History of the christian church



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In 584 Chilperic died. Tours then fell to Guntram, king of Orleans, until in 587 it was restored to Childebert, the son of Sigebert. The last nine years of Gregory’s life were comparatively quiet. He enjoyed the favor of Guntram and Childebert, did much to beautify the city of Tours, built many churches, and particularly the church of St. Martin (590). But at length the time of his release came, and on Nov. 17, 594, he went to his reward. His saintship was immediately recognized by the people he had served, and the Latin Church formally beatified and canonized him. His day in the calendar is November l7.

The Works of Gregory were all produced while bishop. Their number attests his diligence, but their style proves the correctness of his own judgment that he was not able to write good Latin. Only one is of real importance, but that is simply inestimable, as it is the only abundant source for French history of the fifth and sixth centuries. It is the Ecclesiastical History of the Franks, in ten books,4begun in 576, and not finished until 592. By reason of it Gregory has been styled the Herodotus of France. It was his object to tell the history of his own times for the benefit of posterity, although he was aware of his own unfitness for the task. But like the chroniclers of the period he must needs begin with Adam, and it is not till the close of the first book that the history of Gaul properly begins. The last five books tell the story of the events in Gregory’s own life-time, and have therefore most value. Gregory is not a model historian, but when speaking of facts within his experience he is reliable in his statements, and impartial in his narrative, although partial in his judgments.

Gregory gives at the close of his Ecclesiastical History a catalogue of his writings, all of which have been preserved, with the exception of the commentary on the Psalms, of which only the preface and the titles of the chapters are now extant. 1005 The complete list is as follows: 1006The Miracles of St. Martin, in four books, begun in 574, finished 594; the miracles were recorded by direction of Gregory’s mother, who appeared to him in a vision; The Passion of St. Julian the Martyr, written between 582 and 586; The Martyr’s Glory, written about 586; The Confessor’s Glory, about 588; The Lives of the Fathers, written at different times and finished in 594. The last is the most interesting and important of these hagiographical works, which do not call for further mention. 1007 The Course of the Stars, or as Gregory calls it, The Ecclsiastical Circuit, is a liturgical work, giving the proper offices at the appearance of the most important stars.
§ 155. St. Isidore of Seville.
I. St. Isidorus Hispalensis Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. LXXXI.-LXXXIV. (reprint of F. Arevalo’s ed. Rome, 1797–1803, 7 vols., with the addition of the Collectio canonum ascribed to Isidore). Migne’s Tom. LXXXV. and LXXXVI. contain the Liturgia Mozarabica secundum regulam beati Isidori. Editions of separate works: De libris iii. sententiarum. Königsburg, 1826, 1827, 2 parts. De nativitate Domini, passione et resurrectione, regno atque judicio, ed. A. Holtzmann, Carlsruhe, 1836. De natura rerum liber, ed. G. Becker, Berlin, 1857.

II. Besides the Prolegomena of Arevalo, which fill all Tom. LXXXI., see Vita S. Isidori, LXXXII., col. 19–56. P. B. Gams: Kirchengeschichte von Spanien. Regensburg, 1862–1879, 5 parts. (II. 2, 102 sqq). J.C.E. Bourret: L’école chrétienne de Seville sous la monarchie des Visigoths. Paris, 1855. C. F. Montalembert: Les moines d’ occident. Paris, 1860–67, 5 vols. (II. 200–218), Eng. trans. Monks of the West. Boston, 1872, 2 vols. (I. 421–424). Hugo Hertzberg: Die Historien und die Chroniken des Isidorus von Sevilla, 1ste, Th. Die Historien. Göttingen, 1874. "Die Chroniken" appeared in Forschungen zur deutchen Geschichte, 1875, XIV. 289–362. Chevalier: Répertoire des sources historiques du moyen âge. Paris, 1877, sqq. II. 112, sqq. Du Pin, VI. 1–5; Ceillier, XI. 710–728; CLARKE, II. 364–372; Bähr, IV. I. pp. 270–286; Teuffel, pp. 1131–1134; Ebert, I. 555–568.


