What Are the Middle Ages?

The current definition of the Middle Ages implies that they are an intermediary epoch between two civilizations, and, therefore, only a break in the course of civilization.

There is no term about whose definition there is more perfect agreement than “The Middle Ages.” We are told that the Middle Ages are an intermediary epoch between antiquity and modern times. This is the definition given by all dictionaries, encyclopedias, text-books and summaries. 1 The most erudite writers on medieval history give no other definition. No matter how they differ in their appreciation of the Middle Ages, they all agree in the definition, and with singular unanimity declare that the Middle Ages are an intermediary epoch.

Which are the two periods separated by this break of a thousand years known as the Middle Ages? We are told that they are the two great civilizations of history the ancient and the modern ; the ancient, the Greco-Roman, with its splendid unity of a world pacified beneath the standards of Rome; the modern, with the infinite variety of its national groups and the untold wealth of its intellectual manifestations two worlds equally impressive, equally wonderful. They tell us that between these two quite distinct periods there stretches the long span of ten centuries during which the ancient civilization was dead and the modern civilization was yet unborn. These ten centuries, in their estimation, constitute a zone of darkness separating the light of the Greco-Roman world from the light of the Renaissance. 2

Note that the very definition puts the Middle Ages outside the pale of civilization and brands them as a night of a thousand years.

Let us see precisely in what consists the opposition thus formulated between the generally received idea of the Middle Ages and that of civilization. Which are the two civilizations separated by the “darkness” of the Middle Ages?

The first, of course, is the pagan civilization. With slavery as its foundation and Caesarism as its keystone, unable to satisfy the higher aspirations of the human soul, it offers all the pleasures of life to the privileged few who wallow in sensual pleasures, but condemns the rest of humanity to slavery.

Which is the second or the modern civilization? Certainly not the Christian civilization, for otherwise the second period would not begin as late as the end of the Middle Ages which were thoroughly imbued with the Christian idea. On the contrary, this second civilization is a civilization which reacts against the Christian ideal by evoking the pagan spirit from the ashes of the past and which, like paganism, gives the despotism of Caesar as a code to the State and the quest of pleasure as a law to the individual. It is a recurrence of pagan civilization.

If, as most writers assert, the Middle Ages are really an intermediary period, it is precisely because this epoch enthrones the Christian ideal of mortification and poverty between the first and second periods of this pagan civilization. This aspect of the Middle Ages makes the second civilization but a revival of the old civilization: antiquity arises from the grave, again takes possession of the world, closes the parenthesis opened by the Middle Ages and begins anew the era of the great progress of humanity! This view of the Middle Ages would regard Christianity as nothing but an eclipse after whose passing men again walk the road of free scientific research and taste again the great aesthetic joys of life. The Renaissance virtually puts an end to Christianity. Civilization, paganism, and the Renaissance become synonyms just as barbarism, Christianity, and the Middle Ages are synonymous.

The current definition of the Middle Ages has created a misconception of the Middle Ages.

Thus, the definition of the Middle Ages, as we have recorded it without comment, is a definition with a double meaning. It implies more than would appear at first sight.

I do not say that the definition carries its full significance to the minds of those who use it, nor that the mere term, “Middle Ages,” whenever uttered, calls forth all the ideas which it connotes and without which it would be meaningless. Very frequently the words we use are merely conventional formulas whose real significance is not discerned and which often convey quite the opposite of their true meaning.

This does not mean that in this given case the word has had no influence upon the idea. The word in question presents, or seems to present, an obvious meaning and this meaning becomes definite only when we oppose to the idea of the Middle Ages the idea of the two civilizations which it separates. This opposition led logically to the inference that medieval society was barbarous. Thus there arose a general prejudice against the people of the Middle Ages. As a whole they were considered coarse, barbarous, ignorant, dull, filthy, the dupes of crafty priests and of their own prejudices, either the subjects or the authors of all kinds of violence, incapable of public spirit, utterly unable to rise to the grand ideas of country, progress, social justice and intellectual life.

Hence the many depressing legends which constitute the sum total of knowledge possessed by men of former centuries and by many of our own time concerning the Middle Ages. Picture to your mind what an encyclopedist of a hundred years ago thought of the Middle Ages what certain belated followers of Voltaire think of them to the present day. Can one imagine a sadder, a more repugnant, a more hateful picture?

Let us look deeper into the matter. The encyclopedists of a hundred years ago and the belated followers of Voltaire say that the reign of Christianity began with the burning of the library of Alexandria 3 which destroyed the intellectual patrimony of humanity and that it came to a close with the funeral pyres of the Inquisition 4 which burned those who endeavored to restore that patrimony.

These same persons hold that, between these two conflagrations, in the gruesome twilight reddened by their flames and screened by their smoke, we observe that succession of distressing pictures which have earned for the Middle Ages the contempt of all friends of humanity.

What a horrible spectacle is thus presented to us! They would have us believe that during those ages a council gravely discussed whether or not women have a soul; and that a woman (no doubt to retaliate on an ungallant episcopacy) succeeded in mounting the chair of Peter.

They would have us believe that at the very time the papacy was guilty of such scandal it worked with the greatest zeal at forging false titles. According to them, the papacy, during the eighth century/ forged the “Donation of Constantine” 5 and, in the ninth century, fabricated the False Decretals 6 in order to further establish its title to the pretended donation.

They represent the Church authorities enslaving and brutalizing the nations, for centuries winking at the infamous “right of the lord,” and not opposing the custom of the lords who returning from the chase were wont to slash open the stomachs of their tenants to take a warm foot-bath.

This dismal picture of the Middle Ages represents a helpless and stupefied people whose only hope was the frightful expectation of the Last Judgment: they looked for the end of the world in the year one thousand and were quite surprised that the end of that year found the world still existing.

In the shadows of this same picture we see the people innocent victims of an avaricious and fanatical clergy dragged for centuries to the far off butcheries of the Orient, bringing back leprosy as the only reward of their exploits. 7 And we are told further that even this terrible plague was powerless to teach them cleanliness, that during the entire Middle Ages our ancestors wallowed in disgusting filth, for Michelet says that the people had not a bath for a thousand years.

