This is Part IV of a series of posts on Christianity, science and the Dark Ages. Click here for Part I, II or III. All posts in the series will be in the "History 2007" category for now. Given the length, I am thinking about setting up a separate category for this series. Part V will follow when time permits.
Myth Busting about the Era from 741 to 1003:
The photo in the upper left hand corner of this post is a picture of the interior of St. Michael's Church in Hildesheim, Germany. The church is considered a prime example of western European architecture of the late tenth century, founded in 996 A.D. and constructed in the early 11th century. That photo (shown here as a thumbprint) and others are on this Hildesheim tourism page. Later in this post, there is a topic on architecture in the 8th to 10th centuries with more photos and links to buildings from that era. All are in thumbprint as I am not sure if they are rights protected. Links are provided for the pages with the full-size photos.
It is important to show the pictures in answer to AC Grayling's assertion that:
"By the accident of its being the myth chosen by Constantine for his purposes, it plunged Europe into the dark ages for the next thousand years - scarcely any literature or philosophy, and the forgetting of the arts and crafts of classical civilisation (quite literally a return to daub and wattle because the engineering required for towers and domes was lost), before a struggle to escape the church's narrow ignorance and oppression saw the rebirth of classical learning, and its ethos of inquiry and autonomy, in the Renaissance."
Sir Richard W. Southern, in Western Society and the Church in the Middle Ages, spoke of the way the era in question is now understood as compared to the way it was once seen by the people who invented the term “Middle Ages”:
“For them it meant the age of barbarism, superstition, and ignorance, lying between the two ages of civilization, ancient and modern. Almost no one now thinks that this is at all a fruitful way of looking on the period [of the Middle Ages]. . . The fall of the Roman Empire left a mental and spiritual as well as a political ruin which it took centuries to repair. The collapse was a long and complicated business, but in the West it was complete by the end of the seventh century. It was then that the work of rebuilding began.”
“According to a tenacious prejudice, the Renaissance appeared as a sudden dawn putting an end to the prolonged darkness of the Middle Ages. Studies appearing in recent decades, however, have shown just how simplistic such a vision has been. We have discovered, with increasing amazement, that the Middle Ages were marked by successive renaissances which progressively shaped humanism in the West.”
Although the concept of a ninth century "Renaissance" from the time of Charlemagne to the early tenth century is disputed among historians, there is widespread recognition of the accomplishments of the people of that era, including those discussed in this post. Many of those accomplishments detailed here were taken from the recent historical research and writing by French medievalist Pierre Riché.
Similarly, German historian Gerd Tellenbach rejected the traditional concept of the expansion of Christianity, and wrote, in The Church in Western Europe from the tenth to the early twelfth century:
"[I]t would be better to see the period of mission as lying between the middle of the ninth century and the early thirteenth century, for only then were the last remnants of paganism eliminated in north Europe and among the Slavs of the Elbe and Baltic regions. Taking western Christianity as a whole it is also significant that the crucial advance of the Spanish reconquista came at the beginning of the thirteenth century."
The more conventional view would see the expansion of Christianity from the "point of view of European rather than Global Church history." Moreover, even in the era discussed in this post, according to Tellenbach, "Christians and heathens coexist under Viking rule in England and Ireland." Normandy was only gradually Christianized, becoming a French feudal state in the eleventh century. Sweden did not become truly Christian until around 1100,
Thus, the real process of Christianizing Europe was simultaneous with the process of recovery from the Dark Ages -- not the process of falling into them. Thus, even the chronological argument, by which some historians in an earlier era blamed Christianity for the fall of the Roman Empire because they believed, erroneously, that the spread of Christianity through Europe was simultaneous with its collapse, must fail. Not only was that argument unsupported by evidence of causation, but even the assertion that the events were in chronological proximity was factually incorrect.
Pippin III and the Papacy
After the death of King Charles (the “Hammer”) Martel in 741, local revolts were eventually overcome by his sons, Carloman and Pippin III. Carloman’s abdication in 747 left Pippin in control.
Far from having controlled Europe through the worst of the Dark Ages, the Church was in need of reform. There were previously Christianized regions in need of re-evangelization. Paganism had not yet disappeared. Carloman asked Boniface to convoke a synod, because Church discipline had been shattered for decades. Pippin likewise condemned superstition and paganism and sought to restore the use of the Rule of St. Benedict in religious houses. The western Church, at that time, was by no means a strong enough moral force to have caused or prevented the Dark Ages. That was about to change.
