Saturday, April 2, 2016

Duke William and the Norman Church

An Englishman, who saw much of Duke William in after-life, declared that, severe as he was, he was mild to good men who loved God.

The Church was in his days assuming a new place in Europe. The monastic revival which had originated at Cluny had led to a revival of the Papacy. In 1049, for the first time, a Pope, Leo IX., traveled through Western Europe, holding councils and inflicting punishments upon the married clergy and upon priests who took arms and shed blood. With this improvement in discipline came a voluntary turning of the better clergy to an ascetic life, and increased devotion was accompanied, as it always was in the middle ages, with an increase of learning. William, who by the strength of his will brought peace into the state, also brought men of devotion and learning into the high places of the Church. His chief confidant was Lanfranc, an Italian who had taken refuge in the abbey of Bec, and, having become its prior, had made it the central school of Normandy and the parts around.

With the improvement of learning came the improvement of art, and churches arose in Normandy, as in other parts of Western Europe, which still preserved the old round arch derived from the Romans, though both the arches themselves and the columns on which they were borne were lighter and more graceful than the heavy work which had hitherto been employed. Of all this Englishmen as yet knew nothing. They went on in their old ways, cut off from the European influences of the time. It was no wonder that Edward yearned after the splendor and the culture of the land in which he had been brought up, or even that, in defiance of English law, he now promised to Duke William the succession to the English crown.

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