Were the Middle Ages Dark?
Video narrated by Anthony Esolen
Created by Prager University (2013)
There is no period in history more misunderstood than the Middle Ages. Providence College Professor of English, Anthony Esolen, vividly demonstrates why the “Dark Ages” would be better described as the “Brilliant Ages.”
Excerpt: We’ll make a good start by dispelling some nonsense. The people of the Middle Ages did not believe the earth was flat. They knew it was round. The ancients said it was round, the Fathers of the Church said it was round; they saw its shadow during an eclipse of the moon, and the shadow was round; they saw masts of ships sinking below the horizon – round!
Another untruth: women were no better than chattel. On the contrary: not until the Industrial Revolution would women enjoy as much freedom as they enjoyed during the Middle Ages. We have evidence in literature: Marie de France wrote some of the finest poems we have about the reign of King Arthur in the late 12th century; Juliana of Norwich, 14th century, wrote on the devotional life and was sought after by commoners and great theologians and princes. We have evidence in politics: Matilda of Tuscany, 11th century, protected Pope Gregory VII against his enemy, the German emperor Henry IV; she was also a close friend and a correspondent with Saint Anselm, the greatest scholar in Europe at the time. Catherine of Siena, 14th century, advised and rebuked popes during the Great Western Schism that threatened to tear Europe in two.
More nonsense: the Middle Ages were cheerless. Quite the reverse! They were full of color, of celebrations involving everybody in town; they invented the carnival; they revived popular drama, which had lain dormant for a thousand years; whatever they did, whether it was sinning or fighting or repenting or falling in love, or traveling thousands of miles to to Rome or to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Palestine, they did it with energy and gusto.