In 750, the Umayyad dynasty was overthrown in Baghdad, replaced by the Abassid dynasty. The Umayyad Abd ar-Rahman I, the survivor of the caliphs who had spread Islam through the Middle East, fled to Spain. There, he established a caliphate in Cordoba. Pippin, who was then at war with Arabs in western Europe, established diplomatic relations with the Muslim rulers. Envoys from Baghdad wintered in Metz in 768.
He soon drew papal attention. As of 700, the Byzantine emperor had been the effective ruler of much of Italy, including Rome, and the Bishop of Rome had been loyal to the Byzantine emperor. Until 752, the Popes had been Greek more often than Roman. But Lombard attacks on Italy had undermined Byzantine control. The Byzantine emperor had visited Rome for the last time in 663, and would not do so again until the 14th century. The Pope had visited Constantinople in 710, received with reverence, but would not do so again for many centuries. The last Greek Pope, Pope Zachary, held the papacy from November, 741 to March, 742, early in Pippin’s reign.
Losing effective protection from the Byzantine emperor, Pope Stephen II determined to build ties with King Pippin. In 754, Pope Stephen II came to Gaul and declared Pippin and his two sons to be “patricians of the Romans,” responsible to protect the papacy. The following year, Pippin went to Rome. The next Pope corresponded with Pippin, calling him the “new Moses” and the “new David.”
An inter-dependence developed between the Carolingians and the papacy in which there was no clear division between the role of the Church and the role of King or Emperor. The emperor, in a sense, became a part of the Church. In contrast with the largely Greek papacy of the previous era, from 752 to 1054, there were 44 Roman popes, 11 Italians, 4 Germans, 1 Frenchman and 1 Sicilian. The presence of St. Peter in Rome became the focus of western unity.
Thus, to speak of the Carolingians as bringing western Europe out of the Dark Ages is to speak of the Church having done so. They drew from Christianity -- from the examples of Moses and David -- in deciding what should be the role of a king.
New Intellectual and Liturgical Beginnings
The liturgical forms used in Frankish churches had varied before Pippin. Pippin instituted liturgical reform with the help of Bishop/Saint Chrodegang of Metz to incorporate the Roman liturgy into Carolingian churches. Moreover, the Carolingians did not simply incorporate what then existed in Rome. Rather, new forms developed that were distinctively Carolingian, influenced by Rome as well as by the East and by the native Frankish music. An old theory that Gregorian chant was brought to the Franks when Pope Stephen came to visit Pippin II is now widely rejected by music historians, including Kenneth Levy and the Abbey of Solesmes. Instead, it was the Carolingians who developed Gregorian chant and, in a later century, carried it to Rome.
St. Chrodegang, greatly knowledgeable of Latin culture, improved Latin linguistic skills among the clergy. Pippin entrusted royal administrative duties to clerics, resulting in improvement in royal documents, a more regular Latin script, and greater command of language in official documents. Manuscripts in Greek, a language little known to the Franks, were brought to Gaul and translated into Latin. Among the more important, those manuscripts included early translations of the works of Pseudo-Dionysius. Pippin also furthered the knowledge of Roman law among his jurists.
The value that Christianity had placed on the written word, music and liturgy were foundational, following references in Scripture and Church Fathers such as St. Augustine. Scriptural references to the importance of literacy and the written word are widespread: "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Write these words; in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel." (Ex. 34:27) "This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success." (Jos. 1:8) "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night." (Ps. 1:1,2) "O sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things!" (Ps. 98:1) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." (John 1:1, 14).
The greatest of the Carolingians was Charlemagne, who reigned for 47 years. His Thirty Years War succeeded in 804 at Christianizing Saxony, an achievement at which the Romans had failed. While the Celts (known as “Scots”) never became part of Charlemagne’s empire, some of their most brilliant people journeyed to the Frankish Kingdom. The Anglo-Saxon Alcuin settled in Gaul, where he furthered the reforms begun by Chrodegang. Charlemagne asked him to prepare a correct Latin text of the Bible, which became the standard Latin text of the Middle Ages.
By 780, a new lower case script had developed, regular in appearance, with equal spaces between the words. In 789, Charlemagne wrote that Catholic books for worship should be carefully corrected, and that the Gospels, Psalter and Mass books should only be copied by people who write very carefully. By the Renaissance, the Caroline script was mistaken for ancient Roman script, and it was used for Italic fonts and Roman typography. Chapel and court libraries were created, as well as monastic libraries, where books were shared. Goldsmiths and ivory carvers decorated luxury manuscripts.