Isidore of Seville, saint and doctor of the Latin Church, was born about 560 either at Carthagena or Seville. He was the youngest child of an honored Roman family of the orthodox Christian faith. His father’s name was Severianus. His eldest brother, Leander, the well-known friend of Gregory the Great, and the successful upholder of the Catholic faith against Arianism, was archbishop of Seville, the most prominent see in Spain, from about 579 to 600; another brother, Fulgentius, was bishop of Astigi (Ecija) in that diocese, where his sister, Florentina, was a nun. 1008 Isidore is called Senior to distinguish him from Isidore of Pax Julia, now Beja (Isidorus Pacensis), and Junior to distinguish him from Isidore of Cordova. His parents died apparently while he was quite young. At all events he was educated by his brother Leander. In the year 600 he succeeded his brother in the archiepiscopate of Seville. In this position he became the great leader of the Spanish Church, and is known to have presided at two, councils, the second council of Seville, opened November 13, 619, and the fourth council of Toledo, opened December 5, 633. 1009 The first of these was of local interest, but the other was much more important. It was the largest ever held in Spain, being attended by all the six metropolitans, fifty-six bishops and seven bishops’ deputies. It has political significance because it was called by King Sisenand, who had just deposed Suintila, the former king. Sisenand was received by the council with great respect. He threw himself before the bishops and with tears asked their prayers. He then exhorted them to do their duty in correcting abuses. Of the seventy-five canons passed by the council several are of curious interest. Thus it was forbidden to plunge the recipient of baptism more than once under the water, because the Arians did it three times to indicate that the Trinity was divided (c. 6). It was not right to reject all the hymns written by Hilary and Ambrose and employ only Scriptural language in public worship (c. 13). If a clergyman is ever made a judge by the king he must exact an oath from the king that no blood is to be shed in his court (c. 31). By order of King Sisenand the clergy were freed from all state taxes and services (c. 47). Once a monk always a monk, although one was made so by his parents (c. 49) 1010 While compulsory conversion of the Jews was forbidden, yet no Jew converted by force was allowed to return to Judaism (c. 57). Very strenuous laws were passed relative to both the baptized and the unbaptized Jews (c. 58–66). The king was upheld in his government and the deposed king and his family perpetually excluded from power. When Isidore’s position is considered it is a probable conjecture that these canons express his opinions and convictions upon the different matters.

Warned by disease of death’s approach, Isidore began the distribution of his property. For the last six months of his life he dispensed alms from morn till night. His end was highly edifying. Accompanied by his assembled bishops he had himself carried to the church of St. Vincent the Martyr, and there, having publicly confessed his sins, prayed God for forgiveness. He then asked the pardon and prayers of those present, gave away the last thing he owned, received the Holy Communion, and was carried to his cell, in which he died four days later, Thursday, April 4, 636. 1011 He was immediately enrolled among the popular saints and in the 15th council of Toledo (688) is styled "excellent doctor," and by Benedict XIV. (April 25, 1722) made a Doctor of the Church.

Isidore of Seville was the greatest scholar of his day. He was well read in Latin, Greek and Hebrew, in profane as well as in sacred and patristic literature. He was also a vigorous and dignified prelate, admired for his wondrous eloquence and beloved for his private virtues. He did much for education, especially of the clergy, and established at Seville a highly successful school, in which he himself taught. But his universal fame rests upon his literary works, which embrace every branch of knowledge then cultivated, and which though almost entirely compilations can not be too highly praised for their ability and usefulness. He performed the inestimable service of perpetuating learning, both sacred and secular. It is a striking testimony to his greatness that works have been attributed to him with which he had nothing to do, as the revision of the Mozarabic Liturgy and of Spanish ecclesiastical, and secular laws, and especially the famous Pseudo-Isidorian decretals.

His Works may be divided loosely into six classes. We have two lists of them, one by his friend and colleague Braulio, bishop of Saragossa, and the other by his pupil, Ildefonsus of Toledo. No strict division of these works is possible, because as will be seen several of them belong in parts to different classes.

I. Biblical. This class embraces, 1. Scripture Allegorics, 1012allegorical explanations, each in a single sentence, of 129 names and passages in the Old Testament, and of 211 in the New Testament; a curious and, in its way, valuable treatise, compiled from the older commentaries. 2. Lives and Deaths of Biblical Saints. 1013 Very brief biographies of sixty-four Old Testament and twenty-one New Testament worthies. 3. Introductions in the Old and New Testaments, 1014a very general introduction to the entire Bible, followed by brief accounts of the several books, including Esdras and Maccabees. The four Gospels, the epistles, of Paul, Peter and John are treated together in respective sections. Acts comes between Jude and Revelation. It was compiled from different authors. 4. Scripture Numbers 1015(1–16, 18–20, 24, 30, 40, 46, 50, 60), mystically interpreted. Thus under one, the church is one, the Mediator is one. Under two, there are two Testaments, two Seraphim, two Cherubim. 5. Questions on the Old and New Testaments, 1016a Biblical catechism of forty-one questions and answers. Some are very trivial. 6. Expositions of Holy Mysteries, or Questions on the Old Testament, 1017a paraphrase of Genesis, and notes upon Joshua, Judges, the four books of Kings, Ezra and Maccabees. The work is compiled from Origen, Victorinus, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustin, Fulgentius, Cassianus and Gregory the Great. A summary of each chapter of the books mentioned is given. The exposition is allegorical.

II. Dogmatic. 1. The Catholic Faith defended against the Jews. 1018 A treatise in two books, dedicated to his sister Florentina, the nun. In the first book he marshals the Scripture prophecies and statements relative to Christ, and shows how they have been verified. In the second book in like manner he treats of the call of the Gentiles, the unbelief of the Jews and their consequent rejection, the destruction of Jerusalem, the abolition of the ceremonial law, and closes with a brief statement of Christian doctrine. The work was doubtless an honest attempt to win the Jews over to Christianity, and Spain in the 7th century was full of Jews. Whatever may have been its success as an apology, it was very popular in the Middle Age among Christians, and was translated into several languages. 1019 2. Three books of Sentences, 1020compiled from Augustin and Gregory the Great’s Moralia. This work is a compend of theology, and is Isidore’s most important production in this class. Its influence has been incalculable. Innumerable copies were made of it during the Middle Age, and it led to the preparation of similar works, e.g., Peter Lombard’s Sentences. 1021 3. Synonyms, in two books; 1022the first is a dialogue between sinful and despairing Man and Reason (or the Logos), who consoles him, rescues him from despair, shows him that sin is the cause of his misery, and sets him on the heavenly way. The second is a discourse by Reason upon vices and their opposite virtues. 1023

4. The Order of Creation.4 It treats of the Trinity, the creation, the devil and demons, paradise, fallen man, purgatory, and the future life.

III. Ecclesiastic and monastic. 1. The Ecclesiastical Offices, i.e., the old Spanish liturgy. 1025 It is dedicated to his brother Fulgentius, and is in two books, for the most part original. The first is called "the origin of the offices," and treats of choirs, psalms, hymns and other topics in ecclesiastical archaeology. Under the head "sacrifice" 1026Isidore expresses his view of the Lord’s Supper, which is substantially that "Body and Blood" denote the consecrated elements, but not that these are identical with the Body and Blood of our Lord. The second book, "the origin of the ministry," treats of the different clerical grades; also of monks, penitents, virgins, widows, the married, catechumens, the rule of faith, baptism, chrism, laying on of hands and confirmation. 2. A Monastic Rule. 1027 It was designed for Spanish monasteries, drawn from old sources, and resembles the Benedictine, with which, however, it is not identical. It throws much light upon the contemporary Spanish monasticism, as it discusses the situation of the monastery, the choice of the abbot, the monks, their duties, meals, festivals, fasts, dress, punishment, sickness and death. It recalls the somewhat similar Institutes of Cassiodorus already mentioned. 1028

