I’ve just discovered a bunch of real comments that have been caught in the spam filter. My apologies to those who took the time to write. I will fish these out and respond.
In Letter 193, to his friend Arno, Alcuin writes:
Kalendis Novembris solemnitas omnium sanctorum. Ecce, venerande pater Arne, habes designatam solemnitatem omnium sanctorum, sicut diximus. Quam continue in mente retineas et semper anniversario tempore colere non desistas; adtendens illud et intente considerans, quoniam, si Helias, unus ex illis in vetere testamento, oratione sua, dum voluit, claudere caelum potuit praevaricatoribus et aperire conversis, quanto magis omnes sancti in novo testamento? ubi eis specialiter et patenter claves regni caelestis commissae sunt, et claudere caelum possunt incredulis et aperire credentibus, si intima dilectione honorificantur a fidelibus et coluntur glorificatione eis condigna. Quod ut fieri digne possit a nobis, lumen verum, quod inluminat omnem hominem, Christus Iesus inluminet corda nostra, et pax Dei, quae exsuperat omnem sensum, per intercessionem omnium sanctorum eius, custodiat ea usque in diem aeternitatis. Hanc solemnitatem sanctissimam tribus diebus ieiunando, orando, missas canendo, et elimosinas dando pro invicem sincera devotione precedamus.
On the kalends of November is the solemnity of all the saints. See, venerable father Arno, you have marked the solemnity of all the saints, just as we said. Keep that ever in mind and never cease to celebrate it on that annual date; attending to it and intently considering, seeing that, if Elijah, one of those in the Old Testament, with his prayer, as long as he wished, could shut the heavens to sinners, and open them to the converted, how much more can all the saints in the New Testament? for to them specially and clearly the keys of the heavenly kingdom have been entrusted, and they can shut the heavens to the unbelievers and open them to believers, if they are honoured with inward devotion by the faithful and are worshipped with the glorification appropriate to them.
And, so that we may become worthy, In order that this may be done appropriately by us, may the true light, that illuminates every man, Christ Jesus, illuminate our hearts, and may the peace of God, which exceeds every sense, through the intercession of all his saints, guard them until the last day. Let us precede this most holy solemnity by fasting for three days, praying, singing masses, and giving alms with sincere devotion for each other.
The letter is dated to 800, before March 19, in the MGH edition. An older text is in the Patrologia Latina 100, col. 296.
I’m not absolutely sure that I have the meaning of the last two sentences quite right, by the way. I am not clear what role in “Quod ut fieri digne possit a nobis” is played by Quod, except that clearly a comma is involved before ut; and indeed the clause seems rather odd to me.
Likewise “ea” later in the sentence must be the saints, and if so the prayer is for God’s saints who are still alive and on earth.
Update: many thanks indeed to Diego for correcting me! In fact “ea” is neuter so must refer to “our hearts”. The “Quod” references the last sentence and is the subject of “fieri possit”, and “fieri” needs to be “be done”, rather than “become” (both are possible). Also added omitted clause.
The commemoration of All Saints was first made universal in 835 AD by the Emperor Louis the Pious, in the 21st year of his reign, at the suggestion of Pope Gregory IV. This information reaches us through the 12th century Chronographia or Chronicle of Sigebert of Gembloux, who records the following entry for the year:
835. / 21 / 5. Monente Gregorio papa et omnibus episcopis assentientibus, Ludowicus imperator statuit, ut in Gallia et Germania festivitas omnium Sanctorum in Kalendis Novembris celebraretur, quam Romani ex instituto Bonefacii papae celebrabant. Hoc tempore reliquiae Viti martyris a Parisius ad Corbeiam Saxoniae transferuntur; unde ipsi Franci testati sunt, quod ab illo tempore gloria Francorum ad Saxones translata sit. Ebbo Remorum archiepiscopus deponitur; aliique inulti, qui cum eo in deiectionem Ludowici imperatoris conspiraverant, damnantur et exiliantur.
At the suggestion of Pope Gregory and with the agreement of all the bishops, the emperor Ludovicus ordered that in Gaul and Germany the festivity of the all the Saints would be celebrated on the Kalends of November, which the Romans were celebrating by the institution of Pope Boniface. At this time the relics of Vitus the martyr are transported from Paris to Corbie in Saxony; because of which the Franks themselves bore witness that from that time the glory of the Franks was transferred to the Saxons. Ebbo, archbishop of Riems is deposed; and others unpunished, who had conspired with him to depose the emperor Ludovicus, are condemned and exiled.
This made it official throughout the Holy Roman Empire. No doubt the modern celebration results from this edict.
The reference to Boniface IV is slightly misleading. The Romans were not celebrating on 1 November. The reference is to the Liber Pontificalis and the year 607, when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon to St Mary Ever-Virgin and All the Martyrs. This dedication took place and is commemorated, not on November 1, but on May 13, according to the old Roman martyrology. But that is another post!