On Christmas Day, 800, Charlemagne was crowned “emperor” by Pope Leo II in a Byzantine rite in St. Peter’s in Rome. A western empire had been re-created.
In 789, Charlemagne ordered each monastery and bishopric to create schools for boys. They were to be taught reading, writing, grammar, music, and arithmetic. In villages, the priests were to hold school, free of charge to the parents. Correct Latin came back into fashion. A poet praised Charlemagne for making as much effort to remove mistakes from books as to defeating his enemies. The growth in learning also gave the culture an increasing appreciation for the philosophical and scientific classics from the later Roman Empire.
At the palace at Aachen, Bl. Alcuin described a palace school with intellectual debates in which all could participate. He wrote to Charlemagne, concerning Charlemagne’s wishes for education in the empire, which Alcuin worked toward achieving:
“If most men were to embrace your outstanding intentions, perhaps a new Athens would be brought to perfection in Francia, indeed a far more excellent Athens. For ennobled by teaching of Christ the Lord, our Athens would surpass the wisdom of the Academy. Educated only in the disciplines of Plato, the old Athens glimmered thanks to the seven liberal arts. But enriched by the sevenfold plenitude of the Holy Spirit, the new Athens would surpass every glory of worldly wisdom.”
Charlemagne died on January 28, 814. Three years before his death, he partitioned his valuables among friends and officers. A description of the things partitioned includes gold, silver, precious stones, vases, and a series of silver tables with maps of Rome and Constantinople.
Louis "the Pious" and Charles the Bald
Before Charlemagne’s death, he crowned his sole surviving son, Louis “the Pious”, as co-emperor, “Emperor and Augustus.”
Louis’s son, Charles the Bald, was crowned emperor of the Romans by Pope John VIII at St. Peter’s in Rome on Christmas Day, 875. Among his gifts to Rome were a Bible still held at St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and the “Throne of St. Peter” held in a reliquary at St. Peter’s. He used the seal “Empire of the Romans and the Franks.” While he tried to re-establish ancient traditions, and to regain the entire empire that had been Charlemagne’s (portions of which had been lost), he would not have time to succeed. He died on October 6, 877.
Like his predecessors, Charles the Bald loved reading and learning. Like his forbears, he fostered the production of gold and ivory artwork and beautifully decorated books.
The Carolingians who followed him continued to hold power, to one degree or another, for another century. They were often called “emperor,” but with smaller territory. Western Europe entered a period of weakness, with new Viking invasions beginning in 879. In 882, pillagers threatened Reims. Abp. Hincmar of Reims, who had counseled emperor Charles the Bald, fled with the church treasury and relics. Reims survived the attack, but Hincmar died later that year. Pope John VIII also died late that year, possibly assassinated by one of his own entourage. Pagan Slav and Magyar invasions plagued western Europe through the early tenth century.
In the course of raids and invasions, much of what the Carolingians had had was pillaged or destroyed, including artwork, libraries, and buildings. Nonetheless, growth in population and growth in learning continued during the ninth century.
Alcuin, John Scottus Eriugena, and Intellectual Awakening of the Ninth Century
It was the eighth century Alcuin who set in motion the intellectual awakening that came to fruition in the ninth century. He and the Carolingian emperors had worked to rebuild education and the knowledge of classical texts. His work was based upon Scripture and the Church Fathers, especially Bl. Boethius and St. Augustine. However, Alcuin was a teacher, and not an original thinker. His writings echoed those of St. Augustine, rather than adding to them. It was not until the ninth century that substantial creative intellectual work was seen.
John Scottus, called "Eriugena," is among the foremost examples of that ninth century intellectual development. He was one of many Irish scholars who fled the Viking raids and settled in the Carolingian Empire. The Irish immigrants were well respected for their learning and apparently brought with them some of the classical Roman books that had been preserved in Irish monasteries through the barbarian invasions that had destroyed many Roman libraries.
While the major theological issues of the eighth century had been largely framed by eastern theologians centered in Constantinople, the major theological issues of the ninth century west developed separate from eastern thinking. They reflected a competition between the two centers of Constantinople and Aachen for supremacy. There were issues derived in part from questions over interpretations of the thinking of Augustine and Boethius on issues such as grace and free will (predestination); the question of whether the body of Christ was present in the Eucharist in truth or in spirit (transubstantiation); and the question of the interaction of Scripture, the Church Fathers, and reason in theological discussion (authority).
