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Carolingian Renaissance

Carolingian Renaissance

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In the history of ideas
History of ideas
The history of ideas is a field of research in history that deals with the expression, preservation, and change of human ideas over time. The history of ideas is a sister-discipline to, or a particular approach within, intellectual history...

 the Carolingian Renaissance stands out as a period of intellectual and cultural revival in Europe occurring from the late eighth century, in the generation of Alcuin
Alcuin
Alcuin of York or Ealhwine, nicknamed 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...

, to the 9th century, and the generation of Heiric of Auxerre
Heiric of Auxerre
Heiric of Auxerre was a French Benedictine theologian and writer.He was an oblate of the monastery of St. Germanus of Auxerre, from a young age. He studied with Servatus Lupus and Haymo of Auxerre. His own students included Remigius of Auxerre and Hucbald.His Miracula sancti Germani was a verse...

, with the peak of the activities coordinated during the reigns of the Carolingian
Carolingian
The Carolingian dynasty was a Frankish noble family with origins in the Arnulfing and Pippinid clans of the 7th century AD. The name "Carolingian", Medieval Latin karolingi, an altered form of an unattested Old High German *karling, kerling The Carolingian dynasty (known variously as the...

 rulers Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 and Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

. It formed one of three medieval renaissances
Medieval renaissances
The medieval renaissances were periods characterised by significant cultural renewal right across medieval Western Europe. These are effectively seen as occurring in three phases - the Carolingian Renaissance , Ottonian Renaissance and the renaissance of the 12th century.The term was first used by...

 identified by medievalists. The sense of renewal in a newly stabilized society was galvanized by an elite group of scholars gathered to the court of Charlemagne. For moral betterment the Carolingian renaissance reached for models drawn from the example of the Christian Roman Empire of the 4th century. During this period there was an increase of literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

, writing
Writing
Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols . It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.Writing most likely...

, the art
Art
Art is the product or process of deliberately arranging items in a way that influences and affects one or more of the senses, emotions, and intellect....

s, architecture
Architecture
Architecture is both the process and product of planning, designing and construction. Architectural works, in the material form of buildings, are often perceived as cultural and political symbols and as works of art...

, jurisprudence
Jurisprudence
Jurisprudence is the theory and philosophy of law. Scholars of jurisprudence, or legal theorists , hope to obtain a deeper understanding of the nature of law, of legal reasoning, legal systems and of legal institutions...

, liturgical reforms and scriptural
Religious text
Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to their religious tradition...

 studies. Charlemagne's Admonitio generalis
Admonitio Generalis
The Admonitio Generalis, as it is commonly known, was an important piece of Carolingian legislation, promulgated in 789 by the Emperor Charlemagne...

(789) and his Epistola de litteris colendis
De litteris colendis
The Epistola de litteris colendis is a well-known letter addressed by Charlemagne to Abbot Baugulf of Fulda sometime between 794 and 797 regarding language.-See also:*Admonitio Generalis*Carolingian dynasty*Carolingian Empire*Carolingian Renaissance...

served as manifestos. The effects of this cultural revival, however, were largely limited to a small group of court literati
Literati
Literati may refer to:*Intellectuals or those who read and comment on literature*The scholar-bureaucrats or literati of imperial China**Literati painting, also known as the Southern School of painting, developed by Chinese literati...

: "it had a spectacular effect on education and culture in Francia, a debatable effect on artistic endeavors, and an unmeasurable effect on what mattered most to the Carolingians, the moral regeneration of society," John Contreni observes. Beyond their efforts to write better Latin, to copy and preserve patristic and classical texts and to develop a more legible, classicizing script, the Carolingian minuscule
Carolingian minuscule
Carolingian or Caroline minuscule is a script developed as a writing standard in Europe so that the Roman alphabet could be easily recognized by the literate class from one region to another. It was used in Charlemagne's empire between approximately 800 and 1200...

 that Renaissance humanists
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

 took to be Roman and employed as humanist minuscule
Humanist minuscule
Humanist minuscule is a handwriting or style of script that was invented in secular circles in Italy, at the beginning of the fifteenth century. "Few periods in Western history have produced writing of such great beauty", observes the art historian Millard Meiss...

, from which has developed early modern Italic script
Italic script
Italic script, also known as chancery cursive, is a semi-cursive, slightly sloped style of handwriting and calligraphy that was developed during the Renaissance in Italy...

