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Heretics and Heroes: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World (The Hinges of History #6)

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  727 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
From the inimitable bestselling author Thomas Cahill, another popular history—this one focusing on how the innovations of the Renaissance and the Reformation changed the Western world. A truly revolutionary book.

In Volume VI of his acclaimed Hinges of History series, Thomas Cahill guides us through the thrilling period of the Renaissance and theReformation (the late fourte
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 29th 2013 by Nan A. Talese (first published January 1st 2013)
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Jason Koivu
Mar 24, 2016 Jason Koivu rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Thomas Cahill's Heretics and Heroes is a great look at the interwoven connection between the Reformation and the Renaissance, taking in a large swath of the primary leaders in religion, politics and the artists during that time period.

To be honest, history buffs won't find much new here as Cahill runs over the basics on the various kings, queens, popes, bishops, painters and sculptors of the 14th through 17th centuries. Take this as a good intro to that period, covering what any history course
Clif Hostetler
Dec 24, 2014 Clif Hostetler rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is a history of the Renaissance and Reformation era told through a series of short biographies of leading artists and religious leaders. The author frequently comments on parallels to current events which is in keeping with his stated goal of exploring how actions taken in that era led to the world we have today. The history is told in a conversational style that lays out the evolution of our Western sensibility while avoiding a strict chronological series of wars and catastrophe.

Aug 22, 2014 David rated it it was ok
It's as if Thomas Cahill invites me to a party thrown for the most interesting people of the 15th and 16th century, so I feel like I have to go to meet everyone! But whenever I start mingling with any of the guests (Christopher Columbus, Michelangelo, Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc.), Cahill interrupts our conversation and starts talking about himself, or makes fun of his guests, or yells at them for living in a different era. Maybe he's just having a bad night.

Cahill does inspire me to learn m
Dec 03, 2013 John rated it liked it
Disappointing. I have enjoyed the Hinges of History series and was really looking forward to this volume, which has been a long time coming. It has many of the same excellent qualities as the earlier volumes- highly readable, easily digestible history with wonderful discussions of the contributions of artists, poets and writers. For some reason, this book does not contain any discussion of major musicians of the period - an absence Cahill admits but shuts off. Was it really impossible to add 10- ...more
Dec 10, 2015 Tony rated it liked it
Shelves: history
HERETICS AND HEROES: How Renaissance Artists and Reformation Priests Created Our World. (2013). Thomas Cahill. ***.
The only book I’ve read by Mr. Cahill was his earlier “How the Irish Saved Civilization.” I remembered liking that study so that when I came across this book I thought I’d give it a try. It is the sixth volume in a projected seven volume work titled, “The Hinges of History.” It goes into depth on topics highlighted in his title, both artists (painters and sculptors) of the Renaissan
Jean-Paul Adriaansen
Jan 03, 2014 Jean-Paul Adriaansen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Cahill brings us a masterful account of how the Renaissance came to be and how it changed the world forever.
Read how artists, scientists, and theologians, rediscovered Greek culture and science and discreetly put their doubts and accusations about the Church in their works. And they could spread their ideas thanks to Gutenberg. His adapted wine press caused a knowledge boom like the internet does today.
Read about the new Humanist thinking, the origins of new Christian religions, the Inquisition
Rambling Reader
surprisingly good for bedtime reading. too interesting and lively to lull me into la la land.
Jan 22, 2017 Matt rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion, history
This book, part of Cahill's "Hinges of History" series, covers the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Counter-reformation and other movements in their immediate aftermath. It focuses on the major personalities in each movement but also tracks how surrounding societies influenced their rise and responded to their actions. Many of the biographical stories end in public executions, mainly by fire, not surprisingly for a book about thinkers labelled "heretics" by incumbent powers. Cahill impressively ...more
Dec 26, 2013 Edward rated it liked it
I read Cahill's earlier HOW THE IRISH SAVED CIVILIZATION and had found his account of how the Irish contributed more to our civilization that they are generally given credit for quite interesting. Cahill is equally interesting, even entertaining, in this latest book in his ongoing history series. His next efforts are apparently going to concentrate on the making of the modern world.

So how did "renaissance artists and reformation priests" create our world, as Cahill claims they did? If there's a
Dec 16, 2013 Matt rated it liked it
A lot of reviews have point out how in this book Cahill doesn't attempt hide his biases or prejudices, an observation with which I concur. I grant that no historical book can be written entirely free of the author's prejudice, which is fine; an author is free to have a contrary interpretation of the facts and his own opinions.

