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Dominion of God

Dominion of God

Christendom and Apocalypse in the Middle Ages

Brett Edward Whalen

ISBN 9780674036291

Publication date: 10/01/2009

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.

    —William Chester Jordan, Princeton University


  • Brett Edward Whalen is Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press