Stephen's Reviews > Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe

Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill
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really liked it

I read a library ebook version. I'm not sure if the images would be better in a paper version. My suspicions on that matter are high. I did like the footnotes being easily accessible inline with the text: touch a footnote marker, "popup".
So enough of the format. What of the content?
Cahill is an interesting author. I like his perspective and selection of history to portray. Sometimes I think he comes across as know-it-all or too dismissive, but I think he accepts that role, given his discussion on how much he had to leave out of this book. He takes a cue, I think, from C.S. Lewis and is, generally, a fan of (Catholic, European) medieval life. Cahill is also an enthusiastic "historian/biographer/man of letter". I like his recommendations. He again recommends "Kristin Lavransdatter" in this volume, which I thoroughly enjoyed based on his previous recommendation. So here, he recommends 3 English translations of Dante's Divine Comedy (which I have yet to read), 2 of which have the opposite page Italian, so he recommends just learning a little Italian and enjoying that - in the original (of course).
Well, I might just do that (and I might [higher probability] not). Here's the volumes he recommends (cf. page 329 in the ebook where he's giving a rough bibliography):
"For sheer readability from start to finish, I would recommend Allen Mandelbaum's The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri in three paperback volumes (Bantam 1982, 1984, 1986) with facing pages in Italian and English. It is accurate and genuinely poetic. For a prose rendering that adheres closely to the Italian, the obvious choice is John D. Sinclair's (Oxford, 1961), also in three paperback volumes with facing pages in both languages... The translation I use frequently in the text because of its successful imitation in English of Dante's terza rima scheme is by Peter Dale (Anvil, 1996)."

He also mentions Dorothy L. Sayers and John Ciardi. And it's here he advises us to learn a smattering of Italian "if you can spare the time" :)

So again, his enthusiasm: I learned a lot, and I want to read more about people like St. Francis, and art in various parts of Italy, e.g. Florence, Ravenna, Padua etc etc.). And in general, he made me (even) more a fan (with sincere patience in historical matters) of the medieval era and the people that impacted history. Quote (317): "As the preceding chapters have demonstrated, it was not bishops but laypeople who were responsible for the historic glories of Catholicism, given as gifts to the Western world" (defending the decentralization of 'political power')

Likely forgetting other things to include in this review, so I'll end with one of the poem snippets he begins a chapter with that caught my attention:

Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!
Throughout the sensual world proclaim,
One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name.

- Sir Walter Scott (or "more correctly attributed"), Thomas Osbert Mordaunt)
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Reading Progress

January 4, 2010 – Shelved
Started Reading
September 26, 2014 – Finished Reading

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