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Irishmen

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As the Carolingian renaissance had been Italian by the early reign of Charlemagne, then Anglo-Saxon with Alcuin between 782 and 796 A.D., the late reign of Charles had the first Irishmen appearing, those who, Clement and Dungal maybe, are evoked by the beginnings of the 'De Carolo Magno' by the monk of St-Gall. They both are however on the edge of heresy as they were belonging to the troubled Church of the end of Merovingian times, rejecting the ecclesiastical canons and Patristics. Clement is a kind of gyrovague as, with the other Scot, Adelbert, he was even condemned by a Council at Soissons to relegation. After some pause, the Irish immigration became important again about 840, when the 'Scots' had then become present throughout the Empire and their prominence affirming itself definitively under Charles the Bald, turning, with John Scotus Eriugena, in something more intellectual, beyond what Charlemagne had merely wished like a cultural renaissance. Why did Irish scholars came back in force on the Continent more than two centuries after Columbanus? With no doubt, maybe one can see into the feat the influence the Irishmen had maintained in the schools of the kingdom of Wessex until the beginning of the 8th century. Willibrord or Boniface had been issued from those and Wessex, moreover, under Charlemagne, had had its king, Egbert, like a refugee at the Carolingian court at the time of the supremacy of Mercia. Wessex, since 825, then was to become the new power of a England united for the first time, culminating with Alfred the Great (ab. 849-899) who also was at the origin of a cultural revival. The Irish renewal might better be due too to that Ireland, since 820 A.D, saw the Viking threat to extend its shadow over the monasteries

The Irish Scholars Under Charlemagne

Alcuin, as long as he kept being the chief of the Carolingian renaissance, until by 796 A.D., was bearing the Anglo-Saxon, Roman, and Latin culture. He had relegated all what was Irish because he considered Ireland like the vector of the Greek, thus pagan culture. Both Scots which are seen to preach wisdom ascetically, for no pay, in the markets by the beginnings of the 'De Carolo Magno' might be St. Clement of Ireland and Ailbe. Clement, on a other hand, might have been the master of the Palace School before Alcuin, about 774 and, when Alcuin retired in Tours, by 796, St. Clement naturally was chosen again for the Palace School. He also was the regent of the school of Paris until his death which likely occurred after 818 A.D. The development of the influence of the Irish scholars is probably to be dated from the second tenure of Clement. Ailbe, as far as he is concerned, was sent by Charlemagne 'into Italy and [he] gave him the monastery of Saint Augustine near Pavia,so that all who wished might gather there to learn from him.' Irihsmen's interest mostly was turned to calculus. Clement was a grammarian and the head of the Irish camp. A other influential Scot is the 'Hibernicux Exul,' or the 'exiled Irishman' who was a poet and wrote a poem about the victory of Charles against Tassilo, Duke of Bavaria as he might also be the one who teached Charlemagne about the double solar eclipse of 810. Others too, like Cruindmelus, a grammarian, Donat of Fiesole, a bishop, or Cathuulf, a great Irish poet, are ill-known. One named Josef the Scot, who was friend and disciple of Alcuin, is said to have wrote a commentary about Isaie. Another Irishman, Dicuil, is remarkable for his knowledge in geography and for his science in terms of astronomy. By the end of Charles' reign, at last, here came Dungal, a monk of St-Denis, a theologian and scientist who took at the side of Charlemagne the place Alcuin had had. He was a specialist in calculus and astronomy and he wrote to Charles about lunar eclipses as he also distinguished himself in a polemacy against Spanish adoptionists and iconoclasts in the entourage of Louis the Pious, during the latter's reign in Aquitaine. He also was a poet and he founded a school in Pavia

