The Perception of the Past in Twelfth-Century Europe

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The Perception of the past in twelfth-century Europe.

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Warren, Jane Stevenson Boydell Press. Suppe Boydell Press. Royal Inauguration in Gaelic Ireland c. Thompson Boydell Press. Saint Patrick David N. Both Agobard and Amulo establish a framework whereby the Jews are not just a pollution to Christian society but a clear and present danger to its safety.

A 12th Century Man for All Seasons

It is perhaps unsurprising to find that Agobard's and Amulo's framework for the Jews of Lyons manifested elsewhere in the Carolingian world with more aggressive scapegoating of Jews. For instance, Prudentius of Troyes in the Annals of Saint-Bertin blamed the Jews of Bordeaux for betraying the city and allowing it to fall to the Danes in On the other side of the Carolingian realm, Prudentius also imputed the Jews for selling out the city of Barcelona to Arab invaders in Annales Bertiani and These offenses against society struck at both the temporal and spiritual health of the Christian body, but in , Hincmar of Rheims took these accusations against Jews to a new level when he wrote of the death of the emperor Charles the Bald in the Annals of Saint-Bertin.


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He claimed that Charles fell prey to a fever, and so called upon his doctor Zedechias, "whom he loved and trusted all too much. We do not know what became of Zedechias or if Hincmar's accusation triggered any violence against Jews, but in these accusations, it is clear that Jews have become the scapegoats of political tragedy, not unlike they will be in successive centuries of European history.

As disturbing as these accusations against Jews may be, they do not of themselves constitute persecution. Only when the power of the state acts on such accusations to suppress the Jews can it truly be considered persecution. In the case of our Carolingian rulers, it is possible to observe some suppression of Jews through both capitularies and church councils, a tradition started by their predecessors the Merovingians. In fact, as the Carolingian period progresses, the capitularies and canons that target Jews become increasingly hostile.

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For instance, one of the earliest restrictions came at the capitulary of Nijmegen in when Charlemagne instructed bishops not to sell ecclesiastical items to Jewish merchants, who had apparently taken to boasting that they could buy anything off of a Carolingian churchman Capitulare Missorum Niumagae Datum 4. It is debatable who is really targeted in this legislation, as the rebuke seems primarily aimed at bishops in the empire, rather than Jews, but treatment of Jews progressively worsened. Later a capitulary issued from Aachen demanded that Jews supply four to eight witnesses in disputed property claims at court, while Christians only had to supply three.

The undue burden of providing additional witnesses returns to the theme of the deceitful Jew scattered throughout the writings referenced above. These restrictions in the capitularies found reinforcement through conciliar legislation, though Carolingian rulers also sought ways to bridge the divide with the community of Jews they sought to exclude.

At the Council of Meaux-Paris in , led in part by Hincmar of Rheims, Jews were banned from positions of authority and restricted from possessing Christian slaves an edict which had been a part of previous church councils but clearly not enforced Concilium Meaux-Paris 73— The assembled at the Council of Pavia in prohibited Jews from serving as tax collectors or judges, which again raises the specter of their untrustworthiness, here in the case of royal funds and judgments Concilium Pavia Thus restrictions on Jews increased over time.


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Interestingly, as with the case of the Felician heresy, Carolingian rulers deliberately sought to make Christian society whole by bringing Jews into the fold. In an anonymous letter to Emperor Louis the Pious by one of his bishops, the author thanks Louis for sponsoring his missionary work to convert Jews to Christianity.

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Apparently, this bishop identified Jewish youth as the most susceptible targets for conversion and had won many of them over. Some of the Jewish parents of the town had even taken to sending their children away to friends and relatives in other cities in order to avoid these conversion attempts Ex Epistola Episcopi ad Imperatorem de Baptizatis Hebraeis. Although limited in their violence, Carolingian rulers used the trappings of royal power, with the assistance of the church, to treat Jews within their own territory as subjects of a different, devious sort.

