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§ 5. Periods of the Middle Age.

The Middle Age may be divided into three periods:

1. The missionary period from Gregory I. to Hildebrand or Gregory VII., a.d. 590–1073. The conversion of the northern barbarians. The dawn of a new civilization. The origin and progress of Islam. The separation of the West from the East. Some subdivide this period by Charlemagne (800), the founder of the German-Roman Empire.

2. The palmy period of the papal theocracy from Gregory VII. to Boniface VIII., a.d. 1073–1294. The height of the papacy, monasticism and scholasticism. The Crusades. The conflict between the Pope and the Emperor. If we go back to the rise of Hildebrand, this period begins in 1049.

3. The decline of mediaeval Catholicism and preparation for modern Christianity, from Boniface VIII. to the Reformation, a.d. 1294–1517. The papal exile and schism; the reformatory councils; the decay of scholasticism; the growth of mysticism; the revival of letters, and the art of printing; the discovery of America; forerunners of Protestantism; the dawn of the Reformation.

These three periods are related to each other as the wild youth, the ripe manhood, and the declining old age. But the gradual dissolution of mediaevalism was only the preparation for a new life, a destruction looking to a reconstruction.

The three periods may be treated separately, or as a continuous whole. Both methods have their advantages: the first for a minute study; the second for a connected survey of the great movements.

According to our division laid down in the introduction to the first volume, the three periods of the middle ages are the fourth, fifth and sixth periods of the general history of Christianity.




a.d. 590 to 1049.


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