All those Scots were also teachers as they participated into the generation of the Carolingian renaissance scholars who immediately followed Alcuin. The first generation like the Italians and then Alcuin had allowed to a intellectual elite among the Franks, like a Einhard, Rabanus Maurus or a Nithard. Charles, at that time, turned a pupil no more but the chief instead of the Palace School. Now Charles did not spend its time mostly upon the battlefields anymore, but he was a ruler edicting laws, and he also had more time for reflexion and poetry. Why did Charlemagne allow the Scots into the renaissance? He however was cautious as he personally had been in Italy or he had continued relations with the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms but he did not know Ireland. It is possible that the question of the Empire and of Byzantines, or the presence of anti-iconoclast monks refugees might have brought a need to better know all what was Greek and thus that, once the role of Irishmen in the monachist ideal passed to Benedictines, it was fair to put their proximity to the Greek world to profit. That return of the Scots unto the continent however mostly was a mere passade as Roman Catholic Church only could privilege Latin and the Latin culture, with the Greek abandoned since centuries in the Western Church and only a reminder of Byzantium whence Rome, since the Iconoclast crisis, is definitively getting distant. As soon as when he retired to the abbey of St-Martin-of-Tours, Alcuin got the echoes of that new influence in the court of Aachen! There, they didn't read Virgile anymore but Homer instead. In a letter written to Charles by 798, Alcuin named 'Egyptians' the young Scots now preponderant in the Palace and denounced their litterary interests, like: 'When I left, I was leaving Romans behind. Who thus introduced Egyptians?' as, by 803 A.D., he makes irony about those 'Athenian Sophists.' Einhard had indulged himself to be also seduced by the Scots, like Charlemagne, but he quickly came back to the position of Alcuin and he fought the Irish scholars, denouncing their non-appropriate Greek proselytism. And the same with Theodulf, who in a poem, rimes 'Scots' with 'dumbs.' The successors to Alcuin, and Einhard, Fridugise, Osulf or Wizzo above all -all of them Anglo-Saxons- who perpetuated the inital choices of the Latin, Rome and England! Dungal thus did only transition in the Frankish kingdom as he died in Bobbio, northern Italy as that, on a other hand, is well showing how Scots are keeping unto the tracks of their great ancestors like Columbanus

The Irish Scholars Under Louis the Pious

By until 840 A.D., under the reign of Louis the Pious, Irishmen came back to a limited number among scholars. That likely was linked to the debates which now were current in the Carolingian court about men of low origin that acceded to the high spheres of power, like freed slaves or the sons of the domestics of the Palace, to who the chroniclers of the troubles between the heirs to Louis attributed the unhappiness of the time. The chorbishop of Trier, for example, told to Ebbo who has been named archbishop that 'the Emperor made thee free, he did not made thee noble.' That was taken in account because all the Scots of the second period of the Carolingian Renaissance, like Clement, were teachers and they all took part into the upwards promotion of such people. That gave birth to the famed episode when Charles is gifting humble pupils who worked hard with posts as he is admonesting the sons of his Greats who just relied upon their lineage. Irish scholars, under Louis the Pious, were on their decline as it is under that same reign however that most of those present by the reign of Charlemagne attained to their real wealth. A Scot was named at the head of the school of Pavia as he is said to have defended there the cult of images against Claude of Torino. Clement had now become one of the main leaders of the cultural cenacle of the Emperor's court as he further was named like the preceptor of Lothar, the successor to Louis to whom the imperial title was to be transmitted. The most prominent Scot of that time was Dicuil. Dicuil already was part of the Irishmen under Charles and Louis the Pious interested himself into him too. A astronomer and, mostly, a geographer, he was famed for his 'Liber de Mensura Orbis Terrae,' in which, working from Plinius, Solinus, Isidore of Seville and others, and adding his own observations, he gave a description of the world of the time. The work contained also a few reports of contemporary travelers, like monk Fidelis, who traveled about 762 A.D. along the canal linking the Nile to the Red Sea, or like monks who had spent six months in Iceland. Feroe Islands and the so-called Ultima Thule also were part of his description of the world!