And to add more gloom to the picture they tell us that the people were without the consolations which intellectual life affords. They assure us that there was no science and that the people were without schools, as it was to the interest of the Church to maintain ignorance ; that there was no intellectual effort, no philosophy, as all spontaneous mental activity was considered a sin against faith. They would have us believe that the Middle Ages were without art excepting, of course, certain monuments which, they claimed, came from the Arabians and whose barbarism was best expressed by coining the word “Gothic.” We are told that there was no poetry: Boileau himself repeats this in his “Art Poétique” where he asserts that poetry was unknown until Villon disentangled the involved art of our ancient romancers and that the theater was a pleasure unknown to our devout ancestors. 8 Finally, Malherbe came. 9 And after Malherbe followed Erasmus 10 and Luther 11 and the Humanists 12 and the Reformers who, in the common estimation, were the saviors to lead our ancestors back to the traditional paths of civilization.

Refutation of legends concerning the Middle Ages.

More than one of our contemporaries has still to learn that long ago science disposed of this dark aspect of the Middle Ages. The pitiless hand of criticism has forever demolished the edifice of fable built up since the time of the Renaissance, chiefly by the self-styled philosophers of the eighteenth century. A cursory review of the answers made by criticism to the assertions of Voltaire 13 and of the “Encyclopedists” 14 will be a pleasant diversion.

The Myth of Soulless Woman.

If there is any fable which lays bare the folly of its peddlers it is certainly that which represents the Council of Macon discussing the question of the soul of woman. It would be an offense to the intelligence of my readers if I thought it necessary to state that this question was never raised in Christian society, either at the Council of Macon, or elsewhere. At the Council of Macon there was a bishop somewhat of a purist who took exception to the word “man” as applied to woman. But they convinced him that his scruple as to grammar was unfounded, since Scripture itself more than once uses the word in this meaning. This is the whole story, and we may award a dunce-cap to any one who thinks he knows more than this about it. 15

Popess Joan

It would be even more preposterous today to peddle the story of the Popess Joan. 16 Should a present-day writer with any pretention to erudition undertake to refute this fable he would offend all intelligent authors and be looked upon as one out of date and wasting precious time.

We put aside these two anecdotes which a century ago “strong minds” used as “terrible arguments” against the Catholic Faith and pass on to more serious questions.

Donation of Constantine.

It is claimed that it was the papacy that invented the story of the “Donation of Constantine.” We admit that “The Donation of Constantine” is a legend. It is a pious legend, which aims to account for the origin of the Temporal Power of the Pope by connecting it with the first Christian Emperor, just as the Romans of the Republic connected all their military and religious institutions with their first kings, Romulus and Numa Pompilius. But to pretend that this legend was invented by the Papacy in order to establish its title is to show absolute ignorance of the Catholic philosophy of law ; for, being in uncontested possession of the sovereignty of fact from time immemorial, the Papacy had by that very fact a title, namely, that of prescription with the tacit consent of the nations. But even were it otherwise, this charge against the Papacy should be supported at least by a shadow of proof. But no proof is offered, the charge is gratuitous, rash and unjust to the Papacy; it has no foundation and we have the right to ignore it.

False Decretals.

And the False Decretals? Has not enough printer’s ink been wasted on that subject and have not a sufficient number of contradictory solutions been invented? Almost every year the question is again up for discussion and a new birth-place is assigned to this notorious apocryphal collection. Of late Rheims and Le Mans have been mentioned most frequently, and no doubt still other towns will be named ; but curiously enough Rome has not yet been suggested. Of course, the question of place is not very important, and if it were really proven that the authority of the Roman Pontiffs in the Church rests oh an apocryphal document we could only blush and hang our heads in shame. But, far from this being the case, the documents themselves prove the contrary, because they invoke the authority of the Popes themselves to withdraw the bishops from the jurisdiction of their metropolitan and subject them directly to the Holy See. The “False Decretals,” far from giving authority to the Popes, presuppose that authority. 17

The Right of the Lord.

Now we come to the infamous accusation that for centuries the feudal lords enjoyed, in the case of young married women of their vassalage, a right so revolting that pagan antiquity had never heard of such a thing and would have branded the abuse with indignation had it been known. Moreover, this charge implies that the Catholic Church, which has always considered virginity as the most glorious title of the two sexes, which condemns even a look or a thought contrary to chastity, which has fought countless fights against kings and lords of this world in defense of the inviolability of the conjugal tie, would have winked at a practice which made of man a brute and of woman a prey. The Church would have kept a cowardly silence in presence of adultery raised to the dignity of a public institution for the benefit of a few lewd lords! But this consideration has not stopped the wretches from repeating this lowest and vilest of calumnies. Unfortunately for them, the works of Louis Veuillot and Karl Schmidt have so shattered this legend that one cannot repeat it without risking one’s reputation 18.

Warm Blood Bath.

We need merely mention the legend of the warm blood bath which upon his return from the hunt the lord was supposed to have taken in the entrails of his tenants. The legend has had but a restricted circulation, and the common sense of readers has refused it credence.

The Terrors of the Year One Thousand.

We now come to the supposed terrors of the year One Thousand. Public credulity fell a victim to this legend. The readers of the nineteenth century believed in these so-called terrors as unanimously as their ancestors are supposed to have experienced them. Well, it is established today that the Terrors of the Year One Thousand are nothing but a legend made up by the writers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, chiefly by Robertson, in the introduction to his “History of Charles V.” As this work has enjoyed great popularity every one repeats the legend on the authority of Robertson, without thinking of verifying it. In an article of the “Revue des Questions Historiques” published in 1873, Dom Plain had but to blow upon the fabrication of Robertson to dissipate it into thin air. Since then several historians of renown have repeated and completed the demonstration of Dom Plain. The case has been heard and decided. Henceforth there will be no more question of the year One Thousand in our text-books of history.


Do you really think that “historians” will not write again of the terrors of the year one thousand? I fear I have made a rash statement in saying so, for, if there is a truth attested by experience, it is the good nature with which in historiography authors continue religiously to repeat to new generations errors long since disposed of by science. This reminds us of the stars which according to the astronomers have disappeared ages ago, and which, nevertheless, still send their light to globes scattered in endless space. The history of leprosy supplies a proof of this tender solicitude of certain writers for legends that have gone out of fashion. Does not every one know, do not all writers repeat, that leprosy was brought to the West by the Crusaders after the eleventh century? Now fourteen years ago I established in the most peremptory manner the falsity of this legend, and I showed that down from the fourth century leprosy was spread throughout all the lands of western Europe, that from the fourth to the twelfth century it existed without interruption, that Church and State and private charity gave it attention, that the Church councils and the civil governments enacted laws upon it, that there existed numerous lazar-houses and finally that there is not the slightest evidence that the Crusades even contributed to increase the number of lepers. 19 But in spite of my demonstration to the contrary “historians”, even in specialized works, continue to repeat that leprosy was introduced into Western Europe by the Crusades. My readers may acquaint themselves with the proofs of the above facts by consulting my paper on the subject.

