The Church in the Latin Kingdoms 800 - 1787 AD

This is the city of Siena, in Italy's Tuscany region.  Siena's Campo (city plaza) represents an achievement of Christian ethics applied to urban planning, narrated well by Dr. Timothy Gorringe's lecture Radical Abundance.  The city was redesigned by magistrates who excluded the nobility from the process.  The Campo was created in the 14th century to be big enough for the whole city population to meet.  Sermons were preached there; feasts were celebrated there; food was distributed there during famines.  No one was allowed to bear arms there.  Building regulations ensured harmony without uniformity.  The private palaces around the plaza were completed by the publicly created palace, which had the highest tower - symbolizing the common good over individual, family, or factional fortunes.  The city magistrates were informed by Catholic theology, primarily Thomas Aquinas' writings on the common good.  Photo credit:  Lorax | CC0, Pixabay.  The year 1787 marks the French Revolution, perhaps the first major political movement of non-Christian ideas.


the church in the latin kingdoms 800 - 1787 AD

The selection of perspectives on church history in this section has been guided by three factors: (1) to demonstrate that Christianity has not been a “white man’s religion”; (2) the study of empire as a recurring motif in Scripture by recent biblical studies scholars; and (3) explorations of biblical Christian ethics on issues of power and polity, to understand how Christians were faithful to Christ or not.  Christian relational ethics continues a Christian theological anthropology that began with reflection on the human nature of Jesus, and the human experience of biblical Israel. See also our page on The Narrative of Christian Ignorance, for a distilled list of resources.

Books and Articles on the Latin Catholic Kingdoms from 800 - 1787 AD: The Church Shaping Empires

R.W. Southern, Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages (Amazon book, Aug 16, 1990) has very important facts about the Roman Popes of late Antiquity being Syrian, Greek, etc.  When the Popes became uniformly Latin, the Roman Church became notably less interested in unity with the broader church

Oliver O’Donovan and Joan Lockwood O’Donovan, From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought (Amazon book, 1999) and this bibliographic summary by Patristic Evangelism, Readings in Patristic Ethics  (Patristic Evangelism blog, date unknown)

Christianity Today, The Conversion of Scandinavia: Christian History Timeline (Christianity Today, 1999)

Henry Chadwick, East and West: The Making of a Rift in the Church: From Apostolic Times until the Council of Florence (Amazon book, 2003)

Lance Ralston, Charlemagne Part 1 (Communio Sanctorum, Jul 27, 2014) a short, readable history of the Merovingian and Carolingian dynasties of the Franks, including Pope Zachary's and Pope Stephen II's rulings in 748 and 751 that Pepin III was the legal ruler, not the Merovingian line, and Pope Leo III's coronation of Charlemagne in 800.  See also Lance Ralston, Charlemagne Part 2 (Communio Sanctorum, Aug 3, 2014)

Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (Amazon book, Sep 26, 2006) an excellent account, with the exception of his preference for usury

David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies (Amazon book, 2010)

Rodney Stark, God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades (Amazon book, Nov 9, 2010) perhaps "understanding the Crusades" would be a better title

Peter Brown, The Rise of Western Christendom: Triumph and Diversity, A.D. 200 - 1000 (Amazon book, Feb 4, 2013) surveys both East and West, though he focuses more attention on the West

Larry Siedentop, Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism (Amazon book, Mar 31, 2015) gives an overview of how the growth of the papacy in the 11th - 14th centuries corresponded to the growing powers of monarchs, as the church sought to protect individuals and its own role as guardian of souls

Bradley J. Birzer, Tolkien & Anglo-Saxon England: Protectors of Christendom (The Imaginative Conservative, Mar 2016)

The Economist, The Search Goes On (The Economist, Nov 5, 2016) a review of Nick Spencer, The Evolution of the West: How Christianity Has Shaped Our Values (Amazon, Sep 15, 2016)

Rodney Stark, Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History (Amazon book, Oct 9, 2017)

A Brief History of the Moravian Church (Moravian Church of North America) and longer history by Rudolf Rican, History of the Unity of Brethren: A Protestant Hussite Church in Bohemia and Moravia (Amazon book, 1992) about this remarkable early Protestant group known for their political pluralism, commitment to education, prayer, anti-slavery stance and expression of Christian mission as the first Protestant missionary movement.  See also Count Nicholas Zinzendorf (1700 - 1760) (website) which has helpful links about the Moravian Brethren.