However, Cahill not so infrequently caricatures his figures as paragons of virtue or monsters (Oh, those awful Jesuits!), goes out of his way to write tangents that demoniz
Dec 10, 2016 Marta rated it it was amazing
Loved this book, highly engrossing. Learned a lot!
Peter Mcloughlin
Thomas Cahill has written a book on the transition from the middle ages to the early modern period Aka The Renaissance and Reformation. This fruitful age in Europe in the wake of the black plague saw the exploration of the Americas, the printing revolution, the reformation and counter-reformation. I like a lot of people was initially interested in this period for its art both the Italian Renaissance and the Northern Renaissance. The book supplies many of the highlights of the arts in this perio ...more
Sep 16, 2014 Faith rated it liked it
I've loved Thomas Cahill's series of history books, The Hinges of History, since I read the first one, How the Irish Saved Civilization, in high school. Unaccountably, this penultimate volume is not his best work. The topic of the Reformation and the Renaissance is just so large that the books becomes mostly a recounting of interesting bits and pieces from that time. He sometimes is able to focus on a particular argument or perspective- like how religion and nationalism interacted, or Luther's m ...more
Derek Green
Aug 09, 2013 Derek Green rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. The sixth installment of Cahill's Hinges of History series provides a brilliant summary of how the Renaissance and Reformation have helped to shape our modern western world. I have only read a galley copy, so I am looking forward to when the book is published and I can admire the (I assume colour) plates of Renaissance art.
Sheppard  Hobgood
Feb 05, 2014 Sheppard Hobgood rated it really liked it
As a child I endured three years in a Lutheran Parochial school. Nary a morning passed without mention of our great protestant hero. Fascinating read and now I know the rest of the story. Luther suffered from more demons than were cast into several thousand swine in a popular new testament story. The demons were the seeds of his greatness.
Aug 09, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it
I went through this book slowly. I was very enjoyable as all of the books I've read in this series are. This one lent itself to nibbling as each chapter was broken into smaller sections. Quite a witty look at many of the main players leading up to and during the Reformation.
Eric Peterson
Nov 17, 2013 Eric Peterson rated it it was amazing
Another masterful work of synthesis from Thomas Cahill.
May 30, 2014 Michael rated it did not like it
I don’t know what happened to Thomas Cahill. The first books in this series, all five of them, seemed to be very good (but now knowing the author’s willingness to proselytize his Liberal politics I wonder about those). After the release of those books perhaps some of his Liberal friends questioned his politics for, in “Heretics and Heroes,” Cahill is compelled to establish his Liberal bone-fides. Make no mistake, “Heretics and Heroes” is a political book, you know, like those written by Ann Coul ...more
Nov 03, 2016 Stephen rated it liked it
Shelves: history, reformation
It seems the more I read of Cahill, the less I enjoy his cavalier histories, which at this point border on gossipy. Part of Cahill's hinges of history series, covering pivotal moments in western history where there was a sea change, the crucial shift here is the emergence of the Individual -- demonstrated in art, and shown at work in disintegrating Christendom into a multitude of violently passionate sects, all supremely secure in their 'truthiness' In attempting to tell this story, though, Cahi ...more
Oct 07, 2013 Tina rated it really liked it
The Hinges of History series has been one of my favorites since the first volume "How the Irish Saved Civilization" was given to me as a gift back in 1995. Since then, I've eagerly awaited a chance to dive into each new volume in the series. When Knopf Doubleday offered me a chance to review this one, I didn't hesitate to accept. I've had the galley since July, and have taken my time reading it, allowing Cahill's ideas and insights to bubble up, take form, and then slide into place in my world v ...more
Aug 28, 2015 Jimmy rated it really liked it
This is the sixth installment of a series on history books called Hinges of History by Thomas Cahill, a former editor of religious literature for Double Day. The series is focused on different groups of people and historical period which have made their contributions felt today. This particular work focused on the Protestant Reformation and the Italian Renaissance in which the author tries to argue that the Reformation and Renaissance has made its contribution towards the modern concept of self. ...more
Jan 02, 2017 Dan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History readers
Excellent history of the periods and places examined. Cahill's research runs wide and deep, his perspective is fresh and post-modern, and his prose is almost conversational -- no mean feat given the complexity of much of his material. In all, an insightful and thoroughly enjoyable examination of key people and events from this critical period in the development of western civilization.
Jul 11, 2014 A. rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Review: Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization, The Gifts of the Jews, Sailing the Wine Dark Sea, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, Heretics and Heroes