The Irish Scholars Under Charles the Bald

Irish immigration became important again since about 840 A.D. or at the time of the Treaty of Verdun. With the division of the Empire between Charles, Lothar and Louis, any link between the Greats did not immediately get severed as scholars still could easily pass from a court to another. Scots, by 830, were found, as far as Italy is concerned, in Milano, Verona, Lucqua, Bobbio (under Bishop Cummian) or Fiesole. In Alemania, Moengall, was the head of the scriptorium and the Palace School. Drogo, Bishop of Metz, in Lotharingia harboured Muretach who wrote a commentary upon Donat. The son of King Lothar, Lothar II, welcomed Sedulius Scot by 845. Sedulius, a scholar in numerous domains, a poet, grammarian, theologian, exeget and a moralist, he became acquainted to the bishops of Köln and Metz as he was living in Liège, where he likely was the founder of the school there with some of his compatriots who had already been present in the city since under Lothar I. In the Francia Occidentalis, Charles the Bald, as far as he is concerned, was re-dynamizing the Carolingian renaissance and also welcoming the Scots, who represented the most numerous of strangers in the Empire, like Dunchad, a grammarian, in Reims, Israel in Auxerre or Elias in Laon. Two sacramentaries in Cambrai, about 800 and a penitential about 820, hint to the presence of two Scots. Irish poets also would have exert their art in Soissons as Marc, a old bishop from Brittany, was found in the monastery of St-Medard, or Sebastian in St-Germain-of-Auxerre told to Heiric, by the end of his life, the life of the abbey's founder! In Laon, Irishmen were the most numerous -and the most renowned- where a Irish influence existed since long. The master of the school there was Martinus Scotus (819-875) as he wrote a commentary upon Martianus Capella's 'Weddings of Philology and Mercury.' He based himself upon that work to teach the liberal arts. He also wrote many studies and works by request of his compatriots, like for Sedulius, Eriugena (for whom he wrote a Greek-Latin dictionary), or Probus of Mainz with who he was in relation, or for Servat, Lupus of Ferrieres and Bishop Pardulus of Laon. Martinus also is credited with poems written in the Tironian script, a script deviced by Tiro, a slave of Cicero at the effect of taking discourses in notes. Heiric, in Auxerre, evoked the Scots in the preface of his 'Vita Sancti Germani:' 'Whole Ireland now, despiseful of the sea and the dangers of it, is transporting to our shores with the troup of his philosophers. The more a Scot is learned and skilled, the more, with pleasure, he decides himself to such a exile at the purpose of responding to the call of the new Solomon.'

The most famed Scot of the cultural renaissance under Charles the Bald of course was John Scotus Eriugena. John Scotus Eriugena was the head of the Palace School of that time. The times then had changed since those of Charlemagne when the Carolingian revival was aiming to more trained clerics or civil servants of the monarchy then the Empire, through the Latin culture. Patristics now instead, along with philosophy were studied, meaning a time when intellectual life was recognized his independency as such. The Palace School, under Charles the Bald, likely was settled in Paris. John Scotus Eriugena had came in the continent by 845 A.D. as he was the greatest intellectual of that second periode of the Carolingian renaissance. He frequently traveled to Laon where a important settlement of other Irish scholars existed as he adjoined himself, for the translations from the Greek he needed, the collaboration of Martinus Scotus, the master of the school there. Charles the Bald himself -who John Scotus lauded for his religious zeal and his interest for the Greek Fathers as he did not stopped to the Latin ones, despite those troubled times for cause of Northmen and intestine wars- had asked to Eriugena to rewrite the very defectuous translation of the 'Celestial Hierarchy,' by St. Dionysius the Aeropagite, a work pope Paul I had offered to Pippin the Short by 757 as it was conserved in the library of the abbey of St-Denis, close to Paris. People of the time uncorrectly holded the work for a one by St. Denis, the founding martyr of the bishopric of Paris. No one until then had managed to translate the copy. A other work by Dionysius had been offered to Louis the Pieux, by 827 A.D. by the Byzantine emperor Michael the Stammerer. John Scotus Eriugena also translated the 'De Imaginorum' by Gregory of Nyssius and he commented Martianus Capella or Boethius. In a treaty, the 'De Divisio Natura,' he was the compiler and the author of a synthesis of Latin culture! A emerit theologian, he glosed upon the Gospel of John, he analyzed the thought of St Augustine and he took part into the great theological quarrels of his time about the divine nature as he opposed, for example, to Godescalcus about predestination. John Scotus Eriugena indeed was endeavouring to a vast, original synthesis between Neoplatonism -which is a idealism- and Aristotelianism -or the use of reason. In the De Divisio Natura, he wanted to use logics and dialectics to clarify the Roman Catholic dogma confronted to the philosophers of Antiquity. Reason had to base upon faith, and to confirm it. Such a purely intellectual work rapidly was considered heretic by several councils as seen like pouring into pantheism and mystics. John Scotus might have inspired the Albigenses, these heretics of southwestern France during the 12th century, along with the 'Brethren of the Free Spirit', or the 'Amalricans', or 'Beghards and Beguines', this ensemble of deviants in the Middle Age, which appeared since the 12th century, or even before, and which were eliminated by the Inquisition. Such a neo-pagan tendency of the Irishmen might also be felt with some works or tendency of the renaissance in arts inside monasteries like In St-Gall, a fresco was showing the philosophers of Greek Antiquity heralding the saints of the Church (that however could still belong to a widening of the Christian tradition of showing how the Old Testament was heralding the New). But in other monasteries, frescoes were to re-use the themes of Antiquity without even establishing that relationship, with themes like hunting, works of seasons, or the fables of Esopus, etc.). A part of Eriugena errors are related to that Dionysius, the work of who he translated, was thought like Dionysius the Aeropagite, the Athenian disciple of St. Paul as he indeed was a other author, or the Pseudo-Dionysius. Books of Dionysius the Aeropagite had been instrumental to pass Neoplatonicism in the West. The abbey St-Germain-of-Auxerre, with Heiric (who died about 875-885) also was a center of Neoplatonicism, as Heiric spread such ideas through Maxime the Confessor or the supposed works of St. Dionysius. He had a interest into sciences, geography notably and he maybe wrote his 'De Situ Orbis,' in which he works about the roads the Vikings used. Rémi of Auxerre, as far as he is concerned, worked about the origins of Magyars

