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History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 105. Evangelical Reformers. Agobardus of Lyons, and Claudius of Turin.


I. Agobardus: Contra eorum superstitionem qui picturis et imaginibus SS. adorationis obsequium deferendum putant. Opera ed. Baluzius Par. 1666, 2 vols., and Migne, “Patrol. Lat.” vol. 104, fol. 29–351. Histoire litter. de la France, IV. 567 sqq. C. B. Hundeshagen: De Agobardi vita et scriptis. Pars I. Giessae 1831; and his article in Herzog2 I. 212 sq. Bähr: Gesch. der röm. Lit. in Karoliny. Zeitalter, p. 383–393. Bluegel: De Agobardi archiep. Lugd. vita et scriptis. Hal. 1865. Simson: Jahrbücher des fränkischen Reichs unter Ludwig dem Frommen. Leipz. 1874 and ’76. C. Deedes in Smith and Wace, I. 63–64. Lichtenberger, I. 119.

II. Claudius: Opera in Migne’s “Patrol. Lat.” vol. 104, fol. 609–927. Commentaries on Kings, Gal., Ephes., etc., Eulogium Augustini, and Apologeticum. Some of his works are still unpublished. Rudelbach: Claudii Tur. Ep. ineditorum operum specimina, praemissa de ejus doctrina scriptisque dissert. Havniae 1824. C. Schmidt: Claudius v. Turin in Illgen’s “Zeitschrift f. die Hist. Theol.” 1843. II. 39; and his art. in Herzog2, III. 243–245.

III. Neander, III. 428–439 (very full and discriminating on Claudius); Gieseler, II. 69–73 (with judicious extracts); Reuter: Geschichte der Aufklärung im Mittelalter, vol. I. (Berlin 1875), 16–20 and 24–41.


The opposition to image-worship and other superstitious practices continued in the Frankish church during the ninth century.

Two eminent bishops took the lead in the advocacy of a more spiritual and evangelical type of religion. In this they differed from the rationalistic and destructive iconoclasts of the East. They were influenced by the writings of Paul and Augustin, those inspirers of all evangelical movements in church history; with this difference, however, that Paul stands high above parties and schools, and that Augustin, with all his anti-Pelagian principles, was a strong advocate of the Catholic theory of the church and church-order.

Agobard (in Lyonese dialect Agobaud or Aguebaud), a native of Spain, but of Gallic parents, and archbishop of Lyons (816–841), figures prominently in the political and ecclesiastical history of France during the reign of Louis the Pious. He is known to us already as an opponent of the ordeal, the judicial duel and other heathen customs.561561    See § 79. His character presents singular contrasts. He was a rigid ecclesiastic and sacerdotalist, and thoroughly orthodox in dogma (except that he denied the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures); but, on the other hand, a sworn enemy of all superstition, and advocate of liberal views in matters of worship.562562    Reuter (I. 24) calls him “the clearest head of the ninth century,” and “the systematizer of the Aufklärung“ (i.e. of Rationalism in the middle age). He took part in the rebellion of Lothaire against his father Louis in 833, which deprived him of his bishopric and left a serious stain on his character, but he was afterwards reconciled to Louis and recovered the bishopric. He opposed Adoptionism as a milder form of the Nestorian heresy. He attacked the Jews, who flocked to Lyons in large numbers, and charges them with insolent conduct towards the Christians. In this he shared the intolerance of his age. But, on the other hand, he wrote a book against image-worship.563563    De Imaginibus Sanctorum, in Migne, vol. 104, fol. 199-228. He goes back to the root of the difficulty, the worship of saints. He can find no authority for such worship. The saints themselves decline it. It is a cunning device of Satan to smuggle heathen idolatry, into the church under pretext of showing honor to saints. He thus draws men away from a spiritual to a sensual worship. God alone should be adored; to him alone must we present the sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart. Angels and holy men who are crowned with victory, and help us by their intercessions, may be loved and honored, but not worshiped. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man” (Jer. 17:5). We may look with pleasure on their pictures, but it is better to be satisfied with the simple symbol of the cross (as if this were not liable to the same abuse). Agobart approves the canon of Elvira, which forbade images altogether. He says in conclusion: “Since no man is essentially God, save Jesus our Saviour, so we, as the Scripture commands, shall bow our knees to his name alone, lest by giving this honor to another we may be estranged from God, and left to follow the doctrines and traditions of men according to the inclinations of our hearts.”564564    Cap. 35 (in Migne, fol. 227): ”Flectamus genu in nomine solius Jesu, quod est super omne nomen; ne si alteri hunc honorem tribuimus, alieni judicemur a Deo, et dimittamur secundum cordis nostri ire in adinventionibus nostris.” Gieseler directs attention to the verbal agreement between Agobart and Claudius in several sentences.

Agobard was not disturbed in his position, and even honored as a saint in Lyons after his death, though his saintship is disputed.565565    See Acta SS. Jun. II. 748, and the Elogia de S. Agobardo in Migne, fol. 13-16. The Bollandists honor him with a place in their work, because Masson, the first editor, allows him the title saint, and because he is commonly called St. Aguebatud in the church of Lyons, and is included in the local martyrologies. A rite of nine lessons is assigned to him in the Breviarium Lugdunense. His works were lost, until Papirius Masson discovered a MS. copy and rescued it from a bookbinder’s hands in Lyons (1605).

Claudius, bishop of Turin (814–839), was a native of Spain, but spent three years as chaplain at the court of Louis the Pious and was sent by him to the diocese of Turin. He wrote practical commentaries on nearly all the books of the Bible, at the request of the emperor, for the education of the clergy. They were mostly extracted from the writings of Augustin, Jerome, and other Latin fathers. Only fragments remain. He was a great admirer of Augustin, but destitute of his wisdom and moderation.566566    In his comments on Paul’s Epistles (in Migne, 104 f. 927 sq. ), he eulogizes Augustin as ”amantissimus Domini sanctissimus Augustinus. calamus Trinitatis lingua Spiritus Sancti, terrenus homo, sed coelestis angelus, in quaestionibus solvendis acutus, in revincendis haereticis circumspectus, in explicandis Scripturis canonicis cautus.” In the same place, he says of Paul that his epistles are wholly given to destroy man’s merits and to exalt God’s grace (”ut merita hominum tollat, unde maxime nunc monachi gloriantur, et gratiam Dei commendet“). On his Augustinianism, see the judicious remarks of Neander. Reuter (I. 20) calls him both a biblical reformer and a critical rationalist.

He found the Italian churches full of pictures and picture-worshipers. He was told that the people did not mean to worship the images, but the saints. He replied that the heathen on the same ground defend the worship of their idols, and may become Christians by merely changing the name. He traced image-worship and saint-worship to a Pelagian tendency, and met it with the Augustinian view of the sovereignty of divine grace. Paul, he says, overthrows human merits, in which the monks now most glory, and exalts the grace of God. We are saved by grace, not by works. We must worship the Creator, not the creature. “Whoever seeks from any creature in heaven or on earth the salvation which he should seek from God alone, is an idolater.” The departed saints themselves do not wish to be worshipped by us, and cannot help us. While we live, we may aid each other by prayers, but not after death. He attacked also the superstitious use of the sign of the cross, going beyond Charlemagne and Agobard. He met the defence by carrying it to absurd conclusions. If we worship the cross, he says, because Christ suffered on it, we might also worship every virgin because he was born of a virgin, every manger because he was laid in a manger, every ship because he taught from a ship, yea, every ass because he rode on an ass into Jerusalem. We should bear the cross, not adore it. He banished the pictures, crosses and crucifixes from the churches, as the only way to kill superstition. He also strongly opposed the pilgrimages. He had no appreciation of religious symbolism, and went in his Puritanic zeal to a fanatical extreme.

Claudius was not disturbed in his seat; but, as he says himself, he found no sympathy with the people, and became “an object of scorn to his neighbors,” who pointed at him as “a frightful spectre.” He was censured by Pope Paschalis I. (817–824), and opposed by his old friend, the Abbot Theodemir of the diocese of Nismes, to whom he had dedicated his lost commentary on Leviticus (823), by Dungal (of Scotland or Ireland, about 827), and by Bishop Jonas of Orleans (840), who unjustly charged him with the Adoptionist and even the Arian heresy. Some writers have endeavored, without proof, to trace a connection between him and the Waldenses in Piedmont, who are of much later date.567567    C. Schmidt in Herzog2III. 245 says of this view: ”Deise, sehr spaet, in dogmatischem Interesse aufgenommene Ansicht, die sich bei Léger und andern ja selbst noch bei Hahn findet, hat keinen historischen Grund und ist von allen gründlichen Kennern der Waldensergeshichte längst aufgegeben. Dabei soll nicht geleugnet werden, dass die Tendenzen des Claudius sich noch eine zeitlang in Italien erhalten haben; es ist soeben bemerkt worden, dass, nach dem Zeugniss des Jonas von Orléans, man um 840 versuchte, sie von neuen zu verbreiten. Dass sie sich aber bis zum Auftreten des Peter Waldus und speciell in den piemontesischen Thälern fortgepflanzt, davon ist nicht die geringste Spur vorhanden.”

Jonas of Orleans, Hincmar of Rheims, and Wallafrid Strabo still maintained substantially the moderate attitude of the Caroline books between the extremes of iconoclasm and image-worship. But the all-powerful influence of the popes, the sensuous tendency and credulity of the age, the ignorance of the clergy, and the grosser ignorance of the people combined to secure the ultimate triumph of image-worship even in France. The rising sun of the Carolingian age was obscured by the darkness of the tenth century.




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