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The Triumph of a Religion

Peter Heather

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06 February 2024
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A major new reinterpretation of the religious superstate that defined both Europe and Christianity, by one of our foremost medieval historians

In the fourth century AD, a new faith exploded out of Palestine. Overwhelming the paganism of Rome, and converting the Emperor Constantine in the process, it resoundingly defeated a host of other rivals. 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, as Peter Heather shows in this compelling history, there was nothing inevitable about Christendom's rise to Europe-wide dominance.

In exploring how the Christian religion became such a defining feature of the European landscape, and how a small sect of isolated congregations was transformed into a mass movement centrally directed from Rome, Heather shows how Christendom constantly battled against both so-called 'heresies' and other forms of belief. From the crisis that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire, which left the religion teetering on the edge of extinction, to the astonishing revolution in which the Papacy emerged as the head of a vast international corporation, Heather traces Christendom's chameleon-like capacity for self-reinvention and willingness to mobilize well-directed force.

Christendom's achievement was not, or not only, to define official Christianity, but - from its scholars and its lawyers, to its provincial officials and missionaries in far-flung corners of the continent - to transform it into an institution that wielded effective religious authority across nearly all of the disparate peoples of medieval Europe. This is its extraordinary story.

Imprint:   Penguin
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 196mm,  Width: 128mm,  Spine: 38mm
Weight:   520g
ISBN:   9780141988535
ISBN 10:   0141988533
Pages:   736
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  Professional and scholarly ,  College/higher education ,  ELT Advanced ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Peter Heather is Chair of Medieval History at King's College, London. His many books include The Fall of the Roman Empire, Empires and Barbarians- Migration, Development and the Birth of Europe, The Restoration of Rome and, most recently, Rome Resurgent.

Reviews for Christendom: The Triumph of a Religion

Heather's sweeping and engaging history of the making of Christendom over a thousand years is full of reinterpretations and new insights... his approach makes for a startlingly fresh look at a familiar story, a non-triumphalist history of the triumph of Christianity, and his book is all the more powerful for it. -- Jane Shaw * Financial Times * Heather casts his eye across the whole medieval period as he unfolds a fascinating story about a religion in a surprisingly precarious position. -- Dan Jones * Sunday Times * It is more pressing than ever to understand how exactly Christianity came to dominate in Europe. Heather's account cuts through the myth of an innately Christian, culturally monolithic Europe... [and] sheds light on the mechanics of state coercion and intermittent violence which led to the birth of Christendom. It's no light reading - but there's enough drama to make it a page-turner. -- Eleanor Myerson * Spectator * A brilliant exercise in disenchantment ... superb storytelling ... Heather more than delivers. While Christendom is fabulously rich in telling detail, Heather is always mindful of the big picture. The book is at once captivating and profound. -- Costica Bradatan * Literary Review * One of the many delights of this weighty book is the abundance of little-heard but illuminating and intriguing stories that he weaves into the narrative to show how Christianity endlessly reinvented itself to maintain a winning formula .... the tale of how Christianity, from unlikely beginnings, became one of the great mass-member institutions of the world is expertly and entertainingly told. -- Peter Stanford * Daily Telegraph *

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