The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages
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This volume investigates the ways in which people in the early Middle Ages used the past: to legitimate the present, to understand current events, and as a source of identity. Each essay examines the mechanisms by which ideas about the past were subtly (and sometimes not so subtly) reshaped for present purposes. As well as written histories, also discussed are saints' lives, law codes, buildings, Biblical commentary, monastic foundations, canon law and oral traditions. This is the first book to investigate systematically this important topic.
only ever relate a text to a partial reconstruction of its context. There is also a danger of projecting a unifying intelligence behind works which may have shifted in form and been subject to multiple authorship. Indeed, it has even been suggested that a certain propensity to redrafting and reshaping in successive contexts may have been typical of many See, for the ways in which historians have used saints’ lives, P. J. Geary, ‘Saints, scholars and society: the elusive goal’, Living
whereas in Ireland church leaders used the ritual obligations stemming from the Old Testament to mould a Christian identity. One is tempted to conclude that, for the definition of what a Christian in fact was, existing pre-Christian conceptions of purity and impurity may have played as big a part as the text of the Old Testament. This would certainly explain the appeal of this ritualistic religiosity to certain groups of believers in Ireland as well as on the Continent. On the Continent, however,
typology of literal and figurative language in this genre. On symbolism, see J. Chydenius, The Theory of Medieval Symbolism, Societas Scientificarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanorum ii (Helsingfors, ). A bibliography of works on medieval exegesis is H. J. Sieben, ‘Exegesis Patrum’: saggio bibliografico sull’esegesi biblica dei Padri della Chiesa, Istituto Patristico Augustinianum, sussidi patristici (Rome, ). There survive pre-Carolingian Latin Song of Songs commentaries by
demonstrans insignem honorem, qui per confessionem nominis ueri regis Christi adquiritur’ and passim. The priestly garments are described in Exodus . Bede, Explanatio Apocalysis, col. , line c: ‘reverendus martyrum cruor’. See col. d, lines –. Ibid., d: ‘Merito sexto loco positus, cum Dominus noster et sexta aetate saeculi incarnatus et sexta feria sit pro totius mundi salute crucifixus’. Caesarius of Arles, Expositio in Apocalypsin, PL , cols. –, at col. , lines –.
Acknowledgement of the ramifying quality of typological thought does not entitle one to draw connections indefinitely. The text of the missa in profectionem hostium eontibus in prohelium from the Sacramentary of Gellone illustrates the need for circumspection. Statements in that mass about what God has done in the past – providing safety for Israel during the Exodus, the strength for David to vanquish Goliath, and so on – function as declarations about God’s nature and past assistance. The