Although Eriugena's proposed answers to those questions were rejected as heretical, they represented an early effort to frame issues and to offer argument derived as much from reason as from Scripture, the Church Fathers, and the writings of Greek and Roman scholars of antiquity. His work was rejected initially because he applied the dialectic -- the science of secular philosophical reason -- to theological analysis. By the late tenth century, the application of reason to theology was no longer as controversial, but it would not be until the thirteenth century that St. Thomas Aquinas would truly find a balance and a unity between faith and reason that would prove to be lasting.
Nonetheless, Eriugena was protected by the emperor. He remained free, and his writings continued to be read and preserved. At the emperor's request, he made a translation from Greek to Latin of the work of Pseudo-Dionysius. His Treatise on Predestination weaves together ideas from St. Augustine, Bl. Boethius and Pseudo-Dionysius with an ease that somewhat belies the belief of that era that Pseudo-Dionysius was the convert of St. Paul, rather than nearly a contemporary of Augustine and Boethius (The writings of all three are known today to fall within a little more than one century). He did not appeal to reason in rebellion against the Christianity but, rather, in response to his understanding of Christianity.
A sampling of his writing reflects the Christian motivation for his work:
"The blessed theologian John [the Apostle] therefore flies beyond not only what may be thought and spoken, but also beyond all mind and meaning. Exalted by the ineffable flight of his spirit beyond all things, he enters into the very arcanum of the one principle of all. . . . And if you want to know how, or by what reason, all things are made through the Word thus subsist vitally, causally, and in the same manner in him, consider examples chosen from created nature." (Homily on the Prologue to John's Gospel).
"For he is the highest intellect in which all things exist together -- rather he is himself all things although called by a variety of names which take their meaning from the rational nature which was created in order to search him out. . . .Accordingly God, who fashioned all things, first in his goodness created the substances of the universe he was to create, and then in his generosity arranged to bestow gifts on each according to its rank. Manifestly, among those substances, he brought into being the nature of man under the control of a rational will. For man is not a will for the reason that he is will, but because he is a rational will." (Treatise on Divine Predestination)
Henry I, an heir of the Carolingians, restored the German monarchy. He designated his son Otto as his successor in 936. Otto, called by some the “new Charlemagne” or “Otto the Great”, regained control of Italy in 951. In 962, re-established the empire after 85 years of lesser unity. Under the Ottonians – Otto I, his son Otto II, and his grandson Otto III – the Carolingian concept of empire saw its final and greatest development from 962 to 1002.
Following the example of earlier emperors, the Ottonians also supported learned bishops who could teach the clerics on whose work they relied. Otto III collected books, including volumes written by Boethius, Isidore of Seville, Cassiodorus, among others. The artwork in his Gospel Book (such as an illustration of St. Luke) are celebrated.
In 954, Otto I’s son William became Archbishop of Mainz and brought the clergy and monks into the work of beautifying the liturgy. Otto II’s marriage to a well educated Byzantine princess, Theophano, brought to the royal chapel a group of Greek clerics and workmen. Textiles, ivory artwork, and manuscripts were created in a style similar to Byzantine style. The late tenth century saw religious art and manuscripts as a means of glorifying God and communicating God’s glory to the viewer.
Also, in contrast with the ninth century, the dialectic was increasingly taught in the schools. There was also a rebirth of Roman law, and a renewal of legal studies.
Rome, parts of which had long been empty, began to see new growth as the population rose. Otto III, who took pride in his Byzantine and Roman philosophical heritage, wanted Rome to be his imperial capital. Rome had still not fully recovered from the devastation of the sixth and seventh centuries. Its population had recovered, but only to the extent that it had 20,000 people. Regional conflicts plagued the city, which would never in fact become Otto III's imperial city.
Like his father, he sought a Byzantine bride. The request was granted, but the Byzantine emperor's niece was still in her journey to Bari when Otto III died at the age of 22.
