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History of the Christian Church, Volume V: The Middle Ages. A.D. 1049-1294.
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§ 67. Monastic Prophets.


St. Hildegard and Joachim of Flore.


Literature.—Hildegard’s works in Migne, vol. 197, and some not there given in Pitra: Analecta sacra. For a list see Preger: Geschichte der deutschen Mystik, I. 13–36.—Lives by Godefrid and Theodorich, contemporaries in Migne.—Dahl, Mainz, 1832.—Clarius, with translation of Hildegard’s letters, 2 vols. Regensburg, 1854.—Richaud, Aix, 1876.—J. P. Schmelzeis, Freiburg, 1897.—P. Franche, Paris, 1903.—Benrath, in Herzog, VIII. 71 sq.—Hildegard’s Causae et curae, ed. by Kaiser, Leipzig, 1903, is a sort of mediaeval manual of medicine.

Joachim’s published works, Liber concordiae novi et veteris Testamenti, Venice, 1519; Expositio in Apocalypsin and Psalterium decem chordarum, Venice, 1527. The errors of Joachim are given in Mansi, xxii. 981 and Denifle: Chartularium Univ., Par I. 272–275.—Salimbene: Chronicon, Parma, 1857; Coulton’s trans., London, 1906.—Luna Consentinus, d. 1224, perhaps an amanuensis: Synopsis virtutum b. Joach. in Ughelli, Italia sacra, IX. 205 sqq.—Gervaise: Hist. de l’abbé Joachim, 2 vols. Paris, 1745.—Reuter: Gesch. der Aufklärung, 1877, pp. 191–218.—Renan in Nouvelles études d’hist. rel., Paris, 1884, pp. 217–323.—*Denifle: Das Evangelium aeternum und die Commission zu Anagni, in Archiv für Lit.- und Kirchengesch., 1885, pp. 49–142. *Döllinger: Die Papstfabeln des Mittelalters, 2d ed. by J. Friedrich, Stuttgart, 1890; Engl. trans. of 1st ed. by H. B. Smith, N. Y., 1872, pp. 364–391.—*Artt: Joachim, in Wetzer-Welte by Ehrle, VI. 1471–1480, and in Herzog by Deutsch, IX. 227–232.—*E. Schott: Die Gedanken Joachims in Brieger’s Zeitschrift, 1902, pp. 157–187.


The monasteries also had their prophets. Men’s minds, stirred by the disasters in Palestine, and by the spread of heresy in Europe, here and there saw beyond the prevailing ritual of church and convent to a new era in which, however, neither hierarchy nor convent would be given up. In the twelfth century the spirit of prophecy broke out almost simultaneously in convents on the Rhine and in Southern Italy. Its chief exponents were Hildegard of Bingen, Elizabeth of Schoenau, and Joachim, the abbot of Flore.730730    Among others who were expecting the millennium soon to dawn, was Norbert, who wrote to St. Bernard that the age in which he lived was the age of antichrist. Bernard, Ep., 56; Migne, 182, 50, wrote back taking a contrary view. saw visions, and Joachim was the seer of a new age.

Hildegard (1098–1179), abbess of the Benedictine convent of Disebodenberg, near Bingen on the Rhine, was the most prominent woman in the church of her day.731731    The name of Héloïse was perhaps as widely known, but it was for her connection with Abelard, not for her works in the Church. The Latin form of Hildegard is Hildegardis. M. Paris, Luard’s Ed., V. 195, in his summary of the events of 1200-1250, mentions Hildegard and Elizabeth of Thuringia as the prominent religious female characters of the period, but Hildegard died 1177.t, though in a lesser degree, she was to Germany. She received letters from four popes, Eugenius, Anastasius, Adrian, and Alexander III., from the emperors Konrad III. and Frederick Barbarossa, from Bernard and many ecclesiastics in high office as well as from persons of humble position. Her intercessions were invoked by Frederick, by Konrad for his son,732732    Ep., XXVI. sq.; Migne, 197, 185 sq.nd through her."733733    Ep., XXII. On the other hand, Hildegard asked Bernard to pray for her.

Infirm of body, Hildegard was, by her own statement, the recipient of visions from her childhood. As she wrote to St. Bernard, she saw them "not with the external eye of sense but with the inner eye." The deeper meanings of Scripture touched her breast and burnt into her soul like a flame."734734    animam meam sicut flammam comburens, Migne, 197, 190. St. Bernard, writing to Hildegard, spoke of the "sweetness of her holy love," and Hildegard compares the abbot of Clairvaux to the eagle and addresses him as the most mild of fathers, mitissime pater.tness, coming from the open heavens, transfused her brain and inflamed her whole heart and breast like a flame, as the sun lightens everything upon which his rays fall.735735    non visiones in somnis, nec dormiens, nec in phrenesi, nec corporeis oculis aut auribus exterioris, nec in abditis locis percepi, sed eas vigilans, circumspiciens in pura mente oculis et auribus interioris hominis, etc. Scivias, I. Praefatio, Migne, 197, 384.en places but while she was awake and in pure consciousness, using the eyes and ears of her inner man according to the will of God.736736    Scivias. See Migne, 197, 93. This is the chief collection of her visions. Migne, 197, 383-739. encouraged her to continue in her course.737737    Ep., I.; Migne, 197, 146.

