Peter HeatherMar 21, 2023
The Triumph of a Religion, AD 300-1300
In the fourth century AD, a new faith grew out of Palestine, overwhelming the paganism of Rome and resoundingly defeating a host of other rival belief systems. Almost a thousand years later, all of Europe was controlled by Christian rulers, and the religion, ingrained within culture and society, exercised a monolithic hold over its population. But how did a small sect of isolated and intensely committed congregations become a mass movement centrally directed from Rome? As Peter Heather shows in this illuminating new history, there was nothing inevitable about Christendom's rise and eventual dominance.
From Constantine the Great's pivotal conversion to Christianity to the crisis that followed the collapse of the Roman empire--which left the religion teetering on the edge of extinction--to the astonishing revolution of the eleventh century and beyond, out of which the Papacy emerged as the head of a vast international corporation, Heather traces Christendom's chameleon-like capacity for self-reinvention, as it not only defined a fledgling religion but transformed it into an institution that wielded effective authority across virtually all of the disparate peoples of medieval Europe.
Authoritative, vivid, and filled with new insights, Christendom: The Triumph of a Religion, AD 300-1300 (Knopf, 2023) is an unparalleled history of early Christianity.
Charles Coutinho, PH. D., Associate Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, received his doctorate from New York University. His area of specialization is 19th and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. He has written for Chatham House’s International Affairs, the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History and the University of Rouen's online periodical Cercles.