Bodo the Apostate

Written by Donald Michael Platt
Review by Steve Donoghue

The apostasy alluded to in the title of Donald Michael Platt’s excellent new book Bodo the Apostate occurred, if contemporary accounts can be believed, on Ascension Day, May 22nd, in the year AD 838, and it was no small doctrinal matter. On that date, according to quasi-legend, Bishop Bodo, chaplain and confessor to both the Emperor Louis the Pious and the Empress Judith, converted to Judaism, took the name Bodo-Eleazar, and became in an instant the ultimate cautionary tale for every Western divine who thought, as one of Platt’s characters puts it while speaking for the overwhelming majority, “Jews are the greatest threat to both the unity of our Church and empire. They are mendacious, demonic, sons of the Devil, each one an antichrist striving to fulfill Satan’s will.”

In a masterfully controlled narrative, Platt builds up to this amazing moment, taking readers first through Bodo’s childhood, upbringing, and rise to power at the heart of the 9th century Carolingian Empire, whose kings, princes, prelates and ordinary people Platt captures with a pitch-perfect blend of research and dramatization. By the time the story winds its way to Bodo’s momentous decision, I, too, felt like everything in the world was on the line. A fantastic, thought-provoking novel; very enthusiastically recommended.