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date: 03 June 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides a general introduction to the volume The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Christianity. It outlines the overall conception of the volume, noting in particular that the essays which follow are arranged and constructed thematically and analytically rather than as a survey or a collective narrative. The chapter then provides a brief account of the history of medieval Christianity, from late antiquity through to the Reformation, attempting to identify the ‘centres of gravity’ for Christianity in different periods: bishops, monasteries, priests and laity, and secular powers. Throughout, the chapter emphasizes the importance of the material context (by which I mean not only the economic, but the social, the political and the cultural) to the various roles that Christianity played, and how it developed. It ends by describing the explicit and implicit themes that run through the rest of the volume.

Keywords: Bishops, saints, monasteries, papacy, laity, conciliarism

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