The Forge of Christendom
The End of Days and the Epic Rise of the West
By Tom Holland
Doubleday, Hardcover, 9780385520584, 512pp.
Publication Date: May 5, 2009
List Price: $30.00*
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In AD 900, few would have guessed that the splintering kingdoms of Christendom were candidates for future greatness. Hemmed in by implacable enemies on three sides, and by ocean on the fourth, it seemed that the Christian people had nowhere to turn. Indeed, there were many who feared—cast in the Millennium’s shadow—that they were nearing the time when the Antichrist would appear, drowning the world in blood and heralding its end.
But the Antichrist did not appear, and Christendom did not collapse. Instead, forged from the convulsions of those terrible times, there emerged a new civilization as the Christian people set to the heroic task of building a Jerusalem on earth themselves. With an epic sweep that transports us from the crucifixion to the First Crusade, and from the glitter of Constantinople to the bleak shores of Canada, Tom Holland’s The Forge of Christendom is a brilliant study of a truly fateful revolution: the emergence of Western Europe for the first time as a distinctive and expansionist power.
It was the age of Otto the Great and William the Conqueror, of Caliphs and Viking sea-kings, of hermits, monks, and serfs. It witnessed the spread of castles, the invention of knighthood, and the founding of a papal monarchy. Above all, it brought people to fear that the end days might be at hand, and yet also—with an effort so prodigious that it has the power to move us still—to invent themselves anew.
A momentous achievement: for this was nothing less than the founding of the modern West. It is an epic story that Tom Holland renders with the narrative skill and wide-angled scope of a novelist and the careful scholarship a historian. It will transform its readers’ conception of the origins of the Modern West.
“[The Forge of Christendom] is a marvelous, enthralling read, and gives a lively sense of these turbulent centuries that were so crucial in the making of Western civilization. Read it, and be thrilled, amazed, and enlightened.” —Allan Massie, Daily Telegraph
In the winter of 1077, German King Henry IV trudged through a snowy mountain pass in the Italian Alps. Historian Tom Holland, author of a new book about the turn of the millennium, calls the journey "an episode as fateful as any in Europe's history." More at NPR.org
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