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Baronius

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Majir
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« on: December 09, 2010, 01:19:04 pm »

In response to the Protestants, Roman Catholics developed a counter-image, depicting the High Middle Ages in particular as a period of social and religious harmony, and not "dark" at all.[15] The most important Catholic reply to the Magdeburg Centuries was the Annales Ecclesiastici by Cardinal Caesar Baronius. Baronius was a trained historian who kept theology in the background and produced a work that the Encyclopædia Britannica in 1911 described as "far surpassing anything before his day"[16] and that Acton regarded as "the greatest history of the Church ever written".[17] The Annales, covering the first twelve centuries of Christianity up to 1198, was published in twelve volumes between 1588 and 1607. It was in Volume X that Baronius coined the term "dark age" for the period between the end of the Carolingian Empire in 888[18] and the first inklings of the Gregorian Reform under Pope Clement II in 1046:

“ The new age (saeculum) which was beginning, for its harshness and barrenness of good could well be called iron, for its baseness and abounding evil leaden, and moreover for its lack of writers (inopia scriptorum) dark (obscurum).[19] ”

Significantly, Baronius termed the age "dark" because of the paucity of written records capable of throwing light on it for the historian. The "lack of writers" he referred to may be illustrated by comparing the number of volumes in Migne's Patrologia Latina containing the work of Latin writers from the 10th century (the heart of the age he called "dark") with the number of volumes containing the work of writers from the preceding and succeeding centuries. (Of course, only a minority of these writers were historians.)

Volumes of Patrologia Latina per century[20]
Century Migne Volume Nos No. of Volumes
7th 80-88 8
8th 89-96 7
9th 97-130 33
10th 131-138 7
11th 139-151 12
12th 162-191 39
13th 192-217 25
 
There is a sharp drop from 33 volumes in the 9th century to just 7 in the 10th. The 11th century, with 12 volumes, evidences a certain recovery, and the 12th century, with 39, surpasses the 9th, something the 13th, with just 25 volumes, fails to do. There was indeed a "dark age", in Baronius's sense of a "lack of writers", between the Carolingian Renaissance in the 9th century and the beginnings, some time in the 11th, of what has been called the Renaissance of the 12th century. Furthermore, besides the "dark age" named by Baronius, there was an earlier one, for regarding "lack of writers" the 7th and 8th centuries are pretty much on a par with the 10th. In short, in Western Europe during the 1st millennium, two "dark ages" can be identified, separated by the brilliant but all too brief Carolingian Renaissance.

Baronius's "dark age" seems to have struck historians as something they could use, for it was in the 17th century that the terms "dark age" and "dark ages" started to proliferate in the various European languages, with his original Latin term, "saeculum obscurum", being reserved for the period he had applied it to. But while some historians, following Baronius's lead, used "dark age" neutrally to refer to a dearth of written records, others, in the manner of the early humanists and Protestants (and later the Enlightenment writers and their successors right up to the present day) used it pejoratively, lapsing into that lack of neutrality and objectivity that has quite spoilt the term for many modern historians.

The first British historian to use the term was most likely Gilbert Burnet, in the form "darker ages", which appears several times in his work in the last quarter of the 17th century. His earliest use of it seems to have been in 1679 in the "Epistle Dedicatory" to Volume I of The History of the Reformation of the Church of England, where he writes: "The design of the reformation was to restore Christianity to what it was at first, and to purge it of those corruptions, with which it was overrun in the later and darker ages."[21] He uses it again in 1682 in Volume II of the History, where he dismisses the story of "St George's fighting with the dragon" as "a legend formed in the darker ages to support the humour of chivalry".[22] Burnet was a Protestant bishop chronicling how England became Protestant and his use of the term is invariably pejorative.

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