, the secular and ecclesiastical leaders of the Carolingian Renaissance for the first time in centuries applied rational ideas to social issues, providing a common language and writing style that allowed for communication across most of Europe.

Sir Kenneth Clark was of the view that by means of the Carolingian Renaissance, Western civilization survived by the skin of its teeth. The use of the term renaissance to describe this period is contested due to the majority of changes brought about by this period being confined almost entirely to the clergy
Clergy
Clergy is the generic term used to describe the formal religious leadership within a given religion. A clergyman, churchman or cleric is a member of the clergy, especially one who is a priest, preacher, pastor, or other religious professional....

, and due to the period lacking the wide-ranging social movements of the later Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

. Instead of being a rebirth of new cultural movements, the period was more an attempt to recreate the previous culture of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. The Carolingian Renaissance in retrospect also has some of the character of a false dawn, in that its cultural gains were largely dissipated within a couple of generations, a perception voiced by Walahfrid Strabo (died 849), in his introduction to Einhard
Einhard
Einhard was a Frankish scholar and courtier. Einhard was a dedicated servant of Charlemagne and his son Louis the Pious; his main work is a biography of Charlemagne, the Vita Karoli Magni, "one of the most precious literary bequests of the early Middle Ages."-Public life:Einhard was from the eastern...

's Life of Charlemagne, summing up the generation of renewal:
Charlemagne was able to offer the cultureless and, I might say, almost completely unenlightened territory of the realm which God had entrusted to him, a new enthusiasm for all human knowledge. In its earlier state of barbarousness, his kingdom had been hardly touched at all by any such zeal, but now it opened its eyes to God's illumination. In our own time the thirst for knowledge is disappearing again: the light of wisdom is less and less sought after and is now becoming rare again in most men's minds.

Scholarly efforts



The lack of literate persons in eighth century western Europe caused problems for the Carolingian rulers by severely limiting the number of people capable of serving as court scribes. Of even greater concern to the very pious rulers was the fact that not all parish priests possessed the skill to read the Vulgate Bible. An additional problem was that the vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin
Vulgar Latin is any of the nonstandard forms of Latin from which the Romance languages developed. Because of its nonstandard nature, it had no official orthography. All written works used Classical Latin, with very few exceptions...

 of the later Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 had begun to diverge into the regional dialects, the precursors to today's Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

, that were becoming mutually unintelligible and preventing scholars from one part of Europe being able to communicate with persons from another part of Europe.

To address these problems, Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 ordered the creation of schools. A major part of his program of reform was to attract many of the leading scholars of his day to his court. Among the first called to court were Italians: Peter of Pisa
Peter of Pisa
Peter of Pisa was a grammarian of the Early middle ages. He originally taught at Pavia. In 776, after the conquest of the Lombard Kingdom, Charlemagne summoned him to his court to teach Latin. Peter was a friend of Alcuin. He returned about the year 790 to Italy where he died no later than 799...

, who from 776 to about 790 instructed Charlemagne in Latin, and from 776 to 787 Paulinus of Aquileia, whom Charlemagne nominated as patriarch of Aquileia
Patriarch of Aquileia
The Patriarch of Aquileia was an office in the Roman Catholic Church. During the Middle Ages the Patriarchate of Aquileia was a temporal state in Northern Italy. The Patriarchate of Aquileia as a church office was suppressed in 1752....

 in 787. The Lombard
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon
Paul the Deacon , also known as Paulus Diaconus, Warnefred, Barnefridus and Cassinensis, , was a Benedictine monk and historian of the Lombards.-Life:...

 was brought to court in 782 and remained until 787, when Charles nominated him abbot
Abbot
The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

 of Montecassino. Theodulf of Orléans
Theodulf of Orléans
Theodulf of Orléans , was the Bishop of Orléans during the reign of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious...

 was a Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 Goth who served at court from 782 to 797 when nominated as bishop of Orléans. Theodulf had been in friendly competition over the standardization of the Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

 with the chief among the Charlemagne's scholars, Alcuin of York. Alcuin was a Northumbria
Northumbria
Northumbria was a medieval kingdom of the Angles, in what is now Northern England and South-East Scotland, becoming subsequently an earldom in a united Anglo-Saxon kingdom of England. The name reflects the approximate southern limit to the kingdom's territory, the Humber Estuary.Northumbria was...

n monk
Monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

 and deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

 who served as head of the Palace School from 782 to 796, except for the years 790 to 793 when he returned to England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. After 796, he continued his scholarly work as abbot of St. Martin's Monastery in Tours
Tours
Tours is a city in central France, the capital of the Indre-et-Loire department.It is located on the lower reaches of the river Loire, between Orléans and the Atlantic coast. Touraine, the region around Tours, is known for its wines, the alleged perfection of its local spoken French, and for the...

