This is the essay for the 18th week of the 9th Grade Tom Woods Homeschool. In this blog post, I will be answering two questions. The first one is, what the Carolingian Renaissance was and why it was significant? The second one is, what was the process by which England was converted to Christianity?
Why the Carolingian Renaissance was significant
Before we can find out why the Carolingian Renaissance was significant, we have to find out what it was in the first place. The Carolingian renaissance started in the late 8th century and ended in the middle of the 9th century, which was during the reigns of Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. A renaissance is a time period where ideas, texts, art, etc from the ancient era are rediscovered and preserved or improved upon. This ancient era consists of ancient Greece and Rome. There are many Renaissances, but the three most important ones are the Carolingian Renaissance, the 12th century Renaissance and The Renaissance.
What sets apart the Carolingian Renaissance from the other two, is that it improved very little on the practices used in the ancient era, it mainly copied and preserved them. While the other two renaissances improved a lot more on these practices. The Carolingians did this because they believed that they were mere barbarians and that they didn’t hold a candle to the greatness of Greece and Rome.
They started preserving ancient texts, mostly Christian ones, by making better translations of them. This preservation was mainly done by Alcuin of York, who was a key advisor of Charlemagne. Alcuin of York also made many other advancements to Latin texts in monasteries. Before the Carolingian Renaissance, there were no lowercase letters, only capital letters and there were no spaces between words either. This made Latin very hard to read and it was basically just one big block of text. This is why Alcuin invented Carolingian minuscule, which resulted in the current system with capital letters and spaces in between words. Carolingian minuscule also solved another problem in monasteries. The problem was that in the monasteries there was no one standardized version of written Latin. So over time monasteries that were in different regions had different writing styles. Which sometimes made it hard for monasteries to understand what other monasteries were trying to say. Carolingian minuscule made writing styles more similar and made them diverge from each other less.
The Process by which Christianity Spread through England
The first time Christianity spread through England was when the Romans brought it there. But this blog post is about the second time it spread through England. After the fall of the Roman empire, the Romas lost control of England and it was invaded by the Anglo-Saxons. They took over England and the Christians there, either mingled with the Anglo-Saxons or retreated to Wales. By this point, Ireland had already been converted to Christianity, by the Celtic Christians. They had been converted in 432 AD and stayed so while England was having problems with the Anglo-Saxons. After the invasion, England became pagan and stayed so for quite a while afterward. It was not that the Christians in England couldn’t convert the Anglo-Saxons, it was that they refused to do so. The English Christians were bitter that they had lost their territory and thought that the Anglo-Saxons should be punished for their sins and that they shouldn’t be given the grace of God. This is against the Christian view, that you should convert as many people as possible, even your enemies.
Eventually, Pope Gregory the Great sent St. Augustine to convert the Anglo-Saxons. When Augustine got to England, the Celtic Christians told how horrible the Anglo-Saxons were, and that they were cannibals. Augustine and his monks retreated, but they were forced back to England by Pope Gregory. Augustine went to King Ethelbert of Kent. This was because he had the most control over the other kingdoms in England. This was important because the Christian strategy was to convert the most powerful person in the country and naturally the rest would follow. This was helped by the fact that Ehtelberts wife was already Christian. King Ethelbert allowed Augustine to convert the Anglo-Saxons to Christians and a few years later, he converted as well. The way Augustine converted the Anglo-Saxons was by slowly changing things, not destroying it completely. They didn’t destroy their temples but made them pray to God instead. They didn’t abolish the outward rituals of the Anglo-Saxons but toned them down. Problems still persisted however, after kingdoms converted to Christianity, there were opposite reactions where others would become anti-Christian. This was noticeable after Ethelbert’s death. It was so noticeable that some of Augustine’s companions wanted to flee, but he didn’t allow them to. When some of the Christian kings died, the anti-Christian kings would try to take over and convince them to abandon Christianity.
Other problems occurred as well. Some kingdoms were converting to the Benedectine Christianity and others to the harsher Irish Christianity. Both forms of Christianity had several differences and had disputes over them. One of these disputes was over the dating of easter. After several similar disputes, both parties decided that England should follow the Benedectine Christianity over the Irish one. After all of this England has been finally converted to Christianity.