1000 years whence

One thousand years ago our forebears lived in a “dark age.” They themselves did not think it was dark, and they were only half wrong…

…Science as we know it, did not exist. The idea of experiment and discovery did not fit  with the concept of a fixed creation, ordained from on high. However, agricultural technology improved markedly, and in medicine there were some stirrings of scientific spirit. A researcher once found fifteen medical handbooks dating from the tenth century. In the monasteries a cleric, showing aptitude, was deputed to be leech; he medicined his comrades with herbs and abundant bloodletting, to harmonize the humors and reduce the passions. Surgery was relatively advanced; broken limbs were reset, or, if gangrene appeared, amputated. We are told even of plastic surgery for harelip. Urinalysis was practiced.

—Defeat of the Bulgarians by the Byzantines depicted in the Madrid Skylitzes.—Read More:http://familypedia.wikia.com/wiki/11th_century

A duke of Bavaria tried to befool Abbot Notker Balbulus of Saint Gall by sending him, as his own, the urine of a pregnant woman. Notker announced: “God is about to bring to pass an unheard-of-event. Within thirty days the duke will give birth  to a child.” Of course, the service of physicians was restricted to the rich and noble. Common folk sought help from wise women and witches who practiced folk medicine. The poor patients were probably no worse off than the rich.

Such, glimpsed in snapshots, was the Western world of a thousand years ago. What were its inhabitants like? How did they think,judge, feel? How did they live from day to day? Can we recognize them as our kin, and ourselves in them?

—Detail of a folio from the Harley Psalter containing the text and visual interpretations of today’s Psalm 14 (folio 7v). The Harley Psalter is an early eleventh century copy of the Utrecht Psalter, c. 816-835 CE, made at Christ’s Church, Canterbury, England. British Library Harley MS 603. Image taken from course lectures.—Read More:http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/utrecht-psalter

The mark of their minds was faith, a great comfort. There were as yet few heretics and fewer rationalizing skeptics. The simple man made no distinction between natural and supernatural; the supernatural was natural. A miracle was an everyday occurrence. Reproduction and growth, winter storm and springtime bloom, the body’s recovery from illness, seemed miraculous, and very properly, too. Evil spirits had their hellish home only a few yards underfoot; their visits to earth were well attested. The chronicler Raoul Glaber saw the Devil several times, once by his bedside; he was a little black monster in human shape.

—Limbourg Brothers, February from the Très riches heures.—Read More:http://employees.oneonta.edu/farberas/arth/arth110/arth110_sl2.html

Fortunately, the angels overhead wre just as close, able to watch our acts and read our souls and swoop down to rescue us from deserved disasters. We may have been insignificant little people on this earth, but saints and angels loved us, and we loved them. ( to be continued)…

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