All Saints Day is celebrated on 1st November. But it was not always so. The first reference to this celebration on this date is a poem of 83 lines, in hexameter verse, preserved in the manuscripts under the title of “Martyrologium Bedae”, the Martyrology of Bede. It cannot in fact be by Bede, because it mentions events after his death. It may be an early work by Alcuin. Dom André Wilmart labelled it the “Metrical Calendar of York”, and this name has stuck. It is often abbreviated as MCY.
Few will be aware that there is in fact a critical edition, and English translation, hidden inside K. Karasawa, The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium), 2005, in appendix 2, p. 138-145. The author very wisely edited and translated a whole bunch of texts related to his subject, one of which was MCY. Since few will have access to this, and it is short, I thought that I would quote it here. The apparatus can be found in the excellent printed version. I have highlighted the couplet of interest to us.
Prima dies Iani est qua circumciditur agnus.
Octauas idus colitur theophania Christi.
Deserti quartas primus capit accola Paulus.
Sex decimas Antonius obtinet aeque kalendas.
Tres decimas Sebastianus tenuisse refertur.
Bis senas meritis mundo fulgentibus Agnes,
Martyrio undecimas et Anastasius memoratur.
Prima dies Februi est iam qua patitur Policarpus,
Et quartas nonas Christus templo offerebatur.
Nonarumque diem festum celebramus Agathae,
Atque Ualentini sedenis sorte kalendis.
Sic Iuliana et bis septenas ornat honore,
Ac senas merito Mathias uirtute dicabat.
Hinc idus Martis quartas Gregorius aurat.
Cuthbertus denas tenuit ternasque kalendas,
Bis senis sanctus post quem sequitur Benedictus.
Octauis merito gaudet conceptio Christi.
Atque Georgius hinc euectus ad astra uolauit
Carnifices nonis Maiae uincente kalendis.
Ecgberhtus digna uirtutum laude choruscus,
Astriferum octauis ueneranter scandit Olympum.
Quoque die praesul penetrauit Uilfridus alma
Angelico gaudens uectus trans culmina coetu.
Uilfridus et ternis superam penetrauit in aulam
Tempore posterior, morum non flore secundus.
Iacobus seruus domini pius atque Philippus
Mirifico Maias uenerantur honore kalendas.
Bis binis sequitur Pancratius idibus insons.
Ter quinis Marcus meruit pausare kalendis.
Iunius in nonis mundo miratur ademtam
Et summis Tatberhti animam trans sidera uectam.
Atque die uincens eadem Bonifatius hostes
Martyrio fortis bellator ad astra recessit.
Inque suis quadris Barnaban idibus aequat.
Geruasius denis patitur ternisque kalendis
Protasius simul in regnumque perenne uocati.
Estque Iohannes bis quadris baptista colendus
Natalis pulchre feste plaudente corona.
Martyrio et Paulus senis ouat atque Iohannes.
Doctores Petrus et Paulus ternis sociantur
Maxima quos palma clarat sibi lumina mundus.
Iulius in quadris bis gaudet ferre kalendis
Iacobum fratremque Iohannis more colendum.
Sanctificant Abdo et Sennis ternos uenerando.
Augustus Xystum octauis tenet idibus aptum.
Bis binis uictor superat Laurentius hostes.
Sancta Dei genetrix senas ter constat adire
Angelicos uecta inter coetus uirgo kalendas.
Octonos sanctus sortitur Bartholomeus.
Bis binis passus colitur baptista Iohannes.
Idus Septembris senas dedicabat honore
Quis meruit nasci felix iam uirgo Maria.
Octauas decimas Cornelius inde kalendas
Consecrauit et Cyprianus ordine digno.
Eufemia ac sex decimas tenet intemerata.
Undecimas capit et Matheus doctor amoenus,
Mauricius decimas tenet martyr cum milibus una.
Quintanas sortitur Cosmas sibi cum Damiano.
Michahelis ternas templi dedicatio sacrat.
At bonus pridias micat interpres Hieronymus.
Sextas Octembris nonas Bosa optat habere
Sollemnes terris summo qui gaudet Olympo.
At gemini quinis Haeuualdi sorte coluntur.
Paulinus senas metet idus iure magister.
Doctor ter quinis Lucas succurrere kalendis.
Simonis quinis et Iudas uota feramus.
Multiplici rutilet gemma ceu in fronte Nouember
Cunctorum fulget sanctorum laude decorus.
Martinus ternis scandit super idibus astra.
Quindecimis uitam finiuit Tecla kalendis.
Caecilia astra merito decimis cum laude migrauit.
Clementis laeti ueneramur festa nouenis.
Octauis Crysogonus ouat uitalibus armis.
Andreas pridias iuste ueneratur ab orbe.
Tres decimas adiit iam Ignatius aeque kalendis.
Bis senis caelum coepit conscendere Thomas.
Octauis Dominus natus de Uirgine casta.
Martyrio Stephanus septenis alma petiuit.
Bis ternis euangelicus scriptor penetrauit
Angelico uectus tutamine uirgo Iohannes.
Martyrio tenera prostrantur milia quinis.
