Mysteries of the Middle Ages

  • by Thomas Cahill
  • Narrated by John Lee
  • 10 hrs and 18 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

After the long period of cultural decline known as the Dark Ages, Europe experienced a rebirth of scholarship, art, literature, philosophy, and science, and began to develop a vision of society that remains at the heart of Western civilization today. By placing the image of the Virgin Mary at the center of their churches and their lives, medieval people exalted womanhood to a level unknown in any previous society. For the first time, men began to treat women with dignity, and women took up professions that had always been closed to them.
The communion bread, believed to be the body of Jesus, encouraged the formulation of new questions in philosophy: Could reality be so fluid that one substance could be transformed into another? Could ordinary bread become a holy reality? Could mud become gold, as the alchemists believed? These new questions pushed the minds of medieval thinkers toward what would become modern science.
Artists began to ask themselves similar questions. How can we depict human anatomy so that it looks real to the viewer? How can we depict motion in a composition that never moves? How can two dimensions appear to be three? Medieval artists (and writers, too) invented the Western tradition of realism.
On visits to the great cities of Europe - monumental Rome, the intellectually explosive Paris of Peter Abelard and Thomas Aquinas, the hotbed of scientific study that was Oxford, and the incomparable Florence of Dante and Giotto - Cahill brilliantly captures the spirit of experimentation, the colorful pageantry, and the passionate pursuit of knowledge that built the foundations for the modern world.

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What the Critics Say

"The author wears his erudition lightly and leavens his writing with reader-friendly anachronisms....The result is a fresh, provocative look at an epoch that's both strange and tantalizingly familiar." (Publishers Weekly)
"A prodigiously gifted populizar of Western philosophical and religious thought spotlights exemplary Christians in the High Middle Ages....Cahill serves as an irresistible guide: never dull, sometimes provocative, often luminous." (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

the dark ages illuminated

I have immense respect for Thomas Cahill and this series. Cahill manages to cover a lot of ground in a few steps, encompassing politics, religion, art and culture in an engaging and informative style. His strength is in his ability to make history relevant -- why we should care what happened nine centuries or two millenia before we arrived. Where other texts often treat the reader to accounts drier than the bones of these long-dead movers and shakers, Cahill makes them as alive as the people we gossip about, and understands well what facets of a particular age will appeal to today's readers. I highly recommend this book, as well as any of the others in this series, "The Hinges of History."

So, to the one caveat: Cahill's politics do creep in; however, he offers his opinions openly and briefly.
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- Amber

Not What I Expected

The student of mid-evil religious thought and its relevance to later thought will gain from reading this book. I had thought it was to be discriptive of the middle ages which the author admits at the end, it was not. Starting in the introduction he generously shares his own political views which are predictable and quite inappropraite whatever the theme.
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- W.Denis

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-03-2006
  • Publisher: Books on Tape