This is a book about Christianity in its medieval sense: a body of people, their beliefs and superstitions and their way of life. Professor Bossy aims to improve understanding of what happened to Western Europe during this crucial period by renouncing the use of the term "Reformation" and its implication that a bad form of Christianity was replaced by a good one. Slightly over half the book is taken up with an abosrbing and original account of traditional or pre-Reformation Christianity. The sacraments of the Church - from baptism to the last rites - still fulfilled Augustine's concept of their function as the skeleton of the social body. The second half explores the forces that were tending to undermine these classic rites of passage, which lent significance and sanctity to people's lives. Professor Bossy describes the regimes (both Protestant and Catholic) which superseded the older ways, and examines the consequences of the disintergration of traditional Christianity.
A study not of the institution of the Church but of Christianity itself, this book explores the Christian people, their beliefs, and their way of life, providing a new understanding of Western Christianity at the time of the Reformation. Bossy begins with a systematic exposition of traditional or pre-Reformation Christianity, exploring the forces that tended to undermine it, the characteristics of the Protestant and Catholic regimes that superseded it, and the fall-out that resulted from its disintegration.
"Bossy's survey of late medieval religion is magisterial. He discusses theology and church law with consummate ease, has an acute appreciation of the liturgy, and convincingly depicts people freely practicing a faith they understood."--American Historical Review
"Vivid and memorable...will help correct previous portrayals that paid too much attention to ecclesiastical writings."--The Christian Century
"Sensitive, subtle, and erudite analysis...a major achievement in opening our eyes...to dimensions that conventional historiography has hidden from view."--Times Literary Supplement
"A fine work of synthetic analysis. It should stimulate the reflection of any reader concerned about the nature of the social and religious changes prompted by the Lutheran and Catholic reforms."--Pacific Theological Review
"Challenging, thought-provoking...there is much to inform and interest."--Wilson Library Bulletin
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