Reading for next week is on the Franks, including the
History of the Franks
, written by
Gregory of Tours (AD 538-594). We are looking at Germanic, tribal society and culture—a warrior
culture, and how it was Christianized and *combined* in a synthesis with the Roman-Christian
culture of the West. synthesis with the Roman-Christian culture of the West.
The term Germanic refers to the linguistic category of all the tribal peoples
who took over the Roman empire in the west (Franks, Visigoths, Lombards,
Saxons, Burgundians, Alamanns etc.).
This is the third element in the Medieval synthesis.
You will be especially struck by the"Germanization" or "barbarization" of Christian culture as the
Church adapted to new converts
and tried to accommodate the Germanic peoples and kingdoms
of the West.
The main task of the Church in this period was to teach the new converts
the basics of Xtn beliefs--nothing complicated, though--and the basics of Xtn morality and lifestyle.
It was impossible to expect anything more in this very anarchic and dangerous time, and with
mostly illiterate barbarian converts. We've already looked at some changes and compromises
that reflect this sort of flexibility and accommodation by the Church. Remember that the Church
was also the main repository for the Classical tradition in learning, literature, education and art.
Nearly all written works and records in the Early Middle Ages were produced by clerics. Education
meant monastic education.
There was no more secular education, and there was a severe decline in literacy.
because the Latin word for rule--monastic rule--was
Other clergy such as Bishops,
priests, deacons, and the Pope were called "secular
because they lived in the world (not in a monastery) and served the Church and the laity in
the world. We have seen how the institution of monasticism served society.
There are important similarities between the monastery and the war-band:
two small-scale tightly organized and effective rural social structures in a
period where there was no state, no effective centralized government, and
a society that was mainly decentralized, rural, and localized.
Here's some help with Gregory of Tours's History of the Franks (HF)
The HF isn't easy reading: the narrative is sometimes as confusing as
the chaotic events Gregory recorded and tried to comprehend.
And as he
noted,the history he wrote was a confusing mixture of wars, crimes, blood feuds, betrayals, the
"butchering of whole races," AND the goodness and miracles of saints and God's protection and
justice. Reading scattered sections of the HF isn't much different from reading straight through: it
all seems chaotic!
And in a way, it is a collection of stories--stories with a moral, with lessons of
history, as well as records of events. It is not a continuous, coherent and unified narrative.
It is filled with conflict and violence, what seems to be constant anarchy apart from whatever order