Modern Classic – Review of Brian Tierney: ‘The Crisis of Church and State, 1050-1300’

John Witte Jr.

Emory University School of Law


Journal of Church and State, Vol. 51, pp. 341-344, 2010

The Cornell historian Brian Tierney brings to life the Catholic legal and political thought of medieval and early modern times. His writings have shaped Catholic teachings on religious liberty. Tierney recognizes the rich intellectual tradition of the Middle Ages. His approach to the Middle Ages was not the traditional view when Tierney began his career. The Middle Ages were then viewed as a “middling era” of history. Professor Tierney’s textbook, released early in his career, helped change that outlook. As a result, his textbook is a popular and endearing work that has been read for 55 years, and hopefully will continue to be read even longer.

His guided tour of great battles between medieval popes and emperors, bishops, and kings hits the high points of famous excerpts of medieval history, but also uncovers the immense learning of high middle ages. From the 12th to the 15th century, Tierney shows that the church claimed a vast new “jurisdiction” power to speak the law over clerics, pilgrims, students, etc. The church claimed subject matter jurisdiction over doctrine and liturgy and temporal jurisdiction over subjects or persons. Some of these claims were extensions of church authority over sacraments, but medieval writers ultimately learned to separate church and state.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 4

Keywords: Brian Tierney, legal thought, political thought, medieval, modern, religious liberty, separation of church and state

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Date posted: May 31, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Witte, John, Modern Classic – Review of Brian Tierney: ‘The Crisis of Church and State, 1050-1300’ (2010). Journal of Church and State, Vol. 51, pp. 341-344, 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1851132

Contact Information

John Witte Jr. (Contact Author)
Emory University School of Law ( email )
1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-727-6980 (Phone)
404-712-8605 (Fax)
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