The persecution of lepers strikes a different tone from the preceding examples of heretics and Jews, even in Moore's classic conception of the persecuting society , 42— The pitiable victims of its worst form, lepromatous leprosy, endured horrendous suffering as they found their faces disfigured and limbs sabotaged until they appeared to be the walking dead Miller and Nesbitt , 1—9.

With a spike of leprous victims in Europe in the twelfth century, the church and state moved swiftly to establish leprosariums, or leper houses, to deal with these patients. While on the one hand, this noble undertaking provided a place for lepers to find treatment and for their care-givers like St.

Francis of Assisi to demonstrate holiness, Moore notes the counter effect was the deliberate segregation of these people from a healthy Christian society. The modes of segregation were at times quite vicious, such as depriving victims of their property and ritually casting them out of communities by throwing dirt upon them, like the dead , 42— This trend eventually culminated in lepers becoming the villains in medieval romances, their disease becoming a symbolic representation of their sin Brody While the scale and temper of persecution of lepers is at its peak in the twelfth century, the Carolingian period provides its own significant precursors to these themes of segregation and sin.

Fascinatingly, an early example of the segregation of lepers emerges from the origin story of the Carolingians themselves.

Arnulf, bishop of Metz, for whom the Carolignians or Arnulfings are named, retired in from his work as bishop to care for lepers around the monastery of Remiremont. It is unclear exactly how authorities established a boundary for this group of lepers, but Arnulf subjugated himself to their needs by washing them and cooking for them in some kind of leprosarium or leper house Vita Arnulfi The hagiographers of such descriptions, whether of Arnulf or others, employed these stories to elevate their saint's sanctity. After all, what could be more Christ-like than stooping from a bishop's seat to wash the feet of lepers?

And yet, the story has credibility in the sense that there is a parallel example, which has affirmation in both its description of treating lepers and more importantly of constructing space for them.

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Abbot Othmar, founder of the illustrious monastery of St. Gall in , established a leper hospital building outside the complex of St. Gall so that the monks could tend to those in need there. Of course, Abbot Othmar was at the forefront of this service, washing with his own hands their "festering wounds" from the heads of the lepers to their feet Walafrid Strabo Vita Otmari Abbatis Sangallensis 2. The primary motivation for these churchmen was to express their piety through what was perceived as a perilous act of servitude. And yet, their actions also reveal the further development of the process by which lepers began to be ostracized in proscribed areas Miller and Nesbitt , — One Carolingian intellectual further augmented the perception of lepers as outsiders, and even enemies, by describing their disease as punishment from God and tying it to heresy.

In his Exposition on Matthew , Hrabanus Maurus expounds upon Matthew chapter eight where Jesus, who has finished delivering the famous Sermon on the Mount, descends from the Mount and encounters a leper who seeks healing from Christ if he is willing Hrabanus Maurus Expositio in Matthaeum 3. Christ states his willingness, saying " Volo, mundare ," or "I am willing, be clean. Hrabanus Maurus parses this very short encounter into parallels with Christianity's history of heresy.

In identifying Christ's willingness with "Volo," Hrabanus Maurus indicates this foreshadows a refutation of Photinus of Sirmium, a heretic famous in the West for adoptionist monarchianism or denying Christ's association with God until after he left the womb. Next comes the "be clean" command, which Hrabanus ascribes to a foreshadowing of "Arrius" or Arius, the infamous heretic of the Arian controversy that articulated the Son's distinction from the Father and therefore subordination to the Father.

Finally, Christ's action of healing the leper occurs, according to Hrabanus, out of a refutation of Manichaeus, whose dualist heresy viewed aspects of the material world and body as inherently evil. Each of Jesus's actions is thus parceled out by Hrabanus Maurus in order to illustrate how the Son of God's speech and actions counters the philosophies of each of these three prominent heretics. Moreover, Christ's actions form their own Trinitarian defense with the three points of refutation.

