John VIDMAR, O.P. 101 Questions & Answers on the Crusades and the Inquisition: Disputed Questions. New York/ Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2013. pp. 104. $14.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8091-4804-2. Reviewed by Ella JOHNSON, St. Bernard’s School of Theology & Ministry, Rochester, NY 14618
True to its title, Vidmar’s book treats 101 commonly disputed questions about the Crusades and Inquisition. While at first blush the two historical events may seem like strange bedfellows, Vidmar explains his reason for connecting the two in the Preface and question #52 of the book: “This connection is not merely chronological or accidental…. They attempted to accomplish, to a great extent, the same goals: a political and spiritual unity either within France or Spanish territory” (53). Accordingly, Vidmar treats the Crusades in the first 51 questions of his book and the Inquisition in the next 50.
The book belongs to the scholarly movement that seeks to rewrite the histories of these two misunderstood movements in a more accurate and complex way, while introducing the most current research and addressing modern concerns. For example, Vidmar discusses the often forgotten influence of the history of Giordano Bruno on the Galileo’s treatment by the Inquisition, noting also that the latter was never tortured or imprisoned, as Francisco Goya’s paintings depict (pp. 94-95). The author also discusses the way recent current events have affected his subject. For instance, he discusses Pope John Paul II’s apology for the Medieval Inquisition in 1994 (pp.83-84). Vidmar also corrects common misunderstandings perpetuated by Dan Brown’s discussion of “secret information” discovered by the Knights Templar, in his The Da Vinci Code (p. 24).
Vidmar’s book is helpful for any student or teacher of medieval history, though written clearly from a Christian, Dominican perspective. While they may have been organized into further subsections, the book’s questions and answers are ordered in a logical sequence; all 101 questions are listed in the Table of Contents for easy accessibility. The content itself is also geared toward the average reader, relegating its sparse notes to the back of the book. Thus the book may be helpful for teachers, students, or researchers who are seeking historically accurate, accessible, and concise answers to questions or common misconceptions about the much-disputed Crusades and/or the Inquisition.