Seven Lectures on Medieval Missions by Thomas Smith D.D.

These seven lectures on medieval missions include within their scope material on Clovis and Clotilda, Paternus, Columba, Augustine of Canterbury, Aidan, Columbanus, Brunehilde, Boniface, Willebrord, Anskar and Ramon Llull. They appear on-line thanks to Redcliffe College, who recently asked me to digitise 1,000 mission books from their library. This book is in the Public Domain.

Thomas Smith, Medieval Missions. Duff Missionary Lectures – First Series. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1880. Hbk. pp.279. [Click to download in PDF]

Preface

The Duff Missionary Lectureship has been instituted under the provisions of the will of the late Dr. Alexander Duff. In arranging for its foundation, his son has complied with the dying instructions of his father, deviating from these instructions only to the extent of designating the lectureship by his father’s name,-a deviation which, I venture to think, will be universally approved.

In terms of a trust-deed executed by Mr. Duff, a course of lectures, not fewer than six in number, ‘On some department of Foreign Missions or cognate subjects,’ is to be delivered once in every four years, each lecturer to give only one course. They are to be delivered in Edinburgh and repeated in Glasgow, or delivered in Glasgow and repeated in Edinburgh, or delivered and repeated in such other places as the trustees may direct. The lectures are then to be published, and copies are to be presented to certain libraries in this country, continental Europe, America, India, Africa, and Australia. The trustees are men belonging to different denominations, and the lecturer is to be ‘ a minister, professor, or godly layman of any Evangelical Church.’

In the introduction to the first lecture I have sufficiently explained the circumstances in/ which I was appointed as the first holder of the lectureship, as having been long associated with Dr. Duff in mission work in Bengal, and afterwards in the home-management of the missions of the Free Church of Scotland. While I venture to entertain a humble hope that the present volume may communicate to its readers a considerable portion of information, and may stimulate their interest in the great work of missions, I desire that it may be regarded also as a tribute to the memory of one for whom, during forty years of uninterrupted friendship and constant intercourse, I cherished feelings of tenderest affection, while I shared with the universal church the sentiment of admiration of his gifts and veneration of his graces. [Continue reading]

History of Medieval Missions by George Maclear

George Frederick Maclear [1833-1902], A History of Christian Missions During the Middle AgesGeorge Maclear’s History of the Christian Mission in the Middle Ages records the spread of Christianity in Europe and beyond from 340 to 1520 AD. Along the way he discussed the contributions to mission made by St. Columba, St. Patrick, Augustine of Canterbury and St. Boniface. Works on this period are fairly rare, so it nice to be able to make one available in this way. This book is in the Public Domain.

George Frederick Maclear [1833-1902], A History of Christian Missions During the Middle Ages. Cambridge & London: MacMillan & Co, 1863. Hbk. pp.466. [Click to download in PDF]

Contents

Introduction

  1. The Mission Field of the Middle Ages
  2. Early efforts of the Church among the new races. A.D. 340-308
  3. The Church of Ireland, and the Mission of St. Patrick. A.D. 431-490
  4. St. Columba and the Conversion of the Picts
  5. Mission of St. Augustine to England. A.D. 596-627
  6. Progress of Missionary work in England. A.D. 627-689
  7. Celtuc Missionaries in Southern Germany. A.D. 592-630
  8. Missionary efforts in Friesland and parts adjacent. A.D. 628-719
  9. St. Boniface and the conversion of Germany. A.D. 715-755
  10. Efforts of the Disciples of St. Boniface. A.D. 719-789
  11. Missionary efforts in Denmark and Sweden. A.D. 800-1011
  12. The conversion of Norway. A.D. 900-1030
  13. Missions among the Slavic or Slavonic Races. A.D. 800-1000
  14. The conversion of Poland and Pomeronia. A.D. 1000-1127
  15. Conversion of Wendland, Prussia, and Lithuania. A.D. 1050-1410
  16. Missions to the Saracens and the Mongols. A.D. 1200-1400
  17. Compulsory Conversion of the Jews and Moors. A.D. 1400-1500
  18. Retrospect and Reflections
  19. Retrospect and Reflections

Introduction

On two occasions in the recorded history of the Apostle Paul, we behold him brought into contact with pure barbarism. The first is that familiar one when having been driven from the great towns of central Asia :Minor, he had in company with Barnabas, penetrated into the region of Lystra and Derbe. The district here indicated was, as is known to all, inhabited by a rude population, amongst whom the civilization of imperial Rome had scarcely penetrated. The natives of these two little towns situated amidst the bare and barren steppes of Lycaonia, spoke a dialect of their own, and were addicted to a rude and primitive superstition. Theirs was not the philosophical faith of the educated classses at Rome or Athens. It was the superstition of simple pagan villagers on whom the Jewish synagogue had produced little or no impression. [Continue reading]

Call for Applications: The Scholasticum Institute

Guest Post by the Faculty of The Scholasticum Institute

Scholasticum InstituteWe, the associated faculty of The Scholasticum Institute, in the birthplace of St. Bonaventure (Bagnoregio, Italy), hereby announce the establishment of a new institute of medieval studies dedicated to reviving the study of Scholastic Theology and Philosophy. The institute will have as its goal the formation of a new generation of theologians and philosophers who have been trained and equipped according to the sources and method of study employed by Sts. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure.
The institute will offer courses to students physically present at its headquarters in Rome and by video-conferencing to those throughout the world.  Applications are now open and can be accessed at our Registrar’s office in Rome, or on our website!
We offer a 1- or 2-year course of study with the option of four cycles: Baccalaureus Philosophicus, Baccalaureus Biblicus, Baccalaureus Sententiarius, and Magister Sacrae Doctrinae.
Please see our informational flyer and Annuario Academico for more information.

New Book: Early Christianity In Its Song And Verse

Press Release

OLD STORIES AND THE HEART BEAT WITHIN

Early Christianity In Its Song And Verse

 

Early Christianity In Its Song and VerseLike so many periods of human history, the period examined and illustrated in author Robert J. Glendinning’s new book Early Christianity In Its Song and Verse is rife with conflict: marching Roman legions, the fall of empires, invasions, religious conversions, persecutions, and the clash of reason and faith. Defying conventional wisdom, this work of creative non-fiction uses poetry—the lyrics of ancient Latin hymns—translated into English verse, to tell a story.

In Early Christianity In Its Song and Verse, published through FriesenPress, two levels of story-telling create a picture of the world of early Christianity. The tumultuous and dramatic external history of this 1000-year era from CE 300-1300 is outlined in the introductions, notes, and commentary. The interior mind of the era, its spiritual experience, is revealed from the inside in the hymn lyrics composed by those who lived at the time and participated in its struggles. Early Christianity In Its Song and Verse is decidedly user friendly, offering the reader a variety of ways of reading and using the work. Those with little or no previous knowledge of the subject will find in the notes and commentaries information that ranges from very basic to an advanced level.

Critical assessment: “ . . . provides a blend of scholarship and creative translation focusing on Christianity’s formative years. . . . valuable and satisfying . . . . as remarkable as Glendinning’s work as a translator is, the academic writing is even more impressive . , , . he rolls out all this worthy material without the unnecessarily complicated jargon that mars many similar scholarly —Kirkus Reviews

Early Christianity In Its Song and Verse by Robert J. Glendinning is available for purchase from the FriesePress Bookstore, Barnes & Noble and most online retailers. The eBook can also be purchased from Nook, Kindle, GooglePlay and iTunes Bookstore. Canadian academic Robert Glendinning obtained his BA and his MA degrees at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, and his PhD at the University of Freiburg, Germany. He was a member of the Department of German and Slavic Studies at the University of Manitoba until his retirement in 1996.

To learn more about book and author visit www.earlychristianverse.com

Conference on Modern Religious History

Conference on Modern Religious History

Division of History and Politics

University of Stirling

Tuesday 14 June  – Wednesday 15 June 2016

Programme

Tuesday 14 June

 1.00     Lunch

2.00     Session I

Stewart J. Brown, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, University of Edinburgh:

‘British Imperial Christianity in the Nineteenth Century: The Anglican Established Church in India’

3.15     Refreshment Break

3.45     Session II

Clyde Binfield, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Sheffield:

‘J. H. Whitley and the Congregational Mindset’

5.00     Conclusion of Day

 

Wednesday 15 June

9.00     Session III

Eugenio Biagini, Professor of Modern and Contemporary History, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge:

‘“Patrick, the First Churchman” in the Protestant Vision of Ernest Bateman of Booterstown, Dublin (1886-1979)’

10.15   Refreshment Break

10.45   Session IV

Mary Heimann, Professor of Modern History, Cardiff University:

‘St Francis and the Modern Imagination’

12.00   Lunch

1.00     Session V

Callum Brown, Professor of Late Modern European History, University of Glasgow:

‘Becoming Atheist: How Scots Lost Religion in the Twentieth Century’

2.15     Refreshment Break

2.45     Session VI

Kenneth D. Brown, Professor Emeritus of History, Queen’s University, Belfast:

‘William and Herbert Gladstone: Father and Son’

4.00     Conclusion of Conference

 

Attendance is open to all and free, but booking by Wednesday 8 June is essential.

Lunch each day will cost £10, to be paid on the day.

Patterson’s History of the Church of England

Dioceses Under Henry IIIM.W. Patterson’s book A History of the Church of England is now a available for free download in PDF. It covers English Church history from the arrival of the first missionaries up to the Victorian era (when the book was written). The book became public domain last year.

M.W. Patterson [1873-1944], A History of the Church of England. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1929. Hbk. pp.457. Click to download.

Contents

  1. The Church in Britain Before the Anglo-Saxon Conquest
  2. The Anglo-Saxon Conquest and the Roman Mission
  3. The Work of the Scotch Missionaries Till the Synod Of Whitley, 664
  4. Wilfrid and Theodore: The Organisation of the Church
  5. The Church to the Norman Conquest – The Coming of the Danes – Alfred and His Successors
  6. The Church Under the Norman Kings
  7. The Conflict of Church and State – Henry II. and Thomas Becket
  8. The Church and The Great Charter
  9. The Church in the Thirteenth Century
  10. The Church and the Wycliffite Movement
  11. The Church at the Close of the Middle Ages
  12. The New Learning and the Early Years of Henry VIII.
  13. The Reformation Under Henry VIII.
  14. The Reign of Edward VI. and the Growth of Protestant Influences
  15. The Marian Reaction and the Elizabethan Settlement
  16. The Church Under Elizabeth – Puritanism and Romanism
  17. The Church Under the Early Stewarts – The Laudian Regime
  18. The Long Parliament and the Puritan Revolt
  19. The Restoration and the Revolution
  20. The Church from 1714-1833 – Rationalism and the Evangelical Revival
  21. The Oxford Movement and the Victorian Era

Principal Dates

Appendices

  1. Bishoprics On Eve of Norman Conquest
  2. Doctrine Concerning Sacrament of Holy Communion
  3. Synopsis of Reformation Parliament
  4. Sacrificial Aspect of Holy Communion
  5. The Ornaments Rubric
  6. Anglican Orders
  7. Lists of Popes, Archbishops, Kings

Index

Maps

Map of Dioceses Old and New Under Henry VIII
Map of Dioceses in 1909

Ireland and the Celtic Church online

George T Stokes, Ireland and the Celtic ChurchOne of the fruits of a visit to Book Aid over the Christmas holiday was the following book on the history of the Celtic Church in Ireland. It contains 17 lectures on St. Patrick, St. Columba, Columbanus and the Pascal controversy by George T. Stokes. Stokes was Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Dublin. The full text, being in the Public Domain, is now available for free download in PDF.

George T. Stokes [1843-1898], Ireland and the Celtic Church. A History of Ireland From St. Patrick to the English Conquest in 1172, 6th revised edn. London: SPCK, 1907. Hbk. pp.382. Click to download it here.

The book contained the following piece of emphemera:

Ephemera from George T. Stokes

As you can see, this indicates that the book was originally sent as a review copy. However, as many of the page-edges were still uncut, I would deduce that it was never read and that a review was not written. So, this is the first time that this copy has been fully opened since it was published 1907! Hopefully it will be read by many people now.

Perhaps someone could please add a link to the online version of the book to Prof. G.T. Stoke’s Wikipedia page?

Contents

Lecture 1 – The Ancient Celtic Church

Lecture 2 – St. Patrick

Lecture 3 – St. Patrick’s Mission

Lecture 4 – Tara and the Conversion of Ireland

Lecture 5 – St. Columba

Lecture 6 – Columba in Iona

Lecture 7 – Columbanus

Lecture 8 – The Paschal Controversy

Lecture 9 – Ireland and the East

Lecture 10 – The Social Life of the Eighth Century

Lecture 11 – Greek and Hebrew in Irish Monasteries

Lecture 12 – The Round – Towers of Ireland

Lecture 13 – The Danish Invasion of Ireland and the Pagan Crusade

Lecture 14 – The Danish Kingdom of Dublin

Lecture 15 – Brian Boru and the Triumph of Christianity

Lecture 16 -The See of Dublin and Union With England

Lecture 17 – St. Malachy and the See of Armagh

Early English Church History

The following public domain book is now available on-line in PDF:

William Bright [1824-1901], Chapters of Early English Church History, 2nd Edition. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1888. Hbk. pp.476. 

Click here to download [10.36 MB] View in PDF format

Early English Church History

Contents

Chapter I (Introductory)

The beginning of British Christianity unknown; No proof of an Apostolic visit; Story of Lucius; Tertullia.n on British Christians; First Mission probably from Gaul; St. Alban; British Bishops at Council of Arles; Few traces of British Church; Its orthodoxy; St. Ninian; Pelagianism in Britain; Britons appeal to Gallic Church; Mission of German and Lupus; Discussion with Pelagians; German and Lupus at Verulam; The Allelnia Victory; Second visit of St. German; The Saxon Conquest; Sufferings of Britons; Condition of British Nation and Church; ‘Increpations’ of Gildas; British Church Ritual; British Colleges and Synods; Missionaries and Saints; Dubricius and David; Flight of British Bishops; What opening for a Mission!

Chapter II

Gregory the Great; The Church and Slavery; Gregory and the English boys; Gregory becomes Pope; His plans for an English Mission; Ethelbert and Bertha; Augustine and his companions; Misgivings silenced by Gregory; His commendatory letters; The Missionaries in Gaul; They land in Kent; Augustine before Ethelbert; Ethelbert’s reply; Augustine enters Canterbury; Life of Missionaries in Canterbury; Baptism of Ethelbert; Death of St. Columba; Consecration of Augustine; Foundation of Canterbury Cathedral; Messengers sent to Gregory; Gregory’s answers to Augustine’s questions; His view of the Popedom; Question of Miracles; Scheme for Bishoprics; Letters to Ethelbert and Bertha; Treatment of Pagan Temples; Arrival of Mellitus and his companions.

Chapter Ill

First Conference with British Bishops; Question of Easter; Questions of Baptismal Rites and Tonsure; Second Conference; Advice of the Hermit; Augustine’s terms rejected; His prediction; Battle of Chester; Bishopric of London; Bishopric of Rochester; ‘Church and Realm’ in Kent; Liturgical arrangements; Monastery of SS. Peter and Paul; Date of Augustine’s death; Consecration of Laurence; Archbishopric fixed at Canterbury; Character of St. Augustine; Overtures to the Irish Church fail; St. Columban; His Celtic tenacity; Renewed overtures to Britons fail; Dedication of SS. Peter and Paul’s; Eadbald rejects the Faith; Mellitus expelled from London; Story of Laurence’s dream; Conversion of Eadbald; Redwald’s compromise; Edwin in exile; His mysterious visitant; Edwin, King of all Northumbria; Mellitus, Archbishop; Disappointment of early hopes for the Mission; Paulinus sent to Northumbria.

Chapter IV

Paulinus at York; Attempt on Edwin’s life; Indecision of Edwin; Paulinus prevails with him; Northumbrian Witenagemot; Christianity adopted;Political greatness of Edwin; Bishopric of York; Mission-journeys of St. Paulinus; Estimate of his work;
Honorius, Archbishop; Christianity in East-Anglia; Sigebert and St. Felix; St. Fursey; Cadwallon and Penda; Edwin slain at Hatfield; The ‘ Hateful Year’; Flight of Paulinus; James the Deacon; Battle of Heavenfield; Oswald, King of Northumbria; He sends to Hy for a Bishop; Aidan chosen Bishop; Question as to his consecration; Aidan arrives in Northumbria; He settles at Lindisfarne; His position as independent of Rome

Chapter V

Character of St. Aidan; His work as Bishop; His relations with Oswald; His charity and boldness; His ‘error’ as to Easter; Church-work under him; Mission of St. Birinus; He preaches in Wessex; Baptism of Kynegils; Birinus, Bishop of Dorchester; Erconbert, King of Kent; The Family of King Anna; Battle of Maserfield; Death of St. 0swald; Reverence for his sanctity; Anxiety caused by his death; Oswy, King of Bernicia; Exile and conversion of Kenwalch; He regains his crown; Church of Winchester founded; Learning in Ireland; Agilbert in Wessex; Oswin, King of Deira; His murder; Honours to his memory; Nunneries in Northumbria; Death of Aidan.

Chapter VI

Preparations for organisation of English Church; Finan, Bishop of Lindisfarne; Paschal Question revived; Baptism of Peada; Mission to Mid-Angles; Baptism of Sigebert the Good; Cedd, Bishop of the East-Saxons; Foundation of Lastingham; Deusdedit, Archbishop; Death of Anna; Penda invades Northumbria; Battle of Winwidfield; Mercian Bishopric founded; Murder of Sigebert the Good; St. Botulf; Wulfhere, King of Mercia; Monastery of Peterborough; Wini, Bishop of Winchester; South-Saxons still Heathen; Colman, Bishop of Lindisfarne; Mona.sticism in Northumbria; Cuthbert at Melrose; Beginnings of Wilfrid; Wilfrid at Lindisfarne and at Lyons; His first visit to Rome; He returns to Northumbria; His aims for his native Church; Paschal Question brought to an issue; Conference of Whitby; Colman leaves Lindisfarne; Review of the Scotic Mission

Chapter VII

Tuda, Bishop of Lindisfarne; The ‘ Yellow Pest’; Apostasy of East-Saxons; Cuthbert, Prior of Melrose; Wilfrid elected to York; Consecration of Wilfrid in Gaul; His return from Gaul; Consecration of Chad; Third Mission to East-Saxons; Simony of Wini; Wilfrid in Mercia and Kent; Election and death of Wighard; Pope Vitalian’s letter; Theodore chosen for Canterbury; Monothelite Controversy; Consecration of Theodore; Theodore in Gaul; His arrival at Canterbury; His character; His reception in England.

Chapter VIII

Theodore and St. Chad; Question of Chad’s Consecration; His episcopate at Lichfield; His piety; His death; Egfrid, King of Northurnbria; Wilfrid’s church-building; Grandeur of his position; School at Canterbury; Monasticism in Kent; Lothere, Bishop of Winchester; Council of Hertford

Chapter IX

East-Anglian diocese divided; Queen Etheldred; Foundation of Ely; Disorders at Coldingham followed by ruin; Deposition of Winfrid; Erkenwald, Bishop of London; Aldhelm, Abbot of Malmesbury; Heddi, Bishop of Winchester; Design for a Monastery at Abingdon; Mercian Invasion of Kent; Putta at Hereford; Cuthbert, Prior of Lindisfarne; He retires to Farne; His Hermit-life; Foundation of Wearmouth; Ceolfrid; Hilda at Whitby; Credmon.

Chapter X

Beginning of Wilfrid’s troubles; Theodore and Egfrid; Division of Northumbrian diocese; Wilfrid’s appeal to Rome; Views of Roman See taken by Wilfrid, and by English Church in general; Seizure of Bishop Winfrid; Wilfrid in Frisia and Lombardy; Council of Rome; Return of Wilfrid; Roman decree rejected by Egfrid; Imprisonment of Wilfrid; His release; His stay in Mercia; He withdraws into Sussex; State of the South-Saxons; Wilfrid converts them; His Episcopate at Selsey.

Chaper XI

Mercian diocese divided; Saxon Monastery at Glastonbury; Mission of John the Precentor; Council of Hatfield; Question of Double Procession; Death of John the Precentor; Death of St. Hilda; Bishopric at Abercorn; Foundation of Jarrow; Bede; Invasion of Ireland; Assembly at Twyford; Cuthbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne; Egfrid attacks the Picts; Cuthbert at Carlisle; Battle of Dunnechtan; See of Abercorn abandoned; Aldfrid, King of Northumbria; St. Cuthbert’s Episcopate; His Visitations; He returns to Farne; Cuthbert’s last days; His death; Death of Easterwine; Benedict’s last return from Rome; Cad walla and Wilfrid; Cadwalla, King of Wessex; Conquest of the Isle of Wight; Conversion of its people; Theodore reconciled to Wilfrid; Wilfrid restored to York; The first compromise; John, Bishop of Hexham; Eadbert, Bishop of Lindisfarne; Death of Benedict Biscop; Cadwalla. goes to Rome; Baptism and death of Cadwalla; Ine, King of West-Saxons; Death of Theodore.

Chapter XII

State of Church and Kingdoms at Theodore’s death; Laws of King Ine; Renewal of Wilfrid’s troubles; Questions for Wilfrid; Wilfrid in Mercia; Missions to Frisia; St. Willibrord; Swidbert, Missionary Bishop; Martyrdom of the Hewalds; Willibrord’s Episcopate; Bertwald, Archbishop of Canterbury; Death of St. Erkenwald; Death of King Sebbi; Egwin, Bishop of Worcester; Laws of King Wihtred; The ‘Privilege’ of Wihtred; Guthlac at Crowland; Foundation of Evesham.

Chapter XIII

Death of Bishop Eadbert; Letter of Pope Sergius; Council of Easterfield; Wilfrid’s second Appeal; Wilfrid again in Mercia; St. Aldhelm; He writes to encourage ‘ Wilfrid’s clerks’; Acca; Wilfrid’s last journey to Rome; Pope John VI; Council of Rome; Decision of the Council; Letter of Pope John; Wilfrid at Meaux; Wilfrid welcomed by Ethelred; Aldfrid refuses to receive him; Death of Aldfrid; Council of the Nidd; Final compromise in the ’cause of Wilfrid’

Chapter XIV

Aldhelm’s letter to Geraint on British Easter and Tonsure; Gradual surrender of Celtic Easter; Daniel, Bishop of Winchester; Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne; Church-work in Wessex; Death of Aldhelm; Complaint against Bede; Wilfrid’s last arrangements; His journey into Mercia; His death; Retrospect.

Chapter XIV

Aldhelm’s letter to Geraint on British Easter and Tonsure; Gradual surrender of Celtic Easter; Daniel, Bishop of Winchester; Aldhelm, Bishop of Sherborne; Church-work in Wessex; Death of Aldhelm; Complaint against Bede; Wilfrid’s last arrangements; His journey into Mercia; His death;
Retrospect.

Additional Notes

A. Christian adoption of Pagan sites
B. Bede and Gregory of Tours
C. Theodore and Chad
D. The Council of Hertford
E. The Age of St. Aldhelm
F. Growth of a Parochial System
G. Miscellaneous

Table of Principal Events
Table of Royal and Episcopal Succession, A.D. 597-709
Genealogical Tables
Index

New Book on the Cathars and Waldenses

Caterina Bruschi, The Wandering Heretics of Languedoc. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Hbk. ISBN-13: 9780521182270. pp.232.

The publishers blurb reads:

How should historians read sources which record inquisitorial trials in the Middle Ages? How can we understand the fears felt by those on trial? By analysing six volumes of depositions in the trial of Cathar and Waldensian heretics in Languedoc between the late twelfth and the fourteenth century, in this 2009 book, Caterina Bruschi challenges old methodologies in the study of dissent. She examines the intrinsic narratological problems related to the sources and, using approaches from the social sciences, analyses the different fears felt by deponents and how those fears affected their actions and decisions. In so doing, she sheds light on itinerancy within the ecclesial structure of non-conformist movements and contextualises the problem of itinerancy as a benchmark for the definition of heresy. Focusing on the lives and attitudes of trial witnesses, this innovative account is a major contribution to our understanding of the nature of religious non-conformity in the Middle Ages.

Table of Contents

Introduction
1. Stories, and how to read them
2. Catharism and its mobility
3. Heretical itinerancy
4. Patterns of fear and risk
Conclusions (and starting points)
Bibliography.

Features

• Challenges methodological assumptions about how to read medieval trial records
• Analyses unpublished primary sources
• Provides insights into the interactions between inquisitors and deponents

Review: Warrior of God. Jan Zizka and the Hussite Revolution

Victor Verney, Warrior of God. Jan Zizka and the Hussite Revolution. London: Frontline Books, 2009. Hbk. ISBN: 978-1-84832-516-6. pp.240.

When I was first offered a review copy of this book I was somewhat surprised, because the publisher specialises in military rather than religious history. Having read the book I would have to say that it would be a great shame if this meant that those interested in medieval and reformation history overlooked it because of its publisher.

The book covers the life of Jan Zizka, a man instrumental in the survival and the success of the Hussite revolution in Bohemia following the martyrdom of Jan Hus. The introductory chapter places the story of the Hussites in the larger context of the political and religious turmoil of the 14th Century, while chapter one introduces Zizka and explains the significance of his military innovations. Zizka proved to be a genius at utilising whatever was at hand in warfare. At this time the significant role in battle was conducted by opposing knights. These engaged one another on horseback as they saw fit and the peasant infantry served mainly to be mowed down by the cavalry.

Faced with a situation where his forces consisted almost entirely of peasant infantry Zizka equipped them by converting their wagons into mobile fortresses and (literally) turned their pruning hooks into swords and a variety of vicious clubs and other weapons. Faced with Zizka’s battle wagons drawn up in formation strategically utilising the terrain, cavalry charges proved useless and knights were forced to dismount and attack on more equal terms with their opponents. In such circumstances the knights were invariably routed.

Chapter 2 describes the career of Jan Hus and includes this significant passage which is worth quoting in full:

Before being burned at the stake, Hus declared ‘You are now going to burn a goose [the meaning of his surname] , but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast or boil.’ Copies of Wyclif’s writings were used to kindle the fire. One hundred and two years later, Luther posted his theses, and today the swan is a symbol of many Lutheran churches. The seeming prescience of Hus’s remark, served to heighten his saintly stature with subsequent generations of Bohemians, and Protestant iconography commonly connects Wyclif, Hus, and Luther. Has Hus lived longer,he would have presided over difficult times for his followers, and his memory might be less revered. Some feel that Hus left the historical stage at the proper time and in the proper manner to ensure everlasting fame respect. A living Hus would have been a valuable voice for the movement, but the dead Hus embodied a spirit of pride and resistance, inspiring the Hussites and steeling them for the coming doctrinal a military assault upon their beliefs. [p.36]

These military assaults came from without, in the form of the five anti-Hussite Crusades, and from within as divisions in the Hussite cause led to discord and civil war. The brutality of these wars – on all sides – was incredible and one has to remind oneself that the Hussites were literally fighting for their lives as their “heresy” was a capital offence. Through Zizka’s leadership the Hussite armies finally subjugated almost all of of Bohemia and after his death invaded Moravia and Austria.

Victor Verney does a splendid job of translating the incredible complex events of this period into an engaging account that is a delight to read. He describes the origins of the various Hussites sects, the Orebites (Orphans), Taborites, Pichards, Adamites, etc. in such as way that one is able to understand clearly the historical and religious context of each.

Towards the end of his book Verney sums up the significance of the Hussite revolution in these words, which again are worth quoting in full:

Continual Hussite victories also sowed widespread religious doubt, ultimately more subversive to Rome than their military incursions. Many could not understand why, if they were fighting for God as the Pope, the Emperor, and their nobles and clerics kept assuring them, they kept losing. If the Hussites were indeed sacriligious heretics, why was God permitting them to enjoy such success? These widespread misgivings about the Vatican’s omnipotence and righteousness prepared Central Europe for Martin Luther a century later. The Hussites, particularly Tabor, exploited this by distributing thousands of pamphlets throughout Western Europe, explaining themselves and making their case – a remarkable exercise in mass media four decades before Gutenberg’s printing press. [p,222]

In summary, I would like to highly commend this book to anyone interested in medieval and reformation history and hope that it becomes required reading on all courses dealing with these subjects.