The Mediaeval Mind/Chapter 9
The Bringing of Christianity and Antique Knowledge to the Northern Peoples
|I.||Irish Activities; Columbanus of Luxeuil.|
|II.||Conversion of the English; The Learning of Bede and Alfred.|
|III.||Gaul and Germany; From Clovis to St. Winifried-Boniface.|
The northern peoples, Celts and Teutons for the most part as they are called, came into contact with Roman civilization as the great Republic brought Gaul and Britain under its rule. Since Rome was still pagan when these lands were made provinces, an unchristianized Latinity was grafted upon their predominantly Celtic populations. The second stage, as it were, of this contact between Rome and the north, is represented by that influx of barbarians, mostly Teutonic, which, in both senses of the word, quickened the disruption of the Empire in the fourth and following centuries. The religion called after the name of Christ had then been accepted; and invading Goths, Franks, Burgundians, Lombards, and the rest, were introduced to a somewhat Christianized Latindom. Indeed, in the Latin-Christian combination, the latter was becoming dominant, and was soon to be the active influence in extending even the antique culture. For Christianity, with Latinity in its train, was to project itself outward to subjugate heathen Anglo-Saxons in England, Frisians in the Low Countries, and the unkempt Teutondom which roved east of the Rhine, and was ever pressing southward over the boundaries of former provinces, now reverting to unrest. In past times the assimilating energy of Roman civilization had united western Europe in a common social order. Henceforth Christianity was to be the prime amalgamator, while the survivals of Roman institutions and the remnants of antique culture were to assist in secondary rôles. With Charles Martell, with Pippin, and with Charlemagne, Latin Christianity is the symbol of civilized order, while heathendom and savagery are identical.
The conversion of the northern peoples, and their incidental introduction to profane knowledge, wrought upon them deeply; while their own qualities and the conditions of their lives affected their understanding of what they received and their attitude toward the new religion. Obviously the dissemination of Christianity among rude peoples would be unlike that first spreading of the Gospel through the Empire, in the course of which it had been transformed to Greek and Latin Christianity. Italy, Spain, and Gaul made the western region of this primary diffusion of the Faith. Of a distinctly missionary character were the further labours which resulted in the conversion of the fresh masses of Teutons who were breaking into the Roman pale, or were still moving restlessly beyond it. Moreover, between the time of the first diffusion of Christianity within the Empire and that of its missionary extension beyond those now decayed and fallen boundaries, it had been formulated dogmatically, and given ecclesiastical embodiment in a Catholic church into which had passed the conquering and organizing genius of Rome. This finished system was presented to simple peoples, sanctioned by the authority and dowered with the surviving culture of the civilized world. It offered them mightier supernatural aid, nobler knowledge, and a better ordering of life than they had known. The manner and authority of its presentation hastened its acceptance, and also determined the attitude toward it of the new converts and their children for generations. Theirs was to be the attitude of ignorance before recognized wisdom, and that of a docility which revered the manner and form as well as the substance of its lesson. The development of mediaeval Europe was affected by the mode and circumstances of this secondary propagation of Christianity. For centuries the northern peoples were to be held in tutelage to the form and constitution of that which they had received: they continued to revere the patristic sources of Christian doctrines, and to look with awe upon the profane culture accompanying them.
Thus, as under authority, Christianity came to the Teutonic peoples, even to those who, like the Goths, were converted to the Arian creed. Likewise the orthodox belief was brought to the Celtic Britons and Irish as a superior religion associated with superior culture. But the qualities or circumstances of these western Celts reacted more freely upon their form of faith, because Ireland and Britain were the fringe of the world, and Christianity was hardly fixed in dogma and ritual when the conversion at least of Britain began.
Certain phrases of Tertullian indicate that Christianity had made some progress among the Britons by the beginning of the third century. For the next hundred years nothing is known of the British Church, save that it did not suffer from the persecution under Diocletian in 304, and ten years afterwards was represented by three bishops at the Council of Arles. It was orthodox, accepting the creed of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and the date of Easter there fixed. The fourth century seems to have been the period of its prosperity. It was affiliated with the Church of Gaul; nor did these relations cease at once when the Roman legions were withdrawn from Britain in 410. But not many decades later the Saxon invasion began to cut off Britain from the Christian world. After a while certain divergences appear in rite and custom, though not in doctrine. They seem not to have been serious when Gildas wrote in 550. Yet when Augustine came, fifty years later, the Britons celebrated Easter at a different date from that observed by the Roman Catholic Church; for they followed the old computation which Rome had used before adopting the better method of Alexandria. Also the mode of baptism and the tonsure differed from the Roman.
At the close of the sixth century the British Church existed chiefly in Wales, whither the Britons had retreated before the Saxons. Formerly there had been no unwillingness to follow the Church of Rome. But now a long period had elapsed, during which Britain had been left to its misfortunes. The Britons had been raided and harassed; their country invaded; and at last they had been driven from the greater portion of their land. How they hated those Saxon conquerors! And forsooth a Roman mission appears to convert those damned and hateful heathen, and a somewhat haughty summons issues to the expelled or down-trodden people to abandon their own Christian usages for those of the Roman communion, and then join this Roman mission in its saving work among those Saxons whom the Britons had met only at the spear's point. Love of ancient and familiar customs soured to obstinacy in the face of such demands; a sweeping rejection was returned. Yet to conform to Roman usages and join with Augustine in his mission to the Saxons, was the only way in which the dwindling British Church could link itself to the Christian world, and save its people from exterminating wars. By refusing, it committed suicide.
A refusal to conform, although no refusal to undertake missions to the Saxons, came from the Irish-Scottish Church. As Ireland had never been drawn within the Roman world, its conversion was later than that of Britain. Yet there would seem to have been Christians in Ireland before 431; for in that year, according to an older record quoted by Bede, Palladius, the first bishop (primus episcopus), was sent by Celestine the Roman pontiff "ad Scottos in Christum credentes." The mission of Palladius does not appear to have been acceptable to the Irish. Some accounts have confused his story with that of Patrick, the "Apostle of Ireland," whose apostolic glory has not been overthrown by criticism. The more authentic accounts, and above all his own Confession, go far to explain Patrick's success. His early manhood, passed as a slave in Antrim, gave him understanding of the Irish; and doubtless his was a great missionary capacity and zeal. The natural approach to such a people was through their tribal kings, and Patrick appears to have made his prime onslaught upon Druidical heathendom at Tara, the abode of the high king of Ireland. The earliest accounts do not refer to any authority from Rome. Patrick seems to have acted from spontaneous inspiration; and a like independence characterizes the monastic Christianity which sprang up in Ireland and overleapt the water to lona, to Christianize Scotland as well as northern Anglo-Saxon heathendom.
Irish monasticism was an ascetically ordered continuance of Irish society. If, like other early western monasticism, it derived suggestions from Syria or Egypt, it was far more the product of Irish temperament, customs, and conditions. One may also find a potent source in the monastic communities alleged to have existed in Ireland in the days of the Druids. Doubtless many members of that caste became Christian monks.
The noblest passion of Irish monastic Christianity was to peregrinare for the sake of Christ, and spread the Faith among the heathen; the most interesting episodes of its history are the wanderings and missionary labours and foundations of its leaders. The careers of Columba and Columbanus afford grandiose examples. Something has been said of the former. The monastery which he founded on the Island of lona was the Faith's fountainhead for Scotland and the Saxon north of England in the sixth and seventh centuries. About the time of Columba's birth, men from Dalriada on the north coast of Ireland crossed the water to found another Dalriada in the present Argyleshire, and transfer the name of Scotia (Ireland) to Scotland. When Columba landed at lona, these settlers were hard pressed by the heathen Picts under King Brude or Bridius. Accompanied by two Pictish Christians, he penetrated to Brude's dwelling, near the modern Inverness, converted that monarch in 565, and averted the overthrow of Dalriada. For the next thirty years Columba and his monks did not cease from their labours; numbers of monasteries were founded, daughters of lona; and great parts of Scotland became Christian at least in name. The supreme authority was the Abbot of lona with his council of monks; "bishops" performed their functions under him. Early in the seventh century, St. Aidan was ordained bishop in lona and sent to convert the Anglo-Saxons of Northumberland. The story of the Irish Church in the north is one of effective mission work, but unsuccessful organization, wherein it was inferior to the Roman Church. Its representatives suffered defeat at the Synod of Whitby in 664. Fifty years afterward lona gave up its separate usages and accepted the Roman Easter.
