THE CAROLINGIAN RENAISSANCE AND THE CHURCH
This renaissance was prepared for and made possible by the canonical renaissance, or revival of interest in the canons of the church, under Boniface and Pepin, and particularly by the work of one of Boniface’s disciples, the Frankish bishop Chrodegang of Metz, (†766). Boniface’s concern was for the observance of all the canons: Chrodegang’s the narrower and yet immense one of the observance of all those affecting the personal life of the clergy. Chrodegang founded with his own possessions, for he was the son of a great Frankish noble,
two abbeys where the Benedictine rule was most strictly observed: and his admiration for monks could not but affect his conception of what the “vita canonica,” the life of the secular clergy according to the canons, ought to be. In churches which had endowment for a familia of clergy, these should live in common, particularly in the case of the familia of a bishop; in small, outlying churches such a life was, of course, impossible. Bishops should supply to the familia of their cathedral church sufficient for its common maintenance, and should build for it a cloister like those of Benedictine monasteries. This theory as to what was the “canonical” life for the clergy was not the view of Chrodegang alone, but probably of all the bishops appointed by Boniface. Rigobert of Reims, (†743), “restored the canonical religion to his clerks, and appointed them sufficient victuals and estates which he conferred on them, and he instituted a common chest for their use,” as probably did other bishops. The notable point of Chrodegang’s work was that he wrote a rule for the life and government of his family at Metz. This rule is of importance, because it gradually became the norm for the life of all cathedral and collegiate churches in Charles’s empire: and in the council of Aix-la-Chapelle, held in 817, it was made solemnly binding upon them all. The version of Aix-la-Chapelle has a few additional chapters, and deals with life within the monastery and the cure of souls exercised by the clerks over their parochia, which was often that of the cathedral church, and always large. The canons were to range themselves, in church or refectory, in the lawful grades of their orders; some of the canons would be “small children and youths” in the grade of lector or acolyte. Provosts and prelates must not admit more clerks than the endowment of their churches could support. Clerks might retain their own property, or receive the stipend for some office in the church; those who had neither of these means of support must receive food and clothing in the congregation, and part of the alms; rich and poor clerks must fare equally in the congregation. The archdeacon (still, at the time, a prominent officer of the cathedral as well as the diocese), or the provost, must train the clergy wisely and set a good example in his own life. None must enter the monastery save by the door of the cloister, and all must sleep in one dormitory. The clerks must say night office and the canonical hours, not pompously, or in a slovenly manner, but standing and chanting religiously. Lay people confess in
Lent, and monks every Saturday; but canonical clerks must confess every third Saturday to the bishop or his deputy. Sick canons shall have houses appointed for them, and a specially appointed clerk to care for them. For parishioners there must be baptism, confirmation, confession, and preaching; every fortnight there must be a sermon, and it would be better if there were a careful sermon, according to what the common people can understand, on all feasts and Sundays. Prelates must provide a hospital for the poor, and the canons must gladly pay a tithe of all their alms and offerings towards it. Prelates must appoint fit brethren, not in the order of their entrance into the college, but of their merits, to rule the congregation in their place. The rulers of churches shall take heed that the children and youths committed to them to be brought up in the congregation shall be carefully and spiritually taught; they shall live in a common hall, and be in the charge of a brother of proven life. There were also many chapters about ecclesiastical seasons, offices, excommunications and penances.