Alcuin, inventor of Christianity
Carolingian Manuscript, c. 831, Rabanus Maurus (left), with Alcuin (middle), dedicating his work to Archbishop Odgar of Mainz (right)
Having revealed how from the early-first century there was a religion termed Chrestianity and the texts termed 'early Christian' are actually Chrestian; much of the history of the Roman Empire has been erased; the 'textual tradition' (Church histories and anti-heresies in particular) is largely mythological (and possibly dated too early); I have been looking at who may have led such a project as the creation of Christianity. In my previous two posts, I suggested that Carolingian scriptoria such as at St. Gall could be useful starting points.
In the last day or two, this inventor of Christianity was revealed to me by Kenneth Clark in episode 1 of his Civilisation:
"How did he do it? Well first of all, with the help of an outstanding teacher and librarian named Alcuin of York, he collected books and had them copied..."
"...only three of four antique manuscripts of the Latin authors are still in existence. Our whole knowledge of ancient literature is due to the collecting and copying that began under Charlemagne."
From Wiki's biography on this man:
Alcuin of York (Latin: Alcuinus, c. 735 – 19 May 804), also called Ealhwine, Albinus or Flaccus, was an English scholar, ecclesiastic, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court, where he remained a figure in the 780s and 790s. He wrote many theological and dogmatic treatises, as well as a few grammatical works and a number of poems. He was made Abbot of Tours in 796, where he remained until his death. "The most learned man anywhere to be found", according to Einhard's Life of Charlemagne, he is considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era.
Alcuin was born in Northumbria, presumably sometime in the 730s. Virtually nothing is known of his parents, family background, or origin. In common hagiographical fashion, the Vita Alcuini asserts that Alcuin was 'of noble English stock,'...The York school was renowned as a centre of learning in the liberal arts, literature, and science, as well as in religious matters. It was from here that Alcuin drew inspiration for the school he would lead at the Frankish court.He joined an illustrious group of scholars that Charlemagne had gathered around him, the mainsprings of the Carolingian Renaissance: Peter of Pisa, Paulinus of Aquileia, Rado, and Abbot Fulrad. Alcuin would later write that "the Lord was calling me to the service of King Charles."
He was welcomed at the Palace School of Charlemagne in Aachen (Urbs Regale) in 782.
Bringing with him from York his assistants Pyttel, Sigewulf, and Joseph, Alcuin revolutionised the educational standards of the Palace School, introducing Charlemagne to the liberal arts and creating a personalised atmosphere of scholarship and learning, to the extent that the institution came to be known as the 'school of Master Albinus'. Alcuin also developed manuals used in his educational work – a grammar and works on rhetoric and dialectics.
In short, this man appears from nowhere; he is not a monk, yet he works with them; he goes to Charles I and becomes his tutor; with the king's authority, he founds a School, writes instruction manuals and teaches other intellectuals in how to write what he wants. Now, the politics of Church and State in recreating the Western Roman Empire:
Let us see how the Roman Church treats Alcuin:
In 799, Pope Leo III had been mistreated by the Romans, who tried to put out his eyes and tear out his tongue. Leo escaped and fled to Charlemagne at Paderborn, asking him to intervene in Rome and restore him. Charlemagne, advised by scholar Alcuin of York, agreed to travel to Rome, doing so in November 800 and holding a council on 1 December. On 23 December Leo swore an oath of innocence. At Mass, on Christmas Day (25 December), when Charlemagne knelt at the altar to pray, the Pope crowned him Imperator Romanorum ("Emperor of the Romans") in Saint Peter's Basilica.Here is the logic of the argument:
- There is no Jesus Christ, or Christianity in the early centuries.
- There is much reliable evidence in the same period for IS Chrest and Chrestanity, with the Chi-Rho and Tau-Rho.
- The date on which Jesus Christ and Christianity first appear is unknown; none of the early texts have been dated reliably; we do not know when the codices are altered from Chrest to Christ.