Siluestrem pridias celebramus ab orbe uerendum.
(1 Jan) The first day of January is when the Lamb was circumcised.
(6) The sixth is worshipped because of the theophany of Christ.
(10) Paul, the first inhabitant of the desert, occupies the 10th.
(17) Similarly, Anthony obtains the 17th.
(20) Sebastian is said to have obtained the 20th.
(21) Because of merits conspicuous to the world, Agnes is commemorated on 21st,
(22) and through martyrdom Anastasius is commemorated on the 22nd.
(1 Feb) The first day of February is just when Polycarp suffered.
(2) A nd Christ was offered to the temple on the 2nd.
(5) We celebrate Agatha’s feast day on the 5th,
(14) and also Valentine’s is assigned to the 14th.
(16) And then Juliana decorates the 16th with honour,
(24) and also, Mathias deservedly made the 24th a holy day by his virtue.
(12 Mar) Here Gregory gilds the 12th of March.
(20) Cuthbert obtained the 20th,
(21) after whom St Benedict follows on the 21st.
(25) Christ’s conception rightly enjoys the 25th.
(23 Apr) And George was taken from hence and flew to the stars,
by overcoming executioners, on the 23rd.
(24) Ecgberht, shining with due praise for his virtue,
dutifully ascended starry Olympus on the 24th.
(24) On the same day, Wilfrid the Bishop reached heaven,
rejoicing in being borne by the angelic host through the delightful heights.
(29) And Wilfrid, on the 29th, went into the heavenly court,
following him in time, but second to none in the flower of his virtues.
(1 May) James, the pious servant of the Lord, and also Philip
are worshipped with great honour on the first of May.
(12) The innocent Pancras followed on the 12th.
(18) On the 18th, Mark deserved to rest.
(5 Jun) June, on its fifth day, worships Tatberht’s soul
taken away from the world and carried through the heavens.
(5) And on this same day, Boniface the mighty warrior,
victorious over his enemies, departed to heaven through martyrdom.
(10) (June) treats Barnabas in the same way on the 10th.
(19) Gervasius suffered on the 19th,
(19) as did Protasius, and both were summoned to the eternal kingdom.
(24) And John the Baptist is to be revered on the 24th,
on this feast of his beautiful birth, in the glory of his crown.
(26) And through martyrdom, Paul rejoices on the 26th, and so does John.
(29) The teachers Peter and Paul are associated (with each other) on the 29th,
illustrious men whom the world illuminates with the greatest honour.
(25 Jul) On July 25th, a happy day,
James, the brother of John, is celebrated in the usual way.
(30) Abdon and Sennen consecrate the 30th by venerating it.
(6 Aug) Appropriately, August has its sixth day as the feast of Sixtus.
(10) On the 10th, the victor Laurence overcomes enemies.
(15) The holy Mother of God, it is agreed, has her feast on the 15th,
the day on which the Virgin was carried to the angelic hosts.
(25) St Bartholomew is put on the 25th.
(29) On the 29th, the martyr, John the Baptist, is worshipped.
(8 Sept) The Blessed Virgin Mary gave honour to the 8th of September,
the day on which she was born.
(14) Cornelius then made the 14th holy,
(14) and did Cyprian in the appropriate order.
(16) The chaste Eufemia obtains the 16th.
(21) And the delightful teacher Matthew occupies the 21st.
(22) Maurice the martyr together with thousands (of others) obtains the 22nd.
(27) Cosmas is put on the 27th, along with Damian.
(29) The dedication of the Temple of Michael makes the 29th holy.
(30) And the good translator Jerome sparkles on the day before (the 1st of Oct).
(2 Oct) Bosa, who is venerated on earth, as he rejoices on the heights of Olympus,
wishes to have the 2nd of October solemn.
(3) And it falls to the twin Ewalds to be worshipped on the 3rd.
(10) The master Paulinus rightly marks out the 10th.
(18) Luke the teacher is to be remembered on the 18th.
(28) Let us pay reverence to Simon and Jude on the 28th.
(1 Nov) As a jewel worn on the brow sparkles time and again, so November
at its beginning is resplendent with the praise given to all the saints.
(11) Martin ascended above the stars on the 11th.
(17) Thecla finished her life on the 17th.
(22) Cecilia deservedly left for heaven with praise on the 22nd.
(23) We happily venerate Clement’s feast on the 23rd.
(24) Chrysogonus in his mighty armour rejoices on the 24th.
(30) Andrew is properly venerated round the world the day before (the 1st of Dec).
(20 Dec) On the 20th (of Dec), similarly, Ignatius departed.
(21) Thomas began to ascend to heaven on the 21st.
(25) The Lord was born from the immaculate Virgin on the 25th.
(26) Through martyrdom, Stephen sought his reward on the 26th.
(27) On the 27th, the evangelist reached heaven,
the innocent John, borne by the protection of the angels.
(28) Through martyrdom, thousands of infants were overthrown on the 28th.
(31) We celebrate the Reverend Silvester, who is to be honoured throughout the
world on the day before (the 1st of Jan).
