We can not understand a man unless we know his environment. Biography is a thread, but history is a web in which time is broad as well as long. To unravel the
thread without breaking it we must loosen the web. To understand Raymund Lull we must put ourselves back seven hundred years and see Europe and the Saracens as they were before the dawn of the Renaissance and the daybreak of the Reformation. Altho the shadow of the dark ages still felt heavily upon it, the thirteenth century was an eventful epoch, at least for Europe. The colossal power of the empire was waning, and separate states were springing up in Italy and Germany. The growth of civil liberty, altho only in its infancy, was already bringing fruit in the enlargement of ideas and the founding of universities. In England, Norman and Saxon were at last one people; people Magna Carta was signed, and the first Parliament summoned. About the time when Lull was born, the Tatars invaded Russia and sacked Moscow; Saracens and Christians were disputing not only the possession of the Holy Land, but the
rulership of the world. Altho in the East the long struggle for the holy City had ended in the discomfiture of the Christians, the spirit of the Crusades lived on. The same century that saw the fall of Acre also witnessed the fall of Bagdad and the extinction of the califate. In Spain, Ferdinand of Castile was winning city after city from the Moors, who were entrenching their last stronghold, Granada. The year 1240 marks the rise of the Ottoman Turks; Lull was then five years old. Before he was twenty, Louis IX. had failed in his crusade and been taken prisoner by the Sultan of Egypt; emperors had deposed popes and popes emperors; and the Inquisition had begun in Spain to torture Jews and heretics. At Cologne the foundations of the great cathedral were being laid, and at Paris men were experimenting with the new giant, gunpowder.
All Europe was heated with the strong
wine of political change and social expectations. In the same century sudden and subversive revolutions were taking place in Asia. The Mongolian hordes under Genghis Khan poured out, like long-pent waters, over all the countries of the East. The califate of Bagdad fell forever before the furious onslaught of Hulaku Khan The Seljuk empire soon advanced its Moslem rule into the mountain ranges of Anatolia, and Turks were disputing with Mongols the sovereignty of the "roof of the world."
The beneficial effects of the Crusades were already being felt in the breaking up of those two colossal fabrics of the Middle Ages, the Church and the Empire, which ruled both as ideas and as realities. The feudal system was disappearing. The invention and application of paper, the mariner's compass, and gunpowder heralded the eras of printing, exploration, and conquest in the century that followed. It was
not dark as midnight, altho not yet dawn. The cocks were crowing. In 1249 the University of Oxford was founded. In 1265 Dante was born at Florence. The pursuit of truth by philosophers was still a game of wordy dialectics, but Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventura and Albertus Magnus left a legacy of thought as well. The two former died the same year that Raymund Lull wrote his "Ars Demonstrava." It was in the thirteenth century that physical science struggled into feeble life in the cells of Gerhert and Roger Bacon. But these men were accounted magicians by the vulgar and heretics by the clergy, and were rewarded with the dungeon. Marco Polo the Venetian the most famous of all travelers, belongs to the thirteenth century, and did for Asia what Columbus did for America. His work was a link in the providential chain which at last dragged the New World to light. But both Marco Polo and Roger
Bacon lived ahead of their age. Gibbon says with truth that, "If the ninth and tenth centuries were the times of darkness, the thirteenth and fourteenth were the age of absurdity and fable." Thought was still in terror through dread of the doom declared on heretics and rebels.
The maps of the thirteenth century show no appreciation of Marco Polo's discoveries The world as Raymund Lull knew it was the world of medieval legend and classic lore. The earth's surface was represented as a circular disk surrounded by the ocean. The central point was the Holy Land or Jerusalem, according to the prophecy of Ezekiel. Paradise occupied the extreme east and Gog and Magog were on the north. The pillars of Hercules marked the boundary of farthest west and the nomenclature of even Southern Europe was loose and scanty. It is interesting to note that the first great improvement of these
maps took place in Catalonia, the province of Spain where Lull's ancestors lived. The remarkable Catalan map of 1375 in the Paris Library is the first world-map that throws aside all pseudo-theological theories and incorporates India and China as part of the world. Nearly all the maps of the Middle Ages are inferior to those In our illustration. Clever artists concealed their ignorance and gave life to the disk of the world by pictures of turreted towns, walled cities, and roaring lions in imaginary forests. Swift has satirized their modern descendants as : -
Regarding the general attitude of the masses toward intellectual progress, a writer1 justly remarks: "There were by no
1A. Symoands "The Renaissance," Encyc. Brit., xx., 383.
