Icons of the Middle Ages

Rulers, Writers, Rebels, and Saints

by Lister M. Matheson, Editor


King Arthur and Robin Hood. St. Francis and Joan of Arc. Chinggis Khan and Vlad the Impaler.They seem familiar thanks to our encounters with them in movies and television, art, and literature. But looking closer at these iconic figures from the Middle Ages—separating fact from fancy—provides a fresh way of understanding each one's impact on their times—and ours.

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Cover image for Icons of the Middle Ages

December 2011


Pages 705
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics World History/Politics and Government

From Thomas Becket to Charlemagne, from Leif Erickson to Count Dracula, this series of biographical essays separates truth from legend as it explores the lives of some of the most accomplished and influential figures of medieval history.

Drawing on the latest research, Icons of the Middle Ages: Rulers, Writers, Rebels, and Saints examines the lives of some of the most remarkable personalities of the Medieval Era—powerful, ruthless, compassionate, brilliant people who remain widely influential today.

Each portrait in this extraordinary gallery sets its subject in the context of their world, revealing what we really know about their lives, their iconic status in their own times, and their lasting legacies in our time. Readers will encounter fascinating individuals devoted to the pursuit of power (Richard III), to freedom (Robert the Bruce), to philosophy and religion (Maimonides; Thomas More), and to the arts (Dante; Hildegard of Bingen). Additional chapters explore life in the medieval castle and the advent of siege warfare—two defining developments in the Middle Ages.


  • Contributions from 18 accomplished scholars and writers bring their fascinating medieval era subjects to life in 20 entries—18 biographical and 2 topical entries
  • Bibliographical references and "Suggestions for Further Reading" for each chapter


  • Presents in lively fashion the fascinating careers of major medieval figures whose influence extends to the present day
  • Separates fact from fiction as it reveals what we really know about the real people and legendary characters
  • Demonstrates how the long-ago past continues to influence the present in many popular cultural spheres
Author Info

Lister M. Matheson, PhD, is professor of medieval studies in the Department of English at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. He is the author of The Prose Brut: The Development of a Middle English Chronicle; editor of Death and Dissent: Two Fifteenth Century Chronicles; and general editor of Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England. Matheson has also worked as an editor on The Oxford English Dictionary and The Middle English Dictionary. He has been an International Fellow at The Queen's University Belfast and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow.



"This work will be useful to beginning medieval scholars as it is a good place for initial research on prominent figures of the period. A welcome addition to secondary libraries needing to update their history sections or medieval studies collections."Library Journal

"Overall, the essays are well-written and accessible, providing a solid overview of each icon's life and legacy, both historical and modern. Students will find them to be a useful starting point for research in this area. Recommended for academic and large high school and public libraries."Booklist

"Icons of the Middle Ages is a selective, if unconventional, reference focusing on 21 'larger-than-life medieval men and women.' Editor Matheson (Michigan State) heads an impressive list of contributors who focus on the 'iconic quality' (person as cultural phenomenon) of a variety of well-known medieval figures . . . Easy-to-read entries provide abundant biographical context and consider individuals' 'lasting significance' all the way through to their influence on contemporary pop culture. Entries are all-encompassing and, as necessary, feature well-placed time lines, fact boxes, and quotations."Choice

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