contributor.author: E. Ann Matter, University of Pennsylvania

title.none: Adriaan H. Bredero, Reinder Bruinsma, trans., Christendom and Christianity in the Middle Ages

identifier.other: baj9928.9605.004 96.05.04

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: E. Ann Matter, University of Pennsylvania, amatter@ccat.sas.upenn.edu

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1996

identifier.citation: Bredero, Adriaan H. Reinder Bruinsma, trans. Christendom and Christianity in the Middle Ages. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1994. Pp. xiv, 402. $29.95. ISBN: ISBN 0-8028-3692-5.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 96.05.04

Bredero, Adriaan H. Reinder Bruinsma, trans. Christendom and Christianity in the Middle Ages. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1994. Pp. xiv, 402. $29.95. ISBN: ISBN 0-8028-3692-5.

Reviewed by:

E. Ann Matter, University of Pennsylvania
amatter@ccat.sas.upenn.edu

This is a well-designed book of essays that presents a controversial and challenging view of the Middle Ages. Between two long, multifaceted pieces that open and close the volume ("Religion and Church in Medieval Society," pp. 1-52, and "Religious Life in the Low Countries," pp. 319-375) there are a nine smaller studies on fascinating topics. The long essays which frame the volume can easily be read as summaries of a very particular point of view about Christian history, from two different angles and in different, but overlapping, time spans. Set against them, the nine essays in the middle offer mini-studies of some central figures and flashpoints in medieval Christian history.

Probably the most controversial essay is "Against Misunderstanding the Medieval Mentality" (pp. 53-78). Here, Bredero argues that all of medieval society basically faced the world in expectation of the next and that we must understand, first of all, that the time of the Middle Ages was eschatological time. The next essay, "Jerusalem in the West" (pp. 79-104), presents medieval pilgrimage as an idea that is internalized as much as, if not more than, it is acted out; this concept is discussed always as one part of the reality of eschatological thought. The topics of the other essays are also approached from the point of view of this vision of the Middle Ages. The essays are: "Jerusalem in the West," (pp. 79-104), "The Bishop's Peace of God: A Turning Point in Medieval Society?" (pp. 105-129), "Cistercians and Cluniacs" (pp. 130-150), "Saints and Sainthood," which includes an excursus on Bernard of Clairvaux (pp. 151-197), "Heresy and Church Reform," with a study of Henry of Lausanne (pp. 198-224), "Master Peter Abelard (1079-1141): The Misfortunes of a Single-Minded Teacher" (pp. 225-245), "The Beginnings of the Franciscan Movement and the Canonzation of Its Founder" (pp. 246-273), and "Anti-Jewish Sentiment in Medieval Society" (pp. 274-319).

These are all interesting topics in medieval history, of course, but perhaps together they present a coherent vision that is somewhat different from the way American medievalists normally work. This is largely due to what might seem to us a surprisingly cross-disciplinary focus -- Bredero approaches each topic with a well-developed s}nse of the whole picture of the Middle Ages: institutions, mentalite', politics, theology, and devotion, both popular and elite. He argues a point in each essay, supporting it well with medieval documents and reflection of the nature of previous scholarship. This combination of close scrutiny and larger theoretical abstraction makes the book especially interesting. Altogether, the book gives a profile of a scholar who has been best known to those who have reading knowledge of the Dutch language. We should be thankful that his lively and articulate essays are now available in English.

Because of their integrated cross-disciplinary approach, and especially because of the boldness of the vision of the Middle Ages they propose, Bredero's essays are also extremely useful tools for teaching. Over the past two years, I have assigned all but a few of them to students in two classes I co-taught with colleagues at Penn. One class (at the advanced undergraduate -beginning grad student level) was a survey of society, art and devotion in the late medieval Netherlands, the other (a general undergrad course with some grad student auditors) focused on the interactions between Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Middle Ages. Bredero's essays were generally successful with the students, especially, of course with the more advanced and more ambitious students. The essays worked particularly well as assigned readings set against original sources precisely because they present a point of view with such clarity and vigor that it could be understood and questioned. The essays on "the medieval mentality" and medieval Christian sentiment about the Jews, were at the center of particularly lively class discussions.

This book could fill an important niche in medieval Christian history, but only if it were available more widely, and in an inexpensive paper edition. I hope the publisher recognizes its potential.