From the bestselling author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, a fascinating look at how medieval thinkers created the origins of modern intellectual movements.
After the long period of decline known as the Dark Ages, medieval Europe experienced a rebirth of scholarship, art, literature, philosophy, and science and began to develop a vision of Western society that remains at the heart of Western civilization today, from the entry of women into professions that had long been closed to them to the early investigations into alchemy that would form the basis of experimental science. 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-acclaimed historian Thomas Cahill brilliantly captures the spirit of experimentation, the colorful pageantry, and the passionate pursuit of knowledge that built the foundations for the modern world.
The book is handsomely produced, with footnotes marked in medieval uncial letters and margins filled with fanciful designs like those in the margins of medieval manuscripts. The boxes with information on alumni of Alexandria and the system of Dante s Hell, among other topics, will help readers keep a wealth of facts in context; so will the generous complement of illustrations, most of them described by the author in enthusiastic detail, both in his captions and in the text itself. Cahill makes seemingly forbidding medieval works of art seem accessible, from the Byzantine formality of a 12th-century apse mosaic in Rome s church of Santa Maria in Trastevere (where he notes that the Virgin and Child are smiling at each other) to Giotto s 14th-century Arena Chapel in Padua (uncannily realistic to its first viewers). Even Dante s Inferno, as Cahill describes it, seems and is profoundly humane.