June 8, 2023

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Carrying time between faith, art and science

Contemporary science, from the theory of relativity to the theory of white holes presented by the physicist Carlo Rovelli in the media these days, we have now become accustomed to the idea that time is a variable dependent on the observer and on motion rather than a fixed and immutable entity. Albeit in completely different terms, Augustine did appear on the famous page of confessions He made the awareness of time relative and made it dependent on our perception and our ability to think about it. And it was always he who defined Christian time as new because it was linear, and pursued the goal of ultimate realization, compared to the circular time of the ancients which returned to itself. Instead, we are less accustomed to thinking about the differences the idea of ​​time has made in human history, and in particular what it meant to live in ages, such as the Middle Ages, when ordinary people lacked calendars and clocks, but agriculture, religion, navigation, war, and society in general Still require relative accuracy.
The date of the feast celebrated by Catholics today, for example, varies each year because it follows the lunar calendar, and has been the subject of bitter and protracted disputes for centuries, from Syria to Ireland, from the fourteenth century to the Synod of Webby of 664, with results crystallizing In identity positions, to the extent that the Jewish religion celebrates Easter this year on April 5, Catholics and Protestants on the ninth, and the Orthodox on the sixteenth. -The predictions of the duration for this date, on which both subsequent religious feasts and a series of civil uses, actions, and practices depend, are made by a complex series of calculations represented in tables that coordinate solar and lunar cycles, sometimes like Excel cards, sometimes beautifully drawn in miniatures Luxurious: the charts for numberwas invented to reconcile astronomical orbits, seasons, and zodiacal cycles into a coherent complex with the liturgical calendar and to reconstruct historical data of religious significance. To get an idea, just have a look at the wonderful illuminated tables of the Oxford volume, St John 17, which can be consulted online on permanent display (https://digital.library.mcgill.ca/ms-17/). In the Carolingian era (789), not only did arithmetic become a compulsory subject in the school, but, as Arno Borst had discovered only a few years earlier, it constituted a subject of scholarly discussion in the “ministerial” commissions set up by Charlemagne to harmonize disparate methods. It was Burst himself, who died in 2007, who reconstructed the word’s history Computusthe foundation of Western thought, leading to the term “calculate” (and to the English “computer”) and to “counting” and “(say) counting”.
In 1972 the Russian historian Aaron Gurevich in a famous chapter from Categories of medieval culture (tr. it. Einaudi 1983, Bollati Boringhieri 2022) stated that “there are few other indicators that characterize the essence of culture as much as the concept of time”. And it was he himself who established the separation between natural times, ethnic times, biblical time, religious and liturgical time, universal cyclical time, and historical time adopted by all. Essays by such great names as Ariès, von den Steinen, Le Goff, Martin, Wolff and others dealt with specific aspects, almost always referring to the last centuries, i.e. the late Middle Ages. But in 2005, French sociologist Jean-Claude Schmitt defined time as “Thenot thinking of history “in studies of the Middle Ages and beyond: in fact, the concepts of time and their manifestations, especially in the early Middle Ages, never constituted a definite goal for a synthesis of sufficient breadth to include institutional and economic history, literature, archaeology, art, music, history of religion, liturgy, and social history. This Confirmed by the famous volume of Anthony Grafton and Daniel Rosenberg cartography at that timeTranslated by Einaudi in 2012, it unbelievably transcends the Middle Ages, the only period when calendar-making becomes both science, faith, and art.
Indeed, perhaps only with the aforementioned Burst, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, that time and its medieval definitions and measurements became the main subject of a large-scale research based not on intuition and occasional samples but on a giant documentary base of astronomical knowledge and computational technique (i.e. calendar) and their social and scientific influences, including mechanical developments of water clocks and solar or even nighttime (star-oriented) chronographs Computer), the first poetic description of which was recently discovered in Verona in the 9th century. Recently it was published in The rhythm of the musical body Online, even some songs that helped students at school learn the techniques of measuring time and the rhythms of the months: the first traces of a popular trend that will reach Folgore from San Gimignano and The song of the months by Francesco Guccini. All these acquisitions have not yet become the subject of common thought, just as the innovative idea of ​​time as a rhythmic sweep was introduced in Les rhymes at Moyen Age (Gallimard 2017, never translated into Italian) by Schmidt himself, who outlined a catalog of social rhythms relating them to the six days of creation: rhythms in music and literature, rhythms of nature and the human body, calendar rhythms, processional and wandering rhythms, rhythms of storytelling and thought, and finally non- Arrhythmias and variations.
To shed light on all this, the LXX Week of Early Medieval Studies organized between 13 and 19 April by CISAM, which since 1953 has brought together the best international experts in the early Middle Ages of Spoleto in the community with young researchers and colleagues. From every country, it was dedicated to time in the early Middle Ages It includes the widest possible range of early medieval degrees, disciplines, and civilizations. Schmidt will open himself on Thursday the 13th, to then proceed to explore horological techniques, testimonials about the perception of climate, continuing the Christianization of constellations, times of war and peace, cycles in monasteries and courts, rhythms of food, harmonization of agricultural seasons and urban surveying, and the repetitive expression of writing and ornamentation in manuscripts , and the idea of ​​time in the Bible and in the mythological accounts of the Germanic and Celtic peoples, and the times in grammar and music, the personification of time in art and coins, the terminology of time in the languages ​​of the peoples of the early Middle Ages, time in medieval proverbs, religious projections in the end times,
Economic historian David Landes elaborated on Max Weber’s treatise, in which he argued that it was the Benedictine reality of the Middle Ages, with its ironclad expansion of the monastic hours, that laid the foundations for the discipline of the time in the modern West. It is well known that the bells of rural churches marked the rhythm of the agricultural day (just as the mechanical clock of towers later regulated urban rhythms). But it is also the sound of the bell that, in Goethe’s masterpiece, saves Faust from suicide by reminding him of the sweetness of the soundscape of his childhood.

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