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decorative picture .Fulda .Schools of Carolingian Times .The Medieval Renaissance .Byzantium and The West decorative picture 2, the same than above, as smaller .Christian Theology from the Fathers To the 13th Century

The Medieval Renaissance

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St. Thomas Aquinas, by Fra Angelico, 15th century
St. Thomas Aquinas, by Fra Angelico, 15th century

By the end of the Carolingian era the Western world fell into great disorders. Power shifted from the Empire to new centers like the Ottonian Empire centered on Germany, or like in France, it gradually fragmented down to the hands of local landlords. Everywhere however where such disorders, conflicts, and power shifts allowed the old schools to be maintained, the monastic and episcopal schools kept on the tracks the Carolingian revival had initiated. And that is of importance, as, from a strict intellectual point of view, the Carolingian thinkers -mostly of them theologians at the same time- are considered like the founders of Scholasticism, this Church movement which culminated during the 13th century A.D. The period of the Fathers had built a system of Christian philosophy upon Platonic principles -and underestimated, mostly, Aristotle. Albeit using reason to the aid of Revelation, they were mystic however, who relied more on spiritual intuition than on logics for the establishment and explanation of the Truths of the Church. Between Augustine and the Carolingian era, Claudianus Mamertus, Boethius, Cassiodorus, St. Isidore of Seville, Venerable Bede, etc. may be considered intercalary thinkers, mostly handing the Patristic to a new generation, as this generation of thinkers who appeared due to the Carolingian Revival may be considered like the founders of the Scholasticism. Albeit such people like Alcuin, or Rabanus were not more original that Boethius or Cassiodorus, they however were the fathers of the Scholastic movement due to that they endeavoured to bring the Patristic in touch with the new realities of State, life, and the Church, in Europe. They laid a emphasis on dialectical reasoning, giving things a new direction. More precisely, dialectics, among the seven liberal arts of the time, was the equivalent of philosophy and, on the textbooks of dialetics they used, they came to write commentaries and glosses into which they were, little by little, admitting problems of psychology, metaphysics, cosmology, and ethics, thus giving birth, through those discussions of dialecticians, to Scholasticism. Scholasticism, ultimately, was to break off from the mystic and Platonist Patristic, becoming a trend in the Church way of thinking: the Christian rationalism, with its method, contents, and conclusions owing much to those Carolingian origins. It has to noted that the Patristic the Carolingian thinkers were in touch with was mostly the Augustinian one, as Platonism, on the other hand, had been transmitted too by the intercalary thinkers. Among the thinkers of the Carolingian Revival, John Scotus Erigena only may be seen like a original thinker, albeit he quickly was accused of going too far

