« Prev Literary Character of the Early Middle Ages Next »

§ 135. Literary Character of the Early Middle Ages.


The prevailing character of this period in sacred learning is a faithful traditionalism which saved the remains of the ancient classical and Christian literature, and transferred them to a new soil. The six centuries which intervene between the downfall of the West Roman Empire (476) and the age of Hildebrand (1049–1085), are a period of transition from an effete heathen to a new Christian civilization, and from patristic to scholastic theology. It was a period of darkness with the signs of approaching daylight. The fathers were dead, and the schoolmen were not yet born. The best that could be done was to preserve the inheritance of the past for the benefit of the future. The productive power was exhausted, and gave way to imitation and compilation. Literary industry took the place of independent investigation.

The Greek church kept up the connection with classical and patristic learning, and adhered closely to the teaching of the Nicene fathers and the seven oecumenical councils. The Latin church bowed before the authority of St. Augustin and St. Jerome. The East had more learning; the West had more practical energy, which showed itself chiefly in the missionary field. The Greek church, with her head turned towards the past, tenaciously maintains to this day the doctrinal position of the eighth century; the Latin church, looking to the future, passed through a deep night of ignorance, but gathered new strength from new blood. The Greek church presents ancient Christianity at rest; while the Latin church of the middle ages is Christianity in motion towards the modern era.


« Prev Literary Character of the Early Middle Ages Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection