The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

Issue 17 (2017)

Love Your Neighbor? Augustine and Society in the Carolingian World and Beyond

David SchlosserMailto: Icon

Lee University

©2017 by David Schlosser. All intellectual property rights reserved. This edition copyright © 2017 by The Heroic Age. Permissions granted for educational and personal purposes only.

Abstract: Carolingian writers used Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana to understand the proper ways to love and order society. This rhetoric is especially clear in the image controversies of the 790s and 820s as these writers addressed foreign thinkers both inside and beyond the Frankish realm.

§1. Patristic thought was one of the most important traditions eighth- and ninth-century thinkers utilized while participating in the Carolingian project of correctio (Otten 1997, Otten 2013).1 While the church fathers, in general, held great authority for early medieval writers, Augustine of Hippo was one of the most commonly cited patristic authors during this period. Quotations from Augustine found prominence among a variety of Carolingian writers concerned with a variety of subjects including theology, art and education (Chazelle 2001, Nees 1991, Marenbon 1981).

§2. Among Augustine's works, De Doctrina Christiana (hereafter DDC) garnered immense popularity in the eighth and ninth centuries. From the extant Carolingian copies of Augustine, only the City of God and Confessions were reproduced more than DDC (Gorman 1985, 11).

§3. Modern scholars have recognized the importance of DDC even calling it a "classic of western culture" (Arnold and Bright 1995). However, studies looking specifically at this text in the Carolingian world remain marginal. Often scholarship on the text's reception focuses on the high and late Middle Ages rather than the period between Augustine's death and the second millennium (Gibson 1995; Krieger 1994; Van Fleteren 2013). When scholars have examined Carolingian uses of the text, it is often at the service of making broader arguments concerning issues such as theological controversies or architecture (Chazelle 1995a; Rabe 1995) rather than examining the text's inheritance for its own sake. While important points have been made regarding DDC's impact on a variety of eighth- and ninth-century affairs, this historiographic gap in considering DDC on its own terms allows patterns and trends to be overlooked. For example, scholars have not stressed the importance that Carolingian writers attached to Augustine's notions of love in DDC. DDC's discussion of love tends to be overshadowed in Carolingian studies by issues such as education or rhetoric (Van Fleteren 2013; Amos 1995).

§4. This paper seeks to demonstrate that Carolingian elites put a special emphasis on Augustine's description of love as found in DDC and other sources. These writers of the eighth and ninth centuries stressed that loving one's neighbor was central to proper learning and the creation of the ideal community within early medieval society. The health and unity of society was predicated on such neighborly love which in turn fostered proper intellectual and spiritual understanding. Noticeably, the exhortation to love one's neighbors included one's enemies. But despite the pleas for unity and love even of one's enemies, at times Carolingian writers vehemently took issue with each other as well as those outside of the Frankish realm, often over accusations of misusing Augustine and not loving correctly. This paper examines such discussions, first by using Alcuin as an early example of a Carolingian writer using Augustinian love as an exhortation to unity. This will be followed by a discussion of Theodulf and the image controversialists of the 820s and the role of love and unity in their rhetoric.

§5. It may be helpful to begin with the fundamentals of Augustine's notions of properly ordered love. In DDC and elsewhere, Augustine argued that God was the only object worthy of love in himself.2 Created or temporal objects could be loved, but only on the condition that they be loved in relation to their Creator, or God. To love a created object for its own sake becomes idolatry. Because Augustine stressed that all of scriptures, or the Law, could be understood by the two greatest commands of loving God and neighbor, neighborly love must be understood within Augustine's larger scheme of properly ordered love. Christians are commanded to love their neighbor, but with the understanding that this love should be borne out of love of God first and foremost (DDC 1:33).

§6. One hesitates to attribute any and every passage that noted love of God and neighbor fulfilling the Law to an Augustinian provenance. The idea, of course, is a central one in Christianity originating with Christ and Paul themselves. Thus, for example, when Claudius of Turin spoke of love of God and neighbor as the sum of the law in his commentary on Galatians he may have been excerpting Augustine's own commentary on the Pauline epistle, but the context centers around justification and appears to have no connection to other Carolingian uses of DDC's love rhetoric (Claudius of Turin Enarratio 5:14). This is a caveat against interpretive overreach. However, as we shall see, Carolingian writers consistently cited DDC in the context of love in such a way that patterns and connections begin to appear. Conversely, these writers would often include other patristic sources, including some by Augustine, to flesh out their discussions of love. This naturally means that Carolingian ideas of proper love did not solely come from DDC. The consistent use of DDC on this theme, however, also demonstrates the prominence of this text in the patristic inheritance of the eighth- and ninth centuries in constructing societies of love.