Hence, as the Carolingian Revival had laid the fundations, those kept on in the silence and work of the monastic and episcopal schools, Europe-wide, as they eventually led to the first main controversy about the Catholic way of thinking, in the 11th century A.D. A philosopher like Roscelin, in the middle of the 11th century definitively sounded the note of the rationalism. From there, the partisans of the old mysticism rose and condemned, bringing to hard fights in the 11th and 12th centuries. Roscelin or the famous Abelard on one side, St. Bernard or St. Peter Damian on the other, opposed the reason to the mysticism. Alfonso VI of Castilla, moreover, since 1085 A.D., had re-taken Toledo from Muslims in Spain as he had found there a library, a university and a large cultural center, the collections of which, as they had conserved the works of Greeks and a rich Islamic knowledge, were preserved and exploited. By the following century, Toledo became a large translation workshop and, eventually, the starting point for the Western universities of the 13th century. Reason eventually gradually was brought within the lines of the orthodoxy as the mystics eventually admitted a compromise about the end of the 12th century. Rationalism however was triumphant as a method in the European schools. The use of reason became to be admitted, when moderated, as a tool useable in theology. Medieval schools remained largely augustinianist however. On the other hand, the intellectuals of the time went up to find sources of knowledge in Aristotle and in the Arabian and Jewish works. The taking of Constantinople in 1204 by the crusaders, the foundation of new religious orders like the Dominicans, the rise of universities brought to a new and definitive combat. Once the Aristoteleanism purified from the errors brought in by its Arabian translators -as it was now translated directly from the Greek instead of referring to Averroes, the Arab translator of Aristoteles in the Spain at the time of the Reconquista nor to the interest which had been brought back into France by a author like Abelard- St. Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas eventually won the battle. The Christian philosophy became rationalist and Aristoteleanist at the same time. St. Bonaventure even showed that this new trend was not incompatible with the mysticism. Thus, from the Carolingian schools to the universities of the 13th century, the chain of knowledge, through various and complicated paths, had eventually gave a form to the dialog which had been initiated at the Carolingian era, between the Fathers and the new realities of European christianity. Thence Scholasticism became renewed, in the 16th century, by the Jesuits. Luther, as far as he is concerned, denounced it like a syncretist hellenization. Scholasticism, unluckily, looked like a defense of Aristotle and his views about the solar system against Copernic's and Galileo Gallilei's heliocentrism. That brought to the development of the experimentation like the basis for science and even philosophy. Scholasticism however remains the symbol of the European and Christian synthesis as, following the excesses of the experimental philosophy, it seems like it's nowadays coming to a form of rebirth, mostly through its speculative aspect. Debates indeed about the relation of reason to faith was perennial among Christian theologians as soon as from the times of Fathers. For example, it was already ably discussed by St. Augustine in the 5th century A.D. Then, in the following centuries, writers and Fathers of the Church always recognized the right and duty of 'natural reason' to establish those truths preparatory to faith, the existence of God and the fact of Revelation, or the 'praeambula fidei.' Those formed the 'rational' motives of credibility of the Christian religion and so made, finally, the profession of the Christian Faith a 'rationabile obsequium,' a 'reasonable service.' Their attitude, generally, however inclined more to the 'Crede ut intelligas' ('Believe so that you may understand') than to the 'Intellige ut credas' ('Understand so that you may believe'). The reapparition of thinkers wishing a stronger place for reasoning in terms of faith, in the 11th and 12th centuries made that their rational speculation was applied to theology not merely for the purpose of proving the 'praeambula fidei,' but also for the purpose of analysing, illustrating and showing forth the suitability of the Christian faith. Such a move was opposed more or less vigorously by such ascetic and mystic writers as St. Peter Damian, St. Bernard, and Walter of St. Victor chiefly because of the excess to which it was carried by rationalist and theosophist writers, like Peter Abelard and Raymond Lully who eventually came to subordinating faith to private judgment. Theology of early medieval thinkers had been, during five or six centuries, a positive exegesis of the contents of Scripture and tradition. As seen from the renewal of Scholasticism which had taken place in the Church by the end of the 19th century, scholasticists might well have better drawn from the first centuries scholars from the School of Antioch, with a tendency to historical and exegetical studies

As Scholasticism most usually is designating philosophy -or the dialectics- which is used in theology or to comment Aristoteles as it had come to be the most available way of teaching during the 13th century, one must not forget that dialectics -or philosophy- originally was one only among the seven liberal arts like they had been reconstituted during the 9th century A.D., by the Carolingian times. At the height of Scholasticism, that term eventually was encompassing the whole of the seven liberal arts. During the Early Middle Ages -and that was true in the Carolingian times still- liberal arts were still based on litterature and refered a lot to Antiquity as they later eventually yielded to theology. The renaissance of Aristoteles or science however, by that same time, through the Arabes, Crusades and Constantinople and albeit it still had not been officialized like in the 13th century A.D., gradually made that dialectics -or philosophy- became the dominant domain of arts, and swallowing other ones with grammar only remaining a independent sector. Subtleties, the maniacry of defining everything, specious questions or even pedantry then invade Western universities with the best example known being the question to know, about a man taking a leashed pig to market, whether it was the man or the rope with held the pig! That renaissance of reason eventually was officialized in the 13th century A.D. through the Dominican masters, like St Thomas Aquinas as Aristoteles then replaced the seven liberal arts. That is that height of Scholasticism which brought to a decline of the place the authors of Antiquity had taken until then in medieval West. Memory, at the time, became the basics of teaching as it had been the lecture, forth and back, of books until then. Priscianus' grammar only, survived as it was quickly replaced in turn by contemporary grammars in Latin verses. The liberal arts were still defended in the schools of Orléans, for example as they definitively disappeared by the 16th century. As Aristoteles proponents in turn welcomed Greek, philology and rethorics, that heralded the time of Renaissance as Scholasticism itself came to its end during the 17th century A.D.

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: 3/15/2011. contact us at geguicha@outlook.com