Casey Chalk, Why Thomas Aquinas Stands the Test of Time (The American Conservative, Jan 28, 2019) "More than anyone else, he synthesized the ancient Greek into a unified Western philosophical system"; although this neglects "Eastern" Byzantine philosophy

Walter Scheidel, Escape from Rome: The Failure of Empire and the Road to Prosperity (Amazon book, Oct 2019) explores the role of Christian faith from the fall of Rome in 476 as one of many factors

Books and Articles on the Latin Catholic Kingdoms from 800 - 1787 AD: Empires Shaping the Church

John S. Romanides, Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine: An Interplay Between Theology and Society (Romanity, 1981) gave these lectures for the Patriarch Athenagoras Memorial Lectures in 1981.  He argues that the Frankish incursion, and Charlemagne's enthronement, began a shift in the West against the city of Rome per se, and the Greek Byzantines in the East.  He believes it tilted Western theology towards Augustine, who was wrong on several counts, though Rome itself took much longer to tilt.  Romanides' arguments have been examined and critiqued; see for example Vladimir Moss, Against Romanides: A Critical Examination of the Theology of Fr. John Romanides (2012) from among the Eastern Orthodox.  But they still remain very formidable.

Thomas F.X. Noble, The Republic of St. Peter: The Birth of the Papal State, 680-825 (Amazon book, 1984) traces decisions made by the Roman Popes about the Byzantines, the Normans, and the Franks; these decisions laid the groundwork for the Western Catholic and Protestant dependence on political and military power  

Gregory Paul, The Great Scandal: Christianity’s Role in the Rise of the Nazis (Church and State, Oct 11, 2003) traces the Christian alliance with the Roman Empire into anti-semitism and the rise of German Aryan "Volkism" and the German equivalent of "manifest destiny" through the conquest of Lebensraum ("living space").

Timothy Tennent, It Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-First Century (Amazon book, Jan 25, 2010) says on p.248, “It is important to note that the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation did not produce any missionaries.”  This suggests a preoccupation with nation-state building on the part of the magisterial Reformers, unlike the Anabaptists.

Rowena Willard-Wright, Saxon Easter Customs and Where They Survived (English Heritage, Mar 24, 2016) survived the Norman Conquest of 1066, that is - a good example of how Christians preserved aspects of culture worth remembering, despite political turmoil

John C. Rao, Luther and His Progeny: 500 Years of Protestantism and Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society (Amazon book, 2017) a collection of mainly Catholic authors critiquing the effects of the Protestant Reformation

Bryan W. Van Norden, Western Philosophy is Racist (Aeon, Oct 31, 2017) a history of philosophy, highlighting interactions between the Jesuit communication back to Europe of Chinese Confucian philosophy where ethics were not premised on metaphysics or theology, and the European Enlightenment which sought the same. Yet this history of interaction is typically forgotten, where the international impact is downplayed while the religious movement from Christianity to atheism is praised. Christian philosophers like Emmanuel Kant, however, played a contributing role to this overall negative movement.

Alice Speri, It Took a Handful of Women to Kneecap One of the World's Most Brutal Crime Networks (The Intercept, Sep 9, 2018) about Italy's Ndragheta, an organized crime family, and the women who brought them down.  This story raises a sociological question:  Why did organized crime develop alongside the Roman Catholic Church, in its Italian heartland.  Could this be the sociological effect of (1) having an all-male hierarchy, (2) moving the practice of confession away from transparency with the broader Christian community into secret-sharing with male priests, and (3) portraying the Virgin Mary (the ideal woman) not as a pro-active loudmouth (biblical) but as a silent, submissive sufferer?

Helena Horton, Stop Referring to Middle Ages as 'Dark Ages' Because It Was an 'Enlightened Era', British Library Expert Says (The Telegraph News, Oct 17, 2018)

Sarah Zhang, The Genetic Legacy of the Spanish Inquisition (The Atlantic, Dec 21, 2018) re: Sephardic Jewish migration to Latin America because of persecution

the church in europe: the church shaping empires, empires shaping the church

church and empire: reflections on faithfulness and compromise: topics