The missionary labours of the Irish were not confined to Great Britain, but extended far and wide through the west of Europe. In the sixth and seventh centuries, Irish monasteries were founded in Austrasia and Burgundy, Italy, Switzerland, Bavaria; they were established among Frisians, Saxons, Alemanni. And as centres of Latin education as well as Christianity, the names of Bobbio and St. Gall will occur to every one. Of these, the first directly and the second through a disciple were due to Columbanus. With him we enter the larger avenues of Irish missions to the heathen, the semi-heathen, and the lax, and upon the question of their efficacy in the preservation of Latin education throughout the rent and driven fragments of the western Roman Empire. The story of Columban's life is illuminating and amusing.
He was born in Leinster. While yet a boy he felt the conflict between fleshly lusts and that counter-ascetic passion which throughout the Christian world was drawing thousands into monasteries. Asceticism, with desire for knowledge, won the victory, and the youth entered the monastery of Bangor, in the extreme north-east of Ireland. There he passed years of labour, study, and self-mortification. At length the pilgrim mission-passion came upon him (coepit peregrinationem desiderare) and his importunity overcame the abbot's reluctance to let him depart. Twelve disciples are said to have followed him across the water to the shores of Britain. There they hesitated in anxious doubt, till it was decided to cross to Gaul.
This was about the year 590. Columban's austere and commanding form, his fearlessness, his quick and fiery tongue, impressed the people among whom he came. Reports of his holiness spread; multitudes sought his blessing. He traversed the country, preaching and setting his own stern example, until he reached the land of the Burgundians, where Gontran, a grandson of Clovis, reigned. Well received by this ruler, Columban established himself in an old castle. His disciples grew in numbers, and after a while Gontran granted him an extensive Roman structure called Luxovium (Luxeuil) situated at the confines of the Burgundian and Austrasian kingdoms. Columban converted this into a monastery, and it soon included many noble Franks and Burgundians among its monks. For them he composed a monastic regula, stern and cruel in its penalties of many stripes imposed for trivial faults. "Whoever may wish to know his strenuousness (strenuitatem) will find it in his precepts," writes the monk Jonas, who had lived under him.
The strenuousness of this masterful and overbearing man was displayed in his controversy with the Gallican clergy, upon whom he tried to impose the Easter day observed by the Celtic Church in the British Isles. In his letter to the Gallican synod, he points out their errors, and lectures them on their Christian duties, asking pardon at the end for his loquacity and presumption. Years afterwards, entering upon another controversy, he wrote an extraordinary letter to Pope Boniface IV. The superscription is Hibernian: "To the most beautiful head of all the churches of entire Europe, the most sweet pope, the most high president, the most reverent investigator: O marvellous! mirum dictu! nova res! rara avis!—that the lowest to the loftiest, the clown to the polite, the stammerer to the prince of eloquence, the stranger to the son of the house, the last to the first, that the Wood-pigeon (Palumbus) should dare to write to Father Boniface!" Whereupon this Wood-pigeon writes a long letter in which belligerent expostulation alternates with self-debasement. He dubs himself "garrulus, presumptuosus, homunculus vilissimae qualitatis," who caps his impudence by writing unrequested. He implores pardon for his harsh and too biting speech, while he deplores to him who sat thereon—the infamia of Peter's Seat, and shrills to the Pope to watch: "Vigila itaque, quaeso, papa, vigila; et iterum dico: vigila"; and he marvels at the Pope's lethal sleep.
One who thus berated pope and clergy might be censorious of princes. Gontran died. After various dynastic troubles, the Burgundian land came under the rule nominally of young Theuderic, but actually of his imperious grandmother, the famous Brunhilde. In order that no queen-wife's power should supplant her own, she encouraged her grandson to content himself with mistresses. The youth stood in awe of the stern old figure ruling at Luxeuil, who more than once reproved him for not wedding a lawful queen. It happened one day when Columban was at Brunhilde's residence that she brought out Theuderic's various sons for him to bless. "Never shall sceptre be held by this brothel-brood," said he.
Henceforth it was war between these two: Theuderic was the pivot of the storm; the one worked upon his fears, the other played upon his lusts. Brunhilde prevailed. She incited the king to insist that Luxeuil be made open to all, and with his retinue to push his way into the monastery. The saint withstood him fiercely, and prophesied his ruin. The king drew back; the saint followed, heaping reproaches on him, till the young king said with some self-restraint: "You hope to win the crown of martyrdom through me. But I am not a lunatic, to commit such a crime. I have a better plan: since you won't fall in with the ways of men of the world, you shall go back by the road you came."
So the king sent his retainers to seize the stubborn saint. They took him as a prisoner to Besançon. He escaped, and hurried back to Luxeuil. Again the king sent, this time a count with soldiers, to drive him from the land. They feared the sacrilege of laying hands on the old man. In the church, surrounded by his monks praying and singing psalms, he awaited them. "O man of God," cried the count, "we beseech thee to obey the royal command, and take thy way to the place from which thou earnest." "Nay, I will rather please my Creator, by abiding here," returned the saint. The count retired, leaving a few rough soldiers to carry out the king's will. These, still fearing to use violence, begged the saint to take pity on them, unjustly burdened with this evil task—to disobey their orders meant their death. The saint reiterates his determination to abide, till they fall on their knees, cling to his robe, and with groans implore his pardon for the crime they must execute.
From pity the saint yields at last, and a company of the king's men make ready and escort him from the kingdom westward toward Brittany. Many miracles mark the journey. They reach the Loire, and embark on it. Proceeding down the river they come to Tours, where the saint asks to be allowed to land and worship at St. Martin's shrine. The leader bids the rowers keep the middle of the stream and row on. But the boat resistlessly made its way to the landing-place. Columban passed the night at the shrine, and the next day was hospitably entertained by the bishop, who inquired why he was returning to his native land. "The dog Theuderic has driven me from my brethren," answered the saint. At last Nantes was reached near the mouth of the Loire, where the vessel was waiting to carry the exile back to Ireland. Columban wrote a letter to his monks, in which he poured forth his love to them with much advice as to their future conduct. The letter is filled with grief—suppressed lest it unman his beloved children. "While I write, the messenger comes to say that the ship is ready to bear me, unwilling, to my country. But there is no guard to prevent my escape, and these people even seem to wish it."
The letter ends, but not the story. Columban did not sail for Ireland. Jonas says that the vessel was miraculously impeded, and that then Columban was permitted to go whither he would. So the dauntless old man travelled back from the sea, and went to the Neustrian Court, the people along the way bringing him their children to bless. He did not rest in Neustria, for the desire was upon him to preach to the heathen. Making his way to the Rhine, he embarked near Mainz, ascended the river, and at last established himself, with his disciples, upon the lake of Constance. There they preached to the heathen, and threw their idols into the lake. He had the thought to preach to the Wends, but this was not to be.
The time soon came when all Austrasia fell into the hands of Brunhilde and Theuderic, and Columbanus decided to cross over into northern Italy, breaking out in anger at his disciple Gall, who was too sick to go with him. With other disciples he made the arduous journey, and reached the land of the Lombards. King Agilulf made him a gift of Bobbio, lying in a gorge of the Apennines near Genoa, and there he founded the monastery which long was to be a stronghold of letters. For himself, his career was well-nigh run; he retired to a solitary spot on the banks of the river Trebbia, where he passed away, being, apparently, some seventy years of age.
It may seem surprising that this strenuous ascetic should occasionally have occupied a leisure hour writing Latin poems in imitation of the antique. There still exists such an effusion to a friend:
The verses consist mainly of classic allusions and advice of an antique rather than a Christian flavour: the wise will cease to add coin to coin, and will despise wealth, but not the pastime of such verse as the
was wont to make. "Now, dear Fedolius, quit learned numbers and accept our squibs—frivola nostra. I have dictated them oppressed with pain and old age: 'Vive, vale, laetus, tristisque memento senectae.'" The last is a pagan reminiscence, which the saint's Christian soul may not have deeply felt. But the poem shows the saint's classic training, which probably was exceptional. For there is no evidence of like knowledge in any Irishman before him; and after his time, in the seventh century, or the eighth, Latin education in Ireland was confined to a few monastic centres. A small minority studied the profanities, sometimes because they liked them, but oftener as the means of proficiency in sacred learning.
