A People's History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story by Diana Butler Bass
Part two, labeled "The Cathedral," is about Medieval Christianity from 500 to 1450 A.D. A few things that stood out to me thus far . . .
"To medieval people, church buildings expressed their spirituality -- their visions, virtues, and dreams of God. Church buildings were the geography of paradise, the actual location where God's reign of beauty and justice could be experienced here on earth. . . .. Holiness was translated into visible structures where people might see, touch and feel the beauty of God. . . . Because the church building was holy geography, communities spent enormous resources of time, money, and talent constructing church buildings" (pg. 91).
The author describes ways the people of the medieval times are similar to us: living in a "culture with porous borders" (pg. 88), and "filled with stories told in pictures rather than only in texts. Their sculpture and stained glass were akin to our video and Internet" (pg. 89).
"Medieval spirituality was marked by its sense of exile [because of The Fall] and longing to return as Christians sought holy reunion with God in this life and hope for the next" (pg. 97).
The discussion of Celtic Christianity and its influence on Western Christianity was interesting. "Celts took the story of Jesus with them to places like Scotland, the north of England, France, Switzerland, Denmark and Germany. They wandered not for the sake of their own souls, but for the sake of others as well, converting many pagan tribes to Christianity. . . Celtic pilgrimage embodied Jesus's mission to be a faith community in the world" (pg. 100).
Icons were a divisive topic. For the pro-icon group, icons represented a way for the illiterate people to know the Bible stories since even those unable to read words could read pictures. The other group thought people worshiped their icons or held them in too high regard by including the icons in worship. John of Damascus argued, "'We do not make obeisance to the nature of wood, but we revere and do obeisance to Him who was crucified on the Cross.' Christ himself is an image, his human nature is a reflection of the invisible divine nature" (pg. 104).
In the section on "praying the hours" is this: "'When the clocca [bells] rang,' ... 'they drew attention to the eternity of God and brevity of human life'" (pg. 106).
Two points of view on the cross: "Abelard proposed that Christ died for the sake of love, providing a model of self-sacrificial passion for humankind. Salvation entailed imitating Christ in his love for others, the love that God revealed in Jesus's death for his friends" (pg 116). This view had more influence in shaping liberal Christianity in the 19th and 20th centuries. By contrast, Anselm "proposed that Jesus died to satisfy the divine justice of his Father, as a payment of a legal debt required as recompense for sin and to restore God's honor" (pg. 115).
While we often wish for quick, easy deaths, the author tells us during the medieval period people prayed for long deaths from cancer or other lengthy diseases so that they might prepare for the end (pg. 117). There were six preparatory actions: believing "'what a good Christian is obliged to believe,'" acknowledging sin, swearing to amend his ways if he were healed, forgiving those who have offended and seeking forgiveness of those whom you offended, making restitution and recognizing that "'Christ died for him'" (pg. 119). A pamphlet entitled The Art of Dying Well, "reminded readers that while 'the death of the body is the most terrible, it is in no way comparable to the death of the soul.'" (pg. 118)