. Among those to follow Alcuin across the Channel to the Frankish court was Joseph Scottus
Joseph Scottus
Joseph or Josephus Scottus , called the Deacon, was an Irish scholar, diplomat, poet, and ecclesiastic, a minor figure in the Carolingian Renaissance...

, an Irishman who left some original biblical commentary and acrostic experiments. After this first generation of non-Frankish scholars, their Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 pupils, such as Angilbert
Angilbert
Saint Angilbert was a Frank who served Charlemagne as a diplomat, abbot, poet and semi-son-in-law. He was of noble Frankish parentage, and educated at the palace school in Aquae Grani under Alcuin...

, would make their own mark.

The later courts of Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious
Louis the Pious , also called the Fair, and the Debonaire, was the King of Aquitaine from 781. He was also King of the Franks and co-Emperor with his father, Charlemagne, from 813...

 and Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald
Charles the Bald , Holy Roman Emperor and King of West Francia , was the youngest son of the Emperor Louis the Pious by his second wife Judith.-Struggle against his brothers:He was born on 13 June 823 in Frankfurt, when his elder...

 had similar groups of scholars. Among the most important was John Scotus Eriugena.

One of the primary efforts was the creation of a standardized curriculum for use at the recently created schools. Alcuin led this effort and was responsible for the writing of textbooks, creation of word lists, and establishing the trivium and quadrivium
Quadrivium
The quadrivium comprised the four subjects, or arts, taught in medieval universities, after teaching the trivium. The word is Latin, meaning "the four ways" , and its use for the 4 subjects has been attributed to Boethius or Cassiodorus in the 6th century...

 as the basis for education.

Another contribution from this period was the development of Carolingian minuscule
Carolingian minuscule
Carolingian or Caroline minuscule is a script developed as a writing standard in Europe so that the Roman alphabet could be easily recognized by the literate class from one region to another. It was used in Charlemagne's empire between approximately 800 and 1200...

, a "book-hand" first used at the monasteries of Corbie
Corbie
Corbie is a commune of the Somme department in Picardie in northern France.-Geography:The small town is situated up river from Amiens, in the département of Somme and is the main town of the canton of Corbie. It lies in the valley of the River Somme, at the confluence of the River Ancre. The town...

 and Tours that introduced the use of lower case letters. A standardized version of Latin was also developed that allowed for the coining of new words while retaining the grammatical rules of Classical Latin
Classical Latin
Classical Latin in simplest terms is the socio-linguistic register of the Latin language regarded by the enfranchised and empowered populations of the late Roman republic and the Roman empire as good Latin. Most writers during this time made use of it...

. This Medieval Latin
Medieval Latin
Medieval Latin was the form of Latin used in the Middle Ages, primarily as a medium of scholarly exchange and as the liturgical language of the medieval Roman Catholic Church, but also as a language of science, literature, law, and administration. Despite the clerical origin of many of its authors,...

 became the common language of scholarship and allowed administrators and travelers to make themselves understood across Europe.

Carolingian art




Carolingian art spans the roughly 100-year period from about 800–900. Although brief, it was an influential period. Northern Europe embraced classical Mediterranean Roman art forms for the first time, setting the stage for the rise of Romanesque art
Romanesque art
Romanesque art refers to the art of Western Europe from approximately 1000 AD to the rise of the Gothic style in the 13th century, or later, depending on region. The preceding period is increasingly known as the Pre-Romanesque...

 and eventually Gothic art
Gothic art
Gothic art was a Medieval art movement that developed in France out of Romanesque art in the mid-12th century, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, but took over art more completely north of the Alps, never quite effacing more classical...

 in the West. Illuminated manuscript
Illuminated manuscript
An illuminated manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented by the addition of decoration, such as decorated initials, borders and miniature illustrations...

s, metalwork, small-scale sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

, mosaic
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

s and fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

s survive from the period.