The monk Gerbert of Aurillac was introduced to Otto I as a young man. Gerbert became tutor to Otto II, then abbot, archbishop, and eventually pope in 999 with the support of Otto III. Little remains of Gerbert’s writing other than letters and one short treatise. However, he imparted to his students an appreciation for the writings of Boethius, Plato, Aristotle, and other classical Greek and Roman writers, a mathematical understanding of music, and an understanding of geometry and astronomy. His creativity was so startling in his era that legends arose a century after his death, calling him a magician. As Pope Sylvester II, beginning in 999, Gerbert nurtured the new churches of Poland and Hungary. He worked to reform the clergy. Together with Otto III, he sought to re-establish the unity between east and west, to unify both Empire and Church as they once had been. In all of that, he often emulated Boethius. He even encouraged the emperor to venerate the tomb of Boethius in preference over that of St. Augustine during a visit to Pavia.
The Growth of Science and Technology
The new society, learning the technology that was known in theory in the ancient world, readily put it into practice. They often developed it creatively so that the use differed in different parts of Europe. Water mills spread throughout Europe. During the Roman Empire, the technology was known but little used. By 1086, the Domesday Book shows that there were 6,000 mills in England alone.
Gerbert of Aurillac and several other teachers of the tenth century were greatly successful. Gerbert carried into western Europe some of the Muslim knowledge of math and science in that day, having studied the abacus and Arabic treatises translated into Latin which were then available in Spain. Those included the writings of Maslama ibn Ahmad al-Majjriti on astronomy and the writings of Abu al Qasim on medicine. Gerbert's student Richer, a monk at the Royal Monastery of St. Remi, later wrote that "The number of students grew unceasingly."
Gerbert also made several contributions to science. He built a newly designed abacus which, according to Richer, made it possible for people to mentally perform multiplication and division of numbers "in less time than it took to formulate them." He wrote a treatise on the abacus for one of his students. He built wooden spheres to study the earth's zones and revolutions of planets and stars. He built an ocular tube to observe planets and stars, which is thought to have been used as a nocturnal to tell the time at night.
One of his students is thought, more likely than Gerbert himself, to have written a text on the use of the astrolabe which is often attributed to Gerbert. The fragments of Constance on the astrolabe, written in Richenau in 1008 based upon a model from around 995 confirm the use of a treatise on astronomy by monks educated by the Church in the tenth century.
The study of medicine was restored by another master, Vulfad, a monk of Fleury, at the school of Chartres in the late tenth century. At Chartres, another great master known as Fulbert of Chartres became famous for his understanding of medicine. After studying under Gerbert, Richer went to Chartres, where he studied the aphorisms of Hippocrates and a book titled "The Concordances of Hippocrates, Galen, and Soranus." He described learning pharmacy, botany, and surgery. Christian students in the tenth century also learned from the writings of Jewish doctors, including Hasdai ibn Shaprut.
Dramatic Growth in Music Theory and Composition
The western liturgy and chant developed with Carolingian and Ottonian support for learning and for the Church. As the spread of Christianity through Germany had helped to unify the region under St. Boniface earlier in the eighth century, reform and development under another German bishop, Chrodegang, was supported by the Carolingians later in the same century. Under Bishop Chrodegang, the chant of the Mass developed in Metz around 765. It was called "Gregorian" in honor of Pope/St. Gregory the Great. The chant of the Office was developed at St. Martin of Tours around 800, where Charlemagne sent Alcuin toward the end of Alcuin's life.
Gregorian chant spread through western Europe during the ninth and tenth centuries, aided by newer, more sophisticated forms of musical notation. Boethius's 6th century Treatise on Music was influential through the ninth and tenth centuries, an analysis of both the physics and mathematics of music, in harmony and scales, as well as the philosophy of music and its effect on people. Much of Boethius' work had been lost for 300 years, resurfacing in the early 9th century. Historian Calvin Bower hypothesizes that a copy of his work on mathematics had been preserved in Ireland, while Italian libraries were destroyed in Barbarian invasions. Michael Bernhard theorizes that the work of Boethius was then collected in Charlemagne's library at Aachen. In the tenth century, Gerbert of Aurillac paid attention to copying the classical manuscripts, particularly those of Boethius.
And yet, there can be no doubt that the medieval Christians drew from that classical theoretical analysis and applied it to produce new musical applications. Those applications spread far beyond the achievements of Roman and Greek theoretical understanding. Music and rhetoric were part of liturgy, and liturgy was for the whole Christian population, not the province of the elite few.
