Not Built with Hands
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By Helen C. White
Not Built with Hands tells of Matilda, Countess of Tuscany, whose valor and vision proved invaluable in resolving the Investiture Controversy of eleventh-century Christendom. As the staunchest of Pope Gregory VII’s lay advisers, Matilda is called to constant service of the Church’s mission to build the City of God, even at the expense of her own kingdom. Despite the rampant political confusion and domestic strife that threatens to consume her realm, Matilda assumes the role of mediator between Church and State; in that role, she must work with (and against) such giants of history as Pope Gregory and Emperor Henry IV, Hugh of Cluny and Desiderius (the great Benedictine abbot who would become Pope Victor III), to achieve a concordant that will permit the two swords of society, the secular and the spiritual, to together rule in peace and amity.
“If, in fear of violence or through sloth, we suffer the power of the kingdom of God to pass into the hands of the princes of this world, then is the light of the world gone out, and chaos come again.”
Excepting her Norwegian contemporary Sigrid Undset, Helen C. White was peerless in her ability to bring the people and places of the past to brilliant life in the form of historical novels. That ability is on full display in Not Built with Hands (the second of her six novels), with its spirited and gracious heroine the embodiment of her author’s grand style and vision.
Helen C. White (1896–1967) was an American Catholic author, scholar, and professor. In a career spanning nearly five decades, she wrote six novels, including A Watch in the Night (1933) and To the End of the World (1939), and studies of poetry and devotional literature. White’s many awards include twenty-three honorary doctorates, two Guggenheim fellowships, and Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal, awarded to a Catholic “whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of the Church, and enriched the heritage of humanity.”
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