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Western Civilisation

Join Gab (@StFerdinandIII) Western Civilisation was and is superior to anything Islam has developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Raising the alarm about the fascism called Submission since 2000.  

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Medieval/Early Modern Christianity - Recent Articles

Christian Monks saving and building Civilisation

How many are thankful?

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"VILLAGE ENTRANCE WITH WINDMILL", by Jan Brueghel the Elder ...

(Jan Brueghel the Elder, Village with a Windmill)

Today, Priests and Monks are vilified en-masse by the anti-Christian media and tech platforms.  Criticism and exaggeration of real and quite criminal child sexual assaults and abuse abound.  There is no end of print or investigative reports on the issue.  Yet child abuse in public schools has been confirmed to run at 100x the level of that of the Priestly abuse of children.  There is no media or platform noise about this because such a fact does not sell copies or act as edible and enticing click bait.

In spite of the modern stigmatisation of monks and priests it is fair to say as many historians have detailed, that the monks saved civilisation.  How many ‘secular’ self-proclaimed ‘critical thinkers’ know this?  At the very least the obvious reality is that the monks in total, were indispensable to the forward march of Western civilisational development.  How many today feel any gratitude for the great works, past and present of the monks and priests?  Very few even know about the inheritors of Saint Paul of Thebes and Saint Anthony of Egypt (mid third century A.D), whose asceticism inspired the creation of monasteries, or groups of celibate men seeking the kingdom of Christ and developing the innovations which propelled Western Europe to an apex of achievement.

Cenobitic monasticism, or communal monasticism, was a reaction in part to the solitary existence of hermits, with a commitment to develop a community of faithful, educated and labouring men.  Eastern Christian monasticism developed earlier than the Western version, with Saint Benedict in the 6th century establishing 12 small communities of monk at Subiaco about 38 miles from Rome, before creating Monte Cassino, on the road between Rome and Naples around 529 A.D.  The famous rule of St. Benedict which informed all later monastic orders, and their behaviour was instituted first at Monte Cassino.  

St Benedict’s rule was moderate, common sensical, and structured, providing a template which was reused throughout Europe.  Monks were to receive adequate sleep and food, with a material existence not far from that of a typical peasant.  Education and work were expected to be undertaken in addition to prayers and religious obligations.  All men were treated equally regardless of status or wealth.  Monte Cassino itself was a miracle, sacked by pagan Lombards in 589, the Muslims in 884, the French in 1799, the shelling of World War II, it was always rebuilt and improved. 

The Benedictine order, from its founding in about 520 A.D, over the 900 years during the medieval era, provided 24 Popes, 200 cardinals, 7,000 archbishops, 15,000 bishops, and 1,500 canonised saints.  At its apogee of power, there were 37,000 monasteries.  The order attracted some 20 emperors, 10 empresses, forty-seven kings, and fifty queens.  The spiritual and humble life of the penitent monk thus enticed many of the elite within Europe.

Many know of the monk’s key role in preserving literature and texts within the monastical scriptoria.  Less known, is the practical arts pursued by monks which changed civilisation.  Agriculture is one example.  The agricultural restoration of Europe from end to end, was a monkish endeavour. 

Inter-alia the monastic orders converted unusable land into agriculture, drained marshes and created farms, pumped out water along the coast line using advanced wind mill technology and built dikes, engaged in advanced breeding of cattle and other livestock, replaced the ox with the horse, developed three and four field crop rotation, built an illimitable number of water mills for grinding and various manufacturing processes, brewed beer, discovered distilleries, improved viniculture, invented fish farming, redirected water flows to feed into cities and villages, taught the peasantry about irrigation and soil management, and developed any number of tools and machines for the farm.  The entire county of Yorkshire England owes its medieval prosperity to the Cistercian monks (order established in 1098), who utterly transformed the land there and brought a once moribund and devastated area into the monk-inspired extended trade routes and prosperity of the Middle Ages (the Normans slaughtered some 100.000 people in the 1070s and 80s and it took a century or more to recover).  This is but one example within the width and breadth of Europe that could be pointed out.