No Baths in a Thousand Years.

But really it was not necessary to blame leprosy on the Crusades, since a more direct and permanent cause could have been alleged, namely, the “horrible filth” prevailing during that epoch. In fact Michelet did not overlook the opportunity. 20. According to him leprosy was due to the fact that people did not wash during the Middle Ages : “Not a bath in a thousand years!” (He forgets the warm blood baths!) The beautiful stereotyped formula of Michelet was well calculated to inoculate shallow minds with the doctrines of the author, but proves to be a boomerang to his memory, since it convicts him of unpardonable levity. Has there not been enough idle talk on this foolish statement? Indeed it is well established that during the Middle Ages baths were among the most popular and universal institutions, that there was not a town however small that did not have its public baths, 21 and that, on the contrary, it was the Renaissance which permitted the habits of cleanliness of the Middle Ages gradually to fall into desuetude, substituting for them a negligence which degenerated into the most repulsive uncleanliness. 22. We can but pity those who are ignorant of these well established facts and who to the present day peddle stories so thoroughly discredited in history.

These considerations show that the Middle Ages of legend cannot withstand the Middle Ages of history. Not wishing to prolong an enumeration which might be continued almost indefinitely I have confined myself to these specimens of rectification for the benefit of those who know the past only from their readings of the “Encyclopedic” or its trailers.

Criticism of the current definition of the term “Middle Ages.” This definition is taken from philology and has a meaning entirely different from the one contemptuously attributed to it.

But no rectification of details, even when the detail is important, can do away with the false ideas concerning the Middle Ages so long as people persist in considering them as a break between two phases of civilization. Since this error is altogether due to the definition I shall show how that definition is deceiving and without foundation.

I remark first that the definition is entirely verbal and consists of puerile tautology. All that the definition teaches is that the Middle Ages are middle ages. This seems to imply little enough, but it was not all that the term conveyed to the minds of those who created it. In its primitive acceptance the expression had quite a different meaning from that given it today; and I claim that, as applied to the first ten centuries, this meaning is wrong and almost misleading. I now offer proofs for my contention.

History is a relatively recent science; it is only of late that it has acquired a method of its own and has freed itself from philology of which it was a part up to the sixteenth century. Therefore we should not be surprised that the historians who followed after the philologists should have borrowed from them their terminology and carried into the domain of historical studies words which lost their meaning in crossing the border line. The term in question is a striking instance of the disadvantages resulting from such borrowing.

In studying the development of the Latin tongue, from its origin down to their own time, the philologists had noticed its several phases and had given each phase a name. The first phase was that of the classical Latin which witnessed the birth of the masterpieces of Roman literature, and during which the Latin language was spoken by all the peoples who partook of the Roman civilization. The second phase was that of the barbarous Latin. When the Roman civilization perished in Western Europe, 23 the Latin language was inherited by the Germanic peoples who were strangers to its genius and who, intermingled with the Roman populations, gradually learned the Latin tongue but disfigured it in diverse ways in the various countries in which they lived, so that Latin as spoken by them became a new language. Finally there came a phase when these neo-Latin languages, now definitely fixed, became the only language of the people, whilst the Latin, left to the men of learning, existed thenceforth in books only and became a dead language.

The first of these phases, as commonly accepted, extended from the beginning of the Roman state down to the reign of Constantine the Great. 24 Indeed it was under the administration of this prince that the Barbarians first flocked in compact masses into the Empire to serve it until they might enslave it. The second phase extended to the reign of Charlemagne. 25 During this phase the Latin tongue fell under the control of the Barbarians, became the instrument of their culture and the vehicle of their general ideas, until the advent of the modern languages. The third phase began after the death of Charlemagne, and witnessed the birth of the modern languages. It heard their first stammerings in the Oath of Strasburg 26 and assisted successively at the births of the various neo-Latin tongues of all Europe.

To each of these three ages of the Latin tongue the philologists had given a name to mark its proper place in the development of the language. The first age was naturally called the high or superior age, the second the middle age, the third the inferior or low age. Thus the term “Middle Ages,” according to its etymology and in its primitive acceptance, designated nothing else than a period of latinity extending between the reigns of Constantine the Great and Charlemagne. This was the meaning ascribed to it by the humanists, also by Ducange when he gave to his celebrated dictionary the title “Glossarium mediae et infimae latinitatis.” (Dictionary of Middle and Low Latin.) 27

In borrowing the term “Middle Ages” from the philologists, and transferring it to the domain of historiography, the historians at first did not modify its meaning. They adopted both the name and the period which it covered and designated as the “Middle Ages” that historical and political period which intervened between Constantine the Great and Charlemagne. The entire period subsequent to Charlemagne they designated as the “aetas infima,” or “low age.” It is now known as the modern epoch.

But while the historians were adopting the language of the philologists, the humanists were extending the limits they had at first assigned to their “Middle Ages.” They began to look upon their time as a fourth and new age of latinity. They loved to think that, under the magic influence of their pen, the Latin tongue had been regenerated and restored to its pristine purity, and they saw in the period beginning with the sixteenth century a new phase of latinity which marked its second birth or renaissance. Thenceforth they united the second and third periods, both of which had marked the decline of the Latin tongue, and called them the middle period. Thus they extended the middle ages of the Latin language to a period stretching from the decline of the Roman Empire under Constantine the Great to the Renaissance.

And again the historians followed in the footsteps of the philologists. They took the ten Christian centuries which the philologists marked as blank in regard to latinity itself a debatable matter and marked them as blank also as regards civilization. The exchange of terms brought about the exchange of view-points, and confusion of ideas resulted from the confusion of words.

Thus the term “Middle Ages” in its present acceptance, fraudulently passed into the language of historiography; it cannot furnish a regular birth certificate,for it is the offspring of a confusion of ideas.

First uses of the term “Middle Ages” in its present sense.

