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I The Study of Christian Culture THE FOLLOWING ESSAYSl cover so wide a field in space and time that it may be difficult for the reader at first sight to grasp their connection with one another. True, they all deal with some aspect of "medieval" culture, but the word medieval is in itself unsatisfactory or insignificant. It was coined by postRenaissance scholars to cover the gap between two periods of positive achievement which were regarded as the only ones worthy of the attention of the educated man-the classical civilization of Greece and Rome and the civilization of modern Europe. But this conception is the very opposite of that on which this book is based. What I am concerned with is not the interim period between two civilizations, but the study of Christian Culture-a culture which is not only worthy of study for its own sake, but is the source of the actual sociological unity which we call Europe. If, as I believe, religion is the key of history and it is impossible to understand a culture unless we understand its religious I. [This essay appeared as the introduction to Medieval Essays (Image, 1959). -Ed.] lO7 roB Selected Essays roots, then the Middle Ages are not a kind of waiting-room between two different worlds, but the age which made a new world, the world from which we come and to which in a sense we still belong. But the concept of Christian culture is far wider than that of the Middle Ages, not only potentially and ideally but actually and historically. It is true that there have been many Christian cultures and there may be many more. Nevertheless the main stream of Christian culture is one and should be studied as an intelligible historical unity. The present volume does not, of course, attempt to deal with this whole subject. It is limited to particular aspects of the formative process of Christian culture. Even so this formative process involves three distinct phases of evolution and three different cultural situations. In the first place there is the situation of a new religion in an old culture. This was the situation of Christianity in the Roman Empire of which I write in the essay on "The Age of St. Augustine".2 This process of conflict and conversion produced the first phase of Christian culture-the society of the Christian Empire and the age of the Fathers. This form of Christian culture was preserved almost unchanged in the Byzantine world, while in the West it provided a kind of classical standard or ideal towards which later ages have looked back. Secondly there is the situation in which the Church entered the barbarian world not only as the teacher of the Christian Faith but also as the bearer of a higher culture. This double impact of Christian culture on the barbarian world which had its own tradition of culture and its own social institutions produced a state of tension and conflict between two social traditions and two ideals of life which has had a profound influence on the development of Western culture. Indeed it has never been completely resolved, since with the coming of modern 2. [A Monument to Saint Augustine (1936). In Medieval Essays, a version of this essay appeared as "The Christian West and the Fall of the Empire." -Ed.] The Study of Christian Culture 109 nationalism we have seen a conscious attempt to undo the medieval synthesis and to reassert the old pre-Christian national traditions in an idealized form. In the third place we have the situation in which Christianity inspires a new movement of cultural creativity, in which the new life of the new peoples finds a new expression in consciously Christian forms. This is the medieval synthesis which is the characteristic achievement of the Middle Ages, in the narrower sense of the expression. It would, however, be more correct to describe it as the age of the Western Renaissance for it is essentially the birth of a new world culture. It is to this movement that most of these essays are devoted, since it is the decisive moment in the history of Western culture and since it is possible to study it at first hand in the new vernacular literatures which are its living voice. Finally I have devoted an essay to the great rival cultures of Western Islam, the influence and importance of which have hitherto been so insufficiently recognized by the Western historians of medieval...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813220420
Related ISBN
9780813209142
MARC Record
OCLC
815969435
Pages
296
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-13
Language
English
Open Access
No
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