The monks-built watermills which transformed local industry.  Waterpower was used for crushing wheat, sieving flour, fulling cloth and tanning.  Jean Gimpel, always a great read on medieval history, reports that the 742 Cistercian abbeys throughout Europe, all possessed advanced technology.  The same level of technological sophistication within this network would have been prevalent across the various sites.  742 is a dense network of ‘factories’ which is what a medieval monastery became.  The increase in farming, industry and trade, naturally attracted villages, and necessitated the building of roads, bridges and social infrastructure.  This mass industrialisation was not seen in the ancient, pagan world.  This fact is curiously omitted by the deep admirers of ‘classical history’.  They seem to believe that they would be the toga-wearing elite, discussing stoicism, when in fact, 90% of the population led rudimentary, poor lives, untouched by mechanised appliances as developed during the medieval era.

Jean Gimpel writes in the ‘The Medieval Machine’ about the heavy pestles, the fullers’ great hammers, the spares, the plugs, the winches, the ropes, and the replacement by mechanisation of expensive horse labour.  The shafts spun by wheels, the use of automation to tan and make shoes and clothes, the grinding of grain, the endless usages of the machines to cook, sieve, turn, or wash.  It was a symphony of complex technology that is often disregarded by those who worship the ‘classical era’. 

The Cistercians and other monkish orders were also famous for their metallurgy.  Every monastery had a factory where waterpower drove the creation of complex agricultural implements.  Iron ore deposits were used for forge iron tools.  Blast furnaces were first developed by Christian monks.  For over 400 years, from the 14th to 18th centuries, the Cistercians were the leading iron manufacturers in Europe.  They even used the slag from the furnaces as fertiliser for their fields due to the concentration of phosphates.  The mining of salt, lead, alum and gypsum were all enhanced and lead by monasteries.  This metallurgical skill extended to cutlery, glass works, and metal plating. 

The monks experimented with flying, with a monk in the early 1000’s attempting a glider flight which lasted more than 600 feet.  A Jesuit priest, Father Lana-Terzi was the first to discuss the geometry and physics of a flying machine in his 1670 book, Prodomo alla Arte Maestra.  Clock making was a renowned skill of the monks, including the first clock built in 996 AD or so by the future Pope Sylvester for Madgeburg.  In the 1300s a 14th century monk at Glastonbury built a mechanical clock which now sits in the London Science Museum.  Richard of Wallingford, an abbot at a Benedictine monastery, built a mechanical tower clock at Saint Albans in the 14th century as well. 

The technological innovations of the monks are simply astounding.  Yet that is only a part of the story.  The monasteries provided hospitals, hospices and inns for travellers, built and sustain local parish churches, gave great quantities of food, aid and money to the poor, built lighthouses to protect sailors, copied enormous quantities of pagan and Christian literature, established schools and constructed the first universities based on a combination of pagan learning, mathematics, rhetoric, natural science, logic and theology.  There survive extant copies of school exercises in which students are challenged to understand Cicero, Horace, Juvenal, Persius, Seneca, Terence and others. 

The contribution of the monks to civilisation is without parallel or imitation in history.  Across every aspect of life, the material, the spiritual, the practical, the intellectual, the monks dominated European civilisation.  Saint Benedict is rightly viewed as the ‘Father of Europe’.  Without the monks, it is quite likely that civilisation would have failed, and a true Dark Age, imitating that of the ancient Greek Dark Ages, would have emerged.

 

Saving Civilisation. The Catholic Church in the non-existent 'dark ages'

As opposed to the current dark ages of the modern world?

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Invasions in the 9th and 10th Centuries 

The ‘dark ages’ as a faux description were once applied to the entire millennium from 500 AD to 1500 AD.  The term is used as an attack on the Catholic Church and opprobrium directed at Faith.  The ‘dark ages’ separated the ‘rich, classical’ slave based and largely poor-agrarian societies of antiquity with that of the Renaissance, the supposedly recreation of a glorious-pagan past.  This vilification has largely been erased and now the ‘dark ages’ comprise perhaps the 5th to 8th centuries which would offend the great advances made in Gaul, Visigothic Spain before the Muslim invasion, or even Anglo-Saxon England.  What is dark, is the fact that we have lost much of the material from that era in the form of lost manuscripts, rolls and whole libraries, many burnt by Vikings, Muslims, Magyars and Huns, or simply lost to accidents, fires, or lack of care in storage. 

