The Secret of the Middle Ages

November 3, 2014

The Building of a Cathedral with the King overseeing the work. Painted by Jean Fouquet.

The Building of a Cathedral with the King overseeing the work. Painted by Jean Fouquet.

While an understanding of the high and sublime ideals that moved medieval society may help us in our search for economic solutions, such considerations tell only part of the story. Neither these ideals nor the dreams built upon them give an entirely adequate explanation for the flowering of the Middle Ages.

A Monk praying in the Chapel in a Monastery. Painting by François-Marius Granet.

A Monk praying in the Chapel in a Monastery. Painting by François-Marius Granet.

Even the austere and arduous Way of the Cross, which served as an inspiration for the fight against the disordered passions, would not in itself be enough to inspire a society to strive towards excellence since man naturally avoids suffering and great effort.

Photo of the interior of Cologne Cathedral by Pedro Szekely.

Photo of the interior of Cologne Cathedral by Pedro Szekely.

Yet there was a motivating factor that overcame all obstacles. That “secret” of the flowering of the Middle Ages was the fact that medieval man had a very lively, admiring, and loving notion of the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ. There was a very palpable and personal understanding of His perfections—His wisdom, His goodness, and His justice—that permeated and unified all society.

John Horvat II, Return to Order: From a Frenzied Economy to an Organic Christian Society—Where We’ve Been, How We Got Here, and Where We Need To Go (York, Penn.: York Press, 2013), 335.

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