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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Gab@StFerdinandIII - Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Islam, the State, the cult of Gay and Queer, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, 'Science', Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion....a nice variety for the human-hater, amoral, anti-rationalist to choose from.  It is so much fun mocking them isn't it ?

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Life in a Medieval City, by Joseph and Frances Gies, Harper Collins.

A wonderful book.

by StFerdIII

Another extraordinary book about life in medieval Europe. This effort focuses on the ancient French city of Troyes in the Champagne domain of north-eastern France, along the Seine river. The authors do a masterful job of revealing the ordinary quotidian life of the average person, burgher, merchant, artisan, free-hold peasant and richer Lord during the 13th century AD. The medieval era is hardly a 'dark age', but more of a kaleidoscope of change and progress – sometimes forward, sometimes backwards. What is dark is our understanding of the age which produced the basis and the antecedents for the modern world.

This is Troyes, an old town but a new city, a feudal and ecclesiastical capital, and major center of the Commercial Revolution of the Middle Ages.”

As the authors prove, the origins of the modern urban center including that of modern Troyes, and our own political-economy was truly developed in the medieval era. So too was science, modern philosophy, politics, rationality and commerce. Cities were alive and well post 600 AD in Europe and 'By 1250 it [the city] was alive and flourishing, not only on the ancient Mediterranean coast but in northwest Europe.' Central to this development was the Christian church, which funded socio-economic inventions ranging from hospitals to complex water mills and new methods of food production, not to mention art and literary achievement. Cities in Europe would contract during the 8th and 9th centuries thanks to the depredations of Moslems, Avars, Vikings, Magyars and civil war. Out of the nadir of the 9th century came stabilisation, some peace and increased prosperity. I wonder how well our modern men and women would do in the face of the challenges thrown up by the terrible 9th century including famine and plague? I would guess not very.

After vast losses of life and property while makeshift solutions were tried....Europe hit on the answer to invasion: wall building. Existing towns built walls and prospered by offering security....People who dwelt in the bourgs were known as bourgeois, or burghers, or burgesses. By the middle of the tenth century town-fortresses dotted western and northern Europe...”

Improbably Europe survived the Oriental invasions from the south and east, and the wanton destruction of Northmen along its coasts, rivers and prosperous plains. Once survival was assured, Europe got down to the business of business.

The second major influence on urban development was the beginning of medieval mining.” and

In Troyes eleven mills were established between 1157 and 1191. The wheels in city streams began to provide the power not only for milling grain but for oil presses, working hammers and the forges that manufactured iron and farm implements.”

Growth post 900 AD was very fast in western Europe and in cities like Troyes. This was in spite of plague, famine, high infant mortality rates and bad diets [though on the whole better than anywhere else in the world at that time]. Trade resumed, infrastructure was built, urban centers grew, and:

By the end of the twelfth century urbanization with all its problems had arrived in the cities of Flanders, not to mention Cologne and Hamburg, London and Paris, Provins and Troyes.”

Commerce and merchants were protected in most of Europe especially during the important Champagne fairs which were conducted from the 12th to 14th centuries, and which married products to consumers, merchants to capital, and the banking system of credits and letters to international trade. Guilds and communes also developed during this period, lifting cities and villages out of arbitrary servility and into some form of independence. Guilds were instrumental in monitoring prices and quality for all goods. The 'state' such as it was, took very seriously the quality of products vendored and regulated. Inspections were common and thorough. The authors comment that punishment for selling faulty bread loaves would be jail-time with the loaf in question secured around your neck. Taxes aplenty were also levied or sometimes waived depending on your political status – on income, product sales, land, trade [tolls on roads, canals and rivers]; and luxury items [sur taxed]. It does not sound so different than what we have today.

As well the interposition of church and state as well as the competition between the two, were ever present concerns. The secular began to assert itself post 1000 AD.

Pope and bishops notwithstanding, the commune swept western Europe. Even villages formed communes, buying their collective freedoms from old feudal charges. Usually the freedoms they received were written down in 'charters'....”

Secular estates began to rival the pomp of the Church. Political power passed more and more from the centralized church to the local mayor via a secular ruling King. Christianity was of course the essential cultural ingredient which allowed Europe to conquer the world. In essence the dialectical [to please Hegelians] between the forces of church centralization and secular atomisation, produced a climate of faith, reason and competition which generated great energy, innovation and confidence. A civilization is after all an expression of self-will and abundant belief.

The authors spend a lot of time depicting the wonderful city of Troyes – one certainly worth a tour stop. The descriptions of medieval Troyes are wonderfully rendered and illustrative. Consider your average 'middle class' house which apparently abounded in Troyes in 1250:

A well-to-do burgher family, on the other hand, occupies all four stories of its house, with business premises on the ground floor, living quarters on the second and third, servants' quarters in the attic, stables and storehouses in the rear. From cellar to attic, the emphasis is on comfort, but it is thirteenth century comfort...”

It is a grand pictorial of what life probably was like 800 years ago. It is hard to imagine '800 years ago'. Hazy indeed. I often wonder when seeing places like Troyes with its 700 year old walls, towers, massive cathedrals, churches and houses built during that supposed 'dark age', how many of our current dwellings will last more than a mere 100 years. Not many I hazard. I wonder how 'dark' our own age will appear 800 years hence.


 


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