1A. Symoands "The Renaissance," Encyc. Brit., xx., 383.
means lacking demerits of native vigor ready to burst forth. But the courage that is born of knowledge, the calm strength begotten by a positive attitude of mind, face to face with the dominant overshadowing sphinx of theology, were lacking. We may fairly say that natural and untaught people had mare of the just intuition that was needed than earned folk trained in the schools. Man and the actual universe kept on reasserting their rights and claims in one way or another; but they were a ways being thrust back again into Cimmerian regions of abstractions, fictions, visions spectral hopes and fears in the midst of which the intellect somnambulistically moved upon an unknown way.
The morality of the Middle Ages presents startling contrasts. Over against each other, and not only in the same land but often in the same individual, we witness sublime faith and degrading superstition,
angelic purity and signs of gross sensuality. It was an age of self denying charity to suffering Christians, and of barbarous cruelty to infidels, Jews, and heretics. The wealthy paid immense sums to redeem Christian slaves captured by the Saracens; and the Church took immense sums to persecute those who erred from the faith. When the Crusaders under Godfrey of Bouillon (who refused to wear a crown of gold where his Savior had worn a crown of thorns) came in sight of Jerusalem, they kissed the earth and advanced on their knees in penitential prayer; but after the capture of the city they massacred seventy thousand Moslems, burned the Jews in their synagogs, and waded in blood to the Holy Sepulcher to offer up thanks The general state of morals even among popes and the clergy was low. Gregory VII. and Innocent III. were great popes and mighty reformers of a corrupt priesthood, but they were exceptions
in the long list. One of the popes was deposed on charges of incest, perjury, murder, and blasphemy. Many were power through simony. Concubinage and unnatural vices were rife in Rome among the clergy. Innocent IV., who became pope the very year Lull was born, was an outrageous tyrant. Nicholas III. and Martin IV., who were popes toward the close of the thirteenth century, rivaled each other in infamy. The pontificate of the former was so marked by rapacity and nepotism that be was consigned by Dante to his Inferno. The latter was the murderous instigator of the terrible "Sicilian Vespers."
Martensen says that "the ethics of this period often exhibit a mixture of the morals of Christianity with those of Aristotle." And this is natural if we remember that Thomas Aquinas represents the height of medieval morals as well as of dogmatics. Sins were divided into carnal and spiritual,
venial and mortal. The way to perfection was through the monastic vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience.
The poetry of the period reflects the same startling contrast between piety and sensuality, composed as it was of the tenderest hymns of devotion and bacchanalian revels. The seven great hymns of the medieval Church have challenged and defied the skill of the best translators and imitators. The wonderful pathos of the "Stabat Mater Dolorosa" and the terrible power of " Dies Irae" appear even in their poorest translations. In spite of its objectionable doctrinal features, what Protestant can read Dr Cole's admirable translation of the" Stabat Mater" without being deeply affected?
Yet the same age had its Carmina Burana," written by Goliardi and others, - in which Venus and Bacchus go hand-in hand and the sensual element predominates.
"We do not need to be reminded that Beatrice's adorer had a wife and children, or that Laura's poet owned a son and daughter by a concubine." Nor were Dante and Petrarch exceptions among medieval poets in this respect. It was a dark world.
The thirteenth century was also an age of superstition, an age of ghosts and visions and miracles and fanaticism. The "Flagellants" wandered from city to city calling on the people to repent. Girded with ropes, in scant clothing or entirely naked, they scourged themselves in the open streets. The sect spread like contagion from Italy to Poland, propagating extravagant doctrines and often causing sedition and murder. Catherine of Sienna and Francis of Assisi in the fervor of their love saw visions. The latter bore the stigmata and died of the wounds of Christ, which are said to have impressed themselves on
his hands and side through an imagination drunk with the contemplation and love of the crucified Redeemer. The author of the two most beautiful hymns of the medieval period went to fanatical extremes in self-sought torture to atone for his own sins and for the good of others. Peter Nolasco in 1228 saw a vision of the Virgin Mary, and devoted all his property from that day to the purchasing of freedom for Christian captives from their Moorish masters. He founded the order of the Mercedarians, whose members even gave themselves into slavery to save a fellow Christian from becoming an apostate to Islam. During the twelfth and thirteenth centuries the monastic orders increased in numbers and influence. They formed the standing army of the papacy and were generally promoters of learning, science, and art. The Franciscans were one of the strongest orders, altho one of the latest.
