The Oxford History of Medieval Europe

By George Holme | Go to book overview
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The Mediterranean in the Age of the Renaissance 1200-1500


The Papacy, its Enemies and its Allies

IN 1202 a learned hermit, Joachim of Fiore, died in his native Calabria. His writings were to rank amongst the most influential of the later Middle Ages. Joachim envisaged a reclassification of the 'ages of the world'. To the conventional two ages of the Father and of the Son he added a third, that of the Spirit, which would be the equivalent of Paradise on earth. According to Joachim's calculations man was coming to the end of the second age. The transition to the third age, scheduled for the year 1260, would come about through a monumental struggle between the forces of good and evil, and would involve the appearance of the Antichrist. Interest in apocalyptic soon grew with the diffusion of these texts, which of course were capable of many interpretations, making them just as influential when 1260 had come and gone.

An early stimulus to the fashion of apocalyptic was the career of Frederick II ( 1194-1250), the last great emperor to clash with the papacy in the struggle known as the Investiture Contest. Startling though the equation of emperor with Antichrist might seem, there were aspects of Frederick which appeared to justify it. Half-Sicilian, and brought up in Sicily, Frederick was heir to much more than German aristocratic traditions. He made the cosmopolitan culture of Sicily his own,


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The Oxford History of Medieval Europe


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