completing Latin Christianity’s hold on Europe. His argument is that papal religious authority was relatively weak during this time, with a monolithic Christian culture taking centuries to emerge. Triumphalist Christian claims wither away when one recognizes that centuries of forced conversion by secular authorities better explain the rise of political Christendom.
VERDICT Well-researched with extensive footnotes and bibliography. For history buffs who can’t get enough of this stuff.
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