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Christopher Dawson: “There has never been an age in which Christianity attained so complete a cultural expression as in the thirteenth century.”

5 February 2016

Philipp Veit

 

“There has never been an age in which Christianity attained so complete a cultural expression as in the thirteenth century. Europe has seen no greater Christian hero than St. Francis, no greater Christian philosopher than St. Thomas, no greater Christian poet than Dante, perhaps even no greater Christian ruler than St. Louis. I do not maintain that the general level of religious life was higher than at other times or that the state of the Church was healthier, still less that the scandals were rarer or moral evils less obvious. What one can assert is that in the Middle Ages more than at other periods in the life of our civilization the European culture and the Christian religion were in a state of communion: the highest expressions of medieval culture, whether in art, in literature or in philosophy, were religious, and the greatest representatives of medieval religion were also the leaders of medieval culture. This is not, of course, an inevitable state of things. It may even be argued that the dualism of religion and culture that existed under the Roman Empire, and more or less generally in modern times, is the normal condition of Christianity. Nevertheless, the other alternative, that of a cooperation and collaboration between religion and culture, is undoubtedly a more ideal system, and from this point of view the medieval achievement remains unsurpassed by any other age.”
– Christopher Dawson, in Medieval Essays

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