IV. Educational and philosophical. 1. Twenty books of Etymologies.9 This is his greatest work, and considering its date truly an astonishing work. Caspar Barth’s list of the one hundred and fifty-four authors quoted in it shows Isidore’s wide reading. Along with many Christian writers are the following classic authors: Aesop, Anacreon, Apuleius, Aristotle, Boëthius, Caesar, Cato, Catullus, Celsus, Cicero, Demosthenes, Ennius, Herodotus, Hesiod, Homer, Horace, Juvenal, Livy, Lucan, Lucretius, Martial, Ovid, Persius, Pindar, Plato, Plautus, Pliny, Quintilian, Sallust, Suetonius, Terence, Varro, Virgil. 1030 It is a concise encyclopedia of universal learning, embracing the seven liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy), and medicine, law, chronology, angelology, mineralogy, architecture, agriculture and many other topics. Although much of his information is erroneous, and the tenth book, that of Etymology proper, is full of absurdities, the work as a whole is worthy of high praise. It was authoritative throughout Europe for centuries and repeatedly copied and printed. Rabanus Maurus drew largely upon it for his De Universo. 2. The Differences, or the proper signification of terms, 1031in two books. The first treats of the differences of words. It is a dictionary of synonyms and of words which sound somewhat alike, arranged alphabetically. The second book treats of the differences of things, and is a dictionary of theology, brief yet comprehensive. 3. On the Nature of Things, 1032in forty-eight chapters, dedicated to King Sisebut (612–620), who had given him the subject. It is a sort of natural philosophy, treating of the divisions of time, the heavens and the earth and the waters under the earth. It also has illustrative diagrams. Like Isidore’s other works it is a skilful compilation from patristic and profane authors, 1033and was extremely popular in the Middle Age.

V. Historical. 1. A Chronicle, 1034containing the principal events in the world from the creation to 616. It is divided into six periods or ages, corresponding to the six days of creation, a division plainly borrowed from Augustin. 1035 Its sources are Julius Africanus, Eusebius, Jerome, and Victor of Tunnena. 1036 2. History of the Goths, Vandals and Suevi, 1037brought down to 61. A work which, like Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks, is the only source for certain periods. It has been remarked 1038that Isidore, like Cassiodorus, in spite of his Roman origin, had a high regard for the Goths. 3. Famous Men 1039a continuation of Gennadius’ appendix to Jerome’s work with the same title. It sketches forty-six authors, beginning with Bishop Hosius of Cordova, and extending to the beginning of the seventh century.

VI. Miscellaneous. Under this head come thirteen brief Letters 1040and minor works of doubtful genuineness. There are also numerous spurious works which bear his name, among which are hymns.
§ 156. The Venerable Bede (Baeda).
I. Venerabilis Baeda: Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. XC.-XCV., substantially a reprint of Dr. J. A. Giles’ edition. London, 1843–1844, 12 vols. His Ecclesiastical History (Historica ecclesiastica) has been often edited, e.g. by John Smith, Cambridge, 1722; Joseph Stevenson, London, 1838, and in the Monumenta historica Britannica I. 1848; George H. Moberley, Oxford, 1869; Alfred Holder, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1882. Books III.-V. 24 were separately ed. by John E. B. Mayor and John R. Lumby, Cambridge, 1878. The best known English translation of the History is Dr. Giles’ in his edition, and since 1844 in Bohn’s Antiquarian Library. His scientific writings are contained in Thomas Wright: Popular Treatises on Science written during the Middle Ages. London, 1841. Marshall translated his Explanation of the Apocalypse, London, 1878. For further bibliographical information regarding the editions of Bede’s History, see Giles’ ed. ii. 5–8.

II. Biographies are contained in the above-mentioned editions. Hist. V. 24, and the letter on his death by Cuthbert (Giles’ trans. in Bohn, pp. xviii.-xxi.) are the best original sources. The old Vitae given in the complete editions are almost worthless. Modern works are Henrik Gehle: Disputatio historico-theologica de Bedae venerabilis presbyteri Anglo-Saxonis vita et scriptis. Leyden, 1838. Carl Schoell: De ecclesiasticae Britonum Scotorumque historiae fontibus. Berlin, 1851. Karl Werner: Beda der Ehrwürdige und seine Zeit. Wien, 1875. 2d ed. (unchanged), 1881. Geo. F. Browne: The Venerable Bede. London, 1879. Cf. Du Pin, VI. 89–91. Cave, II. 241–245. Ceillier, XII. 1–19. Clarke, II. 426–429. Bähr, IV. 175–178, 292–298. Ebert, I. 595–611.


