Transformations of late antiquity: The writing and re-writing of church history at the monastery of lorsch, c. 800

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Abstract

At the beginning of the 790s Alcuin, one of the most eminent scholars at the court of Charlemagne, wrote a letter to his former pupil, Ricbod, the abbot of the monastery of Lorsch. In addition to his good wishes and advice, Alcuin cautioned Ricbod against his love for Virgil. Ricbod ought to direct his interests to the research of holy writings rather than to the study of Virgil’s (<italic>Utinam evangelia quattuor, non Aeneadem duodecim, pectus compleant tuum</italic>). For a long time such remarks have been seen as evidence for a ‘Carolingian’ Renaissance, and Ricbod’s admiration of classical culture and education was regarded as typical of widespread efforts in the Carolingian kingdom and empire to revive and emulate classical models and standards. More recent research has shown, however, that the political necessities of the eighth-century West drove the emphasis on learning. The ‘Carolingian’ Renaissance was in many ways an experimental process which responded to a new need for a culture of wide-reaching political and social integration created by the political and military success of Carolingian politics. Consequently, the ‘resources of the past’ re-appropriated by Carolingian politicians, scholars and intellectuals included more than the resources of the classical and late classical Roman world. They also drew on the adaptations of late Roman models and resources developed in the post-Roman kingdoms in the centuries before the Carolingian rise to power. In my contribution to the study of this multifaceted process I shall focus on the writing and rewriting of Roman and post-Roman history in the monastery of Lorsch during the time of Ricbod (784–804), the admirer of Virgil, and of his successor Adalung (804–37). A closer look at the transmission and appropriation of histories at Lorsch will show that Ricbod’s love for Virgil might well be connected to much more specific reflections and debates about the resources of the past and their use for the creation of new visions of community than simply an esteem for classical culture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Resources of the Past in Early Medieval Europe
PublisherCambridge University Press
Pages262-282
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781316134269
ISBN (Print)9781107091719
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities

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