What the Irishmen Brought

Beyond the all ascetic aspect of Ireland, Scots brought with them a more learned culture. More than in the areas of Roman and Latin influence, that culture was making more allusions to mythology, with elaborated language constructions and refined poetic techniques as they mostly used the Greek language. Irishmen also made a larger room to women. They gave a greater precedence to the Greek fathers and to Martianus Capella as the influence of the liberal arts and the Neoplatonicism were clearer, which leaves a larger grip to critics of a proximity with the paganism of the Antiquity. Scots were found along the paths of the Columbanus monasteries like Reichenau, St-Gall or Bobbio which is the proof that, despite the prominence acquired at the time by Benedictines, that that current of the Church thought would have still kept well alive. Greek, as written by Scots, came from some bribes they were mastering and that were found, either in Ireland or the continent's monasteries, like Greek words written in Greek, or translated in Latin, in numerous manuscripts as Greek teaching proper was owing its revival to Scots settled in Italy. Those likely were closer to the Byzantine world. Greeks, however did not look to have had some consideration to those Irish people for their intellectual specificity, as they saw that Scots were coming too cloose to philosophy, which they considered like their preserve! Anastasius the Librarian, for example, was naming John Scotus Eriugena 'a Barbarian living to the confines of the civilized world,' who 'was able to translate Dionysius the Areopagite, but, as he was few ascertained of the sense of [he] hold to the letter of he.'

Irish scholars had a strong interest into geographical and astronomical knowledge as that was a exception at the time. That likely hints to that the Scots were open minded -foreign cultures included- and that some scientific curiosity kept being extant. Manuscript 422 of the city library in Laon, for example, is showing a diagram of constellation Centaurus, the Centaur, a southern constellation which is not observable from Europe. John Scotus, like Plato, stated that the Sun was at the center of the Universe along with Dicuil or Virgilius, a other Scot. Irish thought, at last, also was a Celtic thought, full of a endeavour beyond self and faith and trust to God, and of mystery. As the Viking raids lasted in Ireland, that put a definitive end to such a Celtic influence. After a period of weakening of the Irish presence, some Scots however were seen back by the mid-9th century A.D. in some abbeys

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: 4/7/2011. contact us at geguicha@outlook.com