[Review] Mysteries of the Middle Ages And the Beginning of the Modern World by Thomas Cahill
Author: Thomas Cahill
Publisher: Anchor Books, Random House (March 4, 2008)
Theme: Authors perspective of the Middle Ages.
Rating: 3 Stars
|Pope Gregorius I|
Thomas Cahill, author of the well-known book How the Irish Saved Civilization, has written a book that I find controversial. I'll explain later under the "My Thoughts" section.
At the tail end of the book the Cahill defines of the word "mysteries." "Mysteries" is used in the title of the book. I believe most of us would think of "mysteries" as a mystery, meaning something to be discovered. Cahill defines the word as "from the Greek word mysteria, originally a reference to the secret rites performed in pagan cults." He goes on to explain, "these rites were kept so effectively secret that to this day no one can be certain what was involved in their execution...Mystery, therefore, became the word in the Christian East for what we in the West would name sacrament."
The sacrament is in reference to the Catholic Church, which was the Church in the Middle Ages.
Thomas Cahill covers a lot of information in this book, for example: Alexandria history, Greek history, Roman history, Norman history, Euclid, Hildegard, Pope Gregory the Great, William the Conqueror, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Francis of Assisi, history of Paris, University learning, Giotto di Bondone, art and sculpture. Interjected into most chapters are his opinions of political, religious doctrine, and personal beliefs.
|Euclid of Alexandria. Greek mathematician.|
There are several things I love about this book.
- Beautiful art work and illustrations on every page.
- I love the Italian type font entitled Bembo.
- I enjoyed learning about Alexandria, Egypt history.
- Several biographies are given on people I'd not read before. St. Hildegard was an abbess, visionary, mystic, during the 12th century. Her parents placed her "as a sacrifice to God" in an abbey when she was a young girl. She lived the life of an "anchorite."
- Muslim history is expounded, how it began and its influence on the middle east. Cahill expresses it well when he states "Islam's vastness cannot be explained by one single idea."
"The Middle Ages are a great jumble. As I have put my manuscript together, I have sometimes felt I was not so much writing a book as sewing a gigantic quilt, full of disparate and even clashing remnants: a large patch of ancient Greece, swatches of late antique and early medieval Rome, oddly conjoined strips from maps both geographical and metaphysical..."
|St. Hildegard von Bingen. Abbess, visionary, mystic.|
- I dislike it when authors write controversially in order to cause reaction, discussion, attention. I was hoping this was a book of history, not personal feelings on the Catholic church or political beliefs.
- Interjected into a paragraph or page on a historical figure or event, would be his personal feelings on George W. Bush, or the war in Iraq, or 911. I wondered: where did this come from? It felt rather like bird droppings on my book page. Yes, the author has the freedom to write a book on his feelings, opinions, etc. I would have liked to have been forewarned of this in the synopsis on the back cover. I too have feelings, opinions, etc. I would have preferred to have not spent money for the purchase of this book.
- I'd read that Thomas Cahill is knowledgeable of Catholic history (he studied with the Jesuits.) I don't believe he's knowledgeable of the Bible. Further, I'm not sure where he's gotten some of his ideas from, except he pulled them out of a fossilized hat titled "controversy." For example he believes 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus were not written by Paul the apostle, but by another individual with their own agenda. Their are some liberal theologians who do believe this. Cahill did not point this out, nor the other side of belief in that Paul did write 1 Timothy and Titus after he was released from prison, and 2 Timothy while he was in prison. Paul probably had a transcriber, but it was his words given to him from God through the Holy Spirit. The previous sentence is where Cahill and I differ, I believe God's Word to be "God breathed."
- Cahill ends his book on the topic of the "priestly pedophilia crisis" in the Catholic Church.
Link @ Amazon: