Age of Faith – History of the Medieval Church: An Eight Part Course with Dr. Thomas Madden

Age of Faith – History of the Medieval Church: An Eight Part Course with Dr. Thomas Madden


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In the fifth century, everything changed. The Roman Empire fell, society crumbled, and barbarian tribes conquered the land. Only the Christian Church, the faith of the late Roman Empire, survived. It alone bridged the ancient and medieval worlds, shaping a new age of spirituality and devotion in a culture of violence and war.

This course will tell the extraordinary story of that transformation. It will follow late ancient Christianity as it navigated the dangers of barbarian kings and pagan chiefdoms to bring western Europe into the fold. It will explore the height of Church power, when popes held sway in Europe, even over kings. Along the way, we will see the flowering of culture in medieval monasteries and the soaring beauty of Gothic cathedrals. Finally, participants will examine how and why the Church’s power waned as the Middle Ages came to a close.

Dr. Thomas F. Madden, a leading historian of the medieval and ancient worlds, will guide participants through this fascinating story, illustrating his lectures not only with maps and art but also with the human stories of this extraordinary age. Dr. Madden is an award-winning teacher and scholar, and the author of numerous books, including The Concise History of the Crusades, Venice: A New History, and Istanbul: City of Majesty at the Crossroads of the World. 

Lecture 1: Birth of the Medieval Church
This lecture will explore the passing away of the ancient Church, with its close ties to the Roman East, and the dawning of a new relationship with the barbarian tribes, such as the Franks. Pope Leo’s coronation of Charlemagne will usher in a new period of vitality for the Church, yet the new invasions of the ninth century would bring chaos and corruption.

Lecture 2: The Medieval Landscape of the Church
What was it like to be a Christian in the Middle Ages? This lecture will offer a guided tour into the lived experiences of the members of the Church, both clergy and laity. It will peak into village churches, explore sprawling monasteries, and visit rich cathedrals. It will also examine the faith and practices of Christians across the medieval world.

Lecture 3: Reform and Renewal in the Eleventh Century
The chaos of the ninth and tenth centuries took a heavy toll on the Church. This lecture will assess the damage and describe the reform movements that spread across Europe in the eleventh century. Although ultimately successful, these reforms were not without opposition from clergy and monarchs alike. We will, therefore, plunge into the Investiture Context and evaluate winners and losers.

Lecture 4: The Papal Monarchy
The struggle between ecclesiastical and royal authority rocked western Europe in the twelfth century, even as the Church’s reform movements continued forward. By the thirteenth century, however, the popes had come out on top. This lecture will examine the most important popes of this period, assess their accomplishments, and evaluate how they shaped not only the Church but western culture more broadly.

Lecture 5: New Orders and New Heresies
The thirteenth-century saw an extraordinary expansion of piety movements, public devotions, and religious expression. This lecture will examine some of the manifestations of these dynamics in the creation of new religious orders, confraternities, and heretical movements. It will also examine the Church’s relationship with non-Christians in Europe, including Jews and Muslims.

Lecture 6: Decline of Papal Monarchy and the Avignon Papacy
By the end of the thirteenth century, medieval monarchs had adopted new governing techniques pioneered by the Church to accumulate new authority over their realms. This lecture will describe how these newly powerful kings challenged the popes, weakening the Church and strengthening the state. It will also explore the challenges that led the popes to relocate from Rome to Avignon throughout much of the fourteenth century.

Lecture 7: The Church During the Black Death
The Bubonic Plague killed nearly one-half of Europeans within a decade. How did the Church respond to this extraordinary calamity? This lecture will examine relief efforts, devotional practices, and other strategies that Christians employed during those horrific years. It will also describe the criticisms heaped on the Church for a worldliness that seemed to invite divine wrath.

Lecture 8: Schism and Conciliarism
As the fourteenth century came to a close, there were two popes. As the fifteenth century began, there were three. This lecture will examine the circumstances behind the Great Schism as well as the ways Europeans sought to end it. It will also describe the new criticisms of the Church and demands for reform on the eve of the Protestant Reformation. 

Thomas F Madden is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Saint Louis University. As an author and historical consultant, he has appeared in such venues as The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and The History Channel. He is a Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Medieval Academy of America, and he is a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar.

How does it work?
This is an eight-part course held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. These will be provided at the course's conclusion.

How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time included for Q&A.

How much is the course?
The course is $280 USD for eight lectures.

Is a recording available?
Yes. All registered participants will be sent a recording within 24 hours of each session's conclusion. The recordings are available to re-watch for seven days thereafter.

Are there additional seminars, courses, and in-person experiences being led by Dr. Madden?
Yes!  Dr. Madden will be leading several popular Context courses in 2022. Details are available here.

Additionally, Dr. Madden will be leading two Context Journeys, to both Venice and Istanbul in 2022. Context Journeys are multi-day, small group tours in cultural capitals all over the world. Expertly crafted to take learners to the heart of a destination, our Journeys take logistics and planning off of your plate as you uncover the history, art, and culture of your chosen destination. For additional details, please click here.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 15 reviews
100%
(15)
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M
M.C.C. (Franklin, US)
Medieval Church part 6

So much information. How do you remember all of this?
This series has certainly opend my eyes regarding the history of the papacy.

N
N. (Kinwood, US)
Informative and concise

As always Dr Madden gave an informative and interesting lecture

C
C.F. (Santa Monica, US)
Wonderful as always.

Guest did not leave comment

M
M.C.C. (Franklin, US)
The Medeval Church, the Papal Monarchy

Fascinating

N
N. (Kinwood, US)
New information is a treasure

As always with Dr Madden I am learning and understanding these two centuries of the church I love.

Customer Reviews

Based on 15 reviews
100%
(15)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
M
M.C.C. (Franklin, US)
Medieval Church part 6

So much information. How do you remember all of this?
This series has certainly opend my eyes regarding the history of the papacy.

N
N. (Kinwood, US)
Informative and concise

As always Dr Madden gave an informative and interesting lecture

C
C.F. (Santa Monica, US)
Wonderful as always.

Guest did not leave comment

M
M.C.C. (Franklin, US)
The Medeval Church, the Papal Monarchy

Fascinating

N
N. (Kinwood, US)
New information is a treasure

As always with Dr Madden I am learning and understanding these two centuries of the church I love.