Романские языки | Филологический аспект №04 (96) Апрель 2023

УДК 811.131.1

Дата публикации 30.04.2023

Францисканские миссионеры средневековья: лингвистический аспект.

Самарина Марина Сергеевна
доктор филологических наук, профессор кафедры романской филологии, Санкт-Петербургский государственный университет, Россия, Санкт-Петербург,

Аннотация: В статье рассматривается лингвистический аспект деятельности средневековых францисканских проповедников в контексте отсутствия общенационального языка на территории Романии, в условиях европейского многоязычия, а также в арабских странах, на Дальнем Востоке и в Новом Свете. Анализируются документы и свидетельства современников о степени владения проповедниками различными языками и диалектами. Подчеркивается, что в этих сложных лингвистических условиях миссионеры-проповедники были вынуждены не только овладевать новыми языками, но и использовать невербальные способы коммуникации. Делается вывод о том, что именно благодаря лингвистической активности миссионерских орденов католическая церковь распространила свое влияние по всему миру.
Ключевые слова: проповедь, францисканцы, диалекты, латынь, народные языки.

Franciscan Missionaries of the Middle Ages: A Linguistic Aspect

Samarina Marina Sergeyevna
Doctor of Philosophy, Full Professor at Romance Philology Department, Saint Petersburg University, Saint Petersburg, The Russian Federation

Abstract: The article deals with the linguistic aspect of medieval Franciscan preachers’ activity in the circumstances of the lack of a common national language in Romania, also in the European multilingual environment, and in Arab countries, in the Far East and in the New World. Documents and contemporary accounts of the preachers' proficiency in different languages and dialects are analyzed. It is stressed that in those difficult linguistic conditions, missionaries were forced not only to learn new languages, but also to use non-verbal means of communication. The conclusion is drawn that it was owing to the linguistic activity of missionary orders that the Catholic Church spread its influence throughout the world.
Keywords: preaching, Franciscans, dialects, Latin, vernacular languages

Правильная ссылка на статью
Самарина М.С. Franciscan Missionaries of the Middle Ages: A Linguistic Aspect // Филологический аспект: международный научно-практический журнал. 2023. № 04 (96). Режим доступа: https://scipress.ru/philology/articles/frantsiskanskie-missionery-srednevekovya-lingvisticheskij-aspekt.html (Дата обращения: 30.04.2023)

The Franciscan order is a most important missionary organization within the Catholic Church. Their mission since its inception (1208) has been to preach Christianity to different peoples on all the continents. It is undoubtedly owing to their missionary work that Catholics in the world of today outnumber 1.3 billion people.

It is necessary to dwell on the specific linguistic diversity of the medieval world in which missionaries had to preach. The task of the preacher in the various linguistic environment of medieval Europe was quite difficult, especially in the absence of a national literary language almost everywhere and the existence of a large number of dialects, especially in Italy. Of course, the availability of an inter-state and inter-church language, i.e. Latin, in medieval Europe played an extremely positive role and facilitated inter-ethnic communication at large [11]. However, Latin could not completely solve the problem because classical Latin was inaccessible to illiterate or semi-literate listeners, who were the majority. An itinerant missionary preacher, therefore, found himself in a difficult position: he had to know several languages, including dialects, and be proficient in what is known as "vulgar" vernacular Latin, understood by the lowest strata of the population, and, of course, to have an extraordinary ability to learn new languages.

Unfortunately, there are no exact surviving records of their sermons which gathered hundreds and sometimes thousands of listeners, and we can make only vague judgments as to their language. Their language was certainly the so-called volgare ("a vernacular language" that served an intermediate stage between Late Latin and the national languages), full of Latinisms and adapted to the language of the region as much as it was possible with the help of simple elementary clichés, borrowed from the well-known texts of the Bible. A large number of Latinisms did not hinder, but rather made it easier to understand the sermons, as these Latinisms were exclusively of liturgical origin and, therefore, were familiar to everyone. In this context it is reasonable to recollect an interesting work, the Franciscan Chronicle by Salimbene, which contains a vast material on the turbulent socio-political and cultural and, of course, linguistic history of Italy and of the whole Mediterranean region in the 13th century, as well as on the Franciscan preaching activities in an alien linguistic environment [3]. A major researcher of Italian history I. Baldelli reasonably argues that the activity of the Franciscans as itinerant preachers did a lot to seriously change the cultural and linguistic picture of Romania and Italy, in particular [4].

It was not always true that Franciscan sermons were easy from a linguistic point of view because of the alien dialectal surroundings, which made it difficult for the preacher to communicate with the audience. Thus, biographers of Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Order, tell of his sermon in Bologna in 1222 when he tried to reconcile the warring parties. Francis was addressing speakers of the Bolognese dialect (which is known to be among the most "obscure" of Italy's myriads of dialects), as well as the representatives of other Italian regions who were also present at the sermon. Despite the fact that Francis' native tongue was the Assisi version of the Umbrian dialect; his sermon was understood by all and any and achieved its ultimate goal of peace.

On the occasions when Francis of Assisi and his followers had to speak before a crowd who knew a particular dialect, they would simply and emotionally recite well-known texts of the Holy Scriptures, accompanying them with expressive gestures and scenes from biblical stories. On such occasions, preachers used all means of expression, including non-verbal, and the sermon became a theatrical performance, sometimes dramatic: Francis made a special impression on his audience by his so-called "mute sermon" in San Damiano, when he simply stood in the centre of a circle of ashes and sprinkled them upon his head. There are interesting historical records that for maximum clarity and concretization of his sermons Francis introduced the so-called presepio, i.e. figurines of the infant Jesus, the Virgin Mary, the Magi, the shepherds and other characters of the Nativity.

In the Franciscan literature of the time there exists interesting linguistic evidence which referred to the linguistic situation outside Italy. Thus in 1221, in the lifetime of Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Order, it was decided to send a group of Franciscans to preach ‘beyond the Alps to the Teutonic Kingdom’ [6]. Later, in 1224 another large group of Franciscan preachers landed in England, where they found themselves in a particularly difficult linguistic environment of the bilingualism. The Anglo-Saxon local populations of the time and their Norman rulers were speaking two different languages.

Notwithstanding the difficulties, the Franciscans did well and the Order soon became renowned for its polyglot preachers, i.e. Giovanni del Plano Carpine (a famous traveler to the Orient), Barnaba Teutonicus, Simon da Magdebourg (professor of theology at Magdeburg), Fernando of Lisbon (Fernando de Lisboa later named Antonio of Padua).

The Franciscan Order very quickly became international in its composition: the founder of the Order Francis of Assisi, being half-Italian and half-French, spