The medieval era was plagued with constant power struggles, political disputes and religious turmoil. However, in the midst of all of the tumulus activity many documents were written. Works produced in the medieval era included personal correspondences, legal documents, biographies, diary entries, decrees and many more. Two specific documents written during this time period were a biography on The Life of Charlemagne and The Rule of Saint Augustine. Both of the documents had a strong influence in history.
This paper will give a comprehensive analysis and show the significance of these two documents and will explore some similarities and differences between the two. The rule of Saint Augustine was not written in the context in which the title might indicate. Augustine converted to Christianity when he received baptism from Ambrose around the year 387, about ten years later he developed his rule. He established one of the first monasteries in the Hippo region of Africa. Without many other communities practicing the monastic lifestyle, it was necessary to establish some sort of doctrine to guide daily life.
Ewtn. com describes his work as not being so much of a list of rules but they state “Augustine wrote this document to provide a guide for his congregation of priests. ” Reverend Thomas Martin of Villanova University has described Augustine’s rule as nothing more than “an ancient version of a memo pinned to a bulletin board rather than a grand design for monastic life. ” Nonetheless, both men and woman living the communal lifestyle followed Augustine’s rule. Additionally, Saint Benedict drew inspiration from Augustine as he laid the foundation for communal living within the Benedictine monasteries.
In fact, Villanova University’s Augustinian Spirituality website tells us that The Rule of Augustine is said to be the oldest monastic rule in the western Church. There are those that have questioned the validity and authorship of Augustine’s Rule because he never mentions them in any of his other published works. However, a Dutch philologist, Reverend Luc Verheijen has determined through extensive study that Augustine did in fact author the Rule. The body of Augustine’s Rule is quite simple.
It is a document written to guide an individual wishing to lead a religious monastic lifestyle. It is fairly short and divided into eight sub sections or chapters. Augustine begins this document with an immediate explanation of its purpose. He is not arguing a point but rather laying down a set of general norms for the monastic life. This is evident as the first chapter of the document is titled “Purpose and Basis of Common Life. ” Following the purpose of the document are six more chapters containing the body of the work.
These chapters contain specific instruction regarding prayer, self-denial, chastity, personal property, forgiveness and obedience. It appears that Augustine understood that some of the rules outlined might be difficult to follow. Therefore, Augustine concludes this document with the final chapter that seems to be more of a reassurance than a rule. In it he states that they are not “slaves living under the law but as men living in freedom under grace. ” Another interesting point that should be explored is that Augustine uses versus from the Bible to legitimize his rules.
An example of this is seen in Chapter II as he outlines prayer, “Be assiduous in prayer (Col 4:2), at the hours and times appointed. ” Attention should be given that Augustine does this at least once in every chapter of the document. Although not every rule listed is extracted from the Bible, this technique gives legitimate merit to the document itself. Saint Augustine’s writings have had a tremendous impact on the ideas, philosophy’s and practices within Christianity and the Western Church. Augustine’s Rule can be seen throughout history and even in modern day.
We can see this clearly as Saint Benedict drew inspiration from the ideas of Augustine. His rule is still alive today as we see some his rules followed by even the layman of the Christian faith. Another document written during medieval times was The Life of Charlemagne. Einhard produced this work around the year 830, sixteen years after the death of Charlemagne. He was a trusted advisor and friend to Charlemagne and continued to serve his son, Louis the Pious. Some say that Louis the Pious asked Einhard to write this biography.
However, one can infer that Einhard drew inspiration to write from obligation and gratitude to the great Emperor. We see evidence of this obligation in his preface where he states that he is “urged to write on this subject, namely, the care that King Charles bestowed upon me in my childhood, and my constant friendship with himself and his children after I took up my abode at court. ” It is clear through Einhard’s own statements that he had a favorable bias toward the subject of this biography.
He repeatedly uses descriptive language of Charlemagne such as “great man” and “most justly renowned King Charles. ” This might cause one to be skeptical that certain facts may have been omitted to take care not to tarnish the reputation of his long time friend. However, Einhard assures us that no one is more qualified to write about Charlemagne than himself as he states, “no man can write with more accuracy than I of events that took place about me, and of facts concerning which I had personal knowledge. ”
When we examine the depth and breadth of Einhard’s biography we find that there is much to be learned about Charlemagne from this document. Einhard provides us with a comprehensive look into Charlemagne’s military campaigns that are chronologically ordered starting with the Aquitanian War and conclude with the Danish War. We are also given an insight into Charlemagne’s family roots and his ascension to power. Along with the significant milestones in Charlemagne’s career, Einhard discusses many details pertaining to the personal side of Charlemagne.
He describes Charlemagne’s relationships, appearance, dress, diet, education and devotion to the Christian religion. These details show that Charlemagne was more than a great emperor but a real person as well. Within this biography, Einhard covers all aspects of Charlemagne’s life and death except for information pertaining to his birth and childhood. Einhard explains to the readers that this information is absent because “nothing has ever been written on the subject, and there is no one alive now who can give information on it,” therefore it is left out.
The answer to why Einhard wrote this biography on Charlemagne is open for debate. Regardless of his motivation for producing the document, one can see the influence it had on the contemporary and the insight it provided about Charlemagne’s life. Although it was a brief and simple document, credit has been given to this work as a major literary achievement of its time. In addition to its literary accolades, evidence of its popularity is clear as more than eighty copies of this work still survive.
Further examination of this document attests to the fact that it has proven to be a valuable source for historians studying the medieval period as Einhard provides a full eyewitness account and gives a vivid portrait of Charlemagne and his time. After analyzing The Rule of Saint Augustine and The Life of Charlemagne, one can see that there are many similarities and differences between the two documents. For instance, both works were produced during the medieval era but Augustine’s Rule emerged over 400 years earlier than Einhard’s biography.
Another difference that can be seen is between the intended audiences and their purpose. While the Rule was intended for the monks and nuns living a communal life, The Life of Charlemagne was a work that was for all to see. Additionally, Einhard’s document essentially paid tribute to a man and his accomplishments while telling the story of his life, where as Augustine’s work was a set of ideals that provided for a guide to a monastic lifestyle. When we look back to the tumulus time we call the Middle Ages, it is amazing to see that many of the literary works still survive.
Nonetheless and in spite of it all, The Life of Charlemagne and The Rule of Saint Augustine have survived to modern day. After an analysis and comparison of these two works, one can see the influence of both documents as we look to the past. Augustine’s rule had a tremendous impact on monastic life and eventually influenced the way in which Christians practice their faith, even still today. Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne did not necessarily have the same influence that Augustine’s Rule did. However, it did give us a fairly accurate portrayal of how Charlemagne’s life impacted the revival of art, religion and culture in Western Europe.