§7. One of the most famous immigrant scholars Charlemagne brought to Francia was Alcuin of York. Augustine's ideas permeate Alcuin's writings (Alberi 2013). The patristic ideas that learning fostered morality and the arts' origins appear in his letters. The language and idea of loving one's neighbor, similar to DDC, is the same as it appears in Alcuin's treatise on Galatians which has been noted elsewhere (Contreni 1989, 17). Alcuin also utilized De Doctrina itself to bolster this approach to the Christian life. Demonstrating a wish for Christian unity beyond the Frankish realm, Alcuin stressed both the pastoral and educational function of the monastic order in his letter to the monastic community of Wearmouth-Jarrow in Northumbria (Alcuin Epistola 19). The pastoral and educational roles were not separate for Alcuin, but rather worked together as one single activity. The letter begins by conflating a couple of passages from DDC, which explain the injunction to love one's neighbor (DDC 1.23, 26). Alcuin first used Augustine to describe where fellow people fit into the fourfold order of love. One is to love (1) God, who is above, (2) oneself, (3) one's neighbors next to oneself, and (4) one's own body below oneself.

§8. No one needs a command to love one's self or one's own body. So the commands are given to love what is above, God, and next to one, one's neighbor. Alcuin concludes his Augustinian summary by jumping a few chapters in DDC to 1:30 and noting Augustine's citation of Christ's exhortation to love one's neighbor and to do good to one's enemies. Alcuin appended the quote with his own monastic interests by adding if one's enemies ought to be loved, how much more should one love the brothers who are held in one single sheepfold, Si inimici dilegendi sunt, quanto magis et fraters qui uno ovili continentur?

§9. After establishing the patristic authority of loving Christian brothers, Alcuin proceeded to detail how the monks should live in accordance with the Christian life and the Benedictine rule. Both pastoral care and education were important to Alcuin in this matter and these activities were intimately tied to love.

Love of one's neighbor is shown in the office of mercy, in the teaching of salvation. He who has the word of God in his heart should teach his neighbor, he with the faculties of the world should encourage his neighbor, he with any knowledge of ministry should aid the neighbor according to the teaching by God himself.
Dilectio vero proximi in officio misericordiae, in doctrina salutis ostenditur. Qui habet verbum Dei in corde doceat proximum; qui habet saeculi facultates, adjuvet proximum; qui habet cujuslibet ministerii scientiam, opituletur proximo, ipso praecipiente Deo.

It is true that Alcuin's exhortation blended both Augustinian and Benedictine thought and that the phrase misericordiae officio might evoke broader early medieval pastoral thought. However, Augustine used this very phrase in the passage from DDC 1:30 that Alcuin had quoted merely a few sentences previously. Alcuin's language is full of both pastoral and educational implications. Whether assigning teaching as a duty to the office of mercy, encouraging with the faculties of the world, or having knowledge of ministry, the attention of the pastor-teacher should be focused squarely on loving his neighbor.

§10. The idea of teaching through love also impacted the communal society of the monastery. Holding Bede up as a paragon of learning, Alcuin admonished his readers to heed the masters by opening books, looking into literature, and understanding the essence of these writings. He also tried to persuade his readers that these things, along with the holy scriptures, should be learned as boys so that when they reached adulthood they could teach others. This admonishment is then neatly rephrased in the negative. The person who does not learn in youth does not teach in old age, Qui non discit in pueritia, non docet in senectute (Alcuin Epistola 19). There appears to have been an assumption here that those who had reached a certain age were expected to serve as teachers for the younger brothers. Inability to meet that expectation would carry shame and hinder the communal and spiritual growth of the monastery. Each member of the order relied on the others for the full functioning of the community; this included the role of older monks teaching those who were younger. In order for this to happen, the monks needed to be diligent in learning their curricula early. Such diligent study would increase the unity and therefore love among "the brothers who are contained in one sheepfold." While this second passage comes from Bede the ideas reinforce Alcuin's earlier comments tying teaching together with love as necessary for the unified community. The letter introduces love with DDC's explicit definitions and ordering of love and so therefore lay the framework for Alcuin's patristic patchwork of the pastor teacher. Alcuin's encouragement from Francia to his brothers in Northumbria serves as a friendly example of a Carolingian writer exhorting Augustinian love. The rhetoric was less cordial when Alcuin's contemporary Theodulf refuted the Greek Second Council of Nicaea, and later Carolingian writers challenged Visigothic understanding of images. Still, all of these writers emphasized Augustine's ideas of learning and love of one's neighbor.


