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Children's LiteratureThis intriguing book is the next best thing to a time machine for seeing what life was really like in medieval abbeys. As the author tells about the people who lived in medieval abbeys and monasteries and their place in the wider world, he chooses lively quotations from medieval documents to show how those people really thought, felt, and acted. Many of the book's illustrations taken from medieval sources add authentic visual information. Photos and current artists' impressions, along with maps, also complement the text. Mr. McAleavy begins by explaining who's who in a monastery, including descriptions of each person's role written in the 11th century by Lanfranc, the archbishop of Canterbury. He discusses some of the medieval controversies. For instance, were some orders spending too much time in prayer and should they use such expensively decorated vestments and chalices in their services? He covers the origins of monasticism in Britain and describes the characteristics of the various orders. Then he looks at the crucial role monasteries played in the economic, political, and cultural life of the country. Finally, he examines the dissolution of the monasteries and the monastic heritage that continues to live on. He provides an excellent illustrated description of abbeys that remain to be seen. An index and bibliography are included in this book in the "English Heritage" series. Mr. McAleavy, author of many books about history, is an editor of history materials for Cambridge University Press. 2003 (orig. 1998), Enchanted Lion Books, Ages 10 to Adult.
— Janet Crane Barley