Carolingian Renaissance

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A revival of interest in classical learning in the Carolingian Empire (France, Germany, and Italy). Beginning under the patronage of charlemagne (768814), it continued to the end of the 9th century. In its involvement with classical and patristic literature, the movement was similar to the Isidorian renaissance in 7th-century Spain, the ottonian renaissance of the 10th century, and the 12th-century renaissance in France and England. It differed from the Italian renaissance of the 14th and 15th century in its emphasis on clerical reform as originally inspired by St. boniface with the encouragement of pepin iii (741768) and as incorporated by Charlemagne into civil law (e.g., Monumenta Germaniae Capitularia 1:22). The revived interest in learning is exemplified by Charlemagne's important "mandate" (not a capitulary; cf. L. Wallach), the Epistola de litteris colendis (tr. M. L. W. Laistner, Thought and Letters in Western Europe, a.d. 500 to 900 152153) written to Baugulf, Abbot of Fulda between 794 and 796, urging him to promote education in the area around his abbey. The primary interest of the Carolingian revival, however, was not in the classics as such, but rather in their use as a means of studying the Latin language and culturean attitude the Carolingian scholars inherited from the patristic period; it was the Fathers of the Church who were read for content. Yet a love of learning for its own sake was bred in such men as the Spanish-born theodulf of orlÉans, who as a political prisoner wrote to his former colleague, Bp. Modoin of Autun, "Death is better than life without study, teaching, or worship." Carolingian poetry (Monumenta Germaniae Poetae v. 14), more than other literary forms, demonstrates the influence of the Latin classics on the Carolingians; the prose compositions of the period, however, reflect the classical mood only incidentally (see medieval latin literature).

Charlemagne and the Court Circle. Charles, King of the Franks (768814), emperor of the Romans from 800, was head and patron of the movement for education and reform that was the heart of the renaissance (see carolingian reform).

Alcuin. Charlemagne found in alcuin of York (c. 735804) the man to organize and systematize his educational program, and it was as an administrator (781796) that Alcuin made his mark, though he wrote a number of poems in classical meters, some of considerable lyric power. He composed and edited texts for the education of clerics and authored textbooks on Latin grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, and orthography. He knew at first hand Vergil, Ovid, and Lucan. Alcuin, or "Horace," his nickname within the court circle, seems to have known Horace through quotations. Charlemagne initiated the palace schoolwhich lasted till the death of his grandson, Charles the Baldwhen he attracted a galaxy of scholars to assist Alcuin: Paul the Deacon (in 782), Dungal (in 787), and Theodulf, the future bishop of Orléans (some-time after 787). paul the deacon (730?799?) came to Charles' attention when he wrote a plea in fine elegiac verses for the release of his brother, imprisoned for a political offense. He also wrote a poem in praise of Lake Como in epanaleptic verses and an abridgment of Festus' De verborum significatione, which was important for archaic Latin.

The Irishmen. dungal (d. after 827) was one of many wandering Irishmen who contributed greatly to the revival of learning on the Continent; Dungal knew the Fathers and was expert in astronomy (Monumenta Germaniae Epistolae 4:570). clement of ireland (d. after 828) succeeded Alcuin as master of the palace school (796), but was probably there earlier. He wrote an Ars grammatica, which he dedicated to Emperor lothair i (840855). Another Irishman who contributed to the first generation of Carolingian scholarship is Colman (fl. early 9th century), who wrote a poem in fine Latin to a fellow countryman returning to Ireland. smaragdus of saintmihiel was probably Irish; he wrote poetry (Monumenta Germaniae Poetae 1:602619; 2:918924) and taught Latin grammar, composing a commentary on donatus.

Theodulf of Orléans. The greatest scholar and author of the court circle was undoubtedly a Visigoth in the Isidorian tradition, Theodulf of Orléans (c. 770821), whose writings (e.g., Ad Carolum regem, Contra judices, gloria, laus et honor) show his classical training. His deep political insight reflects the Hispano-Roman sophistication that had been developed through the Councils of toledo. He tried in vain to persuade Charles not to divide his empire according to the Frankish principle of equal inheritance (Monumenta Germaniae Poetae 1:526). Emperor Louis the Pious' attempt to maintain the primacy of his firstborn, Lothair I, over the two younger sons may have been an effect of Theodulf's hitherto unheeded advice. The results were disastrous in the 9th century, but ultimately (987) primogeniture became the rule in France. paulinus of aquileia was another poet-member of the court circle (Monumenta Germaniae Poetae 1:123128), while peter of pisa, a grammarian, instructed Charles himself and illustrated his teaching as was customarywith examples from ancient pagan and Christian authors. The only Frank to belong to the circle was angilbert, a disciple of Alcuin, who wrote Ecloga ad Karolum regem. Through an affair with Bertha, one of Charlemagne's daughters, he had two sons; one was the lay historian Nithard. Angilbert later (between 796 and 802) became a monk and abbot of saintriquier, where he introduced the laus perennis.

The Second Generation. einhard (c. 770c. 840) bridges two generations of the palace school. He was educated at Fulda and later at Aachen under Alcuin. His Life of Charlemagne is the best biography of the Middle Ages, and its strong classical orientation is evident in his use of suetonius as a model. Nithard continued the biographical tradition in his history of the sons of Louis the Pious (Historiarum libri 4 ). Some time earlier leidradus of lyons (d. 814) had established an episcopal school in accord with Charlemagne's prescription, and there florus of lyons (d. 860), who was possibly Spanish, continued to be the leading figure of the school.