§11. Recorded in the Opus Caroli (Opus)—formerly called the Libri Carolini—Theodulf's reaction to the iconodule, or image-favoring, Greek, Second Council of Nicaea holds pride of place in the narrative of Western religious reactions to images. Modern scholarship on the Opus is rich (Chazelle 1986, Chazelle 1995a, Chazelle 1995b; Freeman, 2003; Noble 2009, Noble 2013), though because of the length and density of the work an English translation has to date proved too large a task for medievalists concerned with broader questions (Noble 2009, 183). Theodulf wrote the Opus in the name of Charles against what the Carolingian court thought to be the grievous errors of the Council of Nicaea II in 787. Part of the vociferous polemic can be explained by a faulty translation from the Greek into Latin which the Carolingians received from Rome. Bad translation or not, modern historians consider Theodulf to have fully understood the points he railed against.

§12. Theodulf's calculated arguments have been read as a theological and political treatise bearing witness to important tensions between the Franks, the papacy, and the Byzantine Empire (Noble 2009).

§13. While modern scholars recognize Theodulf's attention to educational issues including grammar and the liberal arts, the instructional nature of the Opus has not received the kind of attention the more predominant theological and political themes have garnered. A survey of the five DDC passages that Theodulf included in the Opus—and just as importantly those which he did not include—demonstrates that the Visigothic bishop of Orleans not only understood the points to which he responded but that he felt the need, even the obligation, to instruct the misinformed and unlearned Greeks present at Nicaea II. The Opus conforms to larger trends concerning DDC and image discourse, with three of the five passages related to the image controversy while the remaining two concern educational issues. While Theodulf and those who helped with revisions did not use the DDC to discuss images as later controversialists would, they provide an introduction to the background of the issue.

§14. The second citation, and the first related to images, is the longest DDC passage found in the Opus emphasizing many of the arguments Theodulf meant to aim against the fathers of Nicaea II. Because so many important themes appear in the excerpt it is worth quoting in full:

The most expert investigator of the divine scriptures will be the person who, first, has read them all and has a good knowledge—a reading knowledge, at least, if not yet a complete understanding—of those pronounced canonical. He will read the others more confidently when equipped with a belief in the truth; they will then be unable to take possession of his unprotected mind and prejudice him in any way against sound interpretations or delude him by their dangerous falsehoods and fantasies. In the matter of canonical scriptures he should follow the authority of the great majority of catholic churches, including of course those that were found worthy to have apostolic seats and receive apostolic letters (Theodulf Opus 1.33; Augustine DDC 2.8).

§15. The instructional elements of this passage should be evident but they become even clearer when the implicit DDC context is examined. Just before this passage, Augustine had enumerated a seven grade ascent to wisdom replete with neo-Platonic language. After explaining all of the steps, and in the sentence before the passage in question, Augustine returned to the third step, knowledge. It is plausible that the bulk of what Augustine wanted to say on Christian teaching (de doctrina christiana) could be subsumed within this grade of the ascent.3 A generation later Hrabanus Maurus emphasized the seven grade ascent, especially the third step of knowledge, as essential for students training to enter the clergy (Hrabanus Maurus De institutione clericorum [henceforth DIC] 3:4). Theodulf did not mention any of this and focused only on the knowledge necessary for reading scripture. The surrounding context of the passage and its appearance in other Carolingian writings, however, indicate that the future bishop understood exactly what he was borrowing from Augustine.

§16. If the DDC context of the passage is not enough to demonstrate the instructional nature of the excerpt, the language should remove any doubt. The passage makes very clear that the Christian student should be able to read well and therefore approach the scriptures with clear understanding. One of the Opus's main arguments was the Nicene fathers' mishandling of the scriptures. Theodulf used DDC to demonstrate the importance for the Christian thinker to learn not only how to read but to read with understanding. The implication is that while the Greeks could read the scriptural passages they used, they did not properly understand them. The passage includes attacks on other sources cited in the council's acta. Augustine warned that the canon should be read first so that misunderstanding appropriated from later thinkers would not be applied to biblical readings. As with most early medieval theological controversies, the image controversy was a fight over the patristic inheritance. This DDC passage indicates that Theodulf considered the Greek veneration of images to have come from a misappropriated patristic tradition rather than one grounded in sound scriptural understanding. Otten (1997, 6) notes that Carolingian authors such as Theodulf were interested both in creating a "canon" of Church Fathers as well as the proper ways to interpret them. Thus, in using excerpts from various patristic authors including Augustine, Carolingian writers were not only forming a Western understanding of the scriptures, but simultaneously shaping an acceptable intellectual framework for such biblical interpretations. The DDC passage from the Opus makes clear that misunderstanding the scriptures leads to the consequences of delusion and fantasy found in other sources. It is not difficult to imagine Theodulf and his associates ascribing these mental shortcomings to the heresy they understood the Nicene bishops to hold.4 Poor learning led not only to poor intellectual activity but a dysfunctional spiritual community as well.

