The Wisdom of the Middle Ages
In The Wisdom of the Middle Ages Michael Kellogg rises to the challenge of exploring a less familiar period of Western history. In so doing, he contradicts the descriptor “Dark Ages,” revealing more about the people, their philosophies, and their literature. He sets the stage by outlining the scope of his study. Chapter One is an essay on the rise and spread of Christianity at the beginning of the Common Era, a rewarding introduction for readers who may be barely familiar with the New Testament.
Before the chapters dedicated to religious and secular figures whose names may be better known better than their historical contributions, he delineates three vitally significant developments in the Church in the eleventh century, prior to the Renaissance: the split between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman church in 1054; then, less than a generation later, Pope Gregory VIV’s doctrine of papal infallibility, proclaiming the pope to be the direct representative of God on earth; and, over a greater time span, the series of Crusades fought by Christians to banish Islam from the West.
Kellogg plays fair as the chapters proceed chronologically, but he makes no attempt to hide his obvious preference and affection for St. Francis of Assisi and Peter Abelard (along with the sterner Heloise). A book that in less skillful hands could have been ponderous is enthralling as letters and anecdotes are woven into the narrative. The book furthers Kellogg’s already stellar reputation.
Michael K. Kellogg