The most noticeable and remarkable thing about Western Europe in what we call the Middle Ages is its cultural and religious unity, united by a common alignment with the Pope in Rome, and a common language for worship and scholarship. Western Europeans tend to take this united medieval phase of their history for granted, but it is unique in human history for a region to be so dominated by a single form of monotheistic religion and its accompanying culture for a thousand-year period. The dominance of the Church which looked to the Bishop of Rome was a freak in human experience, albeit a freak with profound consequences for the present day.
With this exercise in counterfactual history, Diarmaid MacCulloch draws on his experience of writing and filming an overview history of Christianity to consider how easily matters might have been different in the Christian West. He identifies Martin of Tours as a key figure, but also speculates on the perfectly plausible event of an Arian outcome to Western Christianity’s emergence from the ruins of the Western Roman Empire.
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