The best introduction to the Metrical Calendar of York is undoubtedly by Michael Lapidge, “A tenth-century metrical calendar from Ramsey”, in: Revue Benedictine 94 (1984), 326-369, esp. 327-332. The original text from York is extant in two manuscripts. The text then crossed the channel and spread widely on the continent, losing references to local anglo-saxon saints, and acquiring new lines for saints in the new location. There are many continental witnesses, all somewhat modified. Unusually a version of the text then came back to England, and had further descendants here.
The various metrical calendars are a field of study of their own, and too much for a blog post. But we can certainly look a little at the history of the text.
The original text is preserved in two manuscripts. The first of these is British Library, Cotton Vespasian B. vi. (=V) It dates a little after 800 AD, and was written in Mercia. Our text is on folios 104r-v. This is in a group of 3 bifolia which were for some reason extracted from the main manuscript and are bound separately as B.VI/1. They are online here. This is the top of f.104r.
Unhappily the manuscript is defective at the start, beginning only on line 16 with “Bis senis sanctus….”. (To the right of the text is a list of Roman and Greek numerals – nothing to do with our text).
The other manuscript is Trinity College Cambridge, O.2.24, fol. 87v-89r, (=Tr.) from the start of the 12th century. It is not a copy of V, and it is complete. It is online here, although I found that the manuscript images did not display on my Android phone. But blessedly you can download a page that you are interested in:
In actual fact our text starts, without an incipit, on fol. 88r. Each month has an initial. The manuscript is far more handsome than the rough Dark Ages manuscript above. It ends on fol. 89r, without any explicit.
Both manuscripts contain our verse. They have, however, no mention of a verse commemorating John of Beverley which is preserved only in continental manuscripts, but is probably original.
The latest saint mentioned is Boniface, who was martyred by the pagan Friesians in 754. The last bishop of York mentioned is Wilfrid II (d. 732), but not Ecgberht (d.766), which might suggest that he was still alive when the poem was written. The manuscript V itself dates to soon after 800 AD. Alcuin mentions All Saints Day on 1st November in a letter to Arno of Salzburg, dateable to early 800 AD, suggesting that he was aware of such a date before he left for the continent in 782 AD. These dates all suggest that the work was written between 754 and 766 AD. Lapidge suggests that it may in fact be an early work by Alcuin himself.
The work is extant in various continental manuscripts, all interpolated. For instance there is British Library Sloane 263, f. 22r, online here. We can see that this has acquired an incipit: INCIPIT MARTYROLOGIUM BEDAE HEROICO CARMINE:
It has also acquired some introductory verses as a prologue to January from somewhere.
The Martyrologium Poeticum / Metrical Calendar of York was printed first by Luc D’Achery in 1671 from a manuscript of Reims transcribed by Mabillon. This too has the spurious prologue. The edition is online here.
This is the text given by Migne in the Patrologia Latina 94, col. 603 (online here).
The authorship by Bede was first dismissed by Henri Quentin in Les martyrologes historiques du moyen ages, 1908, chapter 3, p.120 f., (online here) who also gave an edition of the text.
André Wilmart, “Un témoin anglo-saxon du calendrier métrique d’York”, Revue Bénédictine 46, 1934, p.41-69 established the English origin and gave an edition based on V. But we had to wait until 2005 and the edition of Karasawa for a proper edition and translation.
The importance of all this is that it establishes a date for the celebration of All Saints Day in the middle of the 8th century, nearly 50 years earlier than Alcuin. It also establishes that this date is likely to be of anglo-saxon origin.
- Ed. E. Dümmler, MGH, Epistolae Karolini Aevi II (Berlin 1895), p. 321.↩
I have spent a few days, researching the Martyrologium Poeticum of pseudo-Bede.
This work would ordinarily be a bit late for us. Bede himself appears in the Clavis Patrum Latinorum, but the editors declined to include his dubia and spuria, doubtless realising that this would take them centuries into the middle ages.
The text is the first witness to All Saints’ Days – All Hallows Day – being celebrated on 1st November. So it gets quoted in the literature. I’ve been trying to find out about it, with this in mind.
However I noticed a funny thing, when I was looking through the papers. There was nothing at all under this name for more than 50 years. There were a cluster of papers by John Hennig in the 1920s and 30s, and a couple of French papers of the same era, and then nothing. This made me suspicious. Generally texts do not cease to be worked on entirely, after attracting interest for centuries.
But I have seen this before. This evening my suspicion was confirmed – that the text is today known under a different title. No longer do we study the Martyrologium Poeticum; instead it is the Metrical Calendar of York, or even simply MCY!
The text with an English translation has been edited by Kazutomo Karasawa in The Old English Metrical Calendar (Menologium), Cambridge, 2015, in Appendix 2 (p.138), as one of a number of related texts that Dr. K. included in his edition.
It’s very bad practice to do something like this, without better reason than I have yet to see. I nearly wrote an article, entirely based on the older literature. I am not the only one to be misled.