§17. In the third citation Theodulf noted from DDC that the learned Christian should be able to lift the eye of the mind above corporeal and created objects in order to take in the eternal light (Theodulf Opus 2.22; Augustine DDC 3.5). The language of lifting the mind's eye was a patristic, neo-Platonic, commonplace phrase often adopted by medieval thinkers. This particular DDC phrase, however, found considerable currency among Carolingian writers especially in the context of educational thought.5 Here too there is an implicit accusation from Theodulf that the Greeks were unlearned and bound to the material world.

§18. This passage concerning the mind's eye served as a bridge for some of the other DDC ideas which those responsible for the Opus used. The fourth DDC excerpt noted Augustine's concession that those who worship things made by men have fallen farther than those who worship things created by God (Theodulf Opus 2.24; Augustine DDC 3.7). This short sentence echoes the previous excerpt's concern for the mind's eye to rise above corporeal things toward eternal things. Implicit in the statement is Augustine's ideas of order. Those ideas are never explained in the Opus, at least not in terms of how they appear in the DDC. The use of this phrase indicates that Theodulf found Augustinian order important but leaves open the question of how thoroughly it influenced his discourse on images. A further investigation of the Augustinianism of the Opus would reveal where these ideas appear and from which other sources Theodulf drew.6

§19. The fifth and final excerpt from the DDC is an allegorical explanation of Ephesians 3:17–18 which reads: "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Augustine had explained how this verse described the love of Christ on the cross. The width, length, height and depth described the four measurements of the cross (Theodulf Opus 2.28, Augustine DDC 2.41). Augustine's explanation of love referring to the cross is the only allegorical exposition Theodulf used from DDC and also the only reference to love related to the DDC found in the Opus. The passage is important because the cross was the one image the Franks allowed as worthy of veneration. Even so, the cross itself was not worthy of worship but rather the love of Christ which it represented. The ideas Theodulf and the editors of the Opus selected and omitted again are interesting. Of all the things about signification, allegorical exegesis, and love which they could have adapted from DDC, this lone example indicates a particular value for the DDC. Theodulf found the DDC useful to explain the value of the Cross in worship but any other relevant Augustinian ideas could be found elsewhere if they were to be used at all.

§20. One such important idea expressed by Augustine that Theodulf utilized but did not excerpt from DDC is the idea of love of God and neighbor. The Visigoth rebuked the Greek worship of images and poor biblical study by pointing out that the apostle Peter had said that the Christian should love their brother rather than saying they should love images (Theodulf Opus 1.8; I Peter 3.15). The rhetorical point suggests that it would be rife with Augustinian ideas of love and order yet there is no explicit reference to Augustine anywhere near this Petrine foil.

§21. Augustine did not even include the passage from I Peter anywhere in the DDC. This is thus a statement of love and order independent of DDC's influence. But as with Alcuin, Theodulf's mental and spiritual framework was a patchwork largely based on the patristic inheritance. It is fair to say that Theodulf was an "Augustinian" and shared an affinity for typological exegesis with the African Father (Noble 2013, 1793). While DDC is not explicitly cited here, Theodulf's interpretation is remarkably close to language Augustine and his later excerpters would use. As we shall see, the rhetoric of love was an integral part of Carolingian image discourse. For eighth- and ninth-century Franks, an image worshipper clearly had disordered loves as evidenced by the iconodule's preference for an object over its creator. Conversely, an iconoclast could also harbor disordered loves by not properly using creation to worship the creator. Such disordered loves could tear at the very fabric of Christian society. Theodulf hinted at this by esteeming brotherly love while condemning the love of images. As is the case with later Carolingian writings on images, Theodulf shared some of the same notions expressed by compatriots but these appear only as suggestions and not in the fuller form they took in the next generation as discussed below.

§22. There is one additional DDC passage regarding education. Theodulf's first DDC citation occurs in the opening preface of the Opus and indicates the instructional nature of the treatise.

§23. Theodulf noted that the following folios would explain little things in a subdued style, moderate things in a temperate style, and grand things in a majestic style. This threefold scheme composed much of the organization of DDC 4 where Augustine set forth the rhetorical rules for the Christian teacher. Augustine borrowed the scheme from Cicero and it is not clear if Theodulf had DDC or a copy of Cicero's Orator in mind (Theodulf Opus Preafatio; AugustineDDC 4.17; Cicero Orator 29).