It is reported by contemporaries of this godly woman that scarcely a sick person came to her without being healed.738738    Migne, 197, 117.er which, as in one case, healed paralysis of the tongue.

As a censor of the Church, Hildegard lamented the low condition of the clergy, announced that the Cathari would be used to stir up Christendom to self-purification, called attention to the Scriptures and the Catholic faith as the supreme fonts of authority, and bade men look for salvation not to priests but to Christ.

She was also an enthusiastic student of nature. Her treatises on herbs, trees, and fishes are among the most elaborate on natural objects of the Middle Ages. She gives the properties of no less than two hundred and thirteen herbs or their products, and regarded heat and cold as very important qualities of plant life. They are treated with an eye to their medicinal virtue. Butter, she says, is good for persons in ill health and suffering from feverish blood and the butter of cows is more wholesome than the butter of sheep and goats. Licorice,739739    de plantis, Migne, 197, 1139. the stomach for the process of digestion. The "basilisca," which is cold, if placed under the tongue, restores the power of speech to the palsied and, when cooked in wine with honey added, will cure fevers provided it is drunk frequently during the night.740740    Migne, 197, 1210.

A kindred spirit to Hildegard was Elizabeth of Schoenau, who died 1165 at the age of thirty-six.741741    Her writings are given in Migne, 195, 119-196. First complete edition by F. W. C. Roth: Die Visionen der heiligen Elizabeth, Brünn, 1884. See Preger: Gesch. d. deutschen Mystik, 1, 37-43.he saw Stephen, Laurentius, and many of the other saints. In the midst of them usually stood "the virgin of virgins, the most glorious mother of God, Mary."742742    Migne, 195, 146. represented herself as being "rapt out of the body into an ecstasy."743743    acorpore rapta sum in exstasim, p. 135, oreram in exstasi et vidi, p. 145. and impiety. On one occasion she saw Christ sitting at the judgment with Pilate, Judas, and those who crucified him on his left hand and also, alas! a great company of men and women whom she recognized as being of her order.744744    Migne, 195, 146. a place in the annals of German mysticism.

Joachim of Flore,745745    After the convent St. Johannes in Flore, which he founded. The members of Joachim’s order are called in the papal bull, Florentii fratres, Potthast, No. 2092, vol. I. 182.s first abbot of the Cistercian convent of Corazza in Calabria, and then became the founder and abbot of St. John in Flore. Into this convent he introduced a stricter rule than the rule of the Cistercians. It became the centre of a new order which was sanctioned by Coelestin III., 1196.

Joachim enjoyed the reputation of a prophet during his lifetime.746746    When Richard Coeur de Lion was in Sicily on his way to Palestine in 1190, he was moved by Joachim’s fame to send for him. The abbot interpreted to him John’s prophecy of anti-christ, whom he declared was already born, and would in time be elevated to the Apostolic chair and strive against everything called of God. De Hoveden, Engl. trans., II. pp. 177 sqq. conciliar and papal examination. The Fourth Lateran condemned his treatment of the Trinity as defined by Peter the Lombard. Peter had declared that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute a certain supreme essence, quaedam summa res, and this, according to Joachim, involved a substitution of a quaternity for the Trinity. Those who adopted Joachim’s view were condemned as heretics, but Joachim and the convent of Flore were distinctly excepted from condemnation.747747    Joachim had set forth his views against the Lombard in a tract to which the council referred. See Mansi, xxii., and Hefele-Knöpfler, V. 880 sq.

Joachim’s views on the doctrine of the Trinity are of slight importance. The abbot has a place in history by his theory of historical development and his eschatology. His opinions are set forth in three writings of whose genuineness there is no question, an exposition of the Psalms, an exposition of the Apocalypse, and a Concord of the Old and New Testaments.748748    Joachim, in a list, 1200, gives these three writings and also mentions works against the Jews and on the articles of the Christian faith. Schott, p. 170, counts twenty-four works, genuine and ungenuine, which are ascribed to him. Among those pronounced ungenuine are the commentaries on Jeremiah and Isaiah which were much used by the Franciscans from the middle of the thirteenth century on. They call Rome, Babylon and show a bitter hostility to the pope, representations which are in conflict with Joachim’s genuine writings. They also abound in detailed prophecies of events which actually occur-red. "If these books were genuine," says Döllinger, p. 369, "the exact fulfilment of the many predictions would present the most wonderful phenomenon in the history of prophecy."

Interwoven with his prophecies is Joachim’s theory of historical development. There are three ages in history. The Old Testament age has its time of beginning and bloom. So has that of the New Testament. But a third age is to follow. The basis for this theory of three periods is found in a comparison of the Old and New Testaments, a comparison which reveals a parallelism between the leading periods of the history of Israel and the periods of Christian history. This parallelism was disclosed to Joachim on an Easter night, and made as clear as day.

