Religious Horror and Holy War in Viking Age Francia


Matthew Bryan Gillis

Publication date: November, 2021

Pages: 158, colour

ISBN 978-615-6405-19-7                   Paperback, €37.00

ISBN 978-615-6405-20-3                   Hardcover, €79.00

eISBN 978-615-6405-21-0                  eBook, €37.00

DOI: 10.22618/TP.REH.20211

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 This book is fully available in open access.





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PART ONE. "And The Blood of Our Brothers Drips from Our Mouths" – King Carloman II’s Monsters & Carolingian Religious Horror

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PART TWO. "Men Devouring One another Drink their Neighbors’ Blood" – Spiritual Protections against Christian Monsters

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PART THREE. "Alas, Naked They Underwent the Savage Folk’s Sword!" – Heroism in Abbo of Saint-Germain’s Wars of the City of Paris

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PART FOUR. "O, Francia, Protect Yourself!" – Cosmic War in Abbo of Saint Germain’s Sermons

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Data sheet

Matthew Bryan Gillis
Trivent Medieval
Book series
Renovatio - Studies in the Carolingian World
Book series editor(s)
Matthew Bryan Gillis
Publication date
November, 2021
Page numbers

Specific References

Religious Horror and Holy War in Viking Age Francia explores how authorities in western Francia used horror rhetoric to cast Christian soldiers, who robbed the poor and the church, as monsters that devoured human flesh and drank human blood. Adapting modern literary horror approaches to medieval sources, this study reveals how such rhetoric served as a form of spiritual weaponry in the clergy’s attempts to correct and condemn wayward military men. This investigation, therefore, unearths long-forgotten Carolingian thought about the dreadful spiritual reality of internal enemies during a time of political division and the Northmen’s depredations. Yet such horror also informed a new understanding of Christian heroism that developed in relation to the wars fought against the invaders. This vision of heroic soldiers, which included military martyrs, culminated in ideas about holy war against the pagans. Thus Carolingian religious horror and holy war together belonged to a body of ideas about the spiritual, unseen side of the church’s cosmic conflict against evil that foreshadowed later medieval Crusading thought. 

MATTHEW BRYAN GILLIS is associate professor in history at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The author of Heresy and Dissent in the Carolingian Empire: The Case of Gottschalk of Orbais (Oxford, 2017), he studies early medieval Europe and especially the religious and intellectual history of the Carolingian Empire in the eighth and ninth centuries. His aim is to develop new and creative ways of viewing authors, texts and ideas from that period in order to challenge our understanding of the medieval past. To that end, he is currently investigating horror imagery, concepts, narratives and rhetoric in Frankish poetic, theological and historical sources. His current book project explores the links between such horror and portrayals of Christian heroism in Viking Age France.

"Gillis has written a vital book that takes a moment of crisis in the late ninth century and transforms how we think about not just the Viking attacks but much else. The Franks were enmeshed in violence and Gillis is one of the first to really theorize what that meant, how ‘horror’ can help us understand not just how they thought about war, politics, and religion, but also how the centuries that followed built upon those foundation stones and further developed an idea of Christian holy war that crescendoed in the twelfth century."

-- MATTHEW GABRIELE, Professor of Medieval Studies, Dept. of Religion & Culture, Virginia Tech

"Matthew Gillis is one of the most creative historians working today in any field. His application of the theories and literature of horror to Carolingian texts allows him and his readers to find new insights in the material. It will be particularly valuable for showing how the Carolingians and ideas of horror helped shape the early doctrine of holy war."

-- JAY RUBENSTEIN, Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Premodern World, University of Southern California

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