§24. What is clear is that the tripartite rhetorical model as found in DDC was significantly influential in later ninth-century pedagogical discussions. Hrabanus Maurus and the two marginal annotators of the ninth-century DDC copy (Bamberg, Staatsbibliothek Msc. Patr. 21) emphasized the distinction in speaking styles while instructing young Christian students (Hrabanus Maurus DIC 3.32–39). Theodulf's inclusion of this phrase as a description of the text which follows should shape our understanding of how the Carolingians envisioned their treatise to the Greeks. The Opus is surely an exercise in proper grammar and rhetoric in contrast to the poor language skills of the Greeks (as mediated through a faulty Latin translation). More than this, Charlemagne's advisors sought to educate their Eastern counterparts as if they were unlearned students through the use of appropriate rhetoric to handle a variety of topics varying in levels of difficulty.

The Iconoclasts

§25. Now that Theodulf has won general consensus among scholars as the main author of the Opus Caroli, his distrust of images has come under close scrutiny. As indicated above, the Opus Caroli argued that it was the thing itself that mattered rather than the sign that signified the thing. This controversy is expressed in a number of ways including the Augustinian notions of things and signs, prototypes and types, spirit and matter, or Creator and creature. All of these expressions point to a kind of dualism and an attempt to approximate the closest possible relationship to the thing itself to bypass the danger of an inordinate relationship with the sign.7

§26. Agobard of Lyons and Claudius of Turin received these ideas favoring spirit over matter, thing over sign, and creator over creature, from a number of Augustinian sources. What is perhaps surprising is that Augustine's formula of things and signs from the beginning of DDC did not make this catalogue of quotations found in either of these two Hispano-Aquitainian iconoclasts. Agobard's De Pictoris is heavily dependent on Augustinian ideas especially from De Vera Religione and De Civitate Dei (Cazelais 2013). Claudius shared these ideas, though it is difficult to tell whether he was using the same passages from the City of God. Augustine's Enarrationes on the Psalms and his discussion there of Romans 1:25 is another place Pascal Boulhol finds influential in shaping these ideas in the writings of Claudius (Claudius of Turin Epistola 12). Romans 1:25 speaks of how those lost in sin had forsaken the creator for created objects. Boulhol notes how Augustine had denied the allegorical interpretation to pagans since the symbol does not represent the ultimate object (Boulhol 2002, 205). Missing from this Boulhol's discussion, however, is a similar passage in DDC where Augustine came to the same conclusion (Augustine DDC 3.7). Also missing from the discussion is Claudius' application of DDC's "semiotics." The historiographical lacuna may result from the fact that Claudius, like most Carolingians, was more interested in the moral teachings of DDC, including love as the sum of the law, rather than the treatise's theoretical aspects.

§27. Scholars have identified a Visigothic tendency toward a rigidly dualistic reading of Augustine appearing in writers such as Theodulf, Agobard, and Claudius. Theodulf's views on this matter have been studied in the context of his attitude toward the classical inheritance and his authorship of the Opus Caroli (Nees 1991; Chazelle 1995a). Agobard and Claudius are beginning to receive more attention with increased emphasis on both the place of images in the Carolingian world, and studies regarding the decrease in the geographic isolation of East and West. The "aniconic" product of this rigid Spanish dualism may have influenced more than just the Christian communities indebted to Augustine. Boulhol suggests that Spanish Muslims and Jews also shared this extreme distrust of images, making it a wider Iberian trend rather than a particularly Augustinian Christian one (Gramaglia 1997; Boulhol 2002; Noble 2009).

§28. Nevertheless, Claudius's disregard for images and his strict preference for spiritual over material things is one indication that his thinking set him apart from many of his contemporaries.

Jonas of Orleans

§29. As with Alcuin, communal language, though with political ramifications, is evident in the writings of Jonas of Orleans. In his mirror for princes, De Institutione Regia, written for Louis the Pious's son Pepin of Aquitaine, Jonas writes how love of one's neighbor was essential for fostering harmony in one's kingdom. According to Jonas, if one wanted to rule in such a way as to please, placere, God and foster peace and charity instead of discord, hate, invidiousness, avarice, luxury, and other such vices, one should not be duplicitous toward one's neighbors.

§30. Rulers should not be hypocrites like the Pharisees or the men described in Psalm 28 who speak peace to their neighbor but harbor malice in their hearts. Instead, those propped up by palatial honors, whether clergy or laity, should be connected by chains of love (Jonas of Orleans De Institutione Regia Chapter 9). Elsewhere, when speaking about sound faith and healthy learning in his De institutione laicali, Jonas quotes Matthew 22 where Jesus described love of God and neighbor as the sum of the divine law. Jonas also includes a vague reference to Augustine and reinforces the importance of Christian teaching by calling God the "highest doctor and teacher, Christ." (Jonas of Orleans De Institutione Laicali 1:8). Still later in this text, Jonas begins his chapter on love by again referring to Matthew 22:40 as the sum of the law. But in order to not leave any ambiguity as to who one's neighbor might be, Jonas quotes Matthew 5 where Christ exhorts his followers to not only love one's neighbor but also one's enemies (Jonas of Orleans De Institutione Laicali 3:1). Thus, Jonas makes clear how to foster harmony within Aquitaine. Not only should court advisors or family members be loved as brothers but this love should be extended to those who might oppose a ruler's authority as well.

§31. Jonas was familiar with DDC and it appears in both his De institutione laicali as well as his De culto imaginum (Savigni 2013). Indeed, while his thoughts on hierarchy and imperial pastoralism are mainstays of studies on Jonas, only recently have scholars begun to reintegrate his thoughts on images back into his "monarch centered ecclesiology" (Appleby 1996, 12). Not only does Jonas write that a kingdom's harmony should be fostered through neighborly love, he also uses the language indicating that right teaching leads to a healthy and sound society. When speaking of sound faith and healthy learning, the words he uses are salutaris and sanus. By connecting ideas of health, soundness, and wholeness to ideas of right teaching and love as the sum of the law, Jonas envisiones the proper maintenance of a kingdom as coming out of rightly ordered love, which in turn comes out of the pursuit of right teaching (Jonas of Orleans De Institutione Laicali 1:8).


§32. The use of images, and the reliance on the Fathers to understand that use were contentious issues on the mind of several of Louis' leading intellectual advisors. There was no love lost between Claudius and his opponents. Whether this referred to the Paris meeting in 825 concerning images or not, Dungal recorded that Claudius had refused to attend some council calling the gathering of bishops a congregation of asses, congregationem asinorum (Dungal Responsa). Dungal had, of course, put words in Claudius' mouth. Whether or not Claudius actually said these things or held such an opinion about his peers is difficult if not impossible to tell. What does seem clear is that relations were prickly at best between these writers.

§33. More directly, we get a similar insult from Jonas. In his response to Claudius, one place where Jonas accused the Turinese bishop of mishandling the fathers is directly tied to a passage from the DDC. Jonas does not make clear which passage he had in mind. He was likely thinking of the same passage Theodulf had used, DDC 2:41, that allegorically explains Paul's description of love's dimensions as those which correspond to the cross. Immediately after the Augustinian reference, Jonas reproaches Claudius for dishonoring the cross, saying that with an inoperative mind, buried in delirium Claudius taught that asses should be adored, Attamen cum ad eum locum ventum fuerit ubi, in dehonorationem crucis, asinum adorandum docuisti, et multa, ut mentis inops, deliramenta subtexisti, quid inde sancti et eximii doctores exponendo dixerint (Jonas of Orleans De Cultu Imaginum Book 1).

§34. Claudius' training, first in Spain and then in Aquitaine, created distance between himself and other high-ranking intellectuals such as Jonas. Jonas's claim that Claudius came to Francia with Felix of Urgel does more than just provide context for Claudius' youth (Jonas of Orleans De Cultu Imaginum Book 1; Chazelle 1995a, 199). By linking Claudius to the previous generation's Iberian heresy, Jonas tried to marginalize Claudius and his thoughts from what the Franks had established as orthodox in the 790s. Boulhol sees traces of other heresies in Claudius' thought that go beyond adoptionism, linking monophytism with iconoclasm and finding possibilities of the Armenian Paulician heresy (Boulhol 2002, 150 and 199). However, other than Jonas' description of the reasons for Claudius coming to Lyons, we have no record directly linking the Turinese bishop to any formal heretical sect including adoptionism. At one time, Claudius may or may not have held to the teachings of Felix, but if so his conversion to the Frankish point of view is unknown.

§35. The rhetoric these writers used regarding each other was severe. And at the heart of this contest is the claim that each respective author understood Augustine correctly. DDC and the correct use and interpretation of images were connected to this debate, and became a flashpoint for intellectual discourse in the 820s.

