The Formation of Christendom

The Formation of Christendom

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In a lucid history of what used to be termed "the Dark Ages," Judith Herrin outlines the origins of Europe from the end of late antiquity to the coronation of Charlemagne. She shows that the clash between nascent Islam and stubburn Byzantium was the central contest that allowed "Europe" to develop, and she thereby places the rise of the West in its true Mediterranean context. Her inquiry centers on the notion of "Christendom." Instead of taking medieval beliefs for granted or separating theology from politics, she treats the faith as a material force. In a path-breaking account of the arguments over Christian doctrine, she shows how the northern sphere of the Roman world divided into two distinct and self-conscious imperial units, as the Arabs swept through the southern regions. One of the most interesting strands of the author's argument concerns religious art and iconoclasm. Her book shows how the impact of Islam's Judaic ban on graven images precipitated both the iconoclast crisis in Constantinople and the West's unique commitment to pictorial narrative, as justified by Pope Gregory the Great.

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Product details

  • Paperback | 560 pages
  • 152.4 x 233.68 x 35.56mm | 703.06g
  • Princeton University Press
  • New Jersey, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • 3 maps
  • 0691008310
  • 9780691008318
  • 740,179

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Review quote

"The main argument of Judith Herrin's The Formation of Christendom is that what she calls the 'initial particularity' of Europe is to be sought in the period between the fourth and the ninth centuries... Herrins's scholarship is unerring, her scope is wide and her style fluent... The treatment of the so-called iconoclastic controversy, the dispute over the veneration of images in Christian worship which convulsed the Byzantine world in the eighth century, is sparkling... Debate about where modern Europe came from ... will be enriched by this civilized and accomplished book."--The Economist "... Herrin follows some magnificent themes with the lucid dispassion of a good detective."--Thomas D'Evelyn, The Christian Science Monitor "It is [the] binding together of distant past and immediate present which makes Judith Herrin's scholarship so exciting: she can convince the reader that the roots of Western distinctiveness really do lead all the way to forgotten episcopal meetings in small towns in Asia Minor in the fourth century."--Michael Ignatieff, The Observer "...a learned, challenging, and gracefully written interpretation of the transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages."--Robert L. Wilken, Commonweal "Judith Herrin has produced an ambitious, learned, lucid, and instructive book."--Alexander Murray, The Times Literary Supplement " will no longer be possible to hop from pagan antiquity to Carolingian Europe as if nothing had happened in between. Judith Herrin has laid her sheet of paper over the map of that 'dark' age and rubbed and rubbed until the rich web of connections and cracks has shown through."--Marina Warner, The Independent "This is a serious and powerful book...a grand synthesis on a scale few people would dare now to attempt, ranging across diverse societies with considerable assurance."--Christopher J. Wickham, The International History Review

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