We Christians of the closing years of the twentieth century have a lot to complain about.

We complain that modern Christianity is so fractured that we’ve made a scandal of Jesus’ prayer that all his followers be one. Yet there was a time in history when Christianity was one.

We long for political leaders who identify themselves as Christians and try to live by their convictions. Yet there was a time when this was so.

We complain that our society has gone secular, and we yearn and pray that Christian values (rather than hedonism, lust, and consumerism) be represented in television, movies, and popular magazines. Yet there was a time when popular culture was Christian.

It was called the high Middle Ages, from roughly A.D. 1000 to 1500.

It wasn’t heaven on earth, by any means. Protestants, for example, are troubled by many doctrines and practices of the medieval church. But it is instructive even for Protestants to look at the era, for it was the only era in history when Christianity held sway over all of society, managing to lodge itself in the king’s palace and the peasant’s hut, in the farmer’s field and the merchant’s shop—and in every nook and cranny of daily life.

In this issue, we look at the faith in the nooks and crannies of the medieval world, faith as it was lived out every day by everyday people. We examine the main devotional practices that energized Christians. We look at some individual portraits of “typical” medieval Christians. We glimpse into family life and knighthood, into heresy and cathedral building.

This is by no means a comprehensive look at everyday faith in the Middle Ages; we only dip into the immense and complex medieval world, and then only here and there. Our hope is simply this: to give you a feel for ...

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