Common Passages and Uncommon Ground

§36. But despite the polarizing nature of the Augustinianism of writers such as Claudius or Agobard, when it comes to actual citations from DDC, these thinkers were not so distant from their opponents. When it came to quoting DDC, Carolingian writers were drawn to passages that emphasized love for one's neighbor. This exhortation does not appear to have immediate ramifications for the image debate, but the ideas appear to be firmly connected in the minds of ninth-century writers. Moreover, this connection was rooted in ideas of the relationship between the sign and the thing. Celia Chazelle notes that rather than upholding the materiality of images by encouraging their use as a teaching tool, Theodulf and his fellow Opus Caroli editors emphasized that images evoked memory and hence love of the object signified (Chazelle 1995a, 190). Augustinian love, as delineated in DDC and elsewhere, stressed thing over sign, spirit over matter and Creator over creature. This idea again stresses internal contemplation of God, but it also returns us to the ideas that divine knowledge can only be properly sought along with the love of neighbor. Both of these things can only be found flowing from the love of God which would be strengthened—in this case—by images.

§37. However, there are places where the exhortation to love one's neighbor does bear directly upon the image debate. In Agobard's De Picturis, the citation from DDC takes us directly into the conversation of loving one's neighbor, using them for the enjoyment of God, and properly understanding images. While discussing the place of saints in worship, Agobard cites a rather long passage from DDC which discusses how fellow humans ought to be enjoyed. Because, according to Augustine, God alone should be enjoyed, when other people are rightly enjoyed it is because of their relation to God and not themselves. The cited text ends with a scriptural example where Paul said he took joy in Philemon in the Lord. Augustine was sure to clarify that Paul carefully added "in the Lord," lest the sentence imply he took joy in Philemon himself (Agobard De Picturis 162–3; Augustine DDC 1.32–33). This passage is firmly situated in both the ninth-century discussion of representational worship as well as Carolingian understandings of DDC.

§38. This passage also centers on ideas of use and enjoyment. Augustine allowed that other people could be enjoyed, but only in so far as God was enjoyed in them. This amounts, in the end, to using the other person in order to enjoy God. In the context of the larger work, Agobard argued that saints should not be venerated in themselves since the purpose of a holy man should be to point the way toward God rather than be the final focus. Still more, the passage encourages love of neighbor but only done through the proper means. By incorporating this passage into his larger work, Agobard went beyond the philosophical abstractions of whether the symbol or its object should receive honor. Instead, within a discussion of the cult of saints, Agobard uses Augustine and DDC to speak to the everyday relationships of neighbors living in proximity in a Christian empire.

§39. When the ninth-century opponents of iconoclasm used the passages from DDC, they focused on the same ideas but for different ends. When affirming the cult of saints while writing against Claudius, Dungal uses passages from DDC to explain how men should be loved, enjoyed, and used on account of God. This is a slightly longer passage than found in De Picturis and gives a somewhat fuller explanation of Augustine's ideas of the correct ordering of one's loves (Dungal Responsa; Augustine DDC 1.22–23). In these chapters, Augustine explained that the Christian must properly love God first as creator and then love created objects, but only insofar as the created objects participated in God and therefore were worthy of love. For both Dungal and the iconoclasts, the honor that was due to men was because of their relation to God. But whereas the iconclasts used Augustine to argue that saints should not be venerated since they were not God, Dungal used DDC passages to demonstrate that the martyrs were honored for the very things God had done in them. The passages which appear in both works are in close proximity to each other in Augustine's original text. Depending on the purposes of the ninth-century author, however, they served very different arguments. The iconoclast Agobard used DDC 1:32–33 to demonstrate how one's neighbor could distract one's love away from God.

§40. Dungal, conversely, cited Augustine just a few chapters previous (DDC 1:22–28) to show how men fit into the created order and could actually further the Christian's love of God. Thus, both iconoclasts and those defending images could use notions of Augustinian love to argue for or against the usefulness of creatures, in this case saints and martyrs. Holy persons of the past could either distract the Christian from God on account of their created status or draw the Christian nearer to God because of their participation in the holy.

§41. Dungal was not the only opponent to accuse the iconoclasts of abusing fraternal charity among Christians. In his preface to the third book of his De Cultu Imaginum, Jonas accuses Claudius of lacking brotherly love toward Theodemir, the abbot who originally raised concerns about Claudius' views. Again, any mention of brotherly or neighborly love should not automatically be assumed to carry any relation to DDC. At the very least, this is another indication that the image controversy carried the potential to threaten the very social bonds which made up the Carolingian world. Still there are indications that Jonas may have had parts of DDC in mind as he rebuked Claudius for his unloving attitude. The same sentence that points out Claudius' lack of love goes on to describe the Turinese bishop as being uselessly enslaved and miserably ensnared by his superstitions. The ideas behind this language are remarkably close to those of a passage from DDC in which Augustine describes the bondage of the Gentiles who mistook the symbols of their idols to be true objects of worship, te, imperante charitate, monentem, et a superstitionibus tuis, quibus inutiliter inserviebas et miserabiliter irretiebaris (Jonas of Orleans De Cultu Imaginum Book 3: Preface; Augustine DDC 3.5–7).

