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Bible Dictionaries

1910 New Catholic Dictionary

Middle Ages

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Centuries between ancient and modern times, according to some from the downfall of the Roman Empire to the Renaissance, from the 5th to the 15th century, others preferring to call the first six centuries of this period Dark Ages, and limiting the Middle Ages proper to four. The Dark Ages then would be the time of the barbarian, Islam, and northern invasions, causing eventually the downfall of the Roman Empire and the destruction of the ancient civilizations, the time of the growing ascendancy of Christianity occasionally favored by those in power, though more often hindered and even persecuted because of the ambition of worldly rulers to subordinate religion to the state and of their alliance with heretical Christians, such as the Arians in the West, the Iconoclasts in the East; the time also of the conversion, by Apostolic men like Patrick, Martin, Augustine, Boniface, of the barbarous invaders and other more peaceful nations, bringing them gradually under the influence of Christian civilization. If we consider the centuries it took to do this as closing just prior to the year one thousand, and then study the achievement of the four following centuries, we find that it consisted in establishing law, developing cities, promoting culture, as W. E. Brown proves in "The Achievement of the Middle Ages"; or, as shown in "The Legacy of the Middle Ages," in preparing for the modern age a legacy of Christian life, art in all its forms, particularly architecture, literature, philosophy, education, law growing out of sacred customs, civiland Roman law also, the dignification of womanhood, economit activity and political thought, organization of government, peace, union of Christendom. To these precious heirlooms Godefroid Kurth would add the independence of the papacy, the celibacy of the clergy, the gradual extirpation of slavery, liberty generally and the rights of the individual citizen, the foundation of charitable institutions, of monasticism; in a word, all the most saving elements of civilization. Indeed, he styles his work on the MiddIe Ages: "The Origin of Modern Civilization."

Among the founders of these Ages, as Rand ranks them in his work on this subject, are men like,

  • Ambrose
  • Augustine of Hippo
  • Boethius
  • Cassiodorus
  • Gregory I, Saint
  • Jerome, Saint
  • Lactantius
  • Prudentius

There were great popes,

  • Adrian I
  • Agapetus I, Saint
  • Gregory I, Saint
  • Gregory II, Saint
  • Gregory V
  • Hormisdas, Saint
  • John VIII
  • John X
  • John XIII
  • Leo III, Saint
  • Leo IV, Saint
  • Sylvester II
  • Symmachus

Among the kings were

  • Alfred the Great
  • Charlemagne
  • Charles Martel
  • Edmund the Martyr, Saint
  • Edward the Confessor, Saint
  • Edward the Martyr, Saint
  • Heraclius
  • Justinian I
  • the Ottos
  • William the Conqueror

Among the churchmen were,

  • Alcuin, Saint
  • Aldhelm, Saint
  • Anschar, Saint
  • Becket
  • Bede
  • Columba, Saint
  • Gregory of Tours, Saint
  • Hugh of Cluny
  • Isidore of Seville, Saint
  • John Scotus
  • Peter Damian
  • Roger Bacon

Institutions owing to this period are feudalism in transition, guilds, markets, military orders, chivalry, Crusades, pilgrimages, bridge-and road-building brotherhoods, troubadours, wandering scholars, universities, inquisition, and the perfection of the liturgy. Fortunately the study of these ages is more and more occupying scholarly historians in England and America, and they are discovering that just because they were the ages of faith, their history had been perverted to throw discredit on the Catholic Church. Men like Charles Homer Haskins in his "Renaissance of the Twelfth Century" and "Studies in the History of Mediaeval Science" are doing eminent service in this respect and the medieval society has organized a body of scholars who are bent on uncovering the truth about ages from which moderns have so much to learn.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Entry for 'Middle Ages'. 1910 New Catholic Dictionary. 1910.

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