The era from 500-700 AD in Western Europe was indeed brutal and given the paucity of real information, seems rather dark.  Will Durant, an agnostic historian, located the blame for a general decline in society not on the Church, which he viewed as the only civilising factor in Western Europe, but on the endless ‘barbarian invasions’, including migrations which dislocated much of post-Roman Europe.  The Church was the only institution trying to hold society together. 

‘The basic cause of cultural regression’, he writes, ‘was not Christianity but barbarism, not religion but war.  The human inundations ruined or impoverished cities, monasteries, libraries, schools, and made impossible the life of the scholar or the scientist.  Perhaps the destruction would have been worse if the Church had not maintained some measure of order in a crumbling world.’

It would have been a colossal disaster for civilisation if the Church had not existed and had not arrested the rapid decline with the implosion of the massive Roman state, itself based on slave labour, military power and uber-taxation.  Various Germanic tribes had migrated into the Roman empire staring in the 2nd century AD if not before.  Hired as mercenaries they began to take over the Roman military and even civil administration long before 476 AD.  Alaric the Goth sacked Athens in 390 AD and Rome in 410 AD and toured both cities as a tourist.  The end of the empire was clearly in sight no later than the early 5th century.  The Germans however, brought nothing of their own to add to the Roman empire.  Literature, technology, engineering, legal codes, culture were barren within the Goths who took over Rome.   They were attracted solely by the lifestyle and wealth of what Rome could offer.  They were nomadic peoples, very pagan, with primitive ideas around cult worship of nature and the variegated objects of creation.

One aspect of Germanic ‘barbarism’ was the legal code.  In Rome, there was some attempt at justice, notwithstanding how corrupt and unequal the system would have been, with the rich able to buy their own judgements and the poor being denied justice or even a hearing.  For Germanic tribes a person accused of a crime might be subjected to a trial by ordeal with hot water, in which the person must reach into scalding hot water and retrieve a stone.  If within 3 days the wounds were scabbing he was declared innocent.  Or he might be tossed into a cold river, bound up, and if he floated was declared guilty.  These are hardly edifying principles of a legal system.

The task for the Church in the face of the Germanic takeover of Rome was complicated and massive.  As Christopher Dawson says, ‘The Church had to undertake the task of introducing the law of the Gospel and the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount among peoples who regarded homicide as the most honourable occupation and vengeance as synonymous with justice.’  In 410 Saint Jerome lamented the loss of Rome to the Goths under Alaric, noting the brutality and uncivilised nature of the sack, and the end of his classical world.  To deflect criticism away from the Church which had no role in the slow-moving implosion of the Roman state, Saint Augustine penned the ‘City of God’, showing the stark differences between the vanities of man’s projects and society; and that of God’s.  Christianity had nothing to do with the rot of the slave-based empire of the Romans.  Endless civil wars, over-taxation, the brutality of existence, the lack of technological progress, cultural and moral degradation, and the inability to manage its own army led to its inevitable demise. 

The most significant German tribe was the Franks and the marriage of Clovis to the beautiful and Christian Catholic Clotilda, and his conversion to Catholicism around 496 A.D., was a turning point in history.  Within 400 years all the former ‘barbarian’ tribes of Western Europe would be converted.  It would take another 300 years to Christianise the Nordic and eastern European states and peoples.  An important element in converting tribes was to convert the King and court, given the relationship and dependency of people upon their ruler.  On-going guidance and education were often more difficult than the conversion process.  Saint Gregory of Tour’s ‘History of the Franks’, and Venerable Bede’s ‘Ecclesiastical History of the English-Speaking People’, make this apparent.  Saint Boniface the great Anglo-Saxon evangeliser in Saxon Germany, both converted and established the infrastructure of the Church in Germany in the 740s, a herculean task rarely equalled in any history. 