In 1264 this order had eight thousand cloisters and two hundred thousand monks. Some of these monks were saints, some scientists, and some sensualists; alongside of unmeasured superstition and ignorance in the mass of the priesthood we meet with genius of intellect and wonderful displays of self-forgetting love in the few.
Yet the most sacred solemnities were parodied. On "Fool's Festival" was held in France on New Year's day, mock popes, bishops, and abbots were introduced and all their holy actions mimicked in a blasphemous manner.
Practical mysticism, which concerned itself not with philosophy but with personal salvation, was common in the thirteenth century, especially among the women of the Rhine provinces. St. Hildegard, Mechthild, and Gertrude the Great are striking examples. There were also attempts at a reformation of the Church and
the abuses of the clergy The Albigenses and the Waldenses were in many ways forerunners of Protestantism. Numerous other sects less pure in doctrine and morals arose at this time and spread everywhere from Eastern Spain to Northern Germany. All of them were agreed in opposing ecclesiastical authority, and often that of the state.
Such was the political, intellectual, moral, and religious condition of Europe in the days of Raymund Lull.
The Mohammedan world was also in a state of ferment. The Crusades taught the Saracen at once the strength and the weakness of medieval Christianity. The battle-field of Tolosa, strewed with two hundred thousand slain Moslems, was the death knell of Islam in Spain. Saracen rule and culture at Granada were only the after-glow of a sunset, glorious but transient. What dominions the Saracens lost in the west they regained in Syria and the
East. In 1250 the Mameluke sultans began to reign in Egypt, and under Beybars I. Moslem Egypt reached the zenith of its fame. Islam was a power in the thirteenth century not so much by its conquests with the sword as by its conquests with the pen. Moslem philosophy, as interpreted by Alkindi, Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Algazel, but most of all the philosophy of Averroes, was taught in all the universities. Aristotle spoke Arabic before he was retranslated into the languages of Europe. "The Saracens," says Myers, "were during the Middle Ages almost the sole repositories of the scientific knowledge of the world. While the Western nations were too ignorant to know the value of the treasures of antiquity, the Saracens preserved them by translating into Arabic the scientific works of the Greeks." Part of this learning came to Europe through the Crusaders, but it came earlier and more largely
through the Arabian schools of Spain. No other country in Europe was in such close touch with Islam for good and ill as the kingdoms of Castile, Navarre, and Aragon in the north of what we now call Spain. There the conflict was one of mind as well as of the sword. There for three centuries waged a crusade for truth as well as a conflict on the battlefield between Christian and Moslem. In this conflict Raymund Lull's ancestors played their part. During all the years of Lull's life the Moslem power held out at Granada against the united Spanish kingdoms. Not until 1492 was the Saracen expelled from Southern Europe.
Regarding missions in the thirteenth century, little can be said. There were a few choice souls whom the Spirit of God enlightened to see the spiritual needs of the Saracen and Mongol and to preach to them the Gospel. In 1256 William de Rubruquis was sent by Louis IX.,
diplomate, partly as a missionary to the Great Khan. In 1219, Francis of Assisi with mad courage went into the Sultan's presence at Darnietta and proclaimed the way of salvation, offering to undergo the ordeal of fire to prove the truth of the Gospel. The Dominican general Raimnd de Pennaforti, who died in 1273, also devoted himself to missions for the Saracens, but with no success.
The only missionary spirit of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries was that of the Crusaders. They took up the sword and perished by the sword. But Raymund Lull was raised up as it to prove in one startling case, to which the eyes of all Christendom were turned for many a day, what the Crusades might have become and might have done for the world, had they been fought for the cross with the weapons of Him whose last words from it were forgiveness and peace."1
1 George Smith; "A Short History of Missions."
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1 George Smith; "A Short History of Missions."