Brett Whalen explores the compelling belief that Christendom would spread to every corner of the earth before the end of time. During the High Middle Ages—an era of crusade, mission, and European expansion—the Western followers of Rome imagined the future conversion of Jews, Muslims, pagans, and Eastern Christians into one fold of God’s people, assembled under the authority of the Roman Church.
Starting with the eleventh-century papal reform, Whalen shows how theological readings of history, prophecies, and apocalyptic scenarios enabled medieval churchmen to project the authority of Rome over the world. Looking to Byzantium, the Islamic world, and beyond, Western Christians claimed their special place in the divine plan for salvation, whether they were battling for Jerusalem or preaching to unbelievers. For those who knew how to read the signs, history pointed toward the triumph and spread of Roman Christianity.
Yet this dream of Christendom raised troublesome questions about the problem of sin within the body of the faithful. By the late thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, radical apocalyptic thinkers numbered among the papacy’s most outspoken critics, who associated present-day ecclesiastical institutions with the evil of Antichrist—a subversive reading of the future. For such critics, the conversion of the world would happen only after the purgation of the Roman Church and a time of suffering for the true followers of God.
This engaging and beautifully written book offers an important window onto Western religious views in the past that continue to haunt modern times.
Whalen shows how the 'Papal Revolution' of the late eleventh and twelfth century spurred churchmen to imagine a new world of Catholic unity under papal guidance. This new world would aim to unify all Christians, most especially eastern Christians, under the Supreme Pontiff and to bring Jews, Muslims, and pagans under his wing as converts to Christianity. The book takes us through a dazzling array of thinkers, always putting their thoughts in political and military context. Whalen's readings of more obscure authors are always enlightening, and his writing is lucid. This book will enjoy a very wide readership.
Whalen's accomplishment is to take a synoptic view of western Christian apocalyptic thought and propaganda from roughly 1050 until 1350 in terms of one central theme: bringing Jews, Greeks, and Saracens into one 'sheepfold' under the ministry of one 'shepherd,' the Roman pope. He offers virtually encyclopedic coverage of the vast number of prophecies from the period. This is a major contribution to the interpretation of medieval and western Christian history, and I enthusiastically recommend it.
In this clearly written, forcefully argued volume, Brett Whalen demonstrates that medieval thinkers influenced by the apocalyptic tradition saw the expansion of Christendom as the driving force of history. The end result would be the conversion of all mankind, the defeat of Antichrist, and the restoration of Jerusalem to Christian hands. Dominion of God illuminates this powerful medieval vision.
- 336 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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