As with all man-made creations, by the end of the 7th century, much rot had set in the Church, including immorality, depravity, and corruption.  The poor moral and intellectual condition of the priesthood by the end of the Merovingian period (the era of Boniface) was infamous.  It was under the Irish and Anglo-Saxon missionaries that the Continental Church would be reformed during the 8th and 9th centuries.  By the mid-8th-century the Papacy in Rome, in the face of an Islamic Jihad, pagan incursions into Italy and the weakening of Byzantium by the Persians and Muslims turned to the Franks for protection.  Charles Martel’s colossal defeat of the Muslims at Tours in 732 A.D. saved most of Europe from Muslim domination (regardless of what revisionists now propose).  The Church aided the transition of power from the corrupt Merovingians to the Carolingians or the family of Martel.  A recrudescence of civilisation shone with the ascension and power of Charlemagne, must of it premised on the reign of his father Pepin.  A central figure was the Anglo-Saxon monk from York, Alcuin, who build and created a school system for Charlemagne’s expanding empire, the collection and copying of ancient texts and the push for literacy across society.  As art historian Kenneth Clark once wrote, ‘People don’t always realise that only three or four manuscripts of the Latin authors are still in existence: our whole knowledge of ancient literature is due to the collecting and copying that began under Charlemagne, and almost any classical text that survived the eighth century has survived until today’. 

One of the most remarkable features of the Medieval period is the salvation of ancient learning, all of it by monks in monasteries, painfully copying by hand onto parchment, ancient artifacts.  The Roman education system was thus preserved and improved by the likes of Alcuin.  Astronomy, music, arithmetic, geometry, logic, grammar and rhetoric were carefully conserved and elaborated upon.  Writing was vastly simplified and innovated with the introduction of the Carolingian script, which used upper and lower cases, along with punctuation.  The impact of this should not be under-estimated.  The use of Carolingian miniscule as historians call it, was crucial to the development of civilisation.

This Carolingian renaissance in law, culture, art, writing, education, and Church reform, was assaulted by the Muslims, Vikings, Magyars, and Huns in an endless parade of invasions and assaults commencing in the early 8th century.  It is a miracle that anything survived of the Catholic-Frankish civilisation.  The unfailing and redoubtable strength of the Church, in spiritual, material and military affairs allowed Europe to survive and post the 9th century begin to thrive.  This second wave of Barbarism from the Muslims to the Vikings and Avars, threatened to engulf and extinguish Europe.  It was only the Church that kept civilisation alive, and in the monasteries, one finds the islands of intellectual life which kept alive learning, education, ancient texts and legal codes. 

The end result of Catholic power and greatness can be seen in the rise of Pope Sylvester in 999-1003 AD.  Sylvester was a polymath and the most learned man in Europe.  He was fluent in maths, astronomy, Latin, Greek, philosophy, music, literature and technological innovation.  He was responsible for sundry inventions in theology, science and astronomy.  A man who practiced faith and the use of reason.  Pope Sylvester is the icon who refutes and condemns the calumny of a dark age.

Cathophobia. A real and dangerous mental illness.

Hating what you don't know is not a sign of advance intelligence.

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Anti-Catholicism is not only accepted in most institutions in the ‘Western’ world, it is usually assumed.  Anti-White racism is not far behind.  There is little to dispute this claim in reality.  The very institution which created the modern world – the Catholic Church – is routinely defamed and rubbished.  The small percentage of pedophile priests who abuse young boys, usually under the moniker ‘sex scandal’, while obviously criminally immoral and egregious is a small fraction of the sexual assaults which occur in the public school system, or public sports systems, in any year.  But no one is interested in that.  Lurid portrayals of lusty ribald monks, nuns and priests sell more copy.  Not much has changed since the 14th century and Gargantua’s impious exaggeration of the Church’s sexual impropriety.  No mention is made within the regulated mainstream of the Muslim sex Jihad, the child abuse by ‘Trans’ psychopaths, or the sex slavery within Europe’s ‘districts’ where women are sold as slabs of meat.  The modern Sodom and Gomorrah is deemed ‘liberal civilisation’.  Its depravity, stupidity and immorality is hardly new and reaches all the way back to the first development of towns and settled existence.

Oddly the most vociferously Cathophobic can be found in the very institutions which were created by Catholics.  The Church inter-alia built and developed: universities, charities, international law, science, the maths, legal infrastructure, courts, transport, mechanised agriculture, long-distance trade, international banking, accounting, blast furnaces and industrial revolutions, advanced metallurgy, precursors to modern railroads, mining techniques, architectural revolutions, artistic advancements, libraries, bookbinding and distribution, hospitals, medical innovations, parliaments, assemblies, to name just a few.  It is hard to reconcile Cathophobic irrationalism with the modern world.

Western civilisation, now ‘mutating’ into a totalitarianism, was built by the Catholic Church.  The legacies of Greece and Rome were saved by the Church and infused into Catholic doctrine, synthesised, categorised, explained and defended by the greatest philosopher in history, St. Thomas Aquinas.  Yet in the popular culture, advanced by atheists and ‘enlighteners’, the Church is given no credit for keeping Western Civilisation alive.  Without the Church the gradual takeover of Rome by Germanic tribes, would have ended very differently and much to our detriment.  The German tribes did not bring or offer anything new, they greedily consumed the legacy of Rome and turned to the Church for the cultivation and management of society. 

Recent scholarship is decidedly turning in the favour of Catholics.  It is clear that the Inquisition, which handed over to state powers some 3.000 heretics to be burnt, was not nearly as omnipresent or powerful as claimed.  By contrast Muslims murder 5.000 Christians a year, just in Nigeria – but few know this.  The Galileo affair was not over science but politics, with the Church the largest single supporter of astronomical science in world history, including today’s institutions which fund cosmological investigations.  Galileo never offered proof for heliocentricity (offering tides), and was ignorant of the Christian Kepler’s math which provided the logic supporting the theory.  The 17th century pagan mystic Bruno was not burnt at the stake for the sake of ‘science’ but because he stated that there were many universes, copies of the world and by extension the divinity of Christ and the authority of the Church were void and irrelevant.  Many such myths when analysed implode very quickly. 

We do know that Catholic priest Nicholas Steno began modern geological assessments.  Father Kirchner is the progenitor of Egyptology.  Priest Riccioli was the first person to measure rate of acceleration of a freely falling body (not Galileo).  Priest Roger Boscovich designed modern atomic theory.  Jesuits so dominated the study of earthquakes that seismology was known as the Jesuit science.  We have 35 moon craters named after Jesuit scientists and mathematicians. 

We do know that in all areas of life after the Germanic takeover of Rome, there is scarcely a single endeavour in which monks did not play the central role.  Monks created networks of model factories for breeding livestock, centres of academe and scholarship, institutions of spiritual improvement and prayer, pharmacies, hospitals, hospices, libraries, roads, bridges, aqueducts, running water, books, optics and eye glasses, and trade.  To name just a few areas.  The Benedictines formed by St. Benedict in the mid 6th century really are the generators of civilisation.  Their impact on the forward progress of man is the most fantastic story rarely told.  The other monkish orders were not far behind in their importance and in many areas of Europe, the Cistercians (12th century) were fundament to the transformation and usage of land and soil. 

We do know that Francisco de Vitoria, a Catholic professor was the first man to develop international codes of law, in relation to the mistreatment of Ameri-Indians by the Spanish.  He speculated and expressed human and natural law rights and the rights of the natives to fair and legal treatment.  This is simply following in the general pattern of Western law, a tradition based on Church law.  The modern legal system is entirely based on the codes and accumulated and organised legal traditions of the Church which superseded the hodgepodge of local and contradictory legal statutes.  Justinian’s codex from the 6th century is the foundation of all Western legal systems.  The ‘rights of men’ do not emanate from Locke or Paine, but are found in the far distant past, elevated by St. Thomas Aquinas in the 13th century, but found in Catholic law dating back to Charlemagne. 

We do know that modern economics and economic ‘thought’ was purloined from the medieval Scholastics.  Concepts around pricing, free markets, regulation, economic distortions, taxation and other issues are found in Church theological implementations in the 14th to 16th centuries.  The extended long-distance terms of trade, in existence since 1000 A.D. necessitated advanced ideas about commercial relationships, commercial laws, proper and moral rates of interest, the relationship between money and inflation, the debasement of coinage (which by itself could trigger a revolt) and how to regulate product quality and honesty in manufacture (an example is substituting flour with sawdust).  Guilds and associations formed in part to not only protect access to occupations but to protect consumers from fraud and to guarantee quality and end price gouging and extreme profiteering. 

There is much that the Cathophobes don’t know about history or civilisation.  Their ignorance is not enlightened, nor scientific.  Not every Pope, Bishop or Priest was worthy of praise.  Not every action by the Church or its components was moral or good.  Not every activity was right or just.  Many crimes, follies, and desecrations suffuse Catholic history.  But in the main, on balance, it saved civilisation many times, including rolling back and demolishing the Muslim Jihad.  Today of course the Catholic Church is a far different and quite inferior imitation of its medieval self.