I shall have to write something with a bibliography about all this, and I do need to read the articles by Michael Lapidge that list the manuscripts. But that can wait to another time.
Halloween is nearly upon us, and with it comes the incessant smug chanting that “Halloween is simply Samhain renamed”, and other cries of a similar kind.
Folklore is often a bit rubbish. All sorts of claims are made, of the wildest kind, and those who make them often take offence if you ask what evidence there might be for them. The truth is that a good many customs are of very recent coinage. I can personally attest that in England the custom of “trick and treat” was unknown in the 1960s and 70s. I first encountered it in the mid-1980s, and it was evidently borrowed from American TV shows.
But a claim that “Halloween is Samhain renamed” raises all sorts of questions. Who renamed it, if so? When? In what country?
Of course these questions are never asked, and the answers never supplied. This alone should make us very suspicious that an urban myth is involved.
Thinking about this led me to ask when All Saint’s Day is first attested. After all, Halloween can hardly predate it. This in turn led me into deep waters. One of these was the Wikipedia page, which contained the following remarkable claim:
I was much more interested in the “references” than in the text, of course, and these were also interesting:
“Hutton” proved to be Ronald Hutton, Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain, Oxford, 1996. Three chapters were devoted to Samhain and Halloween, concluding that in the British Isles it was All Saints Day that had replaced whatever might have been done at Samhain, and that Halloween only develops after the Reformation. The author had plainly tried to get to the primary evidence for everything; and the sheer effort involved can only attract one’s admiration. Unfortunately the footnoting is rather more meagre than one would wish.
“Pseudo-Bede, Homiliae subditiae” turned out to be quite irrelevant, as well as incomplete. The reference should in fact be Homiliae subditae 69, in the Patrologia Latina 114; but in actual fact this has nothing to do with the points made. The mention of it is a digression by Hennig: that extracts from this (spurious) sermon are used in the readings for All Saints’ Day in some modern service book. The Hennig article – in fact both of them – were grotesquely badly written and rambling horrors. An example will suffice:
The Collect for the feast of All the Saints says that we celebrate on it the memory of all the Saints sub una. The Collect for the Votive Mass says that we rejoice in the intercession of all the Saints ubique. The Office seems to pay a tribute to the first martyrologist to record the name of this feast, by taking the lessons for the second Nocturn from what is described as Bede’s 18th Sermon on the Saints, the first of the two sermons for this feast listed by Migne as nos. lxix and lxx of Bede’s sermones subditae.
47. PL 114.
By contrast the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church article was concise and to the point.
All Saints’ Day itself does not appear to have been established on November 1 until the mid-9th century. An important witness to this is often given as “Bede’s Martyrology”, stating that all the saints are honoured at the start of November. But in fact this text does NOT state this. It is found instead in a metrical text, slightly later than Bede, and sometimes referred to as “Bede’s metrical martyrology”.
Working with all this scruffy material is a trial to anyone historically minded!
I gave some examples in a previous post of the unpublished “notae”, symbols indicating what type of comment was involved, in the margin of Cassiodorus’ Expositio Psalmorum, his commentary on the Psalms. The notae are listed and explained at the top; and I gave some manuscript images.
After doing so, a few more online manuscripts came to hand. I got them by looking at Halporn’s 1981 article on the manuscripts (JSTOR), plus quite a bit of legwork!
First and best of these is in Munich, at the BSB, a manuscript of the 2nd quarter of the 9th century, with the shelfmark Clm 14077. It’s online here. This manuscript does not just give the notae and the meaning: it also gives an example after each. This is unusual, and must indicate creative work by the copyist. Here is folio 1r:
Nice, isn’t it? But it also demonstrates how these sorts of indices, meta-textual elements, are vulnerable to interference in transmission.
The next one is a more conventional manuscript, this time in Paris, at the BNF. The shelfmark is Paris latinus 2194. It’s 10th century, once belonged to Colbert, and is online here. Sadly we have only a monochrome image, but it is a very clear one!
Note at the top the shelfmark’s of past owners. It was “Cod. Colb. 447” – manuscript 447, when it was owned by Colbert. Then it was “Regius 3642”, that is manuscript 3642 in the Royal library. At the revolution the old royal library became the core of the new Bibliothèque Nationale Français, and “2194” was written lower down. Manuscripts move around like bumblebees sometimes, and they reflect the times through which they passed.
The “notae” appear, with the usual explanation, followed by the preface. But see how the microfilm hides the actual symbols in the margin for the most part!
Also available online here is BNF Paris lat. 2195, this time in colour. This manuscript was written in the first quarter of the 9th century, and was once the property of the abbey of St Martial at Limoges, according to the catalogue.
Here the “notae” are clearly photographed. In fact it is notable that modern digitisation projects make a far better job of it than the old microfilmers. Perhaps the reputation of the institution is on the line. A microfilm might be seen by one or two scholars, who had been overcharged for it, and nobody cared if the quality was any good. Indeed the BNF certainly tried to sell me some quite useless microfilms once; and I had to threaten to involve Visa before they refunded my money. But the world can see these digital copies; and there is national prestige at stake. The end result is good for everyone, however.
