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Evolution of Culture Between Rome and The Carolingians

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After that the Roman empire and the Church passed to Barbarians (400-480 A.D.) with the monastic and episcopal schools teaching the Franks or great popes like Gregory the Great maintaining the standards of Church culture (exegesis, chant, texts correction, etc.) on the basis of the Augustinian tradition, then came (650-700 A.D.) a period of deep decline, when the Church contented itself of training his clercis, as Spain was a exception, where the previous trend kept on and they used profane literacy at the service of Sacred. Then (690-800 A.D.) a European culture definitively appeared, technician or commercial, which had been born in the monasteries of Ireland, then England or even Lombardy, with the Venerable Bede, St. Boniface, or Alcuin as that culture was using profane texts, for Church culture excepted. The Carolingian renaissance federated all those but swiftly turned to Cesaropapism. The Carolingian decline (800-1000 A.D.) at last, brought first mistakes of the rationalism and it yielded a multiplicity of places and ways of culture. Conditions of intellectual activity in the West were, finally, linked to political hazards because it was a activity of court and/or patrons. Links however remained sporadically with Byzantium and the East as the forms of the Antiquity often remained the models. Culture of the times however was not sufficient anymore to allow actors to really understand those. The passage, in the West, to the Middle Ages, resulted from that the antique Roman aristocracy stopped defending its Roman culture, which was taken back partially only by the Church. The Roman culture at the time stopped matching the new reality

A Indecisive Epoch (480-650 A.D.)

That time was that of a still indecisive Europe as one wanted to pass to Barbarians and Byzantines reappearing in Italy at the same time. The Church was in decline and a sole elite of Visigoths perpetuated some dynamism in Spain. Church, first, by the end of Rome had become the symbol of attachment to Rome as last Roman scholars disappeared by about 480 A.D. Some first move consisted into the end of use of Greek language and thus of philosophy as Church also was seeing the end of theology. That time also endeavoured to turn towards Barbarians and first Christian 'schools' were created both in monasteries, like in Lerins, by Cassiodorus and bishoprics, like Césaire in Arles as such schools were aiming to train clerics. Barbarians, as far as they were concerned, were interested above all into applied science like measure of domains, architecture, law, or medicine, etc. The Justinian reconquest put a end to that move and, after Gregory the Great, Christian culture, like exegesis, libraries, correction of texts, or the chant, as it had remained very Augustinian, with no innovation, eventually disappeared in Italy. A culture who was still referring to Rome -and with no philosophy too- kept in Austrasia through southern scholars (which constituted the so-called 'austraso-provencal circle') and also in the South of Gaul through Gallo-roman aristocratic families. Everything however dried up about 650 A.D. and Church science only remained extant in regions with cities where councils were usually held. Christian schools eventually focused upon a Church culture only which is moreover in decline! North of Gaul meanwhile, under the Frankish rule, passed to a culture of warriors and breeders and the land of the oral and symbolic culture of Franks. A form of 'renaissance' occurred by about the mid-7th century, with scholars who had left South and who even brought a influence of Byzantium in Austrasia. But that renaissance declined between 600 and 700 A.D. as the training of laymen, both North and South of Gaul turned a religious training only. The Merovingian court, on a other hand, constituted a place of administrative training but his role also disappeared about 639 A.D. Youth generally, were educated among their own family. A same evolution was at work in Visigothic Spain with somewhat more culture, which might have been due to some Byzantine influence. Church culture developed there as the creation of Christian schools kept on, with their standards maintained. Everywhere in Europe and specially in Spain, some culture also was perpetuated in monasteries as soon as such a profane culture, like defined by Pope Gregory the Great or Cassiodorus, is put to good use to deepen Churche one. Generally those times had lost the use of Greek and Hebrew. Clercis in Northern Africa look like they had kept their attachment to Rome a long time. In that period that way, Rome was lost to scholars as culture turned Christian only, focusing upon basic clerics' training. It is also possible, on a other hand, that the few persistences or renaissances which existed at the time, be often limited as neither clerics nor laymen participated into in numbers but several reknown scholars instead

The Passage to The West (650-750 A.D.)

