A Living Breathing View of the Middle Ages

A.D. 1000 – A World on the Brink of Apocalypse, by Richard Erdoes

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image via librarything.com

The era this book presents has become a fascination for this reader, partly because of its similarity to the era we post-y2k people find ourselves in, and partly because of the drama its history has given us.

Erdoes fashions his story about one Gerbert, a French peasant priest who became the brightest intellect in Post-Roman Empire Europe and who later became Pope. Erdoes welcomes us to an age fraught with superstition, violence, poverty, famine, and social conflict – an age most people of that time thought were earth's “final days.” Gerbert is that age’s foil; he restores learning of the Greek and Roman ages to a mostly illiterate Europe and sets the stage for the Renaissance. As only real life can conjure it, his greatest ally in a world that saw Gerbert as a scion of Satan, was Otto III, the hyper-Christian but far-seeing Emperor of the so-called Holy Roman Empire.

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image via store.innertraditions.com

Gerbert, the paragon of a newly minted age of reason, and Otto, who lived his life largely for a heavenly world, formed a brief ruling duo that, if they’d lived a decade or two longer, would have reshaped Europe in ways we can only imagine.

As a fiction writer might (and some claim Erdoes' "facts" here are fictive), he parcels out this difficult telling with great suspense and drama, leaving us with hope for our own, similar transitional period of world history. The only failing here is in the writer’s biases – for and against – but without them, Erdoes' story wouldn't have been the vibrant telling that it is.

 

My rating: 18 of 20 stars

 

 

 

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