The Hinges of History is a series including the above books plus Mysteries of the Middle Ages and a volume yet to be published. I am treating them together because, as one might expect, they share many strengths and weaknesses of the author, Thomas Cahill.
Heretics and Heroes was the first book I read, it being a gift, and, therefore, re
May 30, 2015 Brenda rated it really liked it
Heretics and HeroesThomas Cahill plunges into the Renaissance and Reformation with the same curiosity and gift for making history come alive as in the previous books in his Hinges of History series. This one is sixth in the series, coming after the Mysteries of the Middle Ages which I have reviewed previously.

Cahill explores the time period of 16th through the mid 17th centuries and follows individual lives who contributed to the underpinnings of our modern world. For example, explorers like Col
Todd Stockslager
Jun 01, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Review title: Renaissance born, Reformation raised
Cahill has been guiding us through what he calls the "Hinges of History", describing the major threads and the decisive turning points in cultures, languages, arts, nations , and religions that have made us. His style is narrative, ecumenical, inventive. and broad-ranging. Previous volumes in the series introduced us to our Jewish and Greek roots filtered through the world-changing appearance of Jesus Christ, and communicated and filtered through
May 07, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I finished reading Christopher Buckley's "The Relic Master," I noticed that this book was one of his sources. I'd read several of the books in Thomas Cahill's "Hinges of History" series, but somehow hadn't been aware of this one. Happily, the library was able to come up with it for me almost right away.
As you know from the title, the book covers the Renaissance and Reformation in Europe -- a large bloc of time, but much of it in the 16th century. It was fun to read biographical details of s
David Withun
Mar 13, 2014 David Withun rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
As has become the norm with his Hinges of History series, Cahill offers here an engaging and informative look at the Renaissance, the Reformation, and their impact on subsequent history. The modus operandi with Cahill's books in this series is to look at the various figures and ideas which populate a particular era through fresh, even if often judgmental, eyes and to look for those ideas and institutions in the modern world which they worked to inspire. He has done this rather well in all of the ...more
Nov 16, 2014 Dave rated it really liked it
I can't be a credible reviewer. I think I'm Cahillian. I love the way he writes about history in a way that places every piece he gathers up in the larger sweep of Western Civilization. This book tackles the revolutionary religious thinkers and artists that gave us The Renaissance, with all the people who lead up to the great leaps forward by the likes of Luther and Leonardo and Michelangelo and many, many others. Individual people did monumental and/or courageous things with their abilities tha ...more
Apr 10, 2014 Margaret rated it liked it
Caution Required
March 8, 2014

I found this book disappointing. I received it as a Christmas gift from a son who knows how much I enjoyed How the Irish Saved Civilization and Desire of the Everlasting Hills. I kept it aside to read during Lent. The author's biases, diatribes and efforts to advance both his religious and political agendas kept distracting me. Unlike those first two reads, this book did not open my world view or enlarge my appreciation of history. I did enjoy and learn from the aut
Bill Sleeman
Mar 14, 2014 Bill Sleeman rated it it was amazing

Heretics and Heroes by Thomas Cahill is the sixth volume in his projected series on the “Hinges of History” and it is an excellent effort. Cahill brings to this work (as he does with all his previous titles in this series) a depth of knowledge that is rare; the Daniel Boorstin series that began with The Discovers comes close in terms of the content covered but not even the late Boorstin, an otherwise extraordinary polymath himself, comes close to the brilliant and engaging style of Cahill. At 30

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Born in New York City to Irish-American parents and raised in Queens and the Bronx, Cahill was educated by Jesuits and studied ancient Greek and Latin. He continued his study of Greek and Latin literature, as well as medieval philosophy, scripture and theology, at Fordham University, where he completed a B.A. in classical literature and philosophy in 1964, and a pontifical degree in philosophy in ...more
More about Thomas Cahill...

Other Books in the Series

The Hinges of History (6 books)
  • How the Irish Saved Civilization
  • The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels
  • Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus
  • Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter
  • Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe

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