Sunday, July 8, 2018

Cluny Abbey: 10th century start of restoring spiritual independence

As early as the tenth century the situation and dependence of the church on worldly power had alarmed many devout men. In the hope of improving the monastic system William I of Aquitaine, Duke of Aquitaine and count of Mâcon, nicknamed William the Pious, (...) asked the abbot Berno (850-927) of the monastery of Baume, near Besançon, for advice on the foundation of a small new abbey, where twelve monks would enter. This became the abbey of Cluny.  

Uniquely, William, as founder, renounced all his rights, which, according to the then popular practise accrued to him. Cluny was forbidden to hold lands by feudal service. A donor to this foundation had to make his gift in free alms, that is, the only service owed was prayers for his soul.
According to the founding charter, the abbey was only under the protection of the Pope (exemplo). This limited guardianship was only later accepted by the popes, but Cluny could count on a far-reaching autonomy, This Romana libertas, Roman freedom, gave the monastery a great prestige.

Cluny adopted a modified form of the Benedictine rule. St. Benedict had directed his monks to spend long hours at manual labor, but once a monastery grew rich in land and peasant labor, it was impossible to get the monks to work in the fields. The Cluniac rule greatly extended the hours to be devoted to performing the services of the church in the hope of keeping the monks occupied in that way.

By the eleventh century Cluny had many daughter houses. (...) With the support of the (German TN) emperor Henry III Cluniac monks reformed many German monasteries and men inspired by Cluny revived English monasticism.

This blog is a combination of quotes form Baldwin, M. W. (ed.): The first hundred years (1969) and sections of the Wikipedia entry on Cluny Abbey; source illustration, showing William of Aquitaine addressing two monks of Cluny, historiated initial, from the Miscellanea secundum usum Ordinis Cluniacensis, late 12th – early 13th century, folio 85r (Illuminated Manuscript no. 17716, Bibliotheque National de France, Paris)

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land during the first centuries AD

"From the earliest times Christians felt a desire to see for themselves the places hallowed by the incarnate God, where Christ was born and preached and suffered. (...)

During the first two centuries of the Christian era it was not easy to make the pilgrimage to Palestine. Jerusalem itself had been destroyed by Titus (70 AD, TN), and the Roman authorities did not approve of journeys thither. The fall of Jerusalem had resulted in the triumph of St. Paul's conception of Christianity over that of St. Iames', and the church sought to stress its universality at the expense of its ]ewísh origins. But the holy places were not forgotten. (...) When, after the triumph (of Emperor Constantine under the sign of Christ during the battle of the Milvian Bridge - 312,TN)  the empress Helena came to Palestine, the tradition that she found there was strong enough for her to be able to identify all the sacred sites.

The official recognition of Christianity, combined with Helena's voyage and her pious labors, which her son Constantine endorsed by building the great churches of the Holy Sepulcher at Jerusalem and the Nativity at Bethlehem, let loose a stream of pilgrims bound for Palestine. (...) By the beginning of the 4th century the number of monasteries and hostels in Jerusalem where pilgrims could be housed was said to be over three hundred."

This blog quotes form Baldwin, M. W. (ed.): The first hundred years (1969); souce of illustration

Friday, June 29, 2018

11th Century Benedictine participation in the Toledo School of Translators

King Alfonso X
"Toledo, with a large population of Arabic-speaking Christians (Mozarabs) had been an important center of learning and translation since as early as the end of the 10th century, when European scholars traveled to Spain to study subjects that were not readily available in the rest of Europe. (...)

The translating efforts at Toledo are often overemphasized into a “school of translation”, however the representation of Toledo translating activity creates a false sense that a formal school arose around the Archbishop Raymond. Only one translation, by John of Seville, can be definitively dedicated to the archbishop. It is more accurate to consider Toledo as a geographically bilingual environment where local interests were favorable to translation efforts, making it a practical and appealing location for translators to work. As a result, many translators became active in the area and Toledo became the focus of translating activity.

However translating efforts were not properly organized until Toledo was reconquered by the Christian forces in 1085. (Archbishop) Raymond of Toledo started the first translation efforts at the library of the Cathedral of Toledo, where he led a team of translators that included Mozarabic Toledans, Jewish scholars, Madrasah teachers and (Benedictine, TN) monks from the Order of Cluny. They worked in the translation of many works from Arabic into Castilian, from Castilian into Latin, or directly from Arabic into Latin or Greek, and also made available important texts from Arabic and Hebrew philosophers who the Archbishop deemed important for an understanding of Aristotle. As a result of their activities, the cathedral became a translations center known as the Escuela de Traductores de Toledo (Toledo School of Translators), which was on a scale and importance not matched in the history of western culture."

Source of text and illustration Wikipedia

Sunday, June 24, 2018

8th to 10th century pilgrimage to the Holy Land

"In the 8th century the numbers increased. Pilgirmage was now promoted as a means of penance. (...) Relations between the west and the Moslems soon improved. When in the 760s Charlemagne entered into an alliance with the Abbasid caliph Härün ar-Rashid from Baghdad, with the apparent objective of cooperating against the Umayyads of Spain, there was a sufficient number of pilgrims coming to Jerusalem tor the emperor to ñnd it worth while to obtain permission to have a hostel set up for them in the holy city. There were women again amongst the pilgrims, and there were Spanish nuns living attached to the Holy Sepulcher.”

There was another slight interruption in the course of the ninth century, owing to the growth of  Moslem power in the Mediterranean and the establishment of Arabs in Crete and Sicily and southern Italy. When (in 870, TN) the Breton Bernard reached Jerusalern he found Charlemagne's establishments still in working order, but they were shabby and the number of visitors had sadly declined.

By the beginning of the 10th century conditions in the Mediterranean had improved. The Moslems had lost their foothold in southeast Italy and were soon to lose their last pirate-nests in southern France. Crete was recovered for Christendom half way through the century; and the Byzantine fleet was already able to provide an effective police force. The Italian rnaritime cities were beginning to open up direct commerce with the Moslem ports.

In the east the Abbasid (...) vice-roys in Palestine were ready to welcome visitors who brought
money into the country and who could be taxed; and when the Ikhshïdids, and after them the Fätímids, succeeded to the possession of Palestine, the appearance of good-will increased. It was now not difficult for a pilgrim to take a boat at Venice or Bari or Amalfi which would take him direct to Alexandria or some Syrian port. Most pilgrirns, however, preferred to sail in an Italian ship to Constantinople and visit the renowned collection of relics there, and then go on by land to Palestine. (...)

That certain holy places endowed the visitor with peculiar spiritual merit was now generally accepted.  (...)  The penitential value of a pilgrimage was also widely recognized. (...) The crime of murder in particular needed such an expiation. "

This blog quotes form Baldwin, M. W. (ed.): The first hundred years (1969); additional text and source illustration Wikipedia, showing Harun al-Rashid receiving a delegation of Charlemagne in Baghdad, a painting by Julius Köckert.