A History of the French Language

By Urban T. Holmes Jr.; Alexander H. Schutz | Go to book overview

IV
OLD FRENCH (1000-1300)

20. CIVILIZATION

During the eleventh century medieval civilization expanded its horizon. Hitherto the direction of man's thought had been backward towards the glory of Rome and towards the asceticism of the Church; but after the year 1000, although these things were not forgotten, there was a branching forth of activity towards new things. Led by the spirit of the Normans who had settled in Normandy, there were pious crusades, and expeditions not so pious, into Spain, Sicily, Great Britain, Byzantium, and the Holy Land. More buildings began to be built in stone, and the old Roman basilica type of architecture was supplanted by the Romanesque of southern France. Even the art of painting or illumination of MSS. became more graceful and the use of gold leaf more frequent. We have about forty beautifully tooled book bindings from the twelfth century. Such a thing would have been unheard of in the tenth century. Philosophic speculation became active and more original during the course of the eleventh century, when the problems of scholasticism took form under Anselm, Roscellin, and Abelard. The educated or clerical class increased its numbers in unparalleled fashion. Not all these clerics intended to be monks or priests, as was often the case in the earlier Middle Ages. Instead many of them became teachers of profane literature, minstrels, civil lawyers, professional copyists, booksellers, and even accountants.1 Those who did take priest's orders often served as schoolmasters to the laity, both men and women. Thus learning came out from the shelter of the cloister, to a certain extent, and even the ignorant became literarily minded.


21. LITERATURE

In the Low Romance period the populace sang their ballads and their dance songs, but these were condemned by the clergy. If

____________________
1
This has survived in modern English (through the Anglo-Norman) when we speak of a "shop clerk" or "hotel clerk."

-41-

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