Rabanus Maurus and His Circle. The royal monastery of Fulda was an important educational and cultural center of the Carolingian renaissance, especially under its great abbot, rabanus maurus (776856). Sent to Tours in 802 to study under Alcuin, he returned to Fulda the following year to direct the monastic school. He was abbot from 822 until 842, when he became archbishop of Mainz. His De arte grammatica and De rerum naturis do not show great originality, but he unquestionably deserves his title of preceptor of Germany. His student walafrid strabo (809849), later abbot of reichenau, was the tutor of Emperor Charles the Bald (840877). Although Strabo was acquainted with most of the Latin meters, he preferred the hexameter (Monumenta Germaniae Poetae 2:259472). Another of Rabanus's students, lupus (c. 805c. 862), later abbot of Ferrières, was sent to study at Fulda c. 828. His letters (Monumenta Germaniae Scriptores 6:126) and MS collection reveal his interests in the classics, for of the 20 MSS that are certainly from his scriptorium at Ferrières, perhaps ten are Lupus's own transcriptions. Another student, gottschalk of orbais (c. 805869), was dedicated as a child to the monastic life at Fulda by his parents but later wished to withdraw. His request was denied; he was transferred to Orbais, and finally, because of his views on predestination, he was imprisoned for the rest of his life in Hautvillers. He wrote a poetical conflictus, or debate, between the Old Testament as represented by Alethea, a shepherdess, and the New, represented by Pseustis. Further works included 17 original and very human poems and several excellent hymns. His rebellion against dedication as a child to monastic life was an important though personally disastrousstep in the Church's insistence on absolute freedom in choosing the religious life. Wandelbert of Prüm, a member of the same circle of writers, wrote hymns in Sapphic meters.

Hincmar of Reims. In the zeal and uprightness that characterized his episcopate, hincmar of reims (d. 882) might be considered the fruition of Charlemagne's reforming efforts. His verses and letters mark him as a product of the Carolingian renaissance. His political theory is expressed in his De ordine palatii and De institutione regis; his course of action regarding the divorce of lothair ii confirms his position that the emperor was subject to the Church ratione peccati (Patrologia Latina, 125: 623772).

Two Irishmen also grace the second generation of the Carolingian renaissance: Sedulius Scotus (fl. 848858) and john scotus erigena (c. 810c. 877). The former was the leading figure among his compatriots at liÈge; the latter, at the court of Charles the Bald. Sedulius was an accomplished poet, a master of all types of classical verse, who was reluctant to depart from classical precedents in any of his 83 poems; he was also a grammarian who wrote commentaries on Eutyches and Priscian. He knew Cicero, Vegetius, Frontinus, Valerius Maximus, Macrobius, and Seneca.

The Court and Charles the Bald. Charles II the Bald is often condemnedprobably quite unjustlyfor buying off the piratical normans. However, he appears in a much better light when one examines the patronage of learning at his court. The leading scholar in Charles' entourage was John Scotus Erigena, who wrote Greek verses and Latin poetry filled with Greek words and taught grammar and dialecticrejecting absolute predestination on the basis of logic alone (De predestinatione ). He was a commentator on Scripture and proved himself the first original philosopher of the Middle Ages (Gilson) in his De divisione naturae, which was based on the Greek and Latin sources of Platonism (see neoplatonism). Milo of Saint-Amand, who also belonged to the same court circle, used patristic writers (e.g., Prudentius), as well as Macrobius. radbod of utrecht (d. 917) was educated in Cologne and at Charles' court. As bishop of Utrecht he was forced to flee from the Northmen to Deventer, where he established an intellectual center. Radbod was the author of poems (Monumenta Germaniae Poetae 4:160173), homilies, and historical works. hucbald of saint-amand (840930), another member of Charles' circle (Ecloga de calvis ), was a humanist who listed the books in his library (many of which are still preserved at Valenciennes). He wrote a work on chant, De institutione harmonica, in which he tried to bring Greek and Boethian musical theory to bear upon chant and to establish definite pitch. Micon of Saint-Riquier (d. 865) compiled one of the better medieval florilegia in which he arranged authors alphabetically. hagiography flourished in the time of Charles the Bald under Florus of Lyons, usuard, ado of vienne, and others.

Medieval libraries were small but were probably used exhaustively, given the monastic stipulation of meditative reading. At the beginning of the Carolingian period only a few places (Rome, Bobbio, York) had libraries, but in its course libraries were developed at corbie, luxeuil, lorsch, Fulda, fontenelle (saint-wandrille), saint-amand-les-eaux, and saint-riquier. The Carolingian scriptorium saw the full development of a distinctive half-uncial script now named Carolingian minuscule, the basis of the modern book and cursive hands (see paleography, latin). As a result of Carolingian stimulation, cathedral schools flourished in Utrecht, Würzburg, Magdeburg, Laon, reims, Blois, Orléans, chartres, Bourges, and Lyons.

The classical character of Carolingian art is evident in the revival of bronze-casting and the use of Roman and Byzantine elements in the small, octagonal royal chapel at aachen, based on San Vitale in ravenna from which its columns were taken. The church built by Theodulf at Germigny des Prés (near Orléans) has a quatrefoil plan; mosaics in the Byzantine tradition adorn the interior.

See Also: carolingians; carolingian art; libri carolini.

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[c. m. aherne]

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Carolingian Renaissance

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