The first of the three ages was the age of the Father, the second the age of the Son, of the Gospel, and the sacraments, the third, the age of the Holy Spirit which was yet to come. The three were represented by Peter, Paul, and John. The first was an age of law, the second of grace, the third of more grace. The first was characterized by fear, the second by faith, the third was to be marked by charity. The first was the age of servants, the second of freedmen, the third of friends. The first brought forth water, the second wine, the third was to bring forth oil. The first was as the light of the stars, the second of the dawn, the third of the perfect day. The first was the age of the married, and corresponded to the flesh; the second of priests, with the elements of the flesh and the Spirit mixed; the third of monks, and was to be wholly spiritual. Each of these ages had a beginning, a maturity, and an end.749749    principium, fructificatio, finis. begun in the days of Joachim himself. The consummation was to begin in 1260.

The Gospel of the letter is temporal not eternal, and gives way in the third period to the Eternal Gospel, Rev. 14:6. Then the spiritual meaning of the Gospel will be fully known. Joachim did not mean to deny the permanent authority of the two Testaments, when he put into his third period the full understanding of them, in the spiritual sense, and the complete embodiment of their teachings in life and conduct. The Eternal Gospel he described, not as a newly written revelation, but as the spiritual and permanent message of Christ’s Gospel, which is hidden under the surface of the letter. This Gospel he also called the Spiritual Gospel, and the Gospel of the Kingdom.750750    See Denifle, pp. 53 sqq.751751    spiritualis ecclesia, also called ecclesia contemplativa, Denifle, pp. 56 sqq.urified. The Eternal Gospel was to be proclaimed by a new order, the "little ones of Christ."752752    Parvuli Christi or parvuli de latina ecclesia, a name for monks.753753    In some passages Joachim also speaks of two orders. See Döllinger, 376.

It was in the conception of the maturition of the periods as much as in the succession of the periods that the theory of development is brought out.754754    So Schott, p. 180, Die Fructification ist nichts anders als ein neuer Ausdruck für den Entwicklungsgedanken. to correspond to the seven seals of the Apocalypse. The first seal is indicated in the Old Testament by the deliverance from Egypt, in the New by the resurrection of Christ; the second seal respectively by the experiences in the wilderness and the persecutions of the ante-Nicene Church; the third by the wars against the Canaanites and the conflict with heresy from Constantine to Justinian; the fourth by the peril from the Assyrians and the age lasting to Gregory III., d. 741 the fifth by the Babylonian oppression and the troubles under the German emperors; and the sixth by the exile, and the twelfth Christian century with all the miseries of that age, including the violence of the Saracens, and the rise of heretics. The opening of the seventh seal was near at hand, and was to be followed by the Sabbatic rest.

Joachim was no sectary. He was not even a reformer. Like many of his contemporaries he was severe upon the vices of the clergy of his day. "Where is quarrelling," he exclaims, "where fraud, except among the sons of Juda, except among the clergy of the Lord? Where is crime, where ambition, except among the clergy of the Lord?"755755    See Schott, 175.756756    Döllinger, 379; Schott, 178, etc.f and his writings dutifully to the Church,757757    The Fourth Lateran Council, Canon II.758758    He also quotes freely from Jerome, Ambrose, Gregory the Great, and other Fathers.empt from empty formalism and bitter disputes.

An ecclesiastical judgment upon Joachim’s views was precipitated by the Franciscan Gerardus of Borgo San Donnino, who wrote a tract called the Introduction to the Eternal Gospel,759759    Introductorius in Evangelium aeternum. expounding what he considered to be Joachim’s teachings. He declared that Joachim’s writings were themselves the written code of the Eternal Gospel,760760    Or the "Gospel of the Holy Spirit." See Denifle, p. 60. the ages of the Father and the Son. Of this last age the abbot of Flore was the evangelist.

When Gerard’s work appeared, in 1254, it created a great stir and was condemned by professors at Paris, the enemies of the Franciscans, William of St. Amour among the number. The strict wing of the Franciscans, the Spirituals, adopted some of Joachim’s views and looked upon him as the prophet of their order. Articles of accusation were brought before Innocent IV. His successor, Alexander IV., in 1255 condemned Gerardo and his book without, however, passing judgment upon Joachim.761761    The practical English monk, M. Paris, speaks of Joachim’s doctrines as "new and absurd." III. p. 206. Franciscan chronicler Salimbene was also for a while a disciple of Joachim, and reports that the prophet predicted that the order of the Friars Minor should endure to the end while the order of Preachers should pass away.762762    Coulton’s Reproduction, pp. 105, 163.ned the writings of Joachim. A century after Joachim’s death, the Franciscan Spirituals, John Peter Olivi and Ubertino da Casale, were identified with his views. The traces of Joachimism are found throughout the Middle Ages to their close. Joachim was the millenarian prophet of the Middle Ages.



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