Carolingian architecture



Carolingian architecture is the style of North European architecture promoted by Charlemagne. The period of architecture spans the late eighth and ninth centuries until the reign of Otto I
Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto I the Great , son of Henry I the Fowler and Matilda of Ringelheim, was Duke of Saxony, King of Germany, King of Italy, and "the first of the Germans to be called the emperor of Italy" according to Arnulf of Milan...

 in 936, and was a conscious attempt to create a Roman
Roman architecture
Ancient Roman architecture adopted certain aspects of Ancient Greek architecture, creating a new architectural style. The Romans were indebted to their Etruscan neighbors and forefathers who supplied them with a wealth of knowledge essential for future architectural solutions, such as hydraulics...

 Renaissance, emulating Roman
Roman architecture
Ancient Roman architecture adopted certain aspects of Ancient Greek architecture, creating a new architectural style. The Romans were indebted to their Etruscan neighbors and forefathers who supplied them with a wealth of knowledge essential for future architectural solutions, such as hydraulics...

, Early Christian
Early Christian art and architecture
Early Christian art and architecture is the art produced by Christians or under Christian patronage from about the year 100 to about the year 500. Prior to 100 there is no surviving art that can be called Christian with absolute certainty...

 and Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture
Byzantine architecture is the architecture of the Byzantine Empire. The empire gradually emerged as a distinct artistic and cultural entity from what is today referred to as the Roman Empire after AD 330, when the Roman Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire east from Rome to...

, with its own innovation, resulting in having a unique character. Its architecture was the most salient Carolingian art to a society that never saw an illuminated manuscript and rarely handled one of the new coins. "The little more than eight decades between 768 to 855 alone saw the construction of 27 new cathedrals, 417 monasteries, and 100 royal residences", John Contreni calculates.

Carolingian music



In Western culture, there had been an unbroken tradition in musical practice and theory from the earliest written records of the Sumerians (c. 2500 BC) through the Babylonians and Persians down to ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 and Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

. However, the Germanic migrations of the 5th century brought about a break with this tradition. Most in western Europe for the next few centuries did not understand the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, and thus the works of Boethius, who saw what was happening and translated ancient Greek treatises into Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, became the foundation of learning during this period. The advent of scholarly reforms by Charlemagne, who was particularly interested in music, began a period of intense activity in the monasteries of the writing and copying of treatises in music theory
Music theory
Music theory is the study of how music works. It examines the language and notation of music. It seeks to identify patterns and structures in composers' techniques across or within genres, styles, or historical periods...

 – the Musica enchiriadis
Musica enchiriadis
Musica enchiriadis is an anonymous musical treatise from the 9th century. It is the first surviving attempt to establish a system of rules for polyphony in classical music. The treatise was once attributed to Hucbald, but this is no longer accepted. Some historians once attributed it to Odo of...

 is one of the earliest and most interesting of these. Charlemagne sought to unify the practice of church music by eliminating regional stylistic differences. There is evidence that the earliest Western musical notation
Musical notation
Music notation or musical notation is any system that represents aurally perceived music, through the use of written symbols.-History:...

, in the form of neume
Neume
A neume is the basic element of Western and Eastern systems of musical notation prior to the invention of five-line staff notation. The word is a Middle English corruption of the ultimately Ancient Greek word for breath ....

s in camp aperto (without staff
Staff (music)
In standard Western musical notation, the staff, or stave, is a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces that each represent a different musical pitch—or, in the case of a percussion staff, different percussion instruments. Appropriate music symbols, depending upon the intended effect,...

-lines), was created at Metz
Metz
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

 around 800, as a result of Charlemagne's desire for Frank
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

ish church musicians to retain the performance nuances used by the Roman singers. Western musical practice and theory of today can be traced in an unbroken line from this time to the present, thus it had its beginnings with Charlemagne.

Economic and legal reforms


Charlemagne was faced with a variety of currencies at the start of his reign. To correct problems these various currencies caused, he standardized a system based on a pound of silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 (Livre tournois
Livre tournois
The livre tournois |pound]]) was:#one of numerous currencies used in France in the Middle Ages; and#a unit of account used in France in the Middle Ages and the early modern period.-Circulating currency:...

). Deniers were minted with a value of 240 deniers to a pound of silver. A second value, the solidus, was also created as an accounting device with a value of twelve deniers or one twentieth of a pound of silver. The solidus was not minted but was instead used to record values such as a "solidus of grain" which was equal to the amount of grain that twelve deniers could purchase.