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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Beati patres : uses of Augustine and Gregory the Great at Carolingian church councils, 816-836 Timmermann, Joshua L.


The Carolingian renovatio of the earlier ninth century was marked by an intensified interest in “the teachings of the ancient fathers.” Where the Church Fathers had long served as indispensable sources for biblical interpretation and exegesis, the reform agenda of the Church councils between 816 and 836 saw these Fathers employed increasingly as authoritative guides to the ordines, the orders of Christian society. Chief among these patristic authorities was Augustine of Hippo (354–430), whose influence in the early Middle Ages has often been cast as ubiquitous and all-encompassing by modern historians. To be sure, Augustine was an important source for the Carolingian reforms. Yet, rather than presuming that his nominal impact was all-pervasive in ninth-century political and ecclesiastical discourses, I shall endeavor to show both the great utility and the discursive limits of Augustine’s name, and the authority tied to it, within the conciliar texts of this period. Despite the purportedly thorough Augustinianism of the Carolingian reforms, “Augustine” is often present via later, patristic mediators, the most significant and formidable among them being Pope Gregory the Great (540–604). Gregory was arguably the ultimate Augustinian mediator for the Carolingians (and beyond), but his great innovation was the development of an adaptable language of hierarchical, spiritual, and political authority, a mode of admonition particularly well-suited to the aims of the Carolingian reform program.

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