This leaf has clearly been damaged. I would guess that the manuscript had lost its cover, at some point during its history, and the top right got wet and rotted. But it is still with us!
Another example of damage is in Vatican Palatinus latinus 271:It’s not clear what has happened here, is it, but the notae are unreadable.
Something similar has happened in the manuscript from Reichenau, now Karlsruhe Aug. Perg. 155, online here:
On the other hand we get this in Bamberg Msc Bibl. 56 (online here):
The ink has faded, and made the symbols hard to read, and a subsequent hand has redrawn them!
It is really very remarkable to be able to compare something like this so easily from my study. We are so fortunate. These are days of wonders!
The word “Christianitas” became important during the Dark Ages. Charlemagne inherited the kingdom of the Franks, and he sought to do something about the pointless barbarian kingdoms atop the decaying ruins of the Western Roman Empire. Out of these he forged a vision of a new world, and one that his contemporaries could understand and relate to. He connected the German idea of the High King with the idea of a Roman empire. He made use of the only surviving Roman institution, the church. All these forces for stability he connected together. His kingdom did not survive him; but his vision did. Instead of the steady decline and splintering that had preceded him, he left a world with an idea: the idea of Christendom.
The word “Christianitas” comes to mean “Christendom” at this time, in the Carolingian period. It still retained its meaning of “Christianity”. But as such it is important as a vehicle for stability within the medieval period and indeed beyond, into our own day.
But this usage is not that found in antiquity. It belongs to a future unimaginable to a civilised Roman, even as late as St Augustine. The Roman collapse was unimaginable – until it happened. So the word is used to mean “Christianity” in late antiquity.
There is in fact a monograph on the subject: Tim Geelhaar, Christianitas: Eine Wortgeschichte von der Spätantike bis zum Mittelalter, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2015. This is in German, which probably means that nobody in the English- or French-speaking world has read it! In fact the author might be wise to publish a related journal article in each language in order to raise the profile of the study. It’s also inaccessible to me, being offline. The English language summary of the book is interesting:
The word “christianitas” arose as an abbreviation for the medieval idea of united Christendom, which entered the historical narratives concerning Christianity, the Papacy and emperorship, the crusades and Europe. In fact, in late Antiquity and the Carolingian period “christianitas” stood for many different concepts. In this volume Tim Geelhaar disconnects the term and the idea behind it and determines the situations in which it came to be used, how it was reprogrammed and politicized. He demonstrates the historical semantics behind “christianitas” as well as the plurality of Christianized, Latinized Europe.
Fortunately the Google Books preview is generous, and so it is possible to read some of the key pages. Page 53 for instance shows tables of authors who use the word in late antiquity. Page 414 gives more detail on each.
Here are Dr Geelhaar’s two tables from p.53:
The authors are divided into 4 sections, as Dr G. is interested in exploring the different ways in which the word is used in late antiquity. But note the table header: this is authors from 360-490 AD.
The first two references listed are two obscure works by pseudo-Cyprian: the Epistula ad Turasium, chapter 4 (PL 30, 278C-282A, esp. 279D), and the De singularitate clericorum, c. 7 (CSEL 3.3, p.180; PL 4, 835B-870A, esp. 841C-842A). Dr Geelhaar tentatively assigns them to ca. 360 AD.
The Clavis Patrum Latinorum (CPL 62 and 64) lists them both as spurious, and suggests that nothing can really be known for certain about the date or author of either. De singularitate clericorum has been attributed to an obscure Donatist writer named Macrobius, but the CPL point out that there is nothing Donatist about it, and Rufinus tells us that the Novatianists found it necessary to put forward their works under the name of Cyprian, towards the end of the 4th century.
The first real usage appears in Marius Victorinus, ca. 363, in his commentaries on Ephesians, 3:19, 4:5-6, 5:2 (CSEL 83.2, p.53 f., 58, 75 – not in the PL) and Galatians 3:10 (CSEL 83.2, p.130) and Phillipians 2:5 (p.184). This is followed by the first of the passages in the Theodosian Code, that we looked at in my last post.
Unfortunately the text of the commentaries by Marius Victorinus was not printed until 1828, by Angelo Mai in his Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio, vol 3, part 2, and the manuscripts that he used were very lacunose. Migne of course just reprinted Mai. The first critical text is that of Locher in the Teubner series in 1972, which is unreliable. The reliable text is that of the CSEL, and this is not online. I believe a German translation exists of all three commentaries; and likewise an Italian one. But I was unable to find any English or French translation other than Cooper’s 2005 translation of the commentary on Galatians.
We shall therefore have to content ourselves with only one passage, using the text given by Dr. G (p.415-6) from the commentary on Galatian 3:10, and Dr Cooper’s translation of it (p.292):
3, 10. Quicumque enim ex operibus legis sunt, sub maledictione sunt. Vehementer igitur adiunxit non modo non benedici eos qui ex operibus sunt, sed etiam eos esse sub maledictione qui ex operibus legis sunt. Quod autem dixit ex operibus legis, intellegamus esse etiam opera christianitatis, maxime ilia quae saepe apostolus mandat atque ei mandatum est, pauperum memores simus et cetera quae in hoc apostolo ad vivendum praecepta retinentur, quae que opera ab apostolo omni Christiano inplenda mandatur.
