Texas Tech University

Bruce Brasington 

Professor of History at West Texas A&M University

"Lost Causes and Impossible Loyalties: An Apology for the Middle Ages"

A century ago, Henry Adams declared that the Middle Ages, symbolized by the soaring arches and beautiful sculptures of Chartres cathedral, had been surpassed by modern science and industry: For seven hundred years Chartres has seen pilgrims, coming and going more or less like us, and will perhaps see them for another seven hundred years; but we shall see it no more, and can safely leave the Virgin in her majesty, with her three great prophets on either hand, as calm and confident in their own strength and in God's providence as they were when Saint Louis was born, but looking down from a deserted heaven, into an empty church, on a death faith. Today, his judgment seems even more apt, the Middle Ages even more remote and seemingly irrelevant, or our world of smartphones and tablets. I disagree. For all its shortcomings, hypocrisies, even horrors, the Middle Ages deserves more from us than exploitation as fantastic entertainment or contempt as a "Dark Age." We shall discover that, across the centuries, medieval people speak to us about the permanent things, the things that matter: faith, hope, and love. And the last most of all.