The Church Around the Year 1000

Extracts from Father Terry’s Verbal Conscience website (, Handouts 114, 111.

[Editor’s note: The Histories of Ralph Glaber (the Bald or the Beardless), a restless monk (985-1050 A.D.), are among the best evidence of his time.]

1. The beginnings of romanesque art in the eleventh century

When the third year after the year 1000 approached, you could see churches being rebuilt almost everywhere, and above all in Italy and Gaul; although most of them had been very well constructed and did not really need this, keen rivalry moved each Christian community to have a more sumptuous church than that of its neighbors. One could have said that the very world was shaking itself, stripping off its old raiment and reclothing itself everywhere with a white robe of churches. At that time almost all the churches in the episcopal sees, those of the monasteries dedicated to all kinds of saints, and even the little village chapels, were rebuilt by the faithful to make them more beautiful.

source: Ralph Glaber, Histories, II 1,4.

2. Discoveries of Relics

When the whole world was, as we have said, shining bright with new churches, a moment came, in the eighth year after the millennium of the incarnation of the Savior, when various indications made it possible to discover numerous relics of saints in places where they had long been hidden. As if they had been waiting for the moment of some glorious resurrection at a sign from God they were presented to the contemplation of the faithful and produced great comfort in their hearts. It is known that these discoveries first began in a city of the Gauls, at Sens, in the church of the blessed martyr Stephen. The archbishop of the city at that time was Lierri, who made an amazing discovery there of objects from the ancient cult: among other discoveries he is said to have set hands on a piece of Moses’ staff. When news of these discoveries was noised abroad, innumerable faithful came, not only from the country of Gaul but even from all over Italy and countries beyond the sea; and it was not rare to see sick people return from there cured by the intercession of the saints. However, it all too often happens that if something begins by being useful to human beings, their guilty greed soon makes it a stumbling block. This city to which, as I have said, people rushed in crowds, amassed great riches as a result of their piety, and its inhabitants became excessively insolent as a result of so great a benefit.

source: Ralph Glaber, Histories, III, 6.