Throughout history, great faiths have been subjected to persecution and attack from beyond the wall - literally walls, in Peter Harrison's remarkable book of the great monastery-fortresses, and church-fortresses, of the world. The fortified religious buildings of Christendom, Islam and Tibetan Buddhism are some of the most dramatic buildings of the middle ages. Though they shared a common purpose in defending the living faith from the armies of the unbeliever, they are astonishingly different from each other. Peter Harrison has spent a lifetime in scholarly pursuit of fortified religious buildings dating from a thousand years ago and more, in the Old and New Worlds, the Orient, and the Occident, ranging through New Mexico, North Africa and Tibet, though the majority are to be found in Europe. The wild, often hostile, terrain in which these fortresses were built speaks of a militant faith, and Peter Harrison's purpose is to show how and why religious establishments incorporated military architecture. He considers this unstudied subject from a uniquely wide point of view, historical, military, and architectural.
Every form of religious building that received fortifications is illustrated, from the humble parish churches of the Anglo-Scottish Borders to the Potala Palace of the Dalai Lama and the Vatican. Particular features of this book are the author's photographs, taken in some of the wildest and most inaccessible parts of the world, and his own very detailed plans and illustrations of many of the buildings described. The book was shortlisted for the longman-history today book of the year 2005 award. Dr. Peter Harrison is Research Associate, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York.