THE RISE OF WESTERN CULTURE
What was the real cause of the rise of Western Culture itself? How did it come about that a small group of Christians acquire the power to transform the world religion in such a short space of time? Christianity developed from 72 disciples. Was it supernatural evangelism? The Book of Acts demonstrates that physical healing, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit were regular occurrences as the early Christians engaged in evangelism.
By the fourth century Christianity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire and inspired the new type of Byzantine culture, which had its center in the new Rome founded by the first Christian Emperor at Constantinople.
Let’s look at Christianity after the collapse of the Roman Empire. There were terrible economic, social, and political conditions that befell Europeans from 500-750 A.D. Yet, the Church tenaciously held on to what was of left of Western Civilization. Both Irish Celtic monks and the Benedictine monks preserved and spread their learning via their missionary zeal. It was the Benedictines, started by St. Benedict (480-544), who, upon meeting their Irish Celtic counterparts taught the Irish practicality and gave Irish monasticism a more sensible and less rigorous rule in a self-contained society (The Benedictine Rule). One of their own was selected Pope-Pope Gregory I 590-604) who is credited for not only learning and leadership, but the beginning of classical music with the Gregorian chant.
The greatest service of the Irish monks was the new movement of missionary expansion throughout Europe in the seventh and eighth century. This was a time during the victorious tide of Muslim invasions, which was sweeping over Western Mediterranean and North Africa. Finally, Charles Martel checked the Muslim advance at Poitiers in 732 AD. There were two figures who stand out as supreme—the priest, to teach and offer sacrifice and the king to rule and judge. This was also a time of wholesale exploitation and expropriation of bishoprics and monasteries to provide benefits to Martel’s warriors. Missionaries like St. Boniface admitted that they could not have been effective without the support of Martel.
Christianity was able to maintain its power by the awe inspired by its supernatural prestige: an arc of refuge against the violence of the barbarians in the world of war. Christianity became a strong unifying cultural force which provided the roots for present day European civilization as we know it: a direct bearing on the fate of our modern society.
There was an intimate relationship between religious faith and its social achievement. Christianity transformed Europe from a barbarian hinterland into a center of world culture and was responsible for the rise of city-states, the creation of new literature and philosophy, as well as new social, cultural and religious institutions: the order of chivalry, the religious orders and the universities.
The conversion of Clovis (480-520) of the Northern Barbarians was historically important when one considers that Clovis’ empire (basically modern France) became open to the Benedictines and the spread of knowledge and learning. The rise of the Franks under Charles Martel (717-742), Pepin (741-768), and especially Charlemagne (768-814) was important for the spread and renewal of the Church.
Charlemagne’s palace school at Aachen was a center for learned men and drew students and clergy where literacy and texts were developed that enhanced and preserved the learning of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, including a uniform system of script called Bookhand which included upper and lower case letters and punctuation. The monks had to instruct their converts not only in the Christian doctrine but in the Latin tongue. They had to teach reading and writing including calligraphy, painting, music, chronology and the knowledge of the calendar. Continue reading CHRISTIANITY and RISE of WESTERN CULTURE