For all who live based on works of the Law are under a curse (3: 10). Forcefully, then, he has added that not only are those who live based on works not blessed, but also that those who live based on the works of the Law are under a curse. Now, as he said based on works of the Law, let us understand that there are also works which belong to Christianity, especially those works which the apostle frequently commands (and also what has been commanded to him: let us be mindful of the poor) and the additional precepts for living which are included in this apostle’s writings. Each one of these works is commanded by the apostle to be fulfilled by every Christian.
- There is a considerable literature about all of this. Inevitably the topic is political today. Some references may be found in John Tolan, “Constructing Christendom”, in: J. Hudson &c, “The Making of Europe”: Essays in Honour of Robert Bartlett, Brill, 2016, p.277-298. Google Books preview here.↩
- These details from S.A.Cooper’s translation of the commentary on Galatians, p.5.↩
- Stephen Andrew Cooper, Marius Victorinus’ Commentary on Galatians, Oxford University Press, 2005.↩
Yesterday we saw that the earliest reference for “Christianitas” = Christianity (rather than the earlier Christanismus) was in the Theodosian Law Code (Codex Theodosianus) of 450 AD:
Christĭānĭtas, ātis, f. Christus.
I. Christianity, = Christianismus, Cod. Th. 16, 7, 7; 12, 1, 112.—
II. Meton., the Christian clergy, Cod. Th. 12, 1, 123.
I thought that I would look up these passages.
Those unfamiliar with the book should know that it is a compilation of rescripts, letters written by emperors of the dynasty of Constantine and afterwards. Book 16 is dedicated to theological matters, and the tone of it is extremely aggressive.
Impp. theodosius et valentinianus aa. basso praefecto praetorio. post alia: apostatarum sacrilegum nomen singulorum vox continuae accusationis incesset et nullis finita temporibus huiuscemodi criminis arceatur indago. 1. Quibus quamvis praeterita interdicta sufficiant, tamen etiam illud iteramus, ne quam, postquam a fide deviaverint, testandi aut donandi quippiam habeant facultatem, sed nec venditionis specie facere legi fraudem sinantur totumque ab intestato christianitatem sectantibus propinquis potissimum deferatur. 2. In tantum autem contra huiusmodi sacrilegia perpetuari volumus actionem, ut universis ab intestato venientibus etiam post mortem peccantis absolutam vocem insimulationis congruae non negemus. nec illud patiemur obstare, si nihil in contestatione profano dicatur vivente perductum. 3. Sed ne huius interpretatio criminis latius incerto vagetur errore, eos praesentibus insectamur oraculis, qui nomen christianitatis induti sacrificia vel fecerint vel facienda mandaverint, quorum etiam post mortem comprobata perfidia hac ratione plectenda est, ut donationibus testamentisque rescissis ii, quibus hoc defert legitima successio, huiusmodi personarum hereditate potiantur. dat. vii id. april. ravennae theodosio xii et valentiniano ii aa. conss.
7. Emperors Theodosius and Valentinian Augustuses to Bassus, Praetorian Prefect.
(After other matters.) The voice of unremitting accusation shall assail the sacrilegious name of each and every apostate, and the investigation of such a crime shall not be prevented by any time limitations. 1. Although previous interdicts suffice for such persons, We repeat, nevertheless, the well known provision that after they have deviated from the faith, they shall have no power to make a testament or gift, nor shall they be permitted to defraud the law by the pretense of a sale, and on intestacy all their property shall be bestowed on near kinsmen, preferably on those who are adherents of Christianity. 2. It is Our will, moreover, that the right of action against such sacrilege shall be perpetuated to such an extent that to all persons who come to an inheritance on intestacy We shall not deny the unrestricted right of due accusation, even after the death of the sinner, nor shall We allow the action to be obstructed if it is said that nothing was adduced in attestation during the lifetime of the profane person.
But in order that the aforesaid crime may not be interpreted too broadly through the error of uncertainty, by Our present divine response. We pursue those persons who have made sacrifices or who have commanded them to be made, after they had assumed the name of Christianity. The proved perfidy of such persons, even after death, shall be punished as follows: their gifts and testaments shall be rescinded, and their inheritances shall be obtained by those heirs upon whom this right is conferred by statutory succession.
Given on the seventh day before the ides of April at Ravenna in the year of the twelfth consulship of Theodosius Augustus and the second consulship of Valentinian Augustus. (April 7, 426)
Charming stuff. Now from book 12, title 1, 112. This is one of a bunch of rescripts jointly from the emperors Gratian, Valentinian and Theodosius.