The Venerable Bede (properly Baeda) is never spoken of without affectionate interest, and yet so uneventful was his useful life that very little can be said about him personally. He was born in 673, probably in the village of Jarrow, on the south bank of the Tyne, Northumbria, near the Scottish border. At the age of seven, being probably an orphan, he was placed in the monastery of St. Peter, at Wearmouth, on the north bank of the Wear, which had been founded by Benedict Biscop in 674. In 682 he was transferred to the newly-founded sister monastery of St. Paul, five miles off, at Jarrow. 1041 He is not known ever to have gone away from it farther than to the sister monastery and to visit friends in contiguous places, such as York. The stories of his visit to Rome and professorship at Cambridge scarcely deserve mention. His first teacher was Benedict Biscop, a nobleman who at twenty-five became a monk and freely put his property and his learning at the public service. Biscop traveled five times to Rome and each time returned, like Ethelbert and Alcuin subsequently, laden with rich literary spoils and also with pictures and relics. Thus the library at Wearmouth became the largest and best appointed in England at the time. 1042 It was Biscop’s enterprise and liberality which rendered it possible that Bede’s natural taste for learning should receive such careful culture. So amid the wealth of books he acquired Latin, Greek and Hebrew, and laid up a rich store of multifarious knowledge. Such was his character and attainments that at nineteen, six years before the then canonical age, he was ordained deacon, and at thirty a priest. He thus describes his mode of life: "All the remaining time of my life [i.e., after leaving Wearmouth] I spent in that, monastery [of Jarrow], wholly applying myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst observance of regular discipline and the daily care of singing in the church. I always took delight in learning, teaching and writing. 1043 He declined to be abbot because the office, as he said, demands close attention, and therefore cares come which impede the pursuit of learning. As it was, the "pursuit of learning" took up only a portion of his time, for the necessary duties of a monk were many, 1044and such a man as Bede would be frequently required to preach. It appears that he published nothing before he was thirty years old, for he says himself: "From which time [i.e., of his taking priest’s orders] till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for the use of me and mine, to compile out of the works of the venerable Fathers, and to interpret and explain according to their meaning these following pieces." 1045 Then follows his list of his works. The result of such study and writing was that Bede became the most learned man of his time, and also the greatest of its authors. Yet he was also one of the humblest and simplest of men.

He died on Wednesday, May 26, 735, of a complaint accompanied with asthma, from which he had long suffered. The circumstances of his death are related by his pupil Cuthbert. 1046 During Lent of the year 735 Bede carried on the translation of the Gospel of John and "some collections out of the Book of Notes" of Archbishop Isidore of Seville. The day before he died he spent in dictating his translations, saying now and then, "Go on quickly, I know not how long I shall hold out, and whether my Maker will not soon take me away." He progressed so far with his rendering of John’s Gospel that at the third hour on Wednesday morning only one chapter remained to be done. On being told this he said, "Take your pen, and make ready, and write fast." The scribe did so, but at the ninth hour Bede said to Cuthbert, ’ "I have some little articles of value in my chest, such as pepper, napkins and incense: run quickly, and bring the priests of our monastery to me, that I may distribute among them the gifts which God has bestowed on me. The rich in this world are bent on giving gold and silver and other precious things. But I, in charity, will joyfully give my brothers what God has given unto me." He spoke to every one of them, admonishing and entreating them that they would carefully say masses and prayers for him, which they readily promised; but they all mourned and wept, especially because he said, "they should no more see his face in this world." They rejoiced for that he said, "It is time that I return to Him who formed me out of nothing: I have lived long; my merciful Judge well foresaw my life for me; the time of my dissolution draws nigh; for I desire to die and to be with Christ." Having said much more, he passed the day joyfully till the evening, and the boy [i.e., his scribe] said, "Dear master, there is yet one sentence not written." He answered, "Write quickly." Soon after the boy said, "It is ended." He replied, "It is well, you have said the truth. It is ended. Receive my head into your hands, for it is a great satisfaction to me to sit facing my holy place, where I was wont to pray, that I may also sitting call upon my Father." And thus on the pavement of his little cell, singing, "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost," when he had named the Holy Ghost, he breathed his last, and so departed to the heavenly kingdom."

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