The Irish had cleverness, facility, ardour, and energy. They did much for the dissemination of Christianity and letters. Their deficiency was lack of organization; and they had but little capacity for ordered discipline humbly and obediently accepted from others. Consequently, when the period of evangelization was past in western Europe, and organization was needed, with united and persistent effort for order, the Irish ceased to lead or even to keep pace with those to whom once they had brought the Gospel. In Anglo-Saxon England and on the Carolingian continent they became strains of influence handed on. This was the fortune which overtook them as illuminators of manuscripts and preservers of knowledge. Their emotional traits, moreover, entered the larger currents of mediaeval feeling and imagination. Strains of the Irish, or of a kindred Celtic temperament passed on into such "Breton" matters as the Tristan story, wherein love is passion unrestrained, and is more distinctly out of relationship with ethical considerations than, for example, the equally adulterous tale of Lancelot and Guinevere.
The Saxon invasions of the fifth and sixth centuries drove Christianity and letters from the land where the semi-Romanized Britons and their church had flourished. To reconvert and instruct anew a relapsed heathen country was the task which Gregory the Great laid on the willing Augustine. The story of that famous mission (A.D. 597) need not be told; but we may note the manner of the presentation of Christianity to the heathen Saxons, and the temper of its reception. Most impressive was this bringing of the Faith. Augustine and his band of monks came as a stately embassy from Rome, the traditionary centre of imperial and spiritual power. Their coming was a solemn call to the English to associate themselves with all that was most august and authoritative in heaven and earth. According to Bede, Augustine sent a messenger to Ethelbert, the Kentish king, to announce that he had come from Rome bearing the best of messages, and would assure to such as hearkened, eternal joys in heaven and dominion without end with the living and true God. To Ethelbert, whose kingdom lay at the edge of the great world, the message came from this world's sovereign pontiff, who in some awful way represented its almighty God, and had authority to admit to His kingdom. He was not ignorant of what lay within the hand of Rome to give. His wife was a Catholic Christian, daughter of a Frankish king, and had her own ministering bishop. Doubtless the queen had spoken with her lord. Still Ethelbert feared the spell-craft of this awe-inspiring embassy, and would meet Augustine only under the open sky. Augustine came to the meeting, a silver
cross borne before him as a banner, and the pictured image of Christ, his monks singing litanies and loudly supplicating their Lord for the king's and their own salvation. Knowledge, authority, supernatural power, were represented here. And how could the king fail to be struck by the nobility of Augustine's Gospel message, by its clear assurance, its love and terror, so overwhelming and convincing, so far outsoaring Ethelbert's heathen religion? To be sure, in Christian love and forgiveness lay some reversal of Saxon morality, for instance of the duty of revenge. But this was not prominent in the Christianity of the day; and experience was to show that only in isolated instances did this teaching impede the acceptance of the Gospel.
Ethelbert spoke these missionaries fair; accorded them a habitation in Canterbury with the privilege of celebrating their Christian rites and preaching to his people. There they abode, zealous in vigils and fastings, and preaching the word of life. Certain heathen men were converted, then the king, and then his folk in multitudes—the usual way. Under the direction of Gregory, Augustine proceeded with that combination of insistence, dignity, and tolerance, so well understood in the Roman Church. There was insistence upon the main doctrines and requirements of the Faith—upon the Roman Easter day and baptism, as against the practices of the British Church. Tolerance was shown respecting heathen fanes and sacrificial feastings; the fanes should be reconsecrated as Christian churches; the feasts should be continued in honour of the true God.
Besides zeal and knowledge and authority, miracles advanced Augustine's enterprise. To eliminate by any sweeping negation the miraculous element from the causes of success of such a mission is to close the eyes to the situation. All men expected miracles; Gregory who sent Augustine was infatuated with them. Augustine performed them, or believed he did, and others believed it too. Throughout these centuries, and indeed late into the mediaeval period, the power and habit of working miracles constituted sainthood in the hermit or the monk, thereby singled out as the special instrument of God's will or the Virgin's kindness. Of course miracles were ascribed to the great missionary apostles like Augustine or Boniface; and this conviction brought many conversions.
Among the heathen English about to be converted, there was diversity of view and mood as to the Faith. They stood in awe of these newcomers from Rome, fearing their spell-craft. From their old religion they had sought earthly victory and prosperity; and some had found it of uncertain aid. "See, king, how this matter stands," says Coifi, at the Northumbrian Witenagemot held by Edwin to decide as to the new religion: "I have learned of a certainty that there is no virtue or utility whatever in that religion which we have been following. None of your thanes has slaved in the worship of our gods more zealously than I. Yet many have had greater rewards and dignities from you, and in every way have prospered more. Were the gods worth anything, they would wish rather to aid me, who have been so zealous in serving them. So if these new teachings are better and stronger, let us accept them at once." Coifi expressed the common motives of converts of all nations from the time of Constantine. No better thought of Christian expediency had inspired Gregory of Tours's story of Clovis's career; and Bede in no way condemns Coifi's verba prudentiae, as he terms them. Naturally in times of adversity such converts were quick to abandon their new religion, proved ineffectual.
Among these Angles of Northumberland, however, finer souls were looking for light and certitude. Such a one was that thane who followed Coifi with the wonderful illustration of man's mortal need of enlightenment, the thane for whom life was as the swallow flying through the warmed and lighted hall, from the dark cold into the dark cold: "So this life of men comes into sight for a little; we are ignorant of what shall follow or what may have preceded. If this new doctrine offers anything more certain, I think we should follow it." The heathen poetry had given varied voice to this contemplative melancholy so wont to dwell on life's untoward changes; and there was ghostly evidence of the other world before the coming of the Roman monks. Now, as those monks came with authority from the traditionary home of ghostly lore, why question their knowledge of the life beyond the grave? Many Anglo-Saxons were prepared to fix their gaze upon a life to come and to let their fancies fill with visions of the great last severance unto heaven and hell. When once impressed by the monastic Christianity of the Roman, or the Irish, mission, they were quick to throw themselves into the ascetic life which most surely opened heaven's doors. So many a noble thane became an anchorite or a monk, many a noble dame became a nun; and Saxon kings forsook their kingdoms for the cloister: "Cenred, who for some time had reigned most nobly in Mercia, still more nobly abandoned his sceptre. For he came to Rome, and there was tonsured and made a monk at the church of the Apostles, and continued in prayers and fastings and almsgiving until his last day."
As might be expected, the re-expression of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon writings was martial and emotional. A martial tone pervades the epic paraphrases of Scripture, the Anglo-Saxon Genesis for example. On the other hand, adaptations of devotional Latin compositions evince a realization of Christian feeling and prevalent ascetic sentiments. The "elegiac" Anglo-Saxon feeling seems to reach its height in a more original composition, the Christ of Cynewulf, while the emotional fervour coming with Christianity is disclosed in Bede's account of the inspiration which fell upon the cowherd Caedmon, in St. Hilda's monastery of Whitby, to sing the story of creation. A pervasive monastic atmosphere also surrounds the visions of hell and purgatory, which were to continue so typically characteristic of monastic Christianity.
What knowledge, sacred and profane, came to the Anglo-Saxons with Christianity? Quite properly learned were Augustine and the other organizers of the English Church. Two generations after him, the Greek monk Theodore was sent by the Pope to become Archbishop of Canterbury, complete Augustine's work, and instruct the English monks and clergy. Theodore was accompanied by his friend Hadrian, as learned as himself. Their labours finally established Roman Christianity in England. The two drew about them a band of students, and formed at Canterbury a school of sacred learning, where liberal studies were conducted by these foreigners with a knowledge and intelligence novel in Great Britain. In the north, Benedict Biscop, a Northumbrian, promoted the ends of Roman Catholicism and learning by establishing the monasteries of Wearmouth and Jarrow under the monastic regula of St. Benedict of Nursia, as modified by the practices of continental monasteries in the seventh century. He had been in Italy, and brought thence many books. It was among these books that Bede grew up at Jarrow.
Thus strong currents of Roman ecclesiasticism and liberal knowledge reached England. On the other hand, Irish monastic Christianity had already made its entry in the south-western part of Great Britain, and with greater strength established itself in the north, converting multitudes to the Faith and instructing such as would learn. The Irish teaching had been eagerly received by those groups of Anglo-Saxons who henceforth were to prosecute their studies with the aid of the further knowledge and discipline brought from the Continent by Theodore. Some of them had even journeyed to Ireland to study.
