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Rose, H.G.E.

Rose, H.G.E.


Els Rose, born in Zwolle, the Netherlands, in 1972. Ph.D. from Utrecht University. Research Fellow in History and Culture at Utrecht University.

Fellow (1 February 2006 – 30 June 2006)


Liturgy formed an important tool in the hands of Carolingian leaders. In their endeavour to give shape to an empire and to design its church, practices of worship were subject of reform and unification. In the liturgy, the day a saint dies is commemorated as a feast-day: dies natale. Mass is celebrated and monks and secular clergy observe the seven hours of daily prayer as well as the night office. During these liturgical celebrations, the life of the saint is reflected on in prayers, chants, hymns. Moreover, a sermon is held during or after Mass in which the life of the saint can be set as example. In the case of the apostles, the material for liturgical texts is often taken from extra-biblical sources. The use and reception of this apocryphal material is the main subject of my research.

In addition to four case studies where the textual material for the liturgical commemoration of six apostles was studied, I approached the concept of apocrypha from a more theoretical perspective. To this end I performed a database search on the word apocryphus in sources of the Carolingian period (PL, CeTeDoc). The result of this work is the collection of thoughts on the concept of apocryphus of the most important Carolingian authors (Alcuin, Theodulf of Orléans, Hrabanus Maurus, Hinkmar of Reims, Walafrid Strabo, Rather of Verona and Notker of Sankt Gallen). As the Carolingian authors relied to a great extent on patristic authors, the line of thought starts with Tertullian, Eusebius, Augustine, Isidore and Bede. Additionally the line is extended up to the end of the twelve century (Hugh of Saint Viktor, Abelard). The diachronic approach I attempt in my research will enable a sketch of how the thinking about apocrypha developed between the fifth and the late twelfth century.

Tentatively the following lines became visible. The stern patristic repudiation of apocrypha as dangerous writings, which may give a semblance of truth but are never without venom, is often adopted by medieval authors especially in the Carolingian age of correctio as was a striving to collect a unifying corpora of communal tradition. It is the period in which Charlemagne commissioned Paul the Deacon to make a collection of homilies to serve the faithful in order to avoid the reading of apocryphal material in church. Yet it seems this severe attitude softened in later times, when the patristic argument (‘apocrypha might hold truth, but because of the lies in them they should be rejected’) was upturned by following the word of the apostle ‘Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good’ (1 Thess. 5, 21).

In all this, the question of how apocrypha and hagiography interrelate in the Middle Ages is as important as the matter of the apocrypha and their reception itself. This relationship is particularly complicated, not only because of the ambivalent attitude of medieval authors and compilers, but also because of the debates in scholarship from the Reformation up until our own time.