3.3. THE SECOND PERIOD: 1000-1033
After the year 1000 proved to be a year as any other, all apocalyptic expectations were channeled toward the year 1033. According to Glaber’s chronicles, the end of the world was delayed for 33 years, 1,000 years from the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension of the Savior:
After the many prodigies which had broken upon the world before, after, and around the millennium of the Lord Christ, there were plenty of able men of penetrating intellect who foretold others, just as great, at the approach of the millennium of the Lord’s Passion, and such wonders were soon manifest.193
The year 1033 had an apocalyptic importance due to three reasons: the transition between the millennia did not bring major changes in the world; in the year 1000 Christians celebrated the completion of a millennium since the Savior’s conception and birth (two major religious events), while in the year 1033 they celebrated his death, resurrection and ascension (three major religious events). In addition, the angels in the Acts of the Apostles speak about the ascension and the Second Coming of Jesus, not about his birth and his return (Acts 1:10-12).
The annals of Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire show that after the year 1000 the attention was directed primarily toward 1003-1004; after all, if the Anglo-Saxon and Parisian preachers predicted and Glaber insisted that in the year 1000 the Beast was released, then its defeat was expected three years later. The French monk described certain events from December 1002: “There appeared in the air an amazing miracle, a contour or even a body of a huge dragon coming up from the north that was heading south with extraordinary sparkles. This miracle frightened almost all the people who saw it in the lower part of France.”194 Even the death of Otto III in 1002 was surrounded by miracles:
one year before his death, many prodigies were seen in the sky. For one day, on the 14th of December, around the ninth hour, something burning like a torch was seen in the sky, with a long train of the size of a lightning, falling to the ground, with so much splendor that not only outside on the fields, but also in homes, the eyes of the people were struck by a very penetrating light. It really [seemed] like a cleft in the sky, while, the elements alternatively approaching, it dispersed imperceptibly; meanwhile, amazing thing to say, something like a snake seemed to form, growing it heads with shiny legs, and it was shown to them shortly after that, many admiring this not without a great amazement... even in the same year also a comet appeared.195
The Lord’s appearance on the clouds in the sky could have been either a day of wrath or a day of joy. For the oppressed it was a day of deliverance; the earthly suffering would have been repaid with a seat at the rich table of Christ. Instead, for the oppressors who did not repent it was a day of wrath; all their injustices were going to be repaid with eternal damnation. In an English text from 1011 the feelings of revolt against the ruling class were clearly expressed through an outcry to Heaven: “then will end the tyranny of kings and the injustice and rapine of reeves and their cunning and unjust judgments and wiles. Then shall those who rejoiced and were glad in this life groan and lament. Then shall their mead, wine, and beer be turned into thirst for them.”196
The day of the Lord was a day of wrath especially for those who had disobeyed the divine law. Besides Jews and Muslims, the society of the year 1000 saw itself polluted with the horrible heresy. Considered one of the most dangerous weapons of the devil, the fear of heresy was so great that Adémar of Chabannes exaggerated a trivial burning at the stake: “Shortly after the year 1017, in Aquitania appeared the Manichaeists who deceived the people. ... They were the messengers of the Antichrist and took out many from the orbit of faith.”197 Glaber instead related a heretical occurrence identical to the one of Christ of Bourges six centuries earlier, which proves that medieval miracles were often – if not all the time – invented, plagiarized or exaggerated:
Toward the end of the year 1000 there lived in Gaul, in the village of Vertus, in the committee of Chalâns, a man from the people named “Leutard,” who, as the end of the story will show, can be considered the messenger of Satan; ... One day, he was alone in the field, working his land. Being tired, he fell asleep, and it seemed that a big swarm of bees penetrated his body through his natural hidden hole; the swarm exited through his mouth, with a deafening buzzing and tormenting him with thousands of stings. After he was long tortured by their needles, he seemed to be hearing them talking and commanding him to do lots of things impossible to man.198
Around 1010 the Anglo-Saxon monk Wulfstan refuses to be discouraged by the failure of the year 1000: “A thousand years and more have now passed since Christ... and now Satan’s bonds are extremely loose, and Antichrist’s time near at hand, and therefore the longer it is in the world, the weaker it becomes.”199 By contrast, the monk Byhrtferth, Abbo’s disciple, notes in 1011 that although “John says ‘after 1000 years Satan shall be released (Revelation 20:7),’ the year 1000 is already accomplished according to human numeration, but it is the power of the Savior when he shall bring it to an end.”200 In 1025, under the guidance of William of Volpiano, Glaber himself begins a history of the world in which the year 1000 is a central point: “Because we described within the same empire most of the events and miracles that took place around and after the thousandth year of the incarnation of the Savior.”201 In the same year Adémar also began a history of the world, concentrated on recording the apocalyptic signs and miracles beginning with the year 1010.202
