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The Formation of Christendom

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  51 Ratings  ·  10 Reviews
In a lucid history of what used to be termed "the Dark Ages," Judith Herrin outlines the origins of Europe from the end of late antiquity to the coronation of Charlemagne. She shows that the clash between nascent Islam and stubburn Byzantium was the central contest that allowed "Europe" to develop, and she thereby places the rise of the West in its true Mediterranean conte ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published August 21st 1989 by Princeton University Press (first published 1987)
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I had chosen this book hoping for something a little different from what I have. Not Dr. Herrin's fault, mind you, but I am interested in the rise of Christianity as a civil religion and, by the time that the book starts, that was pretty established. What Dr. Herrin discusses is, largely, the rise of the ecclesiastical supports for the Latin West. She does it through a learned and interesting consideration of the Byzantine East and of Islam's influence, but the culmination of the book is Charlem ...more
Lauren Albert
Jan 02, 2016 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
I lost the book for at least a week. It was hard to "find" where I was in the book--not in terms of what page I was on but to recall what Herrin had covered and where she was. It is a very thorough and well-researched book. The thoroughness might make for boredom in someone with minimal knowledge of the field. It was hard going for me even though I've read other books on the topic. The most interesting thing for me was the extensive discussion of the split between Rome and Byzantium and Herrin's ...more
Aug 22, 2007 Cat rated it it was amazing
You have to admire Ms. Herrin's careful and resourceful scholarship about an era that is shrouded in mystery. Herrin focuses on the transistion from "late antiquity" to the early middle ages, aka from about 550 AD to 850 AD. She is specifically concerned with answering the question of "what makes western europe different?" Her answer is that western is europe is unique in its division of power between temporal and spiritual authority (i.e. church and state). Does her answer sound familiar?

Tony Gualtieri
Aug 06, 2014 Tony Gualtieri rated it it was amazing
A beautifully structured account of the transition from Late Antiquity to the early Medieval era. Rather than give separate histories of the rise of the papacy, the evolution of Byzantium, and the establishment of the Carolingian Empire, Herrin synthesizes these movements and shows how their interrelationships formed post-Roman Europe. For example, she discusses how rivalry between iconoclasts and iconophiles in the east helped drive the Pope and Charlemagne into an alliance that broke the hold ...more
Roger Burk
May 25, 2013 Roger Burk rated it really liked it
A big fat intimidating scholarly book, but not a bad read if you're interested in late Classical and Dark Age history. It gives a narrative history of the development of the Church and of a more or less common but divided Christian community in Europe and Asia Minor from Constantine to the mid-ninth century. Major themes: the growing influence of the Bishop of Rome, especially after the fall to the Arabs of Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria, three of the five trditionally preeminent sees of ant ...more
Dec 01, 2012 Luaba rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
Judith Herrin has an uncanny ability to make history come to life, exciting, and informative all at the same time. She explore the early church's origin and explain the etymology of many canon christian now take for granted. Quite a bit seems to me to be more political driven doctrines rather than divine. But then again, that's why it's called faith...

Suggestion, a good follow up read after this one is her: "Byzantium: The Surprise Life of a Medieval Empire".
Jun 29, 2014 Joel rated it really liked it
This book traces the foundations of Christendom, illustrating the transition from the Roman Empire to its inheritors (Byzantium, the Christian West and Islam). It offers in depth insight into the iconoclastic controversies that shook the Orthodox and Catholic communions. It is a fine grained description of the many Popes, Patriarchs and Kings who inhabited the time between the Empire and the stabilization of Western Institutions. Very well done.
Mark Bahnisch
Mar 04, 2013 Mark Bahnisch rated it really liked it
I found this a fascinating book. Herrin very skilfully looks at the interaction between culture, state forms and religion to trace how 'Western Christendom', the world of Islam and Eastern Christianity emerged out of the Roman Ecumene. I am somewhat surprised that her text, which I think has important implications far beyond church history, is not better known.
Aug 15, 2014 Scott rated it it was amazing
A superb history of early medieval Christianity written by a non-believer, materialist, and secular scholar of the first rank. Sets a standard for rigorous and cosmopolitan appraisal of Christianity, and shows how utterly wrong and provincial most Anglo-American protestant narratives of early Christianity are.
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Judith Herrin studied history at the Universities of Cambridge and Birmingham, receiving her doctorate from the latter; she has also worked in Athens, Paris and Munich, and held the post of Stanley J. Seeger Professor in Byzantine History, Princeton University before taking up her appointment as the second Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King's. Upon her retirement in 2008 she b ...more
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