It is not my task to determine when the term “Middle Ages” was first used in its present sense. I find that in 1639 it was already a part of the regular vocabulary. 28

However, strictly speaking, I do not hold historians responsible for the misunderstanding. The pedagogues are the real culprits. The desire to classify is a characteristic trait of the schoolman. Thus, it was a professor, Christopher Keller, better known by his latinized name, Cellarius, who first used the term in the title of a text-book (A. D. 1688). 29

Another schoolman, Loescher, introduced the word into a German work published in the year 1725 ; since then the expression has been in constant use in pedagogical works and gradually found its way into literary productions.

But not before the second half of the eighteenth century does the term appear in literary works. And the great writers of that epoch, in France as well as in Germany, use it seldom and with hesitancy. The French Academy did not admit the term into the official repertoire of the language until the publication of the sixth edition of its dictionary, in 1835. 30

I think that the above considerations utterly discredit the common definition of the designation “Middle Ages.”

The Middle Ages are not an intermediary period; on the contrary, they are the beginning of modern society.

But it may be contended that, in spite of its etymology, the term “Middle Ages” is the appropriate name of an intermediary epoch.

Such a contention is false and cannot be justified from an historical viewpoint. Far from being intermediary between the ancient and the modern civilizations, the “Middle Ages” are the beginning of modern civilization. This modern civilization did not begin with the epoch of the Renaissance but is the offspring of Christianity, and we must seek its cradle as near as possible to the crib of Bethlehem. It began when the pagan civilization of Rome collapsed. On the ruins of pagan civilization new societies were built which were Christian in principle, if not in their material elements.

These societies still stand on their original foundation Christian morality. They were begun during the centuries of the Middle Ages and continued to flourish during subsequent centuries. We are the heirs of the Middle Ages, not, as some would have it, the heirs of Greece and Rome. But in our study of the classics our views in this matter are apt to become so distorted that it is necessary to verify an evident truth.

We offer the following proof of our position.

Whatever is lasting and fruitful in modern society, regarding institutions and ideas, has its roots deep in the fertile soil of the first Christian centuries.

The Middle Ages put an end to ancient slavery and called all men to freedom. To loosen link by link the chain of slavery was the work of centuries. It resulted in the most positive accomplishment of modern civilization.

The Middle Ages rent the imperial unity of the world and substituted the modern nationalities. These nationalities still exist and the twentieth century has no higher task than to guard their welfare and foster their friendly relations.

The Middle Ages created the modern languages and thereby gradually eliminated the Latin. These are the languages which we speak today and which hold unprecedented eminence in the world of thought.

The Middle Ages accepted the Christian Faith with love and defended it on every battle-field and with every weapon. Is not the Christian Faith the queen of the world to the present day? Has any non-Christian conception of the universe been embodied in an organization as glorious as the Church or here below manifested itself by a more marvelous fecundity?

The Middle Ages made the Papacy the most respected institution of the world. Even in our own time the pre-eminence of the Papacy is undisputed.

The Middle Ages enforced the distinction between the temporal and the spiritual the great principle which flows from the Gospel and which in the past has renovated and today upholds the political and social spirit of the civilized world.

The Middle Ages founded the constitutional monarchy and representative government, both unknown to antiquity, but which are indispensable conditions for the political existence of modern nations.

Under the shelter of these public liberties, which were guaranteed by covenant between prince and subject, the Middle Ages gave impetus to all forms of association, from the municipal corporation down to the labor union, and bequeathed to us models to which, in spite of the storms of revolution, humanity unceasingly turns for imitation.

The art of the Middle Ages has become our art. The name Gothic, 31 which was applied to the architecture of the Middle Ages as a term of reproach, is bestowed on our art as a title of glory and today we draw inspiration from the very works which our predecessors despised.

The poets of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries gloried in their ignorance of the national poetry of the Middle Ages ; we love it, we admire it, we have given it our undying affection. Littre has shown how unjust is the contemptuous attitude of Boileau towards the literature of the Middle Ages. 32

And we shall not have surpassed the Middle Ages until we shall have erected a more beautiful cathedral than that of Rheims, 33 painted a more inspiring canvass than the picture of the Adoration of the Lamb, 34 and written a poem more powerful than the Divina Commedia 35. All that we have our religion and our political ideas, our nationality and our language, our aesthetics and our social economy all these connect us with the Middle Ages and separate us from antiquity. We are the heirs of the Middle Ages; we continue their work, not the work of the Renaissance.

The Renaissance is, in a certain sense, an intermediary period.

If there be any epoch to which we may apply the term “Middle Ages,” is it not the Renaissance itself which opened in the history of modern nations a parenthesis now closed or soon to be closed? The idols of the Renaissance are now overthrown and we turn away from its ideal. We try to keep clear of royal absolutism and of the centralization which is its logical consequence. We utterly repudiate the famous maxim of the sixteenth century “Cujus regio ejus religio” the religion of the ruler must be the religion of the kingdom, which maxim is but another rendering of the Ulpian oracle “Quod principi placuit legis habet vigorem” whatever pleases the ruler has the force of law. In matters of art and literature we have formally broken with classicism and have returned to the national traditions, to the sources of popular and Christian inspiration. The modern spirit repudiates that purely pagan conception of life which would have the soul with all its faculties gravitate towards the two poles of voluptuousness and glory ; the modern spirit offers as motive for individual effort the sentiment of human solidarity and disinterested love of social progress.

Over the head of the Renaissance we clasp hands with our ancestors of the Middle Ages; we again tread the paths from which we had been led astray by the Renaissance.

Does this mean that we should meet one extreme with another by denying all indebtedness to the Renaissance and by casting away the contribution which the Renaissance has brought to the treasury of civilization? By no means! Humanity has no right to self -mutilation but must gratefully accept whatever is contributory to its intellectual and moral power. Now the Renaissance is one of the most splendid intellectual phenomena of history; it developed such wealth of genius and enlarged the intellectual horizon of the world to such an extent as to win for itself an enduring title to the admiration and gratitude of posterity.

The Renaissance in all its critical elements was but an efflorescence of the Middle Ages.

But, in this connection, we should bear in mind that the Renaissance was not a revolution, nor, as its name indicated, a re-birth; but rather the culmination of a centuries-long development during which the Middle Ages advanced beyond the period of infancy and by sheer courage and energy attained the sunlit heights. The society of the Middle Ages after groping for centuries in bold endeavor finally reached and held the summit of progress, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, 36 discovered the New World, invented printing, found anew the buried riches of ancient civilization. There is in this development a social efflorescence of which humanism is but one manifestation. It is the glad budding forth of a robust plant, which before opening to the sunlight and displaying its wealth and excellence must first experience the wondrous rising of the sap and undergo the patient and hidden work of vegetation.

For instance, the route to India was not discovered in a single attempt. A complete account of this great achievement would include the story of the Portuguese navigators who, in hazardous expeditions, explored the coasts of Africa from point to point, in their advance from one promontory to another. Imagine what an amount of energy, science, adventure was amassed before a man of genius could think of launching out boldly on the unfathomable ocean.

And as to humanism itself, it was connected with the Middle Ages by an unbroken series of links, from Nicholas V, 37 to Petrarch, 38 from Petrarch to Dante, and from Dante to Charlemagne, without a break in the literary tradition of the classics and without any lagging in the enthusiastic study of these literary masterpieces.

From this aspect, the Renaissance is the continuation of the Middle Ages, the daughter and lawful heiress of the preceding centuries, and not a stranger who throws upon the market-place of the European nations the riches of a newly discovered world. Doubtless the Renaissance possessed something unknown to the Middle Ages, upholding, as it did, the pagan conception of life. For some time thereafter this pagan element prevailed in certain literary centers, but, like an ill-chosen graft on a vigorous trunk, it withered, and undoubtedly it will have no further influence on the progress of civilization. The only enduring features of the Renaissance are the elements which link it with the Catholic and popular tradition of the Middle Ages.

The Middle Ages do not present the ideal state of society.

It will be seen that we are not of the possible few who believe that the Middle Ages had reached the ideal perfection of society; nor do we contend that modern progress is a retrogression to medieval conditions. No, peoples as well as individuals may look back in fond recollection to the smiling years of childhood without longing to be children again. The Middle Ages are the period of our younger years; we prize them dearly as the time of our vigorous youth a youth not made anemic by lack of light, not corrupted in a vitiated atmosphere, but a youth which was freely and proudly developed in the air and sunlight and which produced the vigorous constitution of our present society. When we pride ourselves on our present condition we honor the vigorous red blood of our ancestors.

However, we must admit that our first centuries were not without the defects peculiar to all childhood. The social temperament of that young age was marked by an exuberance of spirit and a lack of discipline which frequently led to violent outbursts, and its untamed nature asserted itself even in the most beautiful manifestations of individual and public life. Our fathers were often misled by their imagination, and too often they were victims of an idealism so absolute that at times they seemed to spend their lives in dreams. They lacked confidence in their own power of mind and relied too much on the word of the preceptor ; they submitted too readily to teachers who no doubt were worthy of respect but who sometimes were an obstacle to initiative. Moreover, they lacked sufficient experience to appreciate at its full value the civilization they enjoyed; with a naivete almost tragic they were willing to exchange their treasures for the counterfeit money of innovators of all kinds.

These are great defects of which we have partly freed ourselves in the course of centuries, though we may have contracted other defects no less objectionable. Let us repeat that, whatever we are today, we are the outgrowth of the Middle Ages, with their virtues and their faults, drawing our inspiration from the Gospel and not from the Digest, 39 preferring the Magna Charta 40 to the Lex Regia, 41 praying in the Sainte Chapelle 42 rather than in the Parthenon. 43. Indeed we may define modern society to be the society of the Middle Ages at its maturity.

This brings me to my conclusion.

Strictly speaking there are no Middle Ages.

The term “Middle Ages” is but a provisional name which future lexicographers will discard and which in reality designates the youth of the modern world. The golden chain which connects all the Christian centuries has no break, and whatever goes to make up our civilization has its source in the inexhaustible springs of life which were opened up by Christianity nineteen centuries ago. There are no Middle Ages ; there is a modern society indentically the same from the days of its origin, and this society is the daughter of the Gospel. In this sense, I willingly admit with the English historian Freeman, 44 that the lines of demarcation drawn by chronologists have but a formal and purely pedagogical value; each period is already contained in the one which precedes it and finds itself again in the one which follows.

The Line of Demarcation in the world’s history is Golgotha.

But I hasten to add that to this rule there is a transcendent and unique exception. There is a line of demarcation which separates into two grand divisions the history of humankind. It is the line which bears on its summit the Cross of Golgotha. And why? Because it is there that was heard the Fiat Lux (let there be light) of a second creation; because thence there came down upon the world the new law of a new civilization, the New Commandment as Christ Himself called it. On the day when it was said to the individual : “Love God above all things and your neighbor as yourself for the love of God” ; to the citizen : “Render to God the things that are God’s and to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”; to the State: “Seek first the kingdom of God and its justice” 45 on that day there arose a new morality, a new public law, a new social ideal. Like a mysterious leaven, the creative word worked upon and permeated humanity, and all the manifestations of justice and love there produced from century to century are but the result of this marvelous fermentation: “The kingdom of heaven is like to leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened.” 46

On the day when the Christian religion gave to mankind its compass and pointed out its polar star there began for humanity a life worth living, a life of which the ancient poet 47 seemed to have had an obscure presentiment when on the frontispiece of the new world he wrote this grand verse:

Magnus ab integro saeculorum nascitur ordo.
The great order of ages is born anew.

Then walking under the shadow of the cross the Christian centuries took the road of the future.

Vexilla Regis prodeunt
Crucis fulget mysterium.

The royal banners now unfurled,
The mystic cross illumines the world.

From its birth Christian society has marched on its checkered course towards the realization of its sublime ideal. The centuries of the Middle Ages began the work, the modern centuries followed, and our age, heir of both, continues the task and will hand down the work unfinished to future centuries

Vicissitudes and future of Christian Civilization.

The edifice of Christian civilization is not unlike those grand Gothic cathedrals whose inspired architects could but draw the plans and lay the foundations without seeing their idea realized here below. Generation after generation came to the foot of the edifice and continued the labor of love. They lavished upon it all their talent and wealth ; at times they matched the genius of the inspired master; at other times in their enthusiasm they hid the leading .architectural lines under a profusion of flowers; then again, by the barrenness or the extravagance of their work, they sometimes put into jeopardy the very principles of Christian art. Thus the venerable monument bears the imprint of all the passing predilections of art. Nay more, in this prolonged work of generations there were times when the hand grew weary, when courage drooped, when the building material slept at the foot of the edifice. This was so true of the Cathedral of Cologne as to give rise to the legend that the edifice would never be finished, that the devil would not permit it Nevertheless, in spite of the devil and his imps, the Cathedral of Cologne has been finished and the twin crosses of its spires glisten in the blue of heaven.

