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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Temporality, authority, and "ancient Christianity" in the Carolingian era Timmermann, Joshua Lee


This dissertation examines the powerful, pervasive influence of the past – especially that of “ancient Christianity” and the Latin Church Fathers – on understandings of time, temporality, authority, and the relationship of past to present in the Carolingian era (ca. 751–888), as well as the diverse uses of that past by Carolingian writers, compilers, and readers. The Carolingian reforming project (reformatio, or correctio) was inherently concerned with the social and spiritual improvement of the temporal world, particularly by bringing the present age into closer alignment with the “traditional” Christian past. For eighth- and ninth-century reformers, the defining, paramount virtues of that “ancient Christian” past and the orthodox tradition running through it were concord and consensus among authorities. Carolingian ecclesiastical and lay leaders sought to facilitate and engender these same virtues in the Christian society of the present and anticipated future. The Carolingian reformatio, it is argued here, was imbued with a distinctive sense of “progress toward the past,” bolstered by texts inextricably associating the Church Fathers with authority, orthodoxy, and the essential harmony and continuity of the “ancient Christian” tradition. The imperium Christianum that the Carolingians sought to create, “reform,” and ultimately perfect was fundamentally rooted in an idealized vision of “ancient Christianity” and of the Church Fathers as a special type of timeless authorities – fashioned through the Carolingians’ own purposeful, pragmatic connections of antiquity with authority.

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