§42. While DDC is not explicitly cited here, it is entirely reasonable that Jonas may have been thinking of it. Jonas was heavily involved in the Paris council and this DDC passage was important in the collection of those proceedings. Beyond this reason, however, there is a more intriguing motivation for Jonas to evoke these Augustinian notions. The DDC passage in question essentially argues that it is a miserable form of slavery to mistake a sign for the thing itself—the very argument the Spanish iconoclasts liked to make. For Jonas to say that Claudius was miserably bound to his superstitions and therefore useless to God's service was to take Claudius' argument about the inutility of images and turn it against him. Rather than the image worshippers being enslaved to images and mistaking the sign for the thing, Jonas subtly accused Claudius of mistaking his own superstitions for proper worship. Moreover, this bondage rendered Claudius inutiliter—useless—in his superstition. In a discourse steeped in Augustine's ideas of use and enjoyment, Claudius' uselessness and lack of fraternal love suggested to Jonas the necessity of removing Claudius from both the political and intellectual Christian community of Louis' empire.

§43. Jonas of Orleans was not alone in applying proper interpretations or neighborly love as means of cohering a Christian society. While the image debates of the 820s provide a dramatic snapshot of controversialists using the same Augustinian ideas to argue different points, other Carolingian writers conceived of society in similar ways. A generation earlier, Alcuin and Theodulf also used Augustine to express the importance of neighborly love for communal unity. Moreover, all of these writers connected ideas of properly ordered love to correct teaching, learning, and understanding. Whether in the context of monastic learning or proper understanding of scripture and the church fathers, Augustinian love played a vital role in Carolingian ideas of correctio. But these eighth- and ninth-century thinkers were not only concerned with proper love and learning in the Frankish realm. Alcuin's encouragement of his fellow monks in Northumbria, Theodulf's concern and rebuke of the Greeks understanding of, or Frankish opposition to images, and Visigothic dualism all demonstrate Carolingian efforts to reform Christian society beyond the lands ruled by Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. For all of these writers, proper neighborly love was the linchpin of those ideas of a united Christian society.


1. For introductory discussions of this idea, various alternative terms, and their respective problems see, McKitterick (1993) especially Brown's Introduction (1993) and Sullivan (1995). [Back]

2. Augustine begins to define his scheme of love in DDC 1:4 in terms of use and enjoyment, "To enjoy something is to love it for its own sake." Frui est enim amore inhaerere alicui rei propter seipsam, but the scheme is maintained throughout the text. All English translations of DDC are from Greene 2008. [Back]

3. When Augustine first introduced this third stage he added "with which I now propose to deal," de quo nunc agere institui (DDC 2.7). The "now" apparently does not refer to Augustine's introductory remarks of the third step as his discussion of it there appears now longer than any of the other six steps. Likewise, the "return" to the third step immediately before the passage used by Theodulf does not clearly refer back to Augustine's previous comment of dealing with the step of knowledge "now." I think Augustine's aside refers to his purpose in DDC as a whole rather than merely the chapters that surround the description of ascent. [Back]

4. See Noble (2009, 181) for a list of vitriolic adjectives which the Opus used to describe the Greeks, many of which questioned the Eastern bishops' intellectual ability. [Back]

5. Noble (2009, 223–224) comments on this passage in the Opus. An incomplete list of other Carolingian uses includes Claudius (Epistola 12, 612); Concilium Parisiense (500); John Scotus Eriugena (Periphyseon 3 ln 240–241). [Back]

6. Nees (1991) excellently documents Theodulf's Augustinianism and his ideas of order as drawn from De Civitate Dei. [Back]

7. See Gramaglia (1997) for a discussion of the Opus Caroli compared to Byzantine Iconoclasm. Chazelle investigated such ideas of Theodulf's (Chazelle 1986, Chazelle 1995a, Chazelle 1995b). Also, Theodulf used the Augustinian notion of seeing through "the mind's eye" rather than using images. Noble (2009), 223–4. For a similar "internal vision" argument—though with roots in Origen—see Boulhol (2002), 202. [Back]

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Last Modified: 02-Feb-2018