As with the noble Temple of Cologne so with the edifice of Catholic civilization. Divers hands and opposite talents have worked towards its completion, times of inaction with their train of gloomy tales have befallen it, but today new legions of workers swarm about its sides as they spend themselves in the work of raising upward and upward the sacred spires.



Medieval archeology during the seventeenth century.

The ignorance of men of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries concerning the history of medieval art is simply appalling. They could not even see the difference between the Romanesque and Gothic styles for both of which they expressed equal contempt. Thus, for instance, in 1686, the celebrated Gilbert Burnett, Anglican archbishop of Salisbury, writes as follows concerning the beautiful Romanesque cathedral of Worms: Ô”There is little remarkable In the cathedral, which is a huge building in the Gothic manner of the worst sort.” The archeological science of the time recognized two kinds of Gothic: “The ancient, originating with the Goths in the fifth century (massive, heavy, and coarse buildings), and the modern buildings more delicate, lighter, and surprisingly bold.”

Such texts should be put in parallel columns with the celebrated verses of the “Art Poétique” of Boileau on the poetry and the theatre of the Middle Ages; they constitute, so to say, documents of the first rank for “the intellectual history” of the modern epoch and they account in a way for the vandalism which was rampant during the eighteenth century and during the first half of the nineteenth century.



  1. What the author says of European historians is true of American authors as well. Thus we read in Webster’s International Dictionary: The Middle Ages, the period of time intervening between the decline of the Roman Empire (A. D. 476) and the revival of letters. Hallam regards it as beginning with the sixth and ending with the fifteenth century. (Tr. n.).
  2. Renaissance, the intellectual movement in Europe marked by a larger diffusion of classical learning and art in Italy in the fifteenth century and the similar revival following in other countries. This movement resulted from the gradual progress that had been going on during the Middle Ages for a thousand years. See: The Church at the Turning Points of History, Kurth-Day, p. 123 (Tr. n.).
  3. The Library of Alexandria founded about 284 B. C. contained, according to some historians, seven hundred thousand papyrus rolls (books). On the capture of the city by the Mohammedans in A. D. 642, General Amrou referred the matter of the library to the Caliph Omar and received the answer: “If these writings of the Greeks agree with the book of God, (Koran or the sacred book of the Mohammedans) they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious, and ought to be destroyed.” (Tr. n.)
  4. The Inquisition. The early Christian State was not indifferent to the admixture of error with the Christian religion. Starting from this view-point the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius II, A. D. 407, declared heresy to be also a crime against the State, and threatened obstinate defenders of the heresies condemned by the Church with such punishments as imprisonment, banishment, confiscation of property, and in some cases even with death. This led to the establishment of the Ecclesiastical Inquisition and later of the Spanish Inquisition. The duty of the secular power to punish heretics was still recognized in the sixteenth century, by Catholics and Protestants alike. It is acknowledged by nobody today. (Tr. n.)
  5. Donation of Constantine. By this name is understood, since the end of the Middle Ages, a forged document of Emperor Constantine the Great (A. D. 337) by which large privileges and rich possessions were conferred on the Pope and the Roman Church. This document is without doubt a forgery, fabricated somewhere between the years 750 and 850. (Tr. n.)
  6. False Decretals, or the Decretals of the Pseudo-Isidore, is a name given to certain apocryphal papal letters contained in a collection of canon laws compiled about the middle of the ninth century by an author who uses the pseudonym of Isidore Mercator. For the past four hundred years the opponents of the Papacy have asserted that its power and authority from the Middle Ages onward were based chiefly on the “False Decretals.” The Church heard the charge with the greatest equanimity, for she knew full well that Papal claims could be proved independently of the forged documents. In 1914 Mr. Davenport, an English Protestant lawyer, took up the cudgels for the Church, and won the Lothian prize at Oxford with an essay “on the “False Decretals” in which he refutes the inaccurate statements ‘of many anti-Catholic writers on the subject. (Tr. n.)
  7. The Crusades were expeditions into the Mohammedan lands, undertaken by the Christian nations of western Europe, at the suggestion of the Popes, to insure protection to the Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land and to rescue the Holy Sepulcher of Christ from the Mohammedans. The Crusades put a stop to the incessant wars of petty princes, saved Europe from conquest by the Turk, prolonged the life of the Eastern Empire for four centuries, led to the establishment of trade relations with the Eastern peoples, gave a new impetus to the sciences and arts of Western Europe, gave the Communes and the serfs a chance to buy their freedom from their lords and masters, procured the crown of martyrdom for millions of Christian heroes, secured protection for pilgrims to the Holy Land and rescued, at least for a time, the Holy Sepulchre from the Turks. The Crusader stands forever as the type of the soldier who fights for a high and noble ideal; hence the American Expeditionary Forces m France in the great war were called Tershing’s Crusaders. (Tr. n.)
  8. Boileau-Despreaux, Nicholas, French poet, satirist and critic (1636-1711), best known by his “Art Poétique” in which he gives the history and lays down in verse the rules of poetic composition in the French language. (Tr. n.)
  9. Francois de Malherbe, French poet, born in 1555, died in 1628. (Tr. n.)
  10. Erasmus. Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam was the most celebrated humanist of his time, a man of great learning but destitute of nobility of character, and of uncertain disposition. He was first the friend, then the opponent of Luther. He died in Basle A. D. 1536. By his edition of the “Fathers of the Church” he rendered great service to patristic literature. (Tr. n.)