From this dual source was drawn the education of Aldhelm. He was born in Wessex about the year 650, and was nephew of the powerful King Ini. He became abbot of Malmesbury in 675. An Irish monk was his first teacher; his second, the learned Hadrian. From the two he received a broader education than any Anglo-Saxon had possessed before him. Always holding in view the perfecting of his sacred knowledge, he studied grammar and kindred topics, produced treatises himself, and as a Catholic student and teacher was a true forerunner of the greatest scholar among his younger contemporaries, Bede.
Bede the Venerable, and we may add the still beloved, was Aldhelm's junior by some twenty-five years. He was born in 673 and died in 735. He passed his whole life reading, teaching, and writing in the Cloister of Jarrow near where he was born, and not far from where, beneath the "Galilee" of Durham Cathedral, his bones have long reposed. Back of him was the double tradition of learning, the Irish and the Graeco-Roman. Through a long life of pious study, Bede drew into his mind, and incorporated in his writings, practically the total sum of knowledge then accessible in western Europe. He stands between the great Latin transmitters (Boëthius, Cassiodorus, Gregory and Isidore) and the epoch known as the Carolingian. He was himself a transmitter of knowledge to that later time. If in spirit, race, epoch and circumstances, Aldhelm was Bede's direct forerunner, Bede had also a notable predecessor in Isidore. The writings of the Spanish bishop contributed substance and suggestions of plan and method to the Anglo-Saxon monk, whose works embrace practically the same series of topics as Isidore's, whose intellectual interests also, and attitude toward the Church Fathers, appear the same. But Bede was the more genial personality, and could not help imbuing his compositions with something from his own temperament. Even in his Commentaries upon the books of Scripture, which were made up principally of borrowed allegorical interpretations, there is common sense and some endeavour to present the actual meaning and situation. But he disclaimed originality, as he says in the preface to his Commentary on the Hexaemeron, addressed to Bishop Acca of Hexham:
"Concerning the beginning of Genesis where the creation of the world is described, many have said much, and have left to posterity monuments of their talents. Among these, as far as our feebleness can learn, we may distinguish Basil of Caesarea (whom Eustathius translated from Greek to Latin), Ambrose of Milan, and Augustine, Bishop of Hippo. Of whom the first-named in nine books, the second following his footprints in six books, the third in twelve books and also in two others directed against the Manichaeans, shed floods of salutary doctrine for their readers; and in them the promise of the Truth was fulfilled: 'Whoso believeth in me, as the Scripture saith, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.…' But since these works are so great that only the rich may own them, and so profound that they may be fathomed only by the learned, your holiness has seen fit to lay on us the task of plucking from them all, as from the sweetest wide-flowering fields of paradise, what might seem to meet the needs of weaklings."
Bede was also a lovely story-teller. His literary charm and power appear in his Life of St. Cuthbert, and still more in his ever-famous Ecclesiastical History of the English People, so warm with love of mankind, and presenting so wonderful a series of dramatic stories animate with vital motive and the colour of incident and circumstance. Midway between the spontaneous genius of this work and the copied Scripture Commentary, stand Bede's grammatical, metrical, and scientific compositions, compiled with studious zeal. They evince a broad interest in scholarship and in nature. Still, neither material nor method was original. For instance, his De rerum natura took its plan and much of its substance from Isidore's work of the same name. Bede has, however, put in further matter and made his work less of a mere shell of words than Isidore's. For he is interested in connecting natural occurrences with their causes, stating, for example, that the tides depend on the moon. In this work as in his other opera didascalica, like the De temporum ratione and his learned De arte metrica, he shows himself a more intelligent student than his Spanish predecessor. Yet he drew everything from some written source.
One need not wonder at the voluminousness of Bede's literary productions. Many of the writings emanating from monasteries are transcriptions rather than compositions. The circumstance that books, i.e. manuscripts, were rare and costly was an impelling motive. Isidore and Bede made systematic compilations for general use. They and their congeners would also make extracts from manuscripts, of which they might have but the loan, or from unique codices in order to preserve the contents. Such notes or excerpts might have the value of a treatise, and might be preserved and in turn transcribed as a distinct work. Yet whether made by a Bede or by a lesser man, they represent mainly the labour of a copyist.
Bede's writings were all in Latin, and were intended for the instruction of monks. They played a most important rôle in the transmission of learning, sacred and profane, in Latin form. For its still more popular diffusion, translations into the vernacular might be demanded. Such at all events were made of Scripture; and perhaps a century and a half after Bede's death, the translation of edifying Latin books was undertaken by the best of Saxon kings. King Alfred was born in 849 and closed his eyes in 901. In the midst of other royal labours he set himself the task of placing before his people, or at least his clergy, Anglo-Saxon versions of some of the then most highly regarded volumes of instruction. The wise Pastoral Care of Gregory the Great; his Dialogues, less wise according to our views; the Histories of Orosius and Bede; and that philosophic vade-mecum of the Middle Ages, the De consolatione philosophiae of Boëthius. Of these, Alfred translated the Pastoral Care and the De consolatione, also Orosius; the other works appear to have been translated at his direction. Alfred's translations contain his own reflections and other matter not in the originals. In rendering Orosius, he rewrote the geographical introduction, inserted a description of Germany and accounts of northern Europe given by two of his Norse liegemen, Ohthere and Wulfstan. The alertness of his mind is shown by this insertion of the latest geographical knowledge. Other and more personal passages will disclose his purpose, and illustrate the manner in which his Christianized intelligence worked upon trains of thought suggested perhaps by the Latin writing before him.
Alfred's often-quoted preface to Gregory's Pastoral Care tells his reasons for undertaking its translation, and sets forth the condition of England. He speaks of the "wise men there formerly were throughout England, both of sacred and secular orders," and of their zeal in learning and teaching and serving God; and how foreigners came to the land in search of wisdom and instruction. But "when I came to the throne," so general was the decay of learning in England "that there were very few on this side of the Humber who could understand their rituals in English, or translate a letter from Latin into English; and I believe there were not many beyond the Humber.… Thanks be to God Almighty that we have any teachers among us now." Alfred therefore commands the bishop, to whom he is now sending the copy, to disengage himself as often as possible from worldly matters, and apply the Christian wisdom God has given him. "I remembered also how I saw, before it had been all ravaged and burnt, how the churches throughout the whole of England stood filled with treasures and books, and there was also a great multitude of God's servants, but they had very little knowledge of books, for they could not understand anything of them because they were not written in their own language." It therefore seemed wise to me "to translate some books which are most needful for all men to know, into the language which we can all understand, and … that all the youth now in England of free men, who are rich enough to be able to devote themselves to it, be set to learn so long as they are not fit for any other occupation, until that they are well able to read English writing: and let those be afterwards taught more in the Latin language who are to continue learning and be promoted to a higher rank."
In the De consolatione of Boëthius, the antique pagan thought, softened with human sympathy, and in need of such comfort and assurance as was offered by the Faith, is found occupied with questions (like that of free-will) prominent in Christianity. The book presented meditations which were so consonant with Christian views that its Christian readers from Alfred to Dante mistook them for Christian sentiments, and added further meanings naturally occurring to the Christian soul. Alfred's reflections in his version of the De consolatione are very personal to Saxon Alfred and show how he took his life and kingly office:
"O Philosophy, thou knowest that I never greatly delighted in covetousness and the possession of earthly power, nor longed for this authority"—so far Boëthius, and now Alfred himself: "but I desired instruments and materials to carry out the work I was set to do, which was that I should virtuously and fittingly administer the authority committed unto me. Now no man, as thou knowest, can get full play for his natural gifts, nor conduct and administer government, unless he hath fit tools, and the raw material to work upon. By material I mean that which is necessary to the exercise of natural powers; thus a king's raw material and instruments of rule are a well-peopled land, and he must have men of prayer, men of war, and men of work. As thou knowest, without these tools no king may display his special talent. Further, for his materials he must have means of support for the three classes above spoken of, which are his instruments; and these means are land to dwell in, gifts, weapons, meat, ale, clothing, and what else soever the three classes need. Without these means he cannot keep his tools in order, and without these tools he cannot perform any of the tasks entrusted to him. [I have desired material for the exercise of government that my talents and my power might not be forgotten and hidden away] for every good gift and every power soon groweth old and is no more heard of, if Wisdom be not in them. Without Wisdom no faculty can be fully brought out, for whatsoever is done unwisely can never be accounted as skill. To be brief, I may say that it has ever been my desire to live honourably while I was alive, and after my death to leave to them that should come after me my memory in good works."
