Book Series Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, vol. 43

Catastrophes and the Apocalyptic in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Robert Bjork (ed)

  • Pages: xii + 207 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:21 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2019

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58297-9
  • Hardback
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  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58298-6
  • E-book
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This collection of essays treats the topic of catastrophes and their connection to apocalyptic mentalities and rhetoric in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, both in Europe and in the Muslim world.


“(...) the essays make for a thematically coherent discussion, and even though they do not construct a grand narrative of the apocalyptic tradition, they do offer fairly detailed micro-insights into a wide roster of its aspects and, like little pieces of a mosaic, they gradually build up our better understanding of a great part of the Western heritage.” (Kiril Petkov, in The Medieval Review, 17/03/2021)

“Each essay in Catastrophes and the Apocalyptic in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance provides the reader with an interesting perspective on eschatology and the apocalyptic. Their analyses and descriptions paint a picture of the vast and complicated influence of eschatology. The broad approach to the topic, with the inclusion of social, cultural, political, and religious shifts, ensures great variety in the essays, both in topic and in the methods used (…) I, for one, enjoyed it immensely.” (Flora Guijt, in Parergon, 38/1, 2021, p. 188)

“In the final verdict, the volume contains a number of well-researched topics on a great variety of textual sources, mostly in European vernaculars. It thus makes a genuine contribution to the developing field of apocalyptic studies in medieval and early modern history. A useful index that lists names, localities, works, and events concludes this carefully edited book.” (András Kraft, in Byzantine Review, 03.2021.014, p. 143)


In the twenty-first century, insurance companies still refer to ‘acts of God’ for any accident or event not influenced by human beings: hurricanes, floods, hail, tsunamis, wildfires, earthquakes, tornados, lightning strikes, even falling trees. The remote origin of this concept can be traced to the Hebrew Bible. During the Second Temple period of Judaism a new literary form developed called ‘apocalyptic’ as a mediated revelation of heavenly secrets to a human sage concerning messages that could be cosmological, speculative, historical, teleological, or moral. The best-known development of this type of literature, however, came to fruition in the New Testament and is, of course, the Book of Revelation, attributed to the apostle John, and which figures prominently in the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

This collection of essays, the result of the 2014 ACMRS Conference, treats the topic of catastrophes and their connection to apocalyptic mentalities and rhetoric in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (with particular reference to reception of the Book of Revelation), both in Europe and in the Muslim world. The twelve authors contributing to this volume use terms that are simultaneously helpful and ambiguous for a whole range of phenomena and appraisal.


Introduction — ROBERT E. BJORK

The Rhetoric of Catastrophe in Eleventh-Century Medieval Ireland: The Case of the Second Vision of Adomnán — NICOLE VOLMERING

The Virgin Mary and the Last Judgment in the Old Norse-Icelandic Maríu saga — DANIEL NAJORK

Personalized Eschatology and Lorraine Apocalypses, ca. 1295–1320 — KARLYN GRIFFITH

William Langland’s Uncertain Apocalyptic Prophecy of the Davidic King — KIMBERLY FONZO

Res papirea and the Catastrophic Arrival of the Antichrist — ALISON BERINGER

Consider this Tomb: An Unedited Italian Sonnet about Death and Final Judgment —FABIAN ALFIE

"The Lesser Day of Resurrection": Ottoman Interpretations of the Istanbul Earthquake of 1509 — H. ERDEM ÇIPA

Pieter Bruegel’s Towers of Babel: Spirals toward Destruction CATHERINE SHULTZ MCFARLAND

Inhuman Rage: Linguistic Apocalypse in a Sixteenth-Century Huguenot Poetic Commemoration of the Sack of Lyon — EVAN J. BIBBEE

Fire in the Sky: Celestial Omens of Catastrophe in a French Renaissance Painting — KATRINA KLAASMEYER

The Wrath of God and the Soul on Trial: Late Medieval and Puritan Eschatological Fears and the Clerical Uses of Apocalyptical Imagery — JOANNA MILES (LUDWIKOWSKA)

The Apocalyptic Legacy of Pseudo-Ephraem in Russia: The Sermon on the Antichrist — J. EUGENE CLAY

Notes on Contributors