It is the 13th of July 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1230.
It was the year of the peace of San Germano. The peace was established by Emperor Frederick II and Pope Gregory IX. You may know that Papal and Imperial powers were often at each other’s throats in the Middle ages. When these two men met, it was Frederick II, the grandson of Frederick Barbarossa, who was under threat of ex-communication by the Pope. That Pope offered Frederick a “get out of ex-communication free” card for giving up some of his Italian lands. While the truce between Emperor and Pope was not to last for long, this was an important step for the political and theological machinations of the high middle ages.
In 1230, amidst the Crusades, men returning from the Middle East introduced, or possibly reintroduced, leprosy to Europe. The Crusades were the gift that kept on giving. The University of Toulouse was founded in 1230. It was a result of the Peace of Meaux signed in 1229. The peace brought an end to the Albigensian Crusade. The Albigensian Crusade, unlike those exciting Middle eastern adventures, was aimed at eradicating heresy. Raymond VII of Toulouse had been suspected as going light on heretics, and so was required by the terms of the peace to charter a university to teach theology, to combat such heresies in the future.
In 1230, the Teutonic Knights were sent to Prussia to convert the various Baltic tribes that had inhabited Northern Europe for centuries. Less than keen on converting, the tribes were sacked and dispersed. Meanwhile, to the west, the first Slavic tribes were settling on the Elbe at the settlement that would become the city of Berlin.
The year 1230 saw the death of Berengaria of Navarre. The French wife to English King Richard I. Walther von der Vogelweide died in 1230 as well. Vogelweide is considered one of the premier German poets. Anna of Hohenstaufen was born in 1230. the daughter of the Emperor would become the Empress of Nicaea. And it was on this day, the 13th of July, in 1230 that Jacopo de Voragine was born. The future Archbishop of Genoa would become famous for writing the “Golden Legend,” possibly the most influential collection of stories of Saints in the Middle Ages.
Voragine was a Dominican of some repute. He was called to Rome by Pope Nicholas IV to be named Archbishop of Genoa. However, by the time Jacopo got to Rome, Nicholas died. Nonetheless, he was given the position in Genoa. He had to spend his time navigating between the Ghuelf and Ghibbeline factions that mark so much Genoan and Italian history in the Middle Ages. But it is as the author of the “Golden Legend” that he is best known for. This collection of the lives of various saints has long been considered to have no historical value if you are reading it for factual evidence of the lives of men and women in the early and medieval church. However, if it is understood as a mirror of its time, it tells us much of what was esteemed by its reading public.
It served as a kind of Almanac with short stories highlighting various church festivals and stories of saints. So, we think that’s a pretty good idea. The collection includes the story of St. Nicholas secretly giving money late at night to the poor, as well as stores of miraculous relics and, a lot of stories about dragons. It is suggested that it was initially meant as a manual for help in preaching. From Old and New Testament characters to Medieval saints, the compendium was translated into every European language. Famed translator and printer William Caxton published the first English edition in the 15th century. Jacopo Da Voragine remained at his post as Archbishop of Genoa until he died in 1298. Born on this day in 1230, he was 68 years old.
The reading for today comes from St. Augustine, a favorite in the Medieval and modern church. This is from his “Confessions.”
Narrow is the mansion of my soul; enlarge Thou it, that Thou mayest enter in. It is ruinous; repair Thou it. It has that within which must offend Thine eyes; I confess and know it. But who shall cleanse it? Or to whom should I cry, save Thee? Lord, cleanse me from my secret faults, and spare Thy servant from the power of the enemy. I believe, and therefore do I speak.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 13th of July 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher “Dracarys” Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day. and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.