The last sentence needs no comment. But those preceding it will be illuminated by another passage inserted by Alfred:
"Therefore it is that a man never by his authority attains to virtue and excellence, but by reason of his virtue and excellence he attains to authority and power. No man is better for his power, but for his skill he is good, if he is good, and for his skill he is worthy of power, if he is worthy of it. Study Wisdom then, and, when ye have learned it, contemn it not, for I tell you that by its means ye may without fail attain to power, yea, even though not desiring it."
Perhaps from the teaching of his own life Alfred knew, as well as Boëthius, the toil and sadness of power: "Though their false hope and imagination lead fools to believe that power and wealth are the highest good, yet it is quite otherwise." And again, speaking of friendship, he says that Nature unites friends in love, "but by means of these worldly goods and the wealth of this life we oftener make foes than friends," which doubtless Alfred had discovered, as well as Marcus Aurelius. Perhaps the Saxon king knew wherein lay peace, as he makes Wisdom say: "When I rise aloft with these my servants, we look down upon the storms of this world, even as the eagle does when he soars in stormy weather above the clouds, where no storm can harm him." The king was thinking of man's peace with God.
Christianity came to the cities of Provincia and the chief Roman colonies of Gaul (Lyons, Trèves, Cologne) in the course of the original dissemination of the Faith. There were Roman, Greek, or Syrian Christians in these towns before the end of the second century. Early Gallic Christianity spoke Greek and Latin, and its rather slow advance was due partly to the tenacity of Celtic speech even in the cities; while outside of them heathen speech and practices were scarcely touched. Through Gaul and along the Rhine, the country in the main continued heathen in religion and Celtic or Germanic in speech during the fifth century. The complete Latinizing of Gaul and the conversion of its rural population proceeded from the urban churches, and from the labours and miracles of anchorites and monks. In contrast with the decay of the municipal governments, the urban churches continued living institutions. Their bishops usually were men of energy. The episcopal office was elective, yet likely to remain in the same influential family, and the bishop, the leading man in the town, might be its virtual ruler. He represented Christianity and Latin culture, and when Roman officials yielded to
Teutonic conquerors, the bishop was left as the spokesman of the Gallo-Roman population. Thus the Gallic churches, far from succumbing before the barbarian invasions, rescued and appropriated the derelict functions of government, and emerged aggrandized from the political and racial revolution. In the year 400 the city of Trèves was Latin in speech and Roman in government; in the year 500 the Roman government had been overthrown, and a German-speaking population predominated in what was left of the city, but the church went on unchanged in constitution and in language.
There was constant intercourse between Teutons and Romans along the northern boundaries of the Empire. In the Danube regions many of the former were converted. The Goths, through the labours of Ulfilas and others in the fourth century, became Arian Christians; their conversion was of moment to themselves and others, but destiny severed the continuity of its import for history. In the provinces of Rhaetia, Vindelicia, and Noricum there were Christians, some of them Teutons, as early as the time of Constantine. For the next century, when disruption of the Empire was in full progress, the Life of St. Severinus by Eugippius, his disciple, gives the picture. Bits and fragments of Roman government endured; letters were not quite quenched; but Alemanni and Rugii moved as they would, marauding, besieging, and destroying. Everywhere there was uncertainty and confusion, and yet civilized Roman provincials still clung to a driven life. Through this mountain land, the monk Severinus went here and there, barefoot even in ice and snow, austere, commanding. He encouraged the townspeople to maintain decency and courage; he turned the barbarians from ruthlessness. Clear-seeing, capable, his energies shielded the land. He was an ascetic who took nothing for himself, and won men to the Faith by this guarantee of disinterestedness. So he shepherded his harrowed flocks, and more than once averted their destruction. But his arm was too feeble; after his death even his cell was plundered, while the confusion swept on.
Such were fifth-century conditions on the northern boundary of what had been the Empire, conditions amid which the culture and doctrine germane to Christianity went down, although the Faith still glimmered here and there. Farther to the west, the Burgundians had gained a domicile in a land sparsely tenanted by Roman and Catholic provincials. Here on the left bank of the Rhine, in the neighbourhood of Worms, this people accepted the Christianity which they found. Afterwards, in the year 430, their heathen kin on the right bank were baptized as a people; for they hoped, through aid from fellow-Christians, to ward off the destruction threatening from the Huns. Yet five years later they were overthrown by those savage riders—an overthrow out of which was to rise the Nibelungenlied. The Burgundian remnants found a new home by the Rhone.
The Christianity of Burgundians and Goths was subject to the vicissitudes of their fortunes. The permanent conversion to Catholicism of the great masses of the Germans commenced somewhat later, when the turmoil of fifth-century migration was settling into contests for homes destined to prove more lasting. Its beginning may be dated from the baptism of Clovis as a Catholic on Christmas Day in the year 496. His retainers followed him into the consecrated water. By reason of the king's genius for war and politics, this event was the beginning of the final triumph of Catholicism.
The baptism of Clovis and his followers was typical of early Teutonic conversions. King and tribal following acted as a unit. Christ gave victory; He was the mightier God: such was the crude form of the motive. Its larger scope was grasped by the far-seeing king. Believing in supernatural aid, he desired it from the mightiest source, which, he was persuaded, was the Christian God. It was to be obtained by such homage to Christ as heretofore the king had paid to Wuotan. Any doubt as to the sincerity of his belief presupposes a point of view impossible for a fifth-century barbarian. But to this sincere expectation of Christ's aid, to be gained through baptism, Clovis joined careful consideration of the political situation. Catholic Christianity was the religion of the Gallo-Roman population forming the greater part of the Frankish king's subjects. He knew of Arian peoples; probably attempts had been made to draw him to their side. They constituted the great Teutonic powers at the time; for Theodoric was the monarch of Italy, and Arian Teutons ruled in southern France, in Spain, and Africa. Nevertheless, it was of paramount importance for the establishment of his kingdom that there should be no schism between the Franks and the Gallo-Roman people who exceeded them in number and in wealth and culture. Catholic influences surrounded Clovis; Catholic interests represented the wealth and prosperity of his dominions, and when he decided to be baptized he did not waver between the Catholic and the Arian belief. Thus the king attached to himself the civilized population of his realm. A common Catholic faith quickly obliterated racial antagonism within its boundaries and gained him the support of Catholic church and people in the kingdoms of his Arian rivals.
So under Clovis and his successors the Gallic Church became the Frankish Church, and flourished exceedingly. Tithes were paid it, and gifts were made by princes and nobles. Its lands increased, carrying their dependent population, until the Church became the largest landholder in the Merovingian realm. It was governed by Roman law, but the clergy were subject to the penal jurisdiction of the king. It was he that summoned councils, although he did not vote, and left ecclesiastical matters to the bishops, who were his liegemen and appointees. They recognized the king's virtually unlimited authority, which they patterned on the absolute power of the Roman Emperors and the prerogatives of David and Solomon. In fine, the Merovingian Church was a national church, subject to the king. Until the seventh century it was quite independent of the Bishop of Rome.
It is common knowledge—especially vivid with readers of the famous Historia Francorum of Gregory of Tours—that, ethically viewed, the conduct of the Merovingian house was cruel, treacherous, and abominable; and likewise the conduct of their vassals. Frankish kings and nobles appear as men no longer bound by the ethics of the heathenism which they had foresworn, and as yet untouched by the moral precepts of the Christian code. Not Christianity, however, but contact with decadent civilization, and rapid increase of power and wealth, had loosened their heathen standards. Merovingian history leaves a unique impression of a line of rulers and dependents among whom mercy and truth and chastity were unknown. The elements of sixth-century Christianity which the Franks made their own were its rites, its magic, and its miracles, and its expectation of the aid of a God and His saints duly solicited. Here the customs of heathenism were a preparation, or themselves passed into Frankish Christianity. Nevertheless, the general character of Christian observances—baptism, the mass, prayer, the sign of the cross, the rites at marriage, sickness, and death—could not fail to impress a certain tone and demeanour upon the people, and impart some sense of human sinfulness. The general conviction that patent and outrageous crime would bring divine vengeance gained point and power from the terrific doctrine of the Day of Wrath, and the system of penances imposed by the clergy proved an excellent discipline with these rough Christians. Many bishops and priests were little better than the nobles, yet the Church preserved Christian belief and did something to improve morality. Everywhere the monk was the most striking object-lesson, with his austerities, his terror-stricken sense of sinfulness, and conviction of the peril of the world. No martial, grasping bishop, no dissolute and treacherous priest denied that the monk's was the ideal Christian life; and the laity stood in awe, or expectation, of the wonder-working power of his asceticism. Indeed monasticism was becoming popular, and the Merovingian period witnessed the foundation of numberless cloisters.
In the fifth and through part of the sixth century the Gallic monastery of Lerins, on an island in the Mediterranean, near Frejus, was a chief source of ascetic and Christian influence for Gaul. Its monks took their precepts from Syria and Egypt, and some of the zeal of St. Martin of Tours had fallen on their shoulders. As the energy of this community declined, Columban's monastery at Luxeuil succeeded to the work. The example of Columbanus, his precepts and severe monastic discipline, proved a source of ascetic and missionary zeal. With him or following in his steps came other Irishmen; and heathen German lands soon looked upon the walls of many an Irish monastery. But Columbanus failed, and all the Irish failed, in obedience, order, and effective organization. His own monastic regula, with all its rigour, contained no provisions for the government of the monasteries. Without due ordering, bands of monks dwelling in heathen communities would waver in their practices and even show a lack of doctrinal stability. Sooner or later they were certain to become confused in habit and contaminated with the manners of the surrounding people. These Irish monasteries omitted to educate a native priesthood to perpetuate their Christian teaching. The best of them, St. Gall (founded by Columbanus's disciple Gallus), might be a citadel of culture, and convert the people about it, through the talents and character of its founder and his successors. But other monasteries, farther to the east, were tainted with heathen practices. In fine, it was not for the Irish to convert the great heathen German land, or effect a lasting reform of existing churches there or in Gaul.
The labours of Anglo-Saxons were fraught with more enduring results. Through their abilities and zeal, their faculty of organization and capacity of submitting to authority, through their consequent harmony with Rome and the support given them by the Frankish monarchy, these Anglo-Saxons converted many German tribes, established permanent churches among them, reorganized the heterogeneous Christianity which they found in certain German lands, and were a moving factor in the reform of the Frankish Church. The most striking features of their work on the Continent were diocesan organization, the training of a native clergy, the establishment of monasteries under the Benedictine constitution, union with Rome, obedience to her commands, strenuous conformity to her law, and insistence on like conformity in others. Their presentation of Christianity was orthodox, regular, and authoritative.
Some of these features appear in the work of the Saxon Willibrord among the Frisians, but are more largely illustrated in the career of St. Boniface-Winfried. Willibrord moved under the authority of Rome; the varying fortunes of his labours were connected with the enterprises of Pippin of Heristal, the father of Charles Martel. They advanced with the power of that Frankish potentate. But after his death, during the strife between Neustria and Austrasia, the heathen Frisian king Radbod drove back Christianity as he enlarged his dominion at the expense of the divided Franks. Later, Charles Martel conquered him, and the Frankish power reached (718) to the Zuyder Zee. Under its protection Willibrord at last founded the bishopric of Utrecht (734). He succeeded in educating a native clergy; and his labours had lasting result among the Frisians who were subject to the Franks, but not among the free Frisians and the Danes.
Evidently there was no sharp geographical boundary between Christianity and heathendom. Throughout broad territories, Christian and heathen practices mingled. This was true of the Frisian land. It was true in greater range and complexity of the still wider fields of Boniface's career. This able man surrendered his high station in his native Wessex in order to serve Christ more perfectly as a missionary monk among the heathen. He went first to Frisia and worked with Willibrord, yet refused to be his bishop-coadjutor and successor, because planning to carry Christianity into Germany.
Strikingly his life exemplifies Anglo-Saxon faculties working under the directing power of Rome among heathen and partly Christian peoples. On his first visit to Rome he became imbued with the principles, and learned the ritual, of the Roman Church. He returned to enter into relations with Charles Martell, and to labour in Hesse and Thuringia, and again with Willibrord in Frisia. Not long afterwards, at his own solicitation, Gregory II. called him back to Rome (722), where he fed his passion for punctilious conformity by binding himself formally to obey the Pope, follow the practices of the Roman Church, and have no fellowship with bishops whose ways conflicted with them. Gregory made him bishop over Thuringia and Hesse, and sent him back there to reform Christian and heathen communities. Thus Gregory created a bishop within the bounds of the Frankish kingdom—an unprecedented act. Nevertheless, Charles, to whom Boniface came with a letter from Gregory, received him favourably and furnished him with a safe conduct, only exacting a recognition of his own authority.
Boniface set forth upon his mission. In Hesse he cut down the ancient heathen oak, and made a chapel of its timber; he preached and he organized—the land was not altogether heathen. Then he proceeded to Thuringia. That also was a partly Christian land; many Irish-Scottish preachers were labouring or dwelling there. Boniface set his face against their irregularities as firmly as against heathenism. Again he dominated and reorganized, yet continued unfailing in energetic preaching to the heathen. Gregory watched closely and zealously co-operated.
On the death of the second Gregory in 731, the third Gregory succeeded to the papacy and continued his predecessor's support of the Anglo-Saxon apostle, making him archbishop with authority to ordain bishops. Many Anglo-Saxons, both men and holy women, came to aid their countryman, and brought their education and their nobler views of life to form centres of Christian culture in the German lands. Cloisters for nuns, cloisters for monks were founded. The year 744 witnessed the foundation of Fulda by Sturm under the direction of Boniface, and destined to be the very apple of his eye and the monastic model for Germany. It was placed under the authority of Rome, with the consent of Pippin, who then ruled. The reorganization rather than the conversion of Bavaria was Boniface's next achievement. The land long before had been partially Romanized, and now was nominally Christian. Here again Boniface acted as representative of the Pope, and not of Charles, although Bavaria was part of the Frankish empire.
The year 738 brought Boniface to Rome for the third time. He was now yearning to leave the fields already tilled, and go as missionary to the heathen Saxons. But Gregory sent him back to complete the reorganization of the Bavarian Church, and to this large field of action he added also Alemannia with its diocesan centre at Speyer. Here he came in conflict with Frankish bishops, firm in their secular irregularities. Yet again he prevailed, reorganized the churches, and placed them under the authority of Rome. Evidently the two Gregories had in large measure turned the energies of Boniface from the mission-field to the labours of reform.
On the death of Charles in 741 (and in the same year died Gregory, to be succeeded by the lukewarm Zacharias) his sons Carloman and Pippin succeeded to his power. The following year Carloman in German-speaking Austrasia called a council of his church (Concilium Germanicum primum) under the primacy of Boniface. Its decrees confirmed the reforms for which the latter had struggled:
"We Carloman, Duke and Prince of the Franks, in the year 742 of the Incarnation, on the 21st of April, upon the advice of the servants of God, the bishops and priests of our realm, have assembled them to take counsel how God's law and the Church's discipline (fallen to ruin under former princes) may be restored, and the Christian folk led to salvation, instead of perishing deceived by false priests. We have set up bishops in the cities, and have set over them as archbishop Bonifatius, the legate of St. Peter."
The council decreed that yearly synods should be held, that the possessions taken from the Church should be restored, and the false priests deprived of their emoluments and forced to do penance. The clergy were forbidden to bear arms, go to war, or hunt. Every priest should give yearly account of his stewardship to his bishop. Bishops, supported by the count in the diocese, should suppress heathen practices. Punishments were set for the fleshly sins of monks and nuns and clergy, and for the priestly offences of wearing secular garb or harbouring women. The Benedictine rule was appointed for monasteries. It was easier to make these decrees than carry them out against the opposition of such martial bishops as those of Mainz and Trèves, whose support was necessary to Carloman's government; and military conditions rendered the restoration of Church lands impracticable. Yet the word was spoken, and something was done.
The next year in Neustria Pippin instituted like reforms. He was aided by Boniface, although the latter held no ecclesiastical office there. In 747 Carloman abdicated and retired to a monastery; and Pippin became sole ruler, and at last formally king, anointed by Boniface under the direction of the Pope in 752. After this, Boniface, withdrawing from the direction of the Church, turned once more to satisfy his heart's desire by going on a mission among the heathen Frisians, where he crowned a great life with a martyr's death.
Thus authoritatively, supported by Rome and the Frankish monarchy, Christianity was presented to the Germans. It carried suggestions of a better order and some knowledge of Latin letters. The extension of Roman Catholic Christianity was the aim of Boniface first and last and always. But a Latin education was needed by the clergy to enable them to understand and set forth this somewhat elaborated and learned scheme of salvation. Boniface and his coadjutors had no aversion to the literary means by which a serviceable Latin knowledge was to be obtained, and their missionary and reorganizing labours necessarily worked some diffusion of Latinity.
The Frankish secular power which had supported Boniface, advanced to violent action when Charlemagne's sword bloodily constrained the Saxons to accept his rule and Christianity, the two inseverable objects which he tirelessly pursued. Nor could this ruler stay his mighty hand from the government of the Church within his realm. With his power to appoint bishops, he might, if he chose, control its councils. But apparently he chose to rule the Church directly; and his, and his predecessors' and successors' Capitularies (rather than Conciliar decrees) contain the chief ecclesiastical legislation for the Frankish realm.
In its temporalities and secular action the Church was the greatest and richest of all subjects; it possessed the rights of lay vassals and was affected with like duties. But in ritual, doctrine, language and affiliation, the Frankish Church made part of the Roman Catholic Church. It used the Roman liturgy and the Latin tongue. The ordering of the clergy was Roman, and the regulation of the monasteries was Romanized by the adoption of the Benedictine regula. Within the Church Rome had triumphed. Prelates were vassals of the king who had now become Emperor; and the great corporate Church was subject to him. Nevertheless, this great corporate institution was Roman rather than Gallic or Frankish or German. It was Teuton only in those elements which represented ecclesiastical abuses, for example, the remaining irregularities of various kinds, the lay and martial habits of prelates, and even their appointment by the monarch. These were the elements which the Church in its logical Roman evolution was to eliminate. Charlemagne himself, as well as his lesser successors, strove just as zealously to bring the people into obedience to the Church as into obedience to the lay rulers. While the Carolingian rule was strong, its power was exerted on behalf of ecclesiastical authority and discipline; and when the royal administration weakened after Charlemagne's death, the Church was not slow to revolt against its temporal subjection to the royal power.
But the Church, in spite of Latin and Roman affinities, strove also to come near the German peoples and speak to them in their own tongues. This is borne witness to by the many translations from Latin into Frankish, Saxon, or Alemannish dialects, made by the clergy. Christianity deeply affected the German language. Many of its words received German form, and the new thoughts forced old terms to take on novel and more spiritual meanings. To be sure these German dialects were there before Christianity came, and the capacities of the Germans acquired in heathen times are attested by the sufficiency of their language to express Christian thought. Likewise the German character was there, and proved its range and quality by the very transformation of which it showed itself capable under Christianity. And just as Christianity was given expression in the German language, which retained many of its former qualities, so many fundamental traits of German character remained in the converted people. Yet so earnestly did the Germans turn to Christianity, and such draughts of its spirit did they draw into their nature, that the early Germanic re-expression of it is sincere, heartfelt, and moving, and illumined with understanding of the Faith.
These qualities may be observed in the series of Christian documents in the German tongues commencing in the first years of Charlemagne's reign. They consist of baptismal confessions of belief, the first of which (cir. 769) was composed for heathen Saxons just converted by the sword, and of catechisms presenting the elements of Christian precept and dogma. The earliest of the latter (cir. 789), coming from the monastery at Weissenburg in Alsace, contains the Lord's Prayer, with explanations, an enumeration of the deadly sins according to the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Galatians, the Apostles' Creed and the Athanasian. Further, one finds among these documents a translation of the De fide Catholica of Isidore of Seville, and of the Benedictine regula; also Charlemagne's Exhortatio ad plebem Christianam, which was an admonition to the people to learn the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. There are likewise general confessions of sins. Less dependent on a Latin original is the so-called Muspilli, a spirited description in alliterative verse of the last times and the Day of Judgment.
German qualities, however, express themselves more fully in two Gospel versions, the first the famous Saxon Heliand (cir. 835), (which follows Tatian's "Harmony"); the second the somewhat later Evangelienbuch of Otfrid the Frank. They were both composed in alliterative verse, though Otfrid also made use of rhyme. The martial, Teutonic ring of the former is well known. Christ is the king, the disciples are His thanes whose duty is to stand by their lord to the death; He rewards them with the promised riches of heaven, excelling the earthly goods bestowed by other kings. In the "betrayal" they close around their Lord, saying: "Were it thy will, mighty Lord of ours, that we should set upon them with the spear, gladly would we strike and die for our Lord." Out broke the wrath of the "ready swordsman" (snel suerdthegan) Simon Peter; he could not speak for anguish to think that his lord should be bound. Angrily strode the bold knight before his lord, drew his weapon, the sword by his side, and smote the nearest foe with might of hands. Before his fury and the spurting blood the people fled fearing the sword's bite.
The Heliand has also gentler qualities, as when it calls the infant Christ the fridubarn (peace-child), and pictures Mary watching over her "little man." But German love of wife and child and home speak more clearly in Otfrid's book. Although a learned monk, his pride of Frankish race rings in his oft-quoted reasons for writing theotisce, i.e. in German: Why shall not the Franks sing God's praise in Frankish tongue? Forcible and logical it is, although not bound by grammar's rules. Yes, why should the Franks be incapable? they are brave as Romans or Greeks; they are as good in field and wood; wide power is theirs, and ready are they with the sword. They are rich, and possess a good land, with honour. They can guard their own; what people is their equal in battle? Diligent are they also in the Word of God. Otfrid is quite moving in his sympathetic sense of the sorrow of the Last Judgment, when the mother from child shall be parted, the father from son, the lord from his faithful thane, friend from friend—all human kind. Deep is the mystic love and yearning with which he realizes Heaven as one's own land: there is life without death, light without darkness, the angels and eternal bliss. We have left it—that must we bewail always, banished to a strange land, poor misled orphans. The antithesis between the fremidemo lant (fremdes land) of earth, and the heimat, the eigan lant of Heaven, which is home, real home, is the keynote strongly felt and movingly expressed.
- Bede, Hist. Ecc. i. 13. Moreover, the chief partisan of Pelagius (a Briton) was Coelestinus, an Irishman whose restless activity falls in the thirty years preceding the mission of Palladius.
- As for the Irish Church in Ireland, there were many differences in usage between it and the Church of Rome. In the matters of Easter and the tonsure the southern Irish were won over to the Roman customs before the middle of the seventh century, and after that the Roman Easter made its way to acceptance through the island. Yet still the Irish appear to have used their own Liturgy, and to have shown little repugnance to the marriage of priests. The organization of the churches remained monastic rather than diocesan or episcopal, in spite of the fact that "bishops," apparently with parochial functions, existed in great numbers. Hereditary customs governed the succession of the great abbots, as at Armagh, until the time of St. Malachy, a contemporary of St. Bernard. See St. Bernard's Life of Malachy, chap. x.; Migne 182, col. 1086, cited by Killen, o.c. vol. i. p. 173. The exertions of Gregory VII. and Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury, did much to bring the Irish Church into obedience to Rome. Various Irish synods in the twelfth century completed a proper diocesan system; and in 1155 a bull of Adrian IV. delivered the island over to Henry II. Plantagenet. Cf. Killen, Eccl. Hist, of Ireland, vol. i. pp. 162-222.
- The works of St. Columbanus or Columban, usually called of Luxeuil, are printed in Migne's Patrologia Latina, 80, col. 209-296. The chief source of knowledge of his life is the Vita by Jonas his disciple: Migne, Pat. Lat. 87, col. 1009-1046. It has been translated by D. C. Munro, in vol. ii. No. 7 (series of 1895) of Translations, etc., published by University of Pennsylvania (Phila. 1897). See also Montalembert, Monks of the West, book vii. (vol. ii. of English translation).
- The article of H. Zimmer, "Über die Bedeutung des irischen Elements für die mittelalterliche Cultur," Preussische Jahrbücher, Bd. 59, 1887, presents an interesting summary of the Irish influence. His views, and still more those of Ozanam in Civilisation chrétienne chez les Francs, chap, v., should be controlled by the detailed discussion in Roger's L'Enseignement des lettres classiques d'Ausone à Alcuin (Paris, 1905), chaps, vi. vii. and viii. See also G. T. Stokes, Ireland and the Celtic Church, Lect. XL (London, 1892, 3rd ed.); D'Arbois de Jubainville, Introduction à l' étude de la literature celtique, livre ii. chap. ix.; F. J. H. Jenkinson, The Hisperica Famina (Cambridge and New York, 1909). Obviously it is unjustifiable (though it has been done) to regard the scholarship of gifted Irishmen who lived on the Continent in the ninth century (Sedulius Scotus, Eriugena, etc.) as evidence of scholarship in Ireland in the sixth, seventh, or eighth century. We do not know where these later men obtained their knowledge; there is little reason to suppose that they got it in Ireland.
