Salvation at Stake: Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe

Overview

Thousands of men and women were executed for incompatible religious views in sixteenth-century Europe. The meaning and significance of those deaths are studied here comparatively for the first time, providing a compelling argument for the importance of martyrdom as both a window onto religious sensibilities and a crucial component in the formation of divergent Christian traditions and identities.

Gregory explores Protestant, Catholic, and Anabaptist martyrs in a sustained ...

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Overview

Thousands of men and women were executed for incompatible religious views in sixteenth-century Europe. The meaning and significance of those deaths are studied here comparatively for the first time, providing a compelling argument for the importance of martyrdom as both a window onto religious sensibilities and a crucial component in the formation of divergent Christian traditions and identities.

Gregory explores Protestant, Catholic, and Anabaptist martyrs in a sustained fashion, addressing the similarities and differences in their self-understanding. He traces the processes and impact of their memorialization by co-believers, and he reconstructs the arguments of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities responsible for their deaths. In addition, he assesses the controversy over the meaning of executions for competing views of Christian truth, and the intractable dispute over the distinction between true and false martyrs. He employs a wide range of sources, including pamphlets, martyrologies, theological and devotional treatises, sermons, songs, woodcuts and engravings, correspondence, and legal records. Reconstructing religious motivation, conviction, and behavior in early modern Europe, Gregory shows us the shifting perspectives of authorities willing to kill, martyrs willing to die, martyrologists eager to memorialize, and controversialists keen to dispute.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Rex
Anyone who enjoyed Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars, or Diarmaid MacCulloch's Cranmer, will find this just as good.
Times Literary Supplement [UK]
Library Journal
Awarded this year's Thomas J. Wilson Prize, this book by Gregory (history, Stanford Univ.) covers martyrdom in the 1500s, when thousands died for their respective Christian beliefs. Separate chapters look at Protestant, Anabaptist, and Catholic martyrs. Strikingly, he suggests, martyrs believed that prolonging their lives was secondary to the absolute value of fidelity to God. As members of their religious communities, they were the living embodiment of what they believed; they showed a purposeful clarity and articulate resolve startling to modern readers. Gregory also examines such contested beliefs as papal primacy, believer's baptism, and justification by faith. He draws from any and all sources, including those written by antagonists who often intended to condemn false martyrs and justify their executions. And although he often allows the martyrs to speak for themselves, he also assists us in understanding these people without judging them by our current cultural or psychological theories. This extensive, well-written, and gripping book is highly recommended for both history and theological collections.--George Westerlund, Providence P.L., Palmyra, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674785519
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Series: Harvard Historical Studies Series
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 6.63 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Brad S. Gregory is Dorothy G. Griffin Associate Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures
A Note on Translations and Orthography
1 A Complex of Martyrs 1
2 The Late Medieval Inheritance 30
3 The Willingness to Kill 74
4 The Willingness to Die 97
5 Witnesses for the Gospel: Protestants and Martyrdom 139
6 Nachfolge Christi: Anabaptists and Martyrdom 197
7 The New Saints: Roman Catholics and Martyrdom 250
8 The Conflict of Interpretations 315
Conclusion: A Shared and Shattered Worldview 342
Appendix 355
Notes 359
Index 509
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2000

    Salvation and Martyr's sensibilities

    I just purchased it. The book contains many insights into the mind, beliefs, feelings of the various martyrs in England before the 15th century. It has thoughts and emotions of martyrs, their justification for martyrdom,and the actual experience. Some parts are a little gruesome-like pictures of martyrs being tortured. It is based on a wide range of sources-poems, woodcuts, songs, and letters from the martyrs. It is a good book to understand the belief structure, culture, and social background behind the martyrdoms in Catholic, Protestant, and Anabaptism confessions. For a first book, it is a very exciting intellectual history and in depth study of martyrdom. Gregory attempts to understand the hermeneutics behind the heroic act of martyrdom. I recommend it to all who enjoy pre-modern history and wants to understand a culture where fidelity to God was the chief value of life.

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