That second epoch was that of the birth of the 'West.' They then came back to antique works without that Romanity reappeared. First, until about 680 A.D., a move appeared which tended to give a novel form to culture of northern Europe. Ireland, turned a center of culture had no prevention of some liberal arts. Irishmen, through St Colombanus were to revive study of the Bible and lay piety in continental Europe about 650 A.D. as they will cohabit with the Benedictine rule' expansion. Books kept rare in Anglo-saxon Britain and Britain, above all, turned the location where laymen definitively were now educated in monastic schools, which is a certain sign of the Middle Ages. A Barbaric culture on a other hand, which was interlaced with Germanic references is perpetuating itself. In Lombardic Italy further, despite what was apparent, Lombards passed to culture. All that eventually formed a new Church culture. Countries which were located more South, as far as they were concerned, kept faithfull to a culture which was a Church one only, like in Rome or in Spain as clerics are lacking or are few trained. Rome at that time further heavily bore the weight of the tutelage of Byzantines. Of interest also is that the Barbaric art was coming from farther from the Germans themselves still, with no doubt from the Scythians in the eastern plains then from the Sarmatians their heirs, through the Goths who had settled in the southeasternmost parts. Such a influence was also found at the time by the Persians, the Byzantines and Chinese as, it is also perpetuated in the West from Byzantine through objects, before the Carolingians, like ivories, jewels and manuscripts which are traded by 'Syrians' who had the monopoly of the East-West trade, or pilgrims and monks coming to establish themselves in the western kingdoms. On a other hand and at miscellaneous degree according distance or how German people had settled in a given area, between the 6th and 8th centuries A.D., the Roman tradition, the Byzantine influence and the Barbaric input, or a disparate mix with a background of a general decline. People then fell into a 'idling life' which was waiting for the Carolingian renaissance. Germany was not to feature any monumental buildings before that date

Such a individualization of Barbarian West kept after 680 A.D. Monasteries and bishoprics accepted themselves like cultural centers and trained clerics and monks succeded those monks who had been a generation of builders and founders! They again journeyed from one point to another and thus contributed to that sense of a new identity. Books also were reappearing and Irish fame was perpetuated through Anglo-saxon missionaries who paradoxically had kept being intellectually trained in the Irish way. That was the generation of the Venerable Bede, or St Boniface, or even Alcuin, who all originated from a 'Anglo-saxon renaissance,' which had become attached to all was concrete and technique with the culture of Antiquity as it kept rejecting philosophy and science, in relation with Church culture included. That was very important because, contrarily to what had been seen in the 6th century, when Cassiodorus or St Isidore were still Roman in thought, or 'humanists,' English clerics focused culture back upon the sole needs of Church, a other typical trait of the Middle Ages. Such a renewal however, again concerned a elite only. Italy waked up from its lethargy by 720 A.D. only, once the Byzantine presence over and above all, the country saw a revival of a more important trade. That required a minimal education and cities as Pavia, the capital city to Lombards was associated to that much more lay culture. By the end of those times -a other sign of the Middle Ages- only the elite of clerics, monks and princes eventually were acceding to culture. Of note that some authors, as far as the Early Middle Ages are concerned, are evoking a 'litterature of contoversies,' which often is taking on any element in the news

Opening out Into The Carolingian Renaissance (starting 750 A.D.)

Since the 720's, the Frankish kingdom, with southern Gaul too and even a good part of continental Europe, were driven into struggles and disorders, which was a annoyance to clerics' standards of knowledge and made every education of laymen and every cultural life to diseappear. The compensation of his followers by a 'secularization' of Church's property by Charles Martel, likely increased the decline of the Church in Frankish dominions. Since 80 years -- around 650 A.D. -- no more Council had been assembled in Gaul and it took the endeavours of St Boniface to restore the Frankish Church, clergy and people into religion as well as the connection to the Pope of Rome. But, like a form of misunderstanding, Pepin the short was above all a Gallican. Further -- even via the system of the 'precaire' -- churches remained in poverty as other spoliations took place under Charlemagne while counts' profits came form Church property and, whatever may have been the obligations imposed on the recipients, that constituted more plunder! Monasteries only maintained the level they have found back and scriptorium were working. Very naturally thus a logics settled along with the Carolingian reorganization. Carolingians were to put clerics to work in terms of administration, they helped missions in Germany (where missionaries quickly founded centers of culture which must be considered like the basis to the idea of Carolingian Renaissance). They also benefited from the refuges constituted by educated monasteries, or, for example, they eventually found in northern Italy people instrumental to the cultural renaissance, Alcuin included. Even Charles the Hammer had sent his son Pippin the Short by 735 A.D. to the Lombardic court so he could learn there the renewed literary and administrative environmnent. Carolingians and their Greats adopted the new usage to have their young trained in monasteries as Pippin the Short, for example, was trained in St-Denis. The Carolingian Renaissance eventually too cosmopolitan aspects as soon as its beginnings and it is even possible that the concern to have more trained clerics only came second. Clerics at the Carolingian times further tended to close themselves like a caste as the lay status fell in value and considered a concession to human weakness

The Carolingian Renaissance was the result of the multiples experiments known during the Barbaric times but it differentiated itself from what had come before in terms of efforts to set Church, or culture generally right, in that, despite a so modest a aim -having clercis and laymen to master basics- Charlemagne would have had centers widespread where cultural standards were to be improved. Schools indeed were to exist everywhere instead of centers of culture here and there. The Carolingian Renaissance, on a other hand, kept relatively limited as, some efforts of reasoning or of personal views -which never reached any philosophical level- excepted, it did not innovate. More efforts and originality were to reappear by the 9th century A.D. once the Carolingian schools put to work and the works of the Antiquity copied out

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, http://schoolsempire.6te.net. Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 10/28/2016. contact us at geguicha@outlook.com