- See the narrative in Green's History of the English People.
- There is no positive evidence that Augustine painted the terrors of the Day of Judgment in his first preaching. But it was a chief part of the mediaeval Gospel, and never absent from the soul of Augustine's master, Gregory. The latter set it forth vividly in his letter to Ethelbert after his baptism (Bede, Hist. Ecc. i. 32).
- Bede, Hist. Ecc. iii. 22, tells how a certain noble gesith slew his king from exasperation with the latter's practice of forgiving his enemies, instead of requiting them, according to the principles of heathen morality.
- Bede, Hist. Ecc. i. 30. Well known are the picturesque scenes surrounding the long controversy as to Easter between the Roman clergy and the British and Irish. The matter bulks hugely in Bede's book, as it did in his mind.
- Bede ii. 13.
- E.g. as in Bede iii. 1.
- One may bear in mind that practically all active proselytizing Christianity of the period was of a monastic type.
- A.D. 709. Hist. Ecc. v. 19, where another instance is also given; and see ibid. v. 7.
- See the pieces in Thorpe's Codex Exoniensis, e.g. the "Supplication," p. 452.
- Ecc. Hist. iv. 22.
- Bede, Hist. Ecc. iii. 19; v. 12, 13, 14. Of these the most famous is the vision of Fursa, an Irishman; but others were had by Northumbrians. Plummer, in his edition of Bede, vol. ii. p. 294, gives a list of such visions in the Middle Ages.
- On Aldhelm see Ebert, Allegemeine Ges. des Lit. des Mittelalters; and Roger, L' Enseignement des lettres classiques, etc., p. 288 sqq.
- This is noticeable in his Commentary on the Gospel of John, Migne, Pat. Lat. 92, col. 633 sqq.
- Migne, Pat. Lat. 91, col. 9. In another prefatory epistle to the same bishop Acca, Bede intimates that he has abridged the language of the Fathers: he says it is inconvenient always to put their names in the text. Instead he has inscribed the proper initials of each Father in the margin opposite to whatever he may have taken from him (in Lucae Evangelium expositio, Migne 92 col. 304).
- Migne 90, col. 258; ibid. col. 422. I have not observed this statement in Isidore.
- All of these are in t. 90 of Migne.
- His writings fill about five volumes (90-95) in Migne's Patrol. Latina. A list may be found in the article "Bede" in the Dictionary of National Biography. Beda der Ehrwürdigc, by Karl Werner (Vienna, 1881), is a good monograph.
- Ante, Chapter IV.
- The Works of King Alfred the Great are translated from Anglo-Saxon in the Jubilee edition of Giles (2 vols., London, 1858). The Pastoral Care and the Orosius are translated by Henry Sweet in the publications of the Early English Text Society. W. J. Sedgefield's translation of Alfred's version of the Consolations of Boëthius is very convenient from the italicizing of the portions added by Alfred to Boëthius's original. The extracts given in the following pages have been taken from these editions.
- Boëthius's words, which Alfred here paraphrases and supplements are as follows: "Turn ego, scis, inquam, ipsa minimum nobis ambitionem mortalium rerum fuisse dominatam; sed materiam gerendis rebus optavimus, quo ne virtus tacita consenesceret " (De consol. phil. ii. prosa 7).
- The substance of this bracketed clause is in Boëthius—the last words quoted in the preceding note.
- Toward the close of his life Alfred gathered some thoughts from Augustine's Soliloquies and from other writings, with which he mingled reflections of his own. He called the book Blossoms. He says in his preface: "I gathered me then staves and props, and bars, and helves for each of my tools, and boughs; and for each of the works that I could work, I took the fairest trees, so far as I might carry them away. Nor did I ever bring any burden home without longing to bring home the whole wood, if that might be; for in every tree I saw something of which I had need at home. Wherefore I exhort every one who is strong, and has many wains, that he direct his steps to the same wood where I cut the props. Let him there get him others, and load his wains with fair twigs, that he may weave thereof many a goodly wain, and set up many a noble house, and build many a pleasant town, and dwell therein in mirth and ease, both winter and summer, as I could never do hitherto. But He who taught me to love that wood, He may cause me to dwell more easily, both in this transitory dwelling … and also in the eternal home which He has promised us" (Translation borrowed from The Life and Time of Alfred the Great, by C. Plummer, Clarendon Press, 1902). These metaphors represent Alfred's way of putting what Isidore or Bede or Alcuin meant when they spoke in their prefaces of searching through the pantries of the Fathers or culling the sweetest flowers from the patristic meadows. See e.g. ante, Chapter V. and post, Chapter X.
- Far into the Frankish period there were many heathen in northern Gaul and along the Rhine: Hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, I. Kap. i. (second edition, Leipzig, 1898). Cf. Vacandard, "L'Idolatrie en Gaule au VIe et au VIIo siècles," Rev. des questions historiques, 65 (1899), 424-454.
- Mon. Germ. hist. Auctores antiquissimi, tom. i. Cf. Ebert, Ges. des Lit. des Mittelalters, i. 452 sqq.
- Cf. ante, Chapter VI.
- In those of its lands which were granted immunity from public burdens, the Church gradually acquired a jurisdiction by reason of its right to exact penalties, which elsewhere fell to the king.
- The synod of 549 declared (ineffectually) for the election of bishops, to be followed by royal confirmation.
- Hauck, Kirchenges. Deutschlands, Bd. I. Buch ii. Kap. ii.; Möller, Kirchengeschichte, Bd. II. p. 52 sqq. (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1893).
- Carloman went at first to Rome, and built a monastery, in which he lived for a while. But here his contemptum regni terreni brought him more renown than his monk's soul could endure. So, with a single companion, he fled, and came unmarked and in abject guise to Monte Cassino. He announced himself as a murderer seeking to do penance, and was received on probation. At the end of a year he took the vows of a monk. It happened that he was put to help in the kitchen, where he worked humbly but none too dexterously, and was chidden and struck by the cook for his clumsiness. At which he said with placid countenance, "May the Lord forgive thee, brother, and Carloman." This occurring for the third time, his follower fell on the cook and beat him. When the uproar had subsided, and an investigation was called before the brethren, the follower said in explanation, that he could not hold back, seeing the vilest of the vile strike the noblest of all. The brethren seemed contemptuous, till the follower proclaimed that this monk was Carloman, once King of the Franks, who had relinquished his kingdom for the love of Christ. At this the terrified monks rose from their seats and flung themselves at Carloman's feet, imploring pardon, and pleading their ignorance. But Carloman, rolling on the ground before them (in terram provolutus) denied it all with tears, and said he was not Carloman, but a common murderer. Nevertheless, thenceforth, recognized by all, he was treated with great reverence (Regino, Chronicon, Migne, Pat. Lat. 132, col. 45).
- For example, immunity (from governmental taxation and visitation) might attach to the lands of bishops and abbots, as it might to the lands of a lay potentate. On the other hand, the lands of bishops and abbots owed the Government such temporal aid in war and peace as would have attached to them in the hands of laymen. Such dignitaries had high secular rank. The king did not interfere with the appointment and control of the lower clergy by their lords, the bishops and abbots, any more than he did with the domestic or administrative appointments of great lay functionaries within their households or jurisdictions.
- There are numerous editions of the Heliand: by Sievers (1878), by Rückert (1876). Very complete is Heyne's third edition (Paderborn, 1883). Portions of it are given, with modern German interlinear translation, in Piper's Die älteste Literatur (Deutsche Nat. Lit.), pp. 164-186. Otfrid's book is elaborately edited by Piper (2nd edition with notes and glossary, Freiburg i. B., 1882). See also Piper's Die älteste Literatur, where portions of the work are given with modern German interlinear translation. Compare Ebert, Literatur des Mittelalters, iii. 100-117.
- The Heliand uses the epic phrases of popular poetry: they reappear three centuries later in the Nibelungenlied.