Some time in the late tenth or early eleventh century, the Carolingian antiphons began to be used in Rome, along with the newer Carolingian liturgy. By the turn of the eleventh century, improvements in the way music was written dramatically changed the ability to spread music by written notation. That, in turn, changed the connection between the singer and the written music. The change was a matter of music theory, of a new understanding of the mathematical and physical relationships of notation. It has been called "the most significant turning point in the entire history of music in the west." (Saulnier)
Lastly, the Carolingian liturgy included a western way of saying the Creed, with the filioque. At that time, the Roman churches still used an older liturgy that did not include a creed. The adoption of the Carolingian liturgy in the Roman churches, probably under Henry II in the eleventh century, was destined to have troubling consequences.
Restoration and New Creativity in Architecture
In contrast with the poor housing seen among invading peoples, and those left in poverty within the de-populated west of the seventh century, Pierre Riché's writings on the Carolingians and the year 1000 (linked below) provide repeated examples of how the Carolingians began to build. They created new structures with the magnificence fitting for imperial buildings. As the population grew and education improved, particularly in times of stability, more structures were built. Some of them were elaborate.
In the course of the Carolingian era, 100 royal residences were constructed or refurbished. 27 cathedrals and hundreds of monastery buildings were built. Ancient treatises on architecture, including that by Vitruvius, were discovered and put to new use, prompting a renewal of construction in stone. Kings who had traveled to Italy wanted arches and beautiful churches and chapels. Carolingian architects put their own ideas into the work, rather than merely copying older Roman plans.
The octagonal Royal Chapel at Aachen [photo at left from this page], designed by Odo of Metz, and built beginning in 702, still survives. The royal residence there once included four groups of buildings. They included a royal audience hall similar in size to the aula palatina in ancient Trier. Marble columns for the palace were taken from older structures. A covered walkway connected the palace residence to a group of religious buildings arranged as a Latin cross. Beyond that were the houses of bishops, merchants, and dignitaries. Nearby were a hunting park and menagerie, where Charlemagne kept an elephant he received from an Abbasid caliph. A foundry in Aachen created decorative metals, including the wrought iron and bronze doors that still survive in the chapel.
The palace was well known, and its features were imitated elsewhere in the empire into the 11th century. A church at Ottmarsheim in Alsace, built early in the eleventh century, reflected the design at Aachen.
New monastic buildings were also constructed at St. Denis in the 8th century.
John Scottus Eriugena wrote a description of the Carolingian chapel at the monastic foundation at Compiègne, a building that no longer exists. Here is part of his poem describing the chapel:
“A house built varied with columns of marble,
Made beauteous in accord with the hundred-length norm!
Behold the curving angles and the rounded vaults, . . .
The towers, the parapets, the coffered ceiling, and skillful roof;
The tapered windows, the breaths of light beglassed; . . .
All glimmers with gems and glistens with gold.”
The abbey church of St. Germain was rebuilt in the 9th century, designed from a wax model. Antique columns were brought from Provence, and frescoes decorated the corridor and chapels by the saint’s relics in the crypt [photo at left from this page]. The frescoes were found under plaster in 1927.
Frescoes appear to have been common decorations for Carolingian churches. Other such frescoes survive from the time of Charlemagne at the Church of St. John at Münster, Switzerland, including 20 Old Testament scenes and 62 Gospel scenes.
An architectural study still exists from the early 9th century, showing a great church with two apses, east and west.
Around the year 1000, Archbishop/St. Willigis built new cathedrals in Mainz and also sought to encourage church art as an expression of God’s glory.
Not far from Mainz, Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim built the Church of St. Michael’s in the late tenth century, featuring towers and other sophisticated architectural features. The interior is shown in the picture in the upper left corner of this post. Although the building was badly damaged in World War II, it still stands as restored and rebuilt in the 1950's. Now celebrated bronze doors were built for the abbey of St. Michael at the turn of the 11th century. Among the books from that era of St. Michael’s history are a copy of Vitruvius’ treatise on architecture and Boethius’ De Arithmetica. The geometric principles from those books were applied in the construction of the transepts and the east and west apses of the abbey church in Hildesheim.
The cathedral of Reims was restored beginning 976. Nearly one-quarter of the vaults of the church were demolished and rebuilt. After the fire of Orléans in 987, the cathedral and several other churches were rebuilt. The Basilica of Our Saviour (Lateran Basilica) was restored and became the location of the tombs of the popes, rather than St. Peter's.
The Roman forms were not merely copied, but rather were applied creatively. The architectural style varied in different regions of the empire, as artists and architects sought to create a new art form.
