I started this series with a deceptively simple purpose. I wanted to write about Augustine’s presence in the Middle Ages.
Does the reception of Augustine fundamentally change when it is no longer the scribe, but the printer who holds the reins?
Augustine, exponent and champion of Christian faith, displayed such knowledge of the poets in all his writings that there is scarcely a single letter or treatise of his which is not crowded with poetic ornament.
The sermon that makes this outrageous claim is a fake. It is one of hundreds, if not thousands of sermons that circulated in the Middle Ages using Augustine’s illustrious name as a way to guarantee a wide readership and make a bid for literary immortality.
Today we will look at the relics of St. Augustine and the tug-of-war that broke out over them in the fourteenth century.
This begs the question, what were the Sentences exactly, who was Peter Lombard and what did he have to do with Augustine?
While Augustine was working on his book On the Trinity, he was walking by the seaside one day, meditating on the difficult problem of how God could be three Persons at once. He came upon a little child.
Only every once in a while, does enough material remain to truly bring to life a person who is long gone. This is the real deal, and when it comes along, historians, paleographers, and editors alike rejoice.
While the notion of the ‘dark’ Middle Ages is – thankfully – no longer fashionable, the Carolingian Renaissance, its reform efforts, educational system, book production, continue to inspire. It will come as no surprise that Augustine was, once again, at the center of this intellectual riches.
I will give you a taste of Bede’s many accomplishments, not the least of which is his instrumental role in the diffusion of Augustine’s works.
Like all his other works, Augustine’s sermons were taken across the Mediterranean and copied and recopied throughout the Middle Ages. A crucial link in this chain of sermon manuscripts was Caesarius of Arles, who lived from c. 470 to 542 AD.
I would label him one of Augustine’s first editors, publishers, and publicists, because, just like a modern editor, Eugippius did three things to make his author a success.
Imagine putting pen to paper today and copying down a text in longhand. What are the chances it will still be around by the year 3500 AD? What would that require?
How did Augustine’s writings take their first, crucial steps in a centuries-long journey? How did they succeed in defeating the odds?