In May 1006 the supernova203 SN 1006, the brightest in history, appeared in the sky for a couple of weeks and caused horror.204 In 1009 and in 1028 the letters between Duke William, King Robert, Gauzlin of Fleury and Fulbert of Chartres talked about a rain of blood on the shore of Aquitania, about the Sun that turned red and lost its brightness for three years, and about the wave of epidemics and the death that followed. In the summer of 1014 another heavenly sign, probably a comet, appeared for a couple of nights and it generated panic. Accidentally, in the same period in the region of Gaul and Italy numerous cities, castles and monasteries were destroyed by fire, and these disasters were related to the heavenly appearance.205 In 1023 Adémar of Chabannes described “a battle between the stars” – most likely a symbolic parallel of the battle between the earthly powers:
In those days, in the month of January, around the sixth hour of the day, a solar eclipse occurred for one hour; the Moon was mudding and like that time, becoming either the color of blood or a dark-blue or disappearing altogether. Then, in the austral part of the sky, in the sign of the Lion, two stars were seen fighting among themselves as long as the fall lasted; the bigger and the brightest came from the East, the smallest from the West. The smallest was running furious and kind of scared toward the bigger one, which did not allow it to approach, but, hitting it with a ridge of rays, it was pushing it far toward the West. At a time, after these events, Pope Benedict died and John followed him. Basil, the emperor of the Greeks, died too, his brother, Constantine, becoming emperor in his place.206
The scariest astral phenomena for the people living in those times were solar eclipses. Sigebert of Gembloux details the impact of the eclipse of June 29, 1033:
In the same year in which a thousand years from the crucifixion of the Lord were fulfilled, in the third day of the calends of July, on a Friday, in the 28th day of the month, an eclipse or a darkness of the Sun occurred, that lasted from the sixth hour of that day till the eighth hour and it was really frightening. The Sun became blue like sapphire, and in the upper part the firmament was carrying the image of the Moon in its first quarter. People, looking at each other, saw themselves pale like dead. All things seemed enveloped in a saffron-like color. And then a stupor and an immense fear invaded their hearts. The sight, as they well figured out, foreshadowed a horrible plague that was about to fall over the people.207
But, of the cortege of signs of the year 1033, the strongest indicator of the coming apocalypse was famine, especially in the French region of Burgundy. If you think that living in the 21st century is tough, Glaber’s unimaginable accounts will change your mind:
In the time that followed, famine began to extend its ravages on almost the entire earth and people let themselves be seized by the fear that the entire human species might disappear. Weather conditions were so unfavorable that man could not find even a moment suitable for planting and, especially, due to floods, could not gather his harvest. It was justly said that the hostile elements declared war on men, and there is no doubt that they were set to punish their disobedience. ... And yet, after they ate all the wild animals and all the birds of the air, men, clenched by a devouring hunger, began to gather carrions and other horrible things, which cause disgust only by mentioning them. Many, to escape death, feed themselves with forest roots and water grasses, but in vain: the only cure to soften God’s hatred was the withdrawal in oneself. Finally, nausea overcomes you only if you hear about the vices that ruled the human race at that time. Alas! Rare thing heard over time, the savage starvation pushed people to eat human flesh. Travelers were kidnapped by those stronger than them, chopped, boiled and eaten. Many people, wandering from one place to another, dislodged by hunger, stopped, in their way, at a more welcoming house, but at night they were killed and used as food for those who housed them. Many, luring children with an egg or an apple, allured them in desert places, where they slaughtered them and feasted on them. Their dead bodies, pulled out from the earth, were also fit to satisfy the hunger. This kind of madness took such a large scale that the animals left without owner were less threatened by kidnappers than people. ... The order of the seasons and of the elements, sovereign from the beginning until the last centuries, was believed to go back forever into chaos and this was the end of the human species.208
The Middle Ages were the golden age of superstition, when the beliefs of the masses were fed by miracles and stories about angels and demons. People desperately searched for a physical contact with the supernatural to reinforce their beliefs. Miracles were often associated or they happened in connection with sacred objects: relics of saints, icons, biblical scrap items (such as nails or fragments of the cross of Christ). The people’s desire to possess relics encouraged the creation of forgeries and the birth of legends. A famous case was the discovery of ... (This text is incomplete. If you wish to read it in full, please purchase the book)
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