This absorbing book explores the tensions within the Roman Catholic church and between the church and royal authority in France in the crucial period 1290-1321. During this time the crown tried to force churchmen to accept policies many considered inconsistent with ecclesiastical freedom and traditions---such as paying war taxes and expelling the Jews from the kingdom. William Jordan considers these issues through the eyes of one of the most important and courageous actors, the Cistercian monk, professor, abbot, and polemical writer Jacques de Thirines. The result is a fresh perspective on what Jordan terms "the story of France in a politically terrifying period of its existence, one of unceasing strife and unending fear."
Jacques de Thirines was involved in nearly every controversy of the period: the expulsion of the Jews from France, the relocation of the papacy to Avignon, the affair of the Templars, the suppression of the "heresies" of Marguerite Porete and of the Spiritual Franciscans, and the defense of the "exempt" monastic orders' freedom from all but papal control. The stands he took were often remarkable in themselves: hostility to the expulsion of Jews and spirited defense of the Templars, for example. The book also traces the emergence of King Philip the Fair's (1285-1314) almost paranoid style of rule and its impact on church-state relations, which makes the expression of Jacques de Thirines's views all the more courageous.
"Jordan opens a window on a remote time. It is Jordan's genius to spot that window, his achievement to let us peer through. That alone makes this work a valuable contribution to our historical perspective. It adds yet another piece to our understanding of a critical and enigmatic period."
-Alan Friedlander, American Historical Review
William Chester Jordan is Professor of History and Director of the Program in Medieval Studies at Princeton University. His books include Europe in the High Middle Ages (Penguin) and The Great Famine: Northern Europe in the Early Fourteenth Century (Princeton).