General Information on Icons — Icons are crucial for an understanding of Eastern Christianity, which really began to have a separate identity in what we call the “medieval period.” This is a helpful site on the topic, formatted as questions with answers.
Icon Blog — You may also find helpful this “Reader’s Guide” to understanding icons. When iconographers create an icon, Eastern Christians say that they “write” the icon; as a result, one must learn how to “read” them, and this blog can help!
Description of Hagia Sophia — Here you’ll find a description of Hagia Sophia (the great church of Constantinople/Istanbul) from Procopius, a sixth-century figure who was alive when Hagia Sophia was built. At the bottom of the page, there is a link to learn more about the destruction of the city in 1204 — that is interesting. But the other link (“Hagia Sophia”) is dead, so don’t bother with it. Also interesting is this link, which provides the history of the church up to the present, as well as a contemporary description.
A Full List of Popes — It’s impossible to think of medieval Christianity without thinking of the popes of Rome. You’ll find many names in our textbook; however, if you’d like a full list of the popes — from Peter to Francis — check out this link to the Catholic Encyclopedia. Each pope’s name also links to his biography You’ll occasionally see the word “antipope” — that’s the word used when there was more than one pope claiming the office at one time.
Boniface and the Oak Tree — Early medieval Christianity also saw the development of Christian traditions among the Germanic/Teutonic peoples and the Celts. The Germanic tradition included the work of several missionary monks, including the famous Boniface. This link tells of his life — scroll down to chapter 6 for the famous story of the oak tree he cut down in the name of God.
The Life of St. Patrick — Similarly, the Celtic tradition of Ireland and Scotland had its famous characters, chief among them the man known as St. Patrick. This link gives you his biography, written by a 7th-century monk.
Pope Gregory I on Mission Work in England — One of the important influences on British Christianity was the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons.This is a rather famous section from the Ecclesiastical History written by Bede, the seventh-century English monk, regarding Gregory’s sending missionaries to the Angles and Saxons. Note the pope’s instructions regarding native worship: don’t destroy everything, but see how it can be converted to the worship of the True God. For more on Bede’s text, see this link.
Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne — One of the towering figures of early medieval Christianity is the Frankish king Charlemagne. Happily, we have a biography of him from his contemporary Einhard. Here’s a link to Einhard’s work, with a handy, click-able table of contents at the top, so you can scan for something that you’d like to read about.
Vikings in England — Not long before the turn of the second millennium CE, folks we call “Vikings” appeared on the shores of Western European lands, including Great Britain. Here’s a link (including a nice map) that describes the Vikings’ raids into England, and the effects of those raids.
Gothic Architecture — An important development in medieval art was Gothic architecture, but you may not remember as much about it as you’d like. Here’s a little more information, with images, about this style of architecture that became so influential and widespread in the High Middle Ages. The language is somewhat technical, but I think it gets its information across.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris — One of the most famous examples of Gothic architecture is the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. This link is the official website of the Cathedral — in the English version. You might find especially interesting the tab called “Cathedral for Art and History” — lots and lots of images there, including panoramic views of the structure.
More on the Crusades — One of the darkest episodes in all of church history is the Crusades. Here’s more information on that movement. The site is nicely organized, but it can be a little challenging to tell what is a link and what is just a heading, but it’s still useful.
Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae — This is a free online version of the great Dominican’s Summa Theologiae, perhaps the most famous single work of theology in all of Christian history. It has a table of contents and links to each section, so that you can get an idea for how big this work is, and you can also peruse different articles within it.
Quodlibet Disputations — One of the great contributions of the medieval period to the modern world is the university. However, medieval universities weren’t always peaceful places, as regular “disputations” were held — something like academic debates
. These disputations can be revealed in written form in a variety of texts, but one that is interesting is what is called the “quodlibets” of medieval writers. “Quodlibet” literally means “whatever,” and it refers to a semi-annual tradition in some universities where students could come and ask “whatever” question they wanted — essentially a “stump the professor” session. Some of these sessions were recorded. This link has translations of some of the quodlibets of Thomas Aquinas, the great medieval teacher. Peruse the table of contents for something interesting to you.
More on the Waldensians — Here you can find more information on the Waldenses, or Waldensians, that group that was accused of heresy and also provided an important forerunner to Luther’s Reformation. This site is run by Anabaptists, who are not historically related to the Waldensians. But they do have some affinities with them, and so they have an investment in understanding this group more fully.
Two Perspectives on the Inquisition — This link is to the old version of the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on the Inquisition. For material connected the Inquisition’s work against heresy (its original function), scroll or click down to the section called “The suppression of heresy by the institution known as the inquisition.” For an interesting Jewish perspective on the Inquisition, see this link.
More on Indulgences — This site is an interesting one, as it considers famous historical trials. One of those trials is that of Martin Luther, and one of the resources it includes is a page called “Questions & Answers Concerning Indulgences.” For a modern Catholic perspective sympathetic to the use of indulgences, see this link.
The Borgia Family — You may have heard of the Borgia family, who were involved with “political corruption and immorality” to “unbelievable heights,” as one church history textbook has it. If you’d like to know more about them, including Roderigo Borgia (Pope Alexander VI), see this link.
John Wycliffe’s English Translation of the Bible — Another important forerunner to the Protestant Reformation was the work of John Wycliffe, who among other things advocated the use of the Bible in the vernacular to aid in people’s understanding. If you would like to read some of Wycliffe’s translation of the Bible into English, see this link. Granted, it is written in a form of middle English, so it might be challenging. You might start with a book with which you’re familiar — like maybe “Romaynes” or “1 Corinthis,” or perhaps one of the Gospels.
Image credit (Girolamo Savonarola; edited by the blogger): https://commons.wikimedia.org/
Suggested next click: the next set of links (the Reformation period)