Multiple Options: The World of the Fifteenth-Century Church
Van Engen, John
Church History 77:2 (June 2008)
Any historical period called “late” is headed for interpretive trouble, and one called “late medieval” is probably doomed. Periodization is an artifice, as we know, yet also an art. Historians have entirely reconceived “late antiquity” over the past generation, transforming Roman decadence into animperial and Christian culture three centuries long embracing the whole Mediterranean world, creative in its culture and foundational for societies that followed. But what of “late medieval”? In most textbooks the term comes paired still with “decline.” Humanists and Reformers first created the artifice of a “middle time,” a dismissive gesture toward the thousand years that separated them from the golden ages of antiquity and/or the early church.