In keeping with GSB tradition, here is reading list for the upcoming Early Christian, Medieval Travel Journal on which the GSB team will embark later this summer. I am reading or have read all of these.
If it seems like an odd mixture of books, it’s because the subjects of these books will be featured in one of the three cities we visit: Rome, Florence, and Ravenna.
So, here they are, in no particular order:
1. St. Francis of Assisi, G. K. Chesterton. I bought this book last year because I wanted to read more Chesterton, but it left me with a new appreciation of Francis of Assisi. This is a short book focused more on the person of Francis than the facts about his life, but the facts can be obtained from Wikipedia. Chesterton succeeds in making the reader feel at the end of the book like he knows Francis.
2. The Life of Constantine, Eusebius. Yes, Eusebius . . . the Eusebius of Ecclesiastical History fame. He was Constantine’s pastor, and Constantine confided in him. This book, more than any other I have read, gives the reader a true sense of the greatness of the man who became the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire.
3. Justinian’s Flea, William Rosen. I admit this book is in the list more for its entertainment value than its relevance to our tour. The book is a page turner about the plague’s impact on the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Justinian. Ravenna was the western capital of the Byzantine Empire at the time, and Ravenna has one of the most famous mosaics of Justinian, which we will see in Ravenna.
4. The Life and Times of Savonarola, Pasquale Villari. This book is a monster at 775 pages in the 1888 version I am reading, but it is well worth the effort. Savonarola was a reformer, a visionary, and a prophet. The Lord used him to reform Florence the way Calvin would reform Geneva fifty years later. Savonarola called out the Catholic Church for its corrupt conduct a generation before Luther would call it out for its corrupt doctrine.
5. Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe, Judith Herrin. This book is a history of the city of Ravenna with a focus on its glory years as the western capital of the Byzantine Empire. It’s a good introduction to an important city in Christian history.
6. Theodora, David Potter. Theodora was a former prostitute, who, after her conversion to Christianity, would become the wife of Justinian the Great. Her connection to our GSB tour will be found in Ravenna.
7. Milvian Bridge, AD 312, Ross Cowan. The Milvian Bridge is the reason we have been planning this trip to Italy for the last three years. The Milvian Bridge is where Constantine had his vision in October of 312 A.D. that led to his conversion to Christianity. We will be visiting that very spot in Rome, and this book is focused on that turning point in history.
8. Defending Constantine, Peter J. Leithart. This book was necessary because it has become vogue, even among modern Christian historians to denigrate Constantine. The two books about Constantine in this list are meant to counterbalance this modern trend so the reader can form an accurate view of a man the Lord used to advance His kingdom.
9. Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, F. F. Bruce. I read this book years ago, but it was so helpful in putting Paul’s life into the format of a biography, I thought I should recommend it for reading in preparation for our visit to Rome. In Rome we plan to visit the prison where Paul was held and wrote a number of the New Testament epistles, as well as the place where he was martyred.