Regardless of the nuances of Hrabanus' theological meanderings, what stands out from his interpretation of Matthew is the clear association between these heretics and the leper. Just as the theologies are cleansed by Jesus, so is the physical affliction of the leper. Thus Hrabanus connects one outcast enemy of society, the heretic, with another, the leper, and in doing situates himself and Carolingian thought well within the western tradition on leprosy Miller and Nesbitt , While Hrabanus's exposition of Matthew established a sinful association with heresy, the church and the Carolingian proto-state took action through conciliar legislation and capitularies to further segregate lepers.

The sequestering of lepers found greater momentum under Pippin's son, Charlemagne, who in issued an edict whereby lepers should be separated in society, "so that they would not mix themselves together with other people" De leprosis, ut se non intermisceant alio populo Capitulare Generale It is difficult to know the degree to which this law was implemented, and the lack of details about how to prevent the mixing leave much to the imagination.

It may very well be a promotion of the continued construction of leprosariums like at St. Gall or perhaps the basis for local officials to implement their own measures of exclusion as they saw fit. Nevertheless, these two snippets of legislation reinforce Moore's own observations of the twelfth century that both church and state moved in concert to segregate the leper from society because of his or her danger either medically or by association of sin.

Interestingly, these Carolingian episodes also contrast with R.


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  • Moore, who detected no evidence of lepers from the Lombards in the seventh century till the eleventh, writing "apart from those two incidents the legislation of Rothari inaugurated a silence in the western sources which lasted almost unbroken until the eleventh century" , Meager though these leprosy references in Carolingian sources may be, they nevertheless indicate important precursors to the leprosy epidemic of the twelfth century, particularly in demonstrating how the state could be used to control aspects of society by defining marriage and community.

    Any discussion of medieval homosexuality in the Middle Ages often, of necessity, begins with the historian John Boswell and his well-known thesis that the Christian tradition was not nearly as hostile to homosexuality as had been widely perceived , — For the Carolingian period, Boswell found that tolerance of homosexuality was the norm , , but subsequent work has since challenged this notion. James Brundage argued that both ecclesiastical and secular law from the period of the sixth to eleventh centuries increasingly held all of society to monastic ideals of purity where it concerned sexuality, including a crackdown on homosexual behavior, most prominently in Irish penitentials , — More recently, Rachel Stone in her examination of Carolingian masculinity noted how "homosexual behavior and bestiality were grave concerns to Carolingian reformers, but only rarely urgent ones" , She notes how Carolingian reformers consistently condemned homosexuality as an unnatural act, and yet they acted in a way to remove and hide the scandal of homosexuality rather than expose it.

    In this sense, the Carolingians practiced their own form of persecution, with a focus on labeling homosexual acts and using the power of the state to prevent such acts of perceived immorality. Both state and church acted together in terms of using institutional legislation in an effort to criminalize and control same-sex male activity. In his Admonitio Generalis , Charlemagne sought to correct a wide variety of shortcomings he had observed taking place in monasteries across his kingdoms, among those shortcomings was the issue of "unnatural" sexual activity. Charlemagne decreed that men who sinned with animals or other men must face a harsh and strict penance for their infractions according to the Council of Ancyra, and he tasked bishops and priests "to cut out this evil from custom" In concilio Acyronense inventum est in eos qui cum quadrupedibus vel masculis contra naturam peccant: dura et districta penitentia.

    Qua propter episcopi et prebyteri, quibus iudicium penitentiae iniunctum est, conentur omnimodis hoc malum a conseutudine prohibere vel abscidere Admonitio Generalis Interestingly, the canon from the Council of Ancyra on bestiality, to which Charlemagne refers here, included a penance of 15 to 25 years of prostration in prayer, depending on the age at which the offense was committed Council of Ancyra This salvo against male homosexuality proved insufficient to defeat the specter of homosexual activity because Charlemagne returned to this "evil" in his general capitulary for the missi dominici , who were Charlemagne's secular and clerical representatives tasked with enforcing his commands.

    In addressing the proper behavior of monks in monasteries across his empire, Charlemagne spent a great deal more time dwelling on the question of sodomy.