Catalogue


Font of life : Ambrose, Augustine and the mystery of baptism /
Garry Wills.
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 2012.
description
[xiii], 194 p. : ill., maps ; 22 cm.
ISBN
9780199768516
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
series title
series title
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 2012.
isbn
9780199768516
contents note
Ambrose's town -- Ambrosian disicipline -- Ambrose fights for his churches -- Augustine on the way to Milan -- Augustine in Milan -- Augustine approaches the font -- Augustine at the font -- After the font -- Baptism in Africa -- The ritual -- Augustine needs Ambrose.
abstract
Discusses the time and place where two powerful church leaders came together for a baptism that laid the foundation for the future of the Western church.
catalogue key
8315282
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. [173]-184) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Library Journal on 2012-03-01:
Pulitzer-winning historian and Catholic intellectual Wills (emeritus, Northwestern Univ.; Lincoln at Gettysburg) adds yet another title to his c.v., which includes over 40 published books, including previous works on Augustine of Hippo. Focusing here on the ritual of baptism in the fourth century, he compares and contrasts two giants of the early Latin church, Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (c.337-397 C.E.) and Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430 C.E.), both of whose writings greatly impacted the development of Western Christianity. Wills's analysis liberally incorporates quotations from both men's works and from scholarly studies on ecclesiastical architecture of the day. At the Duomo, Milan's cathedral, the ancient baptistery connected the old basilica with the new, and baptizands passed physically and symbolically from one to the other at Easter after weekly Lenten training sessions given by the bishop. Ambrose was likely baptized there in 374 C.E., and he baptized-though he did not convert-Augustine in 387 C.E. Wills shows where Ambrose and Augustine differed from each other in theology, temperament, and even ritual preference. He engagingly offers insight into the religion, politics, and culture of the time. VERDICT This polished and original study will attract students of early Christian history and religion.-Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., Queens, NY (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 2012-02-13:
In his latest book, prolific author and historian Wills (Lincoln at Gettysburg) takes the reader beneath Milan's famed cathedral to the "font of life," the baptistry where Ambrose baptized Augustine in 387 C.E. He explores the historical moment during which the two famous and highly influential Christians met, dramatically bringing to life this critical time in the history of Christianity. Painting a backdrop of heresies and tense clashes with Roman emperors, Wills provides a captivating and rich description of Ambrose's baptismal rite and theology. He then compares these to Augustine's own baptismal rite and theology, analyzing to what extent Ambrose might have influenced the future bishop of Hippo. Wills compellingly argues that despite their encounter in Milan, in which Ambrose initiated Augustine into the Christian community, the two men differed greatly both in personality and theology. Their respective baptismal rites were influenced largely by the heresies they wished to disprove and condemn, not by one another. A well-researched and fascinating historical look at Ambrose, Augustine, and the sacrament of baptism. Agent: Andrew Wylie. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Unusually instructive...But he does more than bring us down from the fairy-tale roof of the Duomo of Milan (the usual goal of tourists) to the ruins that now lie hidden beneath the ground. He takes us for a vertiginous drop of almost 1,800 years into a Christianity profoundly different from our own." --New York Review of Books "Wills shows where Ambrose and Augustine differed from each other in theology, temperament, and even ritual preference. He engagingly offers insight into the religion, politics, and culture of the time." --Library Journal "A small masterpiece of exposition." --Booklist "A well-researched and fascinating historical look at Ambrose, Augustine, and the sacrament of baptism." --Publishers Weekly
"The font in the Milan baptistery where Ambrose baptized Augustine at Easter 387 provides the setting for Garry Wills's dramatic evocation of the relations between two of the most powerful and influential figures in the early Christian church. He reveals the personal and theological distance that separated them in the years before and after the baptism. Wills's depiction of Augustine's confrontation with Ambrose is like a magnificent diptych in which the figures take on shifting forms and colors as the light changes. This is a nuanced, perceptive, and utterly persuasive account of two great men."--G. W. Bowersock, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton "Garry Wills is as deft and compelling when he untangles the ideas and politics of the age of Augustine as when he writes about John Wayne or Abraham Lincoln. This is a work of fresh and genuinely original scholarship told with verve and a keen sense of why the issues of fourth-century Milan still matter today."--James J. O'Donnell, Georgetown University
"A well-researched and fascinating historical look at Ambrose, Augustine, and the sacrament of baptism." --Publisher's Weekly "Wills shows where Ambrose and Augustine differed from each other in theology, temperament, and even ritual preference. He engagingly offers insight into the religion, politics, and culture of the time." --Library Journal "A small masterpiece of exposition." --Booklist "Unusually intructive." --New York Review of Books "Garry Wills is as deft and compelling when he untangles the ideas and politics of the age of Augustine as when he writes about John Wayne or Abraham Lincoln. This is a work of fresh and genuinely original scholarship told with verve and a keen sense of why the issues of fourth-century Milan still matter today."--James J. O'Donnell, Georgetown University "The font in the Milan baptistery where Ambrose baptized Augustine at Easter 387 provides the setting for Garry Wills's dramatic evocation of the relations between two of the most powerful and influential figures in the early Christian church. He reveals the personal and theological distance that separated them in the years before and after the baptism. Wills's depiction of Augustine's confrontation with Ambrose is like a magnificent diptych in which the figures take on shifting forms and colors as the light changes. This is a nuanced, perceptive, and utterly persuasive account of two great men."--G. W. Bowersock, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
"A well-researched and fascinating historical look at Ambrose, Augustine, and the sacrament of baptism." --Publishers Weekly "Wills shows where Ambrose and Augustine differed from each other in theology, temperament, and even ritual preference. He engagingly offers insight into the religion, politics, and culture of the time." --Library Journal
"A well-researched and fascinating historical look at Ambrose, Augustine, and the sacrament of baptism." --Publishers Weekly "Wills shows where Ambrose and Augustine differed from each other in theology, temperament, and even ritual preference. He engagingly offers insight into the religion, politics, and culture of the time." --Library Journal "A small masterpiece of exposition." --Booklist "Unusually instructive." --New York Review of Books "Garry Wills is as deft and compelling when he untangles the ideas and politics of the age of Augustine as when he writes about John Wayne or Abraham Lincoln. This is a work of fresh and genuinely original scholarship told with verve and a keen sense of why the issues of fourth-century Milan still matter today."--James J. O'Donnell, Georgetown University "The font in the Milan baptistery where Ambrose baptized Augustine at Easter 387 provides the setting for Garry Wills's dramatic evocation of the relations between two of the most powerful and influential figures in the early Christian church. He reveals the personal and theological distance that separated them in the years before and after the baptism. Wills's depiction of Augustine's confrontation with Ambrose is like a magnificent diptych in which the figures take on shifting forms and colors as the light changes. This is a nuanced, perceptive, and utterly persuasive account of two great men."--G. W. Bowersock, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
This item was reviewed in:
Publishers Weekly, February 2012
Booklist, March 2012
Library Journal, March 2012
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Main Description
One of the most important sites in the Christian world lies hidden under the piazza of the cathedral (Duomo) in Milan. Rarely visited, it is part of the foundations of a 4th-century cathedral where, at dawn on Easter of 387, a group of people seeking baptism, including Augustine, gathered after an all-night vigil. After Ambrose performed the sacrament, the catechumens were greeted by their fellows in the faith, including Augustine's mother Monnica and the two men who had taught Augustine his theology and philosophy, Mallius Theodore and Simplician. Though the occasion had deep significance for the participants, this little cluster of devotion was unaware that they were creating the future of the Western church. Ambrose, already a powerful leader, would go on to forge new liturgies, new forms of church music, and new chains of churches; Augustine would return to his native Africa to become bishop of Hippo and one of the most influential writers of Christianity of his time and ours. InFont of Life, Garry Wills uses this baptistry to chronicle a pivotal chapter in the history of the Church. In doing so, he highlights the often uncomfortable relationship between Ambrose, the cultured and influential official in imperial Milan, and Augustine, the ambitious man from the provinces with searching questions about his faith. In addition, the baptistry allows Wills to neatly explore two issues of paramount importance to the early Church: the sacrament of baptism and the incorporation of Neoplatonic philosophy into the Western faith. Wills provides a richly detailed account of this watershed moment in Western intellectual history while promising to make widely known an unjustly neglected early Christianity landmark.
Main Description
No two men were more influential in the early Church than Ambrose, the powerful Bishop of Milan, and Augustine, the philosopher from provincial Africa who would writeThe ConfessionsandThe City of God. Different in background, they were also extraordinarily different in personality. InFontof Life, Garry Wills explores the remarkable moment when their lives intersected at one of the most important, yet rarely visited, sites in the Christian world. Hidden under the piazza of the Duomo in Milan lies part of the foundations of a fourth-century cathedral where, at dawn on Easter of 387, Augustine and a group of people seeking baptism gathered after an all-night vigil. Ambrose himself performed the sacrament and the catechumens were greeted by their fellows in the faith, which included Augustine's mother Monnica. Though the occasion had deep significance for the participants, this little cluster of devotees was unaware that they were creating the future of the Western church. Ambrose would go on to forge new liturgies, new forms of church music, and new chains of churches; Augustine would return to Africa to become Bishop of Hippo and one of the most influential writers of Christianity. Garry Wills uses the ancient baptistry to chronicle a pivotal chapter in the history of the Church, highlighting the often uncomfortable relationship between the two church fathers and exploring the mystery and meanings of the sacrament of baptism. In addition, he brings long overdue attention to an unjustly neglected landmark of early Christianity. To be published in time for Easter.
Table of Contents
Key to Brief Citations
Illustration List
Map of Milan
Introduction: Tale of a Font
Milan
Ambrose's Town
Ambrosian Discipline
Ambrose Fights for His Churches
Augustine on the Way to Milan
Augustine in Milan
The Baptism
Augustine Approaches the Font
Augustine at the Font
After the Font
Hippo
Baptism in Africa
The Ritual
Augustine Needs Ambrose
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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