- The start of the textual tradition has been dated by consensus, using the unreliable method of paleography, to the 6th century.
- Yet Alcuin began his 'copying' in the 8th century, so the start of the textual tradition must, perforce. be the 8th century.
- Changing the original early texts to match the textual tradition will have happened as part of one process and that is in the 8th century, by Alcuin.
- This process is carried out at the same time across Western Europe; as this needed a single authority and such authority did not exist until there was an emperor, it must have happened under the authority of Charlemagne.
In the Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Let us see how the Roman Church treats Alcuin:
An important feature of Alcuin's educational work at York was the care and preservation, as well as the enlargement, of its precious library. Several times he journeyed through Europe for the purpose of copying and collecting books. Numerous pupils, too, gathered around him, from all parts of England and the continent...
Alcuin perceived in the growing power of Charlemagne and his eagerness for the development of learning an opportunity such as even York, with all its pre-eminence and scholastic advantages, could not afford. Nor was he disappointed. Charlemagne counted on education to complete the work of empire-building in which he was engaged, and his mind was busy with educational projects...
Charlemagne himself, his queen, Luitgard, his sister Gisela, his three sons and two daughters became pupils of the school, an example which the rest of the nobility were not slow to imitate.
...the bent of his genius responded perfectly to the imperative intellectual need of the age, which was the preservation and the representation to the world of the treasures of knowledge inherited from the past, long buried out of sight by the successive tides of barbarian invasion.
Educator and scholar
...a series of decrees or capitulars were issued in the name of the Emperor, which enjoined upon all clerics, secular as well as regular, under penalty of suspension deprivation of office, the ability to read and write and the possession of the knowledge requisite for the intelligent performance of the duties of the clerical state. Reading-schools were to be established for the benefit of candidates for the priesthood, and bishops were required to examine their clergy from time to time, to ascertain the degree of their compliance with these educational laws.
Alcuin as a theologian
His nine Scriptural commentaries — on Genesis, The Psalms, The Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Hebrew Names, St. John's Gospel, the Epistles to Titus, Philemon, and the Hebrews, The Sayings of St. Paul, and the Apocalypse — consist mostly of sentences taken from the Fathers, the idea, apparently, being to collect into convenient form the observations on the more important Scriptural passages of the best commentators who had preceded him. A more important Biblical undertaking by Alcuin was the revision of the text of the Latin Vulgate...varying texts were often to be found in the Bibles used in the same house.
In his letters he simply mentions the fact that he is engaged, by the order of Charlemagne, "in emendatione Veteris Novique Testamenti" (Ep., 136). Four Bibles are shown by the dedicatory poems affixed to them to have been prepared by him, or under his direction at Tours, probably during the years 799-801.
Alcuin as a liturgistHere we have one man who used the ambitions of Charles I and Leo III to create a new religion, a new Church, a new empire, and a new history of the original, Roman empire. He (with his students) did it all.
Besides his justly merited fame as an educator and a theologian, Alcuin has the honour of having been the principle agent in the great work of liturgical reform accomplished by the authority of Charlemagne.
It was the purpose of the King to substitute the Roman rite in place of the Gallican, or at least to bring about such a revision of the latter as to make it substantially one with the Roman. The strong leaning of Alcuin towards the traditions of the Roman Church, combined with his conservative character and the universal authority of his name, qualified him for the accomplishment of a change which the royal authority in itself was powerless to effect.
The work of Alcuin which had the greatest and most lasting influence in this direction, however, was the Sacramentary, or Missal which he compiled, using the Gregorian Sacramentary as a basis, and to this adding a supplement of other liturgical sources. Prescribed as the official Mass-book for the Frankish Church, Alcuin's Missal soon came to be commonly used throughout Europe and was largely instrumental in bringing about uniformity in respect to the liturgy of the Mass in the whole Western Church.