8th Century

This was the time when most of Western civilization was crumbling at the hands of Barbarians. Both literature and literacy were in general decline. Rising to the occasion were the scribes and copyists who preserved both religious and secular works. Back then copying a book was no small task. First you needed to make your own paper — or in this case, parchment or vellum. Then you'd carefully copy the book — letter-by-letter, page-by-page, very slowly. Once that was completed, the book still wouldn't be done. Time to add the colorful, decorated letters for which manuscripts at this time were known. Finally, you'd have to make a cover and binding. Of course this whole process was excruciatingly slow, but medieval scribes and copyists eagerly took up the challenge, even though it could take almost a year to produce a single copy of the Bible. Large, highly-decorated volumes could take much longer to complete — often several years. If not for the hard work and dedication of these folks, much of our knowledge of the Middle Ages would be missing and many ancient writings would have been forever lost.


The monk Eadfrith completes the Lindisfarne Gospels..  This book contains the oldest surviving copy of the Gospels in ancient English. (They were hand-written between the lines of Latin.) [SEE AN ACTUAL PAGE]  Experts estimate that it could have taken Eadfrith up to ten years to complete this manuscript — one of the finest examples of medieval illumination (decorated letters) and calligraphy that still exists. The volume originally was encased in a fine leather treasure binding covered with jewels and metals. According to tradition, Eadfrith made the Lindisfarne Gospels in honour of both God and Saint Cuthbert, sometimes called "Northern England's most popular Saint.    [Read more ...]


Byzantine Emperor Leo III attacks the use of images.  Whether or not the use of statues was idolitry was a big thing in the Church at that time. Some folks defended their use in worship by differentiating between veneration and worship. They also argued that the use of images is an affirmation of Christ's humanity, because a real person can be depicted. The opposition responded that images of Christ were not valid depictions because they only represent his humanity — not his divinity. Anyhow, Leo decided against the use of all images of Christ, the Saints, and the Church hierarchy. (Obviously it didn't apply to the emperor. This is a picture of a coin with Leo's picture on it.)    [Read more ...]


The earlist known reference to the "Donation of Constantine".  The "Donation" is a forged Roman imperial decree by which the emperor Constantine I supposedly transferred authority over both Rome and the western part of the Roman Empire to the Pope. Believed as genuine, this document was used to enhance the Pope's control of both religious and secular affairs. Sometime in the 15th Century, church scholars finally realized that the "Donation" must be a forgery, and stopped its use altogether.    [Read more ...]


The island of Lindisfarne and its monastary are attacked by Vikings.  There was much of value on the island, and before it was over, everything had been looted and the monks in the monastary were all killed. This was the Vikings' first attack on a religious institution in England. It would not be their last.    [Read more ...]


Pope Leo III crowns Charlemagne as head of the Holy Roman Empire.  When Charlemagne received the imperial crown from the pope, it symbolized his role as protector of the Roman Catholic Church. This was a first. There had never been a Holy Roman Emperor before. Back then, not only wasn't there any separation between Church and State, but the Church expected the State to be its defender! There were Holy Roman Emperors for the next 700+ years, the last one being coronated in 1530. Finally the very concept of a Holy Roman Empire was abolished in 1806.    [Read more ...]