  11. Luther, born in Eisleben, Saxony, A. D. 1483, became an Augustinian monk in 1505. In 1508 he was made professor of philosophy at Wittenberg. On October 31, 1517, he affixed his famous ninety-five theses to the door of the castle church of Wittenberg. This action inaugurated the movement known as the Protestant Reformation which rejected the authority of the Pope, Transubstantiation, etc., taught the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that man is wholly corrupted by the Fall, and that the Bible is the sole rule of faith. (Tr. n.)
  12. Humanism is the name given to the intellectual, literary, and scientific movement of the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, a movement which aimed at basing every branch of learning on the literature and culture of classical antiquity. Believing that a classical training alone could form a perfect man, the followers of this movement called themselves “Humanists.” (Tr. n.)
  13. Voltaire, Francois Arouet de Voltaire (1694-1778) a French writer who devoted his versatile talents to reviving the calumnies of the pagan Roman writer Celsus against the Apostles and the first Christians, and to popularizing the religious errors of the Freethinkers of England. Luther had cherished a violent hatred against the Vicar of Christ. Voltaire bore such a hatred against Christ himself. His watchword was “Ecrasez 1* Infame” (Crush the Infamous viz. Christ and Christianity). One of his favorite maxims was: “Lie! Lie! my friends, and something will be sure to stick.” (Tr. n.)
  14. The Encyclopedists were the writers of the “Encyclopedic,” a work in twenty-eight folio volumes published in French between 1751 and 1772, under the direction of Diderot (1713-1784). The aim of the Encyclopedic in religious matters was the rejection of all Christian dogma. (Tr. n.)
  15. Godfrey Kurth, “Le Concile de Macon et les femmes,” in “Le Revue des questions historiques,” Vol. LI (April, 1892). Very Rev. Charles Aiken, S. T. D., in “The Catholic World” of March, 1918. 
See also “America” in the following numbers: March 24, 1915; January 9, 1916; January 22, 1916; March 11, 1916; March 18, 1916; and March 25, 1916. (Tr. n.)
  16. Popess Joan is supposed to have occupied the Chair of Peter from 855 to 857 according to one “authority,” and about 1100 according to another “authority,” whilst the fable is first noticed in literature in the middle of fhe thirteenth century. But the legendary person does not fit in at either time, because at both times the Chair of Peter was occupied by well-known Popes. This matter is treated at length in “The Catholic World” for September, 1914, in “The Legend of Pope Joan” by Rev. Bertrand L. Conway, C. S. P.
  17. “The Catholic World” for August, 1917, or “False Decretals” by Bertrand L. Conway, C. S. P., published in pamphlet form by The Paulist Press, New York. (Tr. n.)
  18. See Louis Veuillot, Le droit du seigneur au moyen age. Paris, 1854. Karl Schmidt, Jus primae noctis, Fribourg, 1881.
  19. G. Kurth, “La lepre en Occident avant les Croisades,” in “Report of the Second International Scientific Congress of Catholics, Section 5, Paris, 1891.”
  20. Michelet, Jules. French historian and miscellaneous writer (1798-1874). (Tr. n.)
  21. Lecoy de la Marche: “Les bains” in “La Societe au Siecle,” Paris, 1880.
  22. Enlart. Manuel d’archeologie francaise, vol. ii, p. 96. See Rt. Rev. Thomas J. Shahan in “The Middle Ages” on “Baths and Bathing in the Middle Ages’, p. 290, ff. (Tr. n.)
  23. In 476 the Latin Empire of the West ceased to be, and its rich provinces became the prey of the Germanic tribes. Great Britain was conquered by the Anglo-Saxons, Gaul by the Franks and Burgundians, Spain by the Visigoths and the Suevi, Italy by the Ostrogoths and the Lombards, and Africa by the Vandals. (Tr. n.)
  24. Constantine the Great, son of Constantine Chlorus, joint emperor with Galerius, in 312, marched upon Maxentius, the worthless ruler of Rome. One day, shortly after noontime, while pondering on the heavy odds that were against him, he and the soldiers who happened to be with him beheld a fiery cross in the skies with this inscription: “In touto nika” (In this, conquer). During the following night Christ in a vision told him to approach the enemy under the standard of the cross. This he did. The new standard, called “Labarum,” preceded his host in the battle at the Milvian Bridge. Maxentius suffered a crushing defeat and was drowned in the Tiber. Constantine publicly ascribed the victory to the God of the Christians, and embraced the Christian faith in which he was later baptized. In 313 Constantine, together with Licinius, his ally, issued the famous edict of Milan by which full liberty was granted to the Christians. This event marks the beginning of a new era for Christianity, for the Roman Empire, and for the world at large. The victory of Christianity at this time and the subsequent general conversion of the Empire’s population made possible the conversion and civilization of the Barbarians who were to conquer the Empire politically. (Tr. n.)
  25. Charlemagne (742-841), Emperor of the West and King of France, was a great patron of letters. Under his reign, notwithstanding his continual wars, he established schools throughout his empire. He invited from England Alcuin (A. D. 804), a distinguished scholar and pupil of the Venerable Bede, under whose direction academies were established. The sons of the more wealthy flocked to his lectures. Alcuin spoke Latin, Greek and Hebrew, was master of philosophy, theology, history and mathematics. Under his direction the schools of the empire became celebrated and scholars from all Europe came to learn wisdom at his feet. The impulse thus given to letters by Charlemange was continued by his successors. The statues of Constantine the Great and Charlemagne grace the vestibule of the basilica of St. Peter in Rome. (Tr. n.)
  26. The Oath of Strasburg is the earliest extant specimen of the French language. In 842, in the presence of their assembled armies at Strasburg, Charles the Bald and Louis the Germanic, grandsons of Charlemagne, took this solemn oath of friendship and fidelity, forming an alliance against their eldest brother Lothaire. The oath was made in German to the German army by Charles the Bald, King of the West Franks, and in early French to the West Franks by Louis the Germanic, and is preserved in both languages. It might be interesting to quote the opening words of the oath both in early German and in early French. To show the gradual evolution of modern French from the Latin tongue during the Middle Ages we add to the early French both Latin and modern French translations:

    Latin: Pro Dei amore et pro christiane populb et nostra communi salute.
    Early French: Pro Deo amur et pro Christian poblo et nostro commun salvament.

    Modern French: Pour 1’amour de Dieu et pour le peuple chretien et notre salut commun.

    German: In Codes minna ind in thes christianes folches ind unser bedhere gehaltnissi.

    English: For God’s love and for this Christian people and our common salvation. (Tr. n.) (A. D. 842)

  27. Ducange, Charles du Presne. French historian and philologist (1610-1688). (Tr. n.)
  28. Rausin of Liege in “Leodium,” p. 103.
  29. Chr. Cellarii “Historia Medii Aevi, a temporibus Constantini Magni ad Constantinopolim a Turcis captam deducta.” lena 1688.
  30. French Academy. A national institution of France, founded by Cardinal de Richelieu in 1635. It is composed of forty members popularly called the “Immortals.” The object for which the Academy was founded was the purification of the French language. To attain this end it compiled a dictionary. The office of the Academy is not to create words, but to register words approved by the authority of the best writers and by good society. (Tr. n.)
  31. The word Gothic designates the style of architecture which flourished in the western part of Europe from the end of the twelfth century to the revival of the classical styles in the sixteenth century. Generally speaking, it is at once the most scientific and the most artistic style of architecture. It is the most scientific because its whole strength is made to reside in a finely organized and frankly confessed framework rather than in walls. This framework, made up of piers, arches and buttresses is freed from every unnecessary incumbrance of wall and is rendered as light in all its parts as is compatible with strength. It is the most artistic style because the liberal, harmonious and consistent use of the pointed arch, the threefoil, the quatrefoil, the quinquefoil, foliated capitals, deep mouldings, finials, crockets, fourpeated flowers, etc., enable the artist to make Gothic buildings pictures of perfect beauty. (Tr. n.)
  32. Littre, Maxmilien Paul Emile. French philologist (1801-1881). (Tr. n.)
  33. The Cathedral of Rheims is called the national cathedral of France whose kings were consecrated within its sacred precincts. The first stone of the present structure was laid in 1212, the main front with its superb towers was completed in 1427. The cathedral of Rheims is considered by many the most perfect specimen of decorated Gothic architecture in existence on account of the symmetry of its proportions, the purity of its style, the gracefulness of its lines, the wealth of its sculptural decorations numbering two thousand five hundred statues, six hundred of which grace the main entrance. (Tr. n.)
  34. The Adoration of the Lamb painted by Hubert Van Eyck and John Van Eyck, his brother, Belgian painters, between 1420 and 1432. It is now in the cathedral of St. Bavon of Ghent, Belgium. It is a polyptich, or painting of many panels, each one of which constitutes a group, and all of which make but one main subject. The Adoration of the Lamb is the pictorial representation of Apocalypse: “I beheld, and lo! a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and with palms in their hands. And they cry with a loud voice saying: ‘Salvation belongeth to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb.’ “ For a detailed description see: “Belgium: Its Cities.” Vol. I, Grant Allen. Published by L. C. Page & Co., Boston. (Tr. n.)
  35. “Divina Commedia,” written by Dante Alighieri, Italian poet, born at Florence in 1265, and who died at Ravenna, Italy, September 14, 1321. His best known work is the “Divina Commedia” which lends the charms of poetry to the truths of religion, whilst leading the reader through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. This sacred poem sums up the knowledge and intellectual attainment of the Middle Ages, and places Dante among the few supreme poets of the world. (Tr. n.)
  36. In finally rounding the Cape of Good Hope, after centuries of undaunted efforts, the Portuguese opened the way to India by water. (Tr. n.)
  37. Nicolas V., Tomasso Parentucelli, was born at Sarzana, Italy, November 15, 1397, was elected Pope February 3, 1337, and died in Rome, March 25, 1455. The aim of his pontificate was to make Rome the home of literature and art, the city of splendid monuments, the worthy capital of the Christian world. During his pontificate scholars of all nations were welcomed to the Vatican as friends, and frequently assisted by him in their financial needs. No department of literature owes him so much as history. The crowning glory of his pontificate was the foundation of the Vatican Library where he sumptuously housed precious manuscripts which his agents had patiently gathered from every country in Europe. (Tr. n.)
  38. Petrarch, Francis. Italian poet and humanist, born July 20, 1304, died July 19, 1374. In 1323 Francis took minor orders and later received a canonical benefice. From 1330 to 1337 he journeyed through France, Germany and Italy until he finally settled in Vaucluse, France, and there he found the peace and the inspiration that produced so many of his best lyrics. On Easter Sunday, 1341, he was publicly crowned as poet and historian in the Capitol of Rome. As a scholar Petrarch possessed encyclopedic knowledge much of which he has set down in his various Latin works. His abiding fame is based upon his Italian poetry contained in the “Triumfi” and the “Canzoniere.” These begot for Petrarch legions of followers in Italy. Petrarch was the intimate friend of Boccaccio, who, like himself, desired to promote humanistic studies and researches. (Tr. n.)
  39. The term “Digest” is applied in a general sense to the Pandects of Justinian, which are an abridgement, in fifty books, of the decisions, writings and opinions of the old Roman jurists, made in the sixth century by direction of the Emperor Justinian, and forming the leading compilation of the Roman civil law. (Tr. n.)
  40. Petrarch, Francis. Italian poet and humanist, born July 20, 1304, died July 19, 1374. In 1323 Francis took minor orders and later received a canonical benefice. From 1330 to 1337 he journeyed through France, Germany and Italy until he finally settled in Vaucluse, France, and there he found the peace and the inspiration that produced so many of his best lyrics. On Easter Sunday, 1341, he was publicly crowned as poet and historian in the Capitol of Rome. As a scholar Petrarch possessed encyclopedic knowledge much of which he has set down in his various Latin works. His abiding fame is based upon his Italian poetry contained in the “Triumfi” and the “Canzoniere.” These begot for Petrarch legions of followers in Italy. Petrarch was the intimate friend of Boccaccio, who, like himself, desired to promote humanistic studies and researches. (Tr. n.)
  41. “Lex Regia” or “The Royal Law” was a Roman law relating to the powers of the Roman Emperors. (Tr. n.)
  42. “Sainte Chapelle” is a Catholic church built in Paris during the reign of St. Louis IX, King of Prance, in the purest decorated Gothic style. (Tr. n.)
  43. “The Parthenon” was a celebrated pagan temple of Athens. It was built on the Acropolis, of Pentelic marble in correct Greek style of the Doric variety. (Tr. n.)
  44. Freeman, “The Methods of Historical Study.”
  45. Matthew VI, 33.
  46. St. Matthew XIII, 33.
  47. The ancient poet here quoted is Virgil. He was born 70 B. C. He is the author of the “Eclogues” (pastoral poems), the “Georgics” (rural poems), and the “Aeneid,” the greatest epic poem in the Latin language. The diffusion of the Messianic prophecies throughout the nations had made the world look for a Savior of mankind and a consequent new and brighter era of history. Virgil gave expression to this universal expectancy in the sublime verse quoted. (Tr. n.)
  48. Opening lines of the Vespers hymn during the Passion-tide. (Tr. n.)