MEDIEVAL HISTORIOGRAPHY, Christian conception of history...


Who writes the history of past times, he either says that the Holy Spirit dictates him, or follows the authority of the ancient authors, and first of all those who tell of their time.

Lorenzo Valla

Christian concept of history

Medieval historical works were numerous and varied in their themes and genres: they are annals, chronicles, biographical and autobiographical works, stories of individual secular and ecclesiastical communities, genealogy of ruling and aristocratic dynasties. Hagiographic writings (lives) were connected in their meaning and functions with the historical ones themselves: they contained a narrative not only about the saints themselves, but also a broader outline of the history of that community or locality with which the saint was associated during life or after death. A specific form of preserving social memory was the liturgical practice of remembrance of the deceased: at regular annual ceremonies, members of a social group (family, clan, monastic community, etc.) recalled their ancestors and predecessors, supporting the idea of ​​continuity and unity of the past and the present. In understanding the goals of historical works, medieval authors were in many respects continuers of the ancient tradition, conscientiously recording events whose reliability and plausibility could be confirmed by witnesses or testimonies that are credible.

Medieval historians were just as unhistorical (in the modern sense of the word) in the perception of the past, as were their ancient predecessors. The past gave birth to the present, but it did not differ from it in substance. The meaning of events and the behavior of people could be explained by the same reasons as in the modern authors of social reality. The experience of predecessors taught and warned people against mistakes, it was perceived as a living reality and a practical guide to action. It is no accident that in the art of the Middle Ages there was a tradition of depicting people of past epochs in the guise typical of contemporaries: they were given recognizable clothing, hair, attributes of everyday life. These external features are considered by modern researchers as evidence of the fundamental anachronism of historical consciousness.

Medieval authors, after the ancient, perceived the past as a treasure trove of examples that demonstrated examples of worthy or unworthy behavior that revealed typical situations of a tragic or happy course of events. The past was comprehended in categories of morality and ethics, served as a source of instruction and edification. Medieval authors sought in him for confirmation of ideas relevant to the community to which they themselves belonged: historical works were to testify to the great past of peoples and individual dynasties, to prove this idea by referring to the images of great ancestors and significant acts of predecessors. Memory of the past could confirm the rights to certain lands, property, legitimize claims to power and social authority. In a word, the historical narrative was not just a collection of more or less reliable information, but it was used as a means of teaching, a source of self-awareness and a tool for solving actual problems.

The continuity of ancient and medieval historiography predetermined their similarity in many aspects, however it did not have an absolute character. Medieval historical consciousness was marked by a number of fundamental features: its originality was rooted in the system of Christian religious beliefs that predetermined the general concept of human development - its meaning, goals and driving forces. The understanding of history, which was distinguished by the learned historiography of the Latin Middle Ages, developed in the writings of St. Jerome, who laid the foundations of the Christian chronology, Paul Orosius, who created a model of the political history of the Christian West, and Aurelius Augustine, who developed the concept of the struggle of two worlds - the City of Heaven and the City of the Earth, in which he he saw the main content of the history of mankind. In their main features, the image of history that they created remained unchanged throughout the Middle Ages.

The emergence of Christianity as a developed religious and worldview system led to the formation of a new, essentially different from the ancient, tradition of historical consciousness. Mortgaged by the first and most authoritative Christian theologians - the Fathers of the Church - the philosophy of history absorbed the experience of ancient historiography, abandoning its fundamental principles or changing them to the exact opposite. The historical writings of the Gentiles were regarded as incomparably less valuable than the tradition of the Jews, embodied in the Old Testament. The biblical model of history was put in the basis of the Christian understanding of the development of mankind. Interpretation of past and present events was primarily guided by the principle of faith, recognized the crucial importance of supernatural intervention of the almighty God in human life and limited the possibilities of rational explanation of events.

Recognition of the absolute authority of the Bible caused the refusal to apply to it the principles of critical evaluation of information used by ancient authors. The Bible and a number of other texts created during the centuries of the development of Christianity were estimated as absolutely true, the content of which could not be questioned.

The reliability and value of information was assessed in terms of the authority of the source that reported it. The concept of an authoritative source was one of the most important categories of medieval consciousness, assimilated historiographical tradition. Rejecting the principles of rational criticism of biblical texts, early Christian historiography saw in them other, allegorical meanings. The facts and events saw only the external expression of universal moral and mystical ideas that revealed the true content of the relationship between God and people and made the deep meaning of what was happening clear.

Denying the rationalism of ancient thinkers, Christian theologians used the achievements and ideas of ancient philosophy, especially the late-antique Neoplatonism, who saw in simple and everyday things the interweaving of different meanings. This system of complex and polysemantic interpretation of the events of the Sacred History, stated in the Bible, acquired the importance of the most important method of medieval thinking and extended to all events of human history and modern life. The approach developed by Christian theologians to understanding history meant that the method of consistent but superficial explanation of events as a chain of causes and effects was replaced by the practice of interpreting history as a complex process in which people's events and actions were only an outermost layer.

What was the basis of human history and its true content? The first Christian theologians answered this question, which was not questioned during the Middle Ages, survived the Renaissance and largely maintained its indisputability in the historical consciousness of Europe until the middle of the 19th century. The meaning of human history, its true content, the deep cause of all that was happening was conceived as a reflection of the will of God. The real history of states and peoples appeared as a chain of interrelated events, reflecting the realization of the Divine plan. Christianity took on a number of the most important features of the Jewish religious consciousness, in which two aspects were inextricably linked: the actual religious, referring to God's and man's supernatural mystical relations, and pragmatic, appealing to the ordinary existence of people. From the point of view of Christianity, the relations of God and humanity combine two seemingly contradictory qualities - they are realized both in eternity and in the earthly "historical" time. The dynamism of human history, expressed in the change of epochs, the rise and decline of individual powers and nations, is determined by the eternal and unchanging struggle of good and evil, God and the devil. Commitment to one or the other manifested itself in the history of empires, states, in the interrelationships of individuals.

Human history first acquired the importance of the necessary element of the cosmic process, became a kind of grandiose epic, which saw external events and individual human actions as a reflection of the unchanging struggle of universal supernatural forces. To a full extent, this understanding of history as a global religious process was formulated by the main theologian of the Latin church AURULUS AUGUSTIN , Bishop of Hippo (354-430) in the composition "About the City of God" (413 -426). According to the conception of human history he created, the opposition between good and evil, God and the devil was reflected in the struggle of the city of God - the mystical community of all the righteous and true believers - against the hail of Satan - the totality of all the pagans and enemies of the faith who lived before and are now living. These two communities are divided into eternity into two opposing camps, however, both the elect and the sinners coexist in the time of real history, in the terrestrial community - the city of the Earth. The struggle of the righteous and sinners is not only a spiritual clash, but also a confrontation between two camps embodied in history and human deeds. Augustine, like other Christian thinkers, believed that human history has its final and its goal - the final victory of the righteous and the defeat of sinners, embodied in the Second Coming and the Last Judgment.

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