Idem aaa. florentio praefecto augustali. in consequenda archierosyne ille sit potior, qui patriae plura praestiterit nec tamen a templorum cultu observatione christianitatis abscesserit. quippe indecorum est, immo ut verius dicamus, illicitum ad eorum curam templa et templorum sollemnia pertinere, quorum conscientiam vera ratio divinae religionis imbuerit et quos ipsos decebat tale munus, etiamsi non prohiberentur, effugere. emissa xvi kal. iul. constantinopoli honorio n. p. et evodio conss.
The same Augustuses to Florentius, Augustal Prefect. In obtaining the office of chief civil priest,[archierosyna] that person shall be considered preferable who has performed the most services for his municipality, and who has not, however, withdrawn from the cult of the temples by his observance of Christianity. Indeed it is unseemly, and further, that We may speak more truly, it is illicit, for the temples and the customary rites of the temples to belong to the care of those persons whose conscience is imbued with the true doctrine of divine religion, and who ought properly to flee such compulsory public service, even if they were not prohibited by law from performing it.
Issued on the sixteenth day before the kalends of July at Constantinople in the year of the consulship of Emperor Designate Honorius and of Evodius. (June 16, 386)
In 386 paganism was still the state religion. Here the edict prohibits Christians from filling the office of chief priest.
12.1.123, from Valentinian, Theodosius and Arcadius, (July 28, 391) is about the efforts of local men to avoid being ruined by imperial taxes on those who became members of the city council.
Idem aaa. ad tatianum praefectum praetorio. dudum super his, qui relicta curia vel senatoriam dignitatem adepti sunt vel christianitatis obtentu curialium se consortio separarunt, evidens sanctionum nostrarum processit auctoritas, ut, si eorum personas vel honor vel religio defenderet, quod ex curiali substantia vel ipsi retinerent vel in alios transtulissent, obnoxium publicis descriptionibus haberetur. 1. Evidens etiam praecepto nostro tempus expressum est, ex quo consulatu, si qui de curialibus ad ecclesiam confugissent, omni scirent patrimonio curiae esse cedendum. …
The same Augustuses to Tatianus, Praetorian Prefect. The evident authority of Our sanctions has previously been issued in regard to those persons who have deserted the municipal councils and have either acquired the rank of Senator or by the plea of Christianity, have separated themselves from the association of decurions, to the effect that, if such persons were protected either by rank or by religion, the property from their holdings as decurions which they either retain themselves or which they transfer to others should be held obligated to public assessment. 1. A definite time limit was also defined by Our regulation, stating from what consulship they shall know that they must cede all their patrimony to the municipal council, if they should flee from the decurionate to the Church. …
All well and good, and very official, of course.
But a kind correspondent has pointed out that the TLL contains other, potentially earlier, uses of the word, notably in ps.Cyprian. I will discuss these next.
I can’t believe that I forgot to hit the “Publish” button last night on yesterday’s post…
Yesterday I was asking when the word “Christianity” appears in our sources. In Greek it is Χριστιανισμός, and it appears in Ignatius of Antioch; then in Origen; and then in post-Nicene sources. It’s not a widely-used word in surviving ante-Nicene literature, plainly.
But today I wondered what the Latin word might be. I thought perhaps “Christianitas”, with Romanitas in mind. But a little searching around gave me:
Christĭānĭtas , ātis, f. Christus.
I. Christianity, = Christianismus, Cod. Th. 16, 7, 7; 12, 1, 112.—
II. Meton., the Christian clergy, Cod. Th. 12, 1, 123.
So the rather Germanic-sounding Christianismus is our word, originating with Tertullian – who else? – in Adversus Marcionem book 4, chapter 33, verse 8:
 Quasi non et nos limite in quendam agnoscamus Ioannem constitutum inter vetera et nova, ad quem desineret Iudaismus et a quo inciperet Christianismus, non tamen ut ab alia virtute facta sit sedatio legis et prophetarum, et initiatio evangelii in quo est dei regnum, Christus ipse.
As though we too did not know that John has been set as a sort of dividing-line between old things and new, a line at which Judaism should cease and Christianity should begin—not however that by the action of any alien power there came about this cessation of the law and the prophets, and the inception of that gospel in which is the kingdom of God, Christ himself.
I don’t have access as far as I know to any search tool for Latin texts like the TLG, but it does indeed make sense that Tertullian would originate the term, as the first of the Latin fathers. Equally it makes sense that the Latin term should be the Greek term, transliterated.
But the mention of “Judaismus” is interesting. Ignatius also uses “Christianity” as a foil for “Judaism” (Ἰουδαϊσμὸς). Possibly the term “Christianity” exists solely because of the existence of “Judaism”, and the fact that Christians were not included in it?
I wondered how frequently Ἰουδαϊσμὸς or Ἰουδαϊσμὸν, etc was used, so I did a search. Here again it was Ignatius, Origen, then post-Nicene writers! Although in this case it also appears in the fragments of Porphyry’s Against the Christians. This is surprising really.
A google search reveals that it also appears in 2 Maccabees, so perhaps my lack of results is a reflection of the search tool available to me.