Archaeological evidence suggests a great effort to restore churches in the late 8th century, and another such effort in the tenth and eleventh centuries. Gerd Tellenbach notes that the restoration of churches, and foundation of many new churches, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, began as invasions died down. It was a time when the population was growing and populations were moving. Tellenbach mentions, "The imaginative Rodulfus Glaber reported enthusiastically that after the millennium the world clothed itself in a white robe of churches."
The Christianization of Kievan Russia
While the Ottonian west spread Christianity to Poland and Hungary in the tenth century, it was the Byzantine liturgy that spread in the that century to Kievan Russia. The impact of a family connection is not clear. However,Ottonian Empress Theophano, the Byzantine wife of Otto II, was the cousin of the Byzantine princess Anne who was given in marriage to Russia’s Prince Vladimir before his conversion to Christianity. Theitmar, the German Bishop of Magdeburg who was the contemporary of Otto II and Vladimir, had called Vladimir “an exceptional fornicator.” The western Church expressed disgust at the marriage of their empress’s cousin to the notorious Russian prince in 988. However, the prince had had a Christian mother and grandmother. Tradition places Vladimir’s baptism on January 6, 988, while historian George P. Fedotov estimates the year at 1000. Whatever the date, after his conversion and baptism, Vladimir became committed to Christian mission. A glowing description of Prince Vladimir followed in 1008, when Saint/Bishop Bruno of Querfurt wrote to Henry II about his encounter with Vladimir during a missionary journey.
The joy with which the Russian people accepted Christianity is shown in Hilarion’s Eulogy for Prince Vladimir, who is St. Vladimir the Great in the Orthodox Church:
“See also your city beaming in its grandeur! See your blossoming churches, see the growing Christianity, see the city gleaming in its adornment of saintly images, and fragrant with thyme, and re-echoing with hymns and divine, sacred songs! And seeing all this, rejoice and be glad, and praise the good God, the creator of all this.”
The Hope for Unity
The hope for a unity of Church and Empire was a pragmatic reality in the year 1000, when the Byzantine Empire was linked to the Ottonian Empire and the Kievan Empire by the marriage of two Byzantine princesses to Prince Vladimir of Kiev and to Otto II, the mother of Otto III. The western Emperor, who took pride in his philosophical Greek and Roman heritage, had wanted to build the center of his empire in Rome. He adopted Greek titles, replacing the Latin, for some of his officials. His request for a Byzantine bride had been granted, and a niece of Byzantine Emperor Basil II was en route to the west to become his wife at the time of his death.
The young Otto III viewed Rome, Aachen and Constantinople as the 3 imperial cities. Although the Ottos had been crowned emperor in Rome, and had been in Italy for a little more than a third of their combined reign, Otto III never gained control of the city. Regional powers were gaining in strength who did not wish to see imperial power extended. There were people who wanted the half-Greek Otto III and his philosopher Pope to devote more attention to the historic central Carolingian region in Germany. Theophano had never been fully accepted by the western European people. As she continued to dress in Byzantine fashion, she was sometimes called "the Greek Empress."
In the spring of 1001, Otto III and his army entered Rome, but never went beyond St. Paul's Outside the Walls. They soon learned that opposition to their efforts was growing in Germany. They returned to Germany for a synod at the end of the year, hoping to raise support for the expedition. Returning to Rome, the emperor fell ill from malaria at Paterno, north of the city. He died there on January 24, 1002.
Gerbert was over 60 years old and was considered an old man in that day. He was allowed back into Rome, considered relatively harmless without his emperor. Following Otto III's death, Gerbert changed his title to one that reflected his desire to be the pope of all Christians, and not just those of western Europe. He had previously signed his name "Gerbert also known as Silvester" or "Silvester who is called Pope Gerbert." He began to call himself, "Supreme Pope and Universal Vicar of the Blessed Peter, Servant of the Servants of God."
Otto III's successor, Henry II, had no interest in attempting to re-unite the old Roman Empire. Regional powers were gaining strength in preference over a western empire. Gerbert died in Rome on May 12, 1003, having fallen ill while saying Mass at Rome's Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem.
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The photo below is one of several photos of the statue of Gerbert in Aurillac, France, generously taken by a reader, Georg, in Aurillac. This one shows the base of the statue, with pictures of Gerbert at the far right with an invention. To his left, behind a child, is the French King Hugh Capet. Behind King Hugh are the Emperors Otto I, Otto II and Otto III, with Bishop Fulbert of Chartres: