14 Titles From Books Of The Middle Ages Which Are Sure To Inspire Heroism, Chivalry And Honor In Today's Readers

I have a theory that if we study Medieval history enough and immerse ourselves in the period, we will come to a closer appreciation and understanding of our Catholic roots. That being said, I have comprised a list of the best books of the Middle Ages in this hope that modern man will be inspired by these acts of heroism, chivalry and honor that fill the pages of these novels.

books of the middle ages

In the wake of the Enlightenment, there was a revival in the study of the Middle Ages led by college professors all across England. This was implemented as a study of the student's history.

What these professors did not foresee in implementing this course was a large number of their students converting to the the Faith of the Middle Ages: Catholicism.

When the Enlightenment was in full swing, the architects made sure that this time period would be renamed "The Dark Ages".

In order to prove that these times were far from being truly dark ages, I have comprised a list of the best books of the Middle Ages in hopes that modern man will be inspired by these "pre-enlightenened" acts of heroism, chivalry and honor.

The men of the Middle Ages were not a set of faithless, gullible and simple brutes as they are often depicted today. They were practical men who were rooted in reality that was firmly founded on duty owed to God and country.

They knew who they were, where they had been, and they knew what God meant to them.

The men of the Middle Ages knew what it was to face death and fight for what they believed in. These men were in the habit of making incredible sacrifices for a higher good.

The Middle Ages begin with the 5th century, ending with the Protestant Revolt in the 15th century. They were years of crusades, study, and building cathedrals as well as the great feat of acquiring harmony between Church and State.

To riff on that cathedral thought for a minute: G. K. Chesterton remarked that during the Middle Ages, art was for God’s sake. In the Renaissance, art was for man’s sake. In the 19th century, art was for art’s sake. In the 20th century, no art, for God’s sake.”

Of all the forms of art for God’s sake, the Cathedrals give profound testimony to what modern men call the "Dark Ages", truthfully, the Age of Faith.

This Age of Faith produced the most saints and that should tell us something.

Names of popes, monks, nuns, peasants and kings fill the heavenly ranks. 

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1. The Ballad Of The White Horse By G.K. Chesterton

One of the best books of the Middle Ages is G. K. Chesterton's epic poem, The Ballad of the White Horse.

In this poem, he takes the reader to some of the earliest days of England, in the late 800's when King St. Alfred the Great's England is threatened by Danish invasion.

This is an important read because most other books of the Middle Ages mention the influence the Danes left behind them in England. Here you get the story told in the style of a ballad.

This story drives home the fact that Christian civilization is governed by faith and reason.

Heathen nihilism is controlled by the ruling spirit of hate and superstition. The differences between Christians and heathens is obvious when comparing their views on life and death. Christian civilization battles heathen lawlessness in Chesterton's epic poemThe Ballad of the White Horse.

This is an important read because most other books of the Middle Ages mention the influence the Danes left behind them in England.

White Horse of Uffington

Before the gods that made the gods
Had seen their sunrises pass,
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was cut out of the grass.

I recommend researching a little about the white chalk horses which sprinkle the rolling hills of England before reading this poem as there are a few references to these designs. 

2. One Of The Oldest Books Of The Middle Ages Is Beowulf

This is considered one of the oldest books of the Middle Ages. 

This book has little historical significance expect for the fact of its ancient language and narrative.

This is a tale of a Scandinavian prince-warrior who responds to the Danes' misfortunes by aiding them in the destruction of a monster which threatens their lands.

Having never been defeated in his life, Beowulf uses his God-given talents to aid the less fortunate. In his life, he faces three monsters, each in turn fall before his mighty strength.

Beowulf is, essentially, an allegory of the soul. The three monsters he faces are the world, the flesh and the devil. Beowulf is the soul which places all its trust in its Creator Who ensures victory.

This is an inspiring yarn of manly-virtue.

The man whose name was known for courage,
the Great leader, resolute in his helmet,
answered in return: "We are retainers
from Hygelac's band. Beowulf is my name."

This is considered one of the oldest books of the Middle Ages. This book has little historical significance expect for its ancient language and narrative.

3. El Cid, God's Own Champion, The True Story of the Knight of Vivar By James Fitzhenry

El Cid, God's Own Champion is one of the most inspiring books of the Middle Ages. 

The honorary name "El Cid" is not given lightly to any knight. This title meant that in all Spain, there was no better man. This title was honored and this man was revered and feared by even the Moors.

Rodrigo Diaz is the one of the most famous Spanish people in history who has held this title for centuries and it identifies him more than his own name.

The inspiring biography, El Cid, God's Own Champion, The True Story of the Knight of Vivar, by James Fitzhenry has captivated audiences of all ages, boys and girls alike.

This epic hero lived chivalry to the fullest and inspires everyone who reads his life story to imitate his virtues as a Catholic champion. 

The Cid's heroic actions and efforts to undermine the Muslim invasion as well as combat the jealousy that was arising in his countrymen due to his success is truly met with the humility and patience of a martyr.

Exiled by his own king, Rodrigo Diaz set out to build a tiny province which lived almost at peace with the Infidel while the Spanish Christian held the upper-hand - a quest only The Cid could accomplish.

The Cid is also a champion of Spain as it was he who crushed the best Muslim troops while they were at the pinnacle of their power.

"The heroic life of the hero will stand for all time as an example exhorting us to order our lives on principles of maximum effort, unwavering justice, and moderation; it will always demand of us that daily humble and anonymous heroism that is the only sure foundation of a nation's greatness and without which the most resplendent deeds are unavailing."

This epic hero lived chivalry to the fullest and inspires everyone who reads his life story to imitate his virtues as a Catholic champion.

Movie Lifted From 
El Cid, God's Own Champion

Pelayo The Movie

4. Susan Peek’s Exciting Adventure Novels Manifest That The Middle Ages Produced Many Saints

All three of the below stories take place in the Middle Ages. These are a fine example of how the Age of Faith has sprinkled the decades with countless saints.

Saint Magnus The Last Viking - After his older brother, Jarl Aerling is betrayed and killed at the hand of their disowned cousin, Hakon, Magnus must assume the throne.

Magnus' life is one of running and escaping the treachery of Hakon who wants to regain his portion of the kingdom. Along the way, St. Magnus harbors only forgiveness and concern of the soul of the man who is hunting him. 

Crusader King - The early crusades are in full swing and the Christian population has been in an unending and bloody war with the Infidel.

Unaware of the consequences and in an effort to overcome his fear and disgust for the leper colony, nine-year-old Prince Baldwin demonstrates his charity by kissing the sores of his leper subjects. Soon he experiences the leper’s fate

Saint Cloud of Gaul: The Prince Who Traded Kingdoms - Gaul in the sixth century is anything but peaceful. I know because I’ve been there virtually through this book.

After his two older brothers are murdered at the hand of his treacherous uncles, nine-year-old Cloud escapes and spends his life hiding around Rheims and Paris to evade his own murder

Read reviews for all three of these novels here...

All three of the above stories are a fine example of how the Age of Faith has sprinkled the decades with countless saints.

7. The First Historical Fiction: Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe

This novel's important significance of this novel is the fact that Ivanhoe was the first historical fiction written.

This was one of the books of the Middle Ages which was written following the revival in the study of this era in the early 1800s. Scott set a pattern that every author after him (except Jane Austen) would make at least one historical fiction. 

Returning home from the Crusade and representing the return of the faithful followers of King Richard is Wilfred of Ivanhoe, the disinherited son of a Saxon thane.

His father calls him disobedient; his childhood love, Rowena, is to be married off to his kinsman; his king is a captive in Austria; he returns home after a failed crusade—Ivanhoe seems to experience a weakness of circumstance, though not of character.

Under all these hardships, Ivanhoe consistently shows a chivalrous and noble character.

He is not the dashing rough knight that many imagine Middle Age heroes to be, rather he is the simple, boyish hometown hero.

On the other hand, it is the nemesis, Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, whose fame has proceeded him. Ivanhoe and de Bois-Guilbert finally come head to head when Brian mingles another’s innocence with his villainy.

"It seems as if I were destined to bring ruin on whomsoever hath shown kindness to me. My king, by whom I was honored and distinguished - thou seest that the brother most indebted to him is raising his arms to grasp his crown; my regard hath brought restraint and trouble on the fairest of her sex; and now my father in his mood may slay this poor bondsman but for his love and loyal service to me!

Thou seest, maiden, what an ill-fated wretch thou dost labour to assist; be wise, and let me go, ere the misfortunes which track my footsteps like the slot-hounds shall involve thee also in their pursuit."

This novel's significance springs from the fact that Ivanhoe was the first historical fiction written. This was one of the books of the Middle Ages which was written following the revival in the study of this era in the early 1800s.

If you are not feeling up to reading this one (or enjoy the story!) the movie is very true to the novel and well worth watching!

8. Health In The Middle Ages Was Given By God Through St. Hildegard In Her Medicine Books

These works are not novels but they earn their place in this list of books of the Middle Ages.

Many of the novels that cover this period reference St. Hildegard von Bingen advocation of a balanced diet, sufficient rest, and a wholesome moral life. If you love this time period in history, I recommend that you be familiar with St. Hildegard's remedies.

Hildegard medicine is an approach to health with specific techniques and remedies that were revealed by God through inner locutions, and taught by St. Hildegard, a doctor of the Catholic Church.

St. Hildegard tells whether plants and meats are hot or cold and about its wetness and if it is good for a sick or healthy person. She tells whether to eat it raw or cooked and how to make it more readily consumable.

"The peach tree is more hot than cold, but has something else in it. It has something like envy in it, and it's sap is more useful for medicine than its fruit."

I was tickled to read Ivanhoe again after being exposed to Hildegard's health remedies to read that Prince John died by over indulging on peaches. It is interesting to note that Hildegard has designated 4 seasonal poisons and that peaches are one of them.

If you love this time period in history, I recommend that you be familiar with St. Hildegard's remedies.

9. Dante Alighieri, The Father Of Poetry, Pens The Divine Comedy During The Middle Ages

The Divine Comedy is probably the most famous of all the books of the Middle Ages. It was written during the 14th century by the greatest poet, Dante Alighieri.

Dante is undoubtedly the most important poet of all time.  

He can easily be considered the Father of Poetry as it is recorded that he invented the writing of verse. His masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, was created with the purpose of showing how men's actions appear in the sight of God.

"Midway along the journey of our life
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
for I had wondered off from the straight path."

Dante Alighieri can easily be considered the Father of Poetry as it is recorded that he invented the writing of verse in his masterpiece, The Divine Comedy.

10. A Time-Traveling Adventure Where The Reader And Characters Go Back To The Middle Ages - The Gauntlet By Ronald Welch

It all started when Peter put on a gauntlet. Then he woke up in the 14th century... Get a peek into the thrilling novel, The Gauntlet, about friendship and self-sacrifice.

the middle ages

The Gauntlet is written by Ronald Welch, published by Lepanto Press, and illustrated by T. R. Freeman. It is a book that every child should read because it is not only well-written but easy to understand.

The Gauntlet takes place in Wales and takes the reader to the 20th century for about a week and then back in time to the 14th century for about two months.

The story revolves around Peter, a descendent of the ancient Blois family.

The Gauntlet is an adventure and mystery novel because not only is the reader learning about medieval life, but he is also introduced to the mysterious tomb of the strange and forgotten Peter de Blois.

The Gauntlet is exciting due to many events. There is a jousting tournament where Sir William wins every turn. Then there is a duel between Lord Roger and Falk. And lastly there is a great battle at Carrey Cennen Castle that includes long bows, battling rams, and the dangerous trebuchets.

"What on earth could an airplane be doing at the siege of Carreg Cennen?"

11. No Matter Where One Is Placed In Life, It Is Important To Foster True Humility And Obey Those That Are An Authority Over You - The Little Duke

Next up on our books of the Middle Ages is Charlotte M. Yonge's The Little Duke. The reader finds himself in 10th century Normandy in a world of lords and ladies.

When Richard the Fearless’ father is assassinated, he becomes the duke of Normandy at the tender age of eight. Because of his youth, the wily King of France intends to get him under his thumb in order to control all of Normandy

In this historic fiction, Richard discovers true humility as he learns that his place in life is a place of both authority and vulnerability. He may be the most powerful man in Normandy, but without the help of his loyal countryman, he is entirely at the mercy of the French king

This is a great read and will be enjoyed again and again.

Young readers can relate to Richard as he is a child throughout most of the story. This rare circumstance teaches him true humility and an understanding of his state in life

“His gallant deeds had well earned for him the title ‘Richard the Fearless’—a name well deserved; for there was but one thing that he feared and that was to do wrong.” 

A Charlotte M. Yonge Book Turned Into A Major Motion Picture:

Grisly Grisell watch now

12. The Best Novel About This Medieval Saint Is None Other Than Mark Twain's Joan Of Arc

Books of the Middle Ages would not be complete without a novel about St. Joan of Arc. Did you know that Mark Twain wrote a beautiful biography on Joan of Arc? With his unique storytelling style, Twain writes as an eye witness making the story very interesting and moving

Joan is the dreamer of Domrémy and she announces that she hears voices that tell her to free France. Joan refuses to put these voices aside and leaves her small country town and turns to the fields of bloodshed and ruin to save her country.

She is joined by fellow Domréminians who fight under her standard.

After she completes her task of raising the seige of Orleans and sees her king crowned at Rheims, she wishes to return to her home.

But King Charles VII does not appreciate all she has done for him, only how much she can do for him. He looks to her as a valuable general and will not allow her to return home.

Capture, unfairness and martyrdom are dealt to her one blow after the other. 

I have read this book three times and it never grows old. It was this book that inspired me to choose Joan of Arc as my confirmation saint. It is an easy read and a truly lovely story that will touch the hearts of everyone in the family. 

"Love, Mercy, Charity, Fortitude, War, Peace, Poetry, Music - these may be symbolized as any shall prefer...but a slender girl in her first bloom, with the martyr's crown upon her head, and in her hand the sword that severed her country's bonds - shall not this and no other stand for PATRIOTISM though all the ages until time shall end?"

Books of the Middle Ages would not be complete without a novel about St. Joan of Arc. Mark Twain's biography, Joan of Arc surpasses all novels about this saint.

13. The Honor And Goodness Of The Hero And The Contrasting Villainy Of The Foe Make The Lances Of Lynwood An Excellent Read

In Charlotte Yonge's historical fiction, The Lances of Lynwood, Eustace quickly learns that not every knight exercises chivalry and honor as easily as he does.

Eustace leads a quiet life as an overaged page in Lynwood Keep. Eustace may be small and rather a sorry sight to his brother, Reginald, but he has a perfect personality and character.

Not only is he trying to prove his worthiness of knighthood to his family and prince, but also thrown on his plate is an unexpected guardianship role to his nephew.

He experiences dishonorable treatment and betrayal with no where to turn for help.

The honor and goodness of the hero and the contrasting villainy of the foe make this an excellent book. The reader sees the many unfair things Eustace goes through in his uncomplaining nature and his unavenging attitude toward his enemies. 

"I hope to show my brother that I am fit for his own way of life. Sir Squire, do but tell me, do you think I look unfit to sustain the honour of my name?"

A Charlotte M. Yonge Book Turned Into A Major Motion Picture:

Grisly Grisell watch now

14. A Medieval Story Now A Major Motion Picture - A Tale Of The War Of The Roses

And now we come to the last of the books of the Middle Ages: Grisly Grisell

A Tale of the Wars of the Roses, another book by Charlotte M. Yonge, is a beautiful opportunity to teach that beauty is indeed more than skin deep.

The book surrounds Grisell Dacre and Leonard Copeland, two people with interests, personalities and traits almost as opposite as their political stance of the Civil War that their homeland is engaged.

These two young peoples’ families have tied them together in a betrothal which is intended to mend the feud. But, will Grisell ever be able to show Leonard that her virtues are still attractive despite the gun powder burn that he inflicted on her?

This clash of personalities and dealing with the struggles of youth and learning to accept sufferings are vital lessons for young girls to learn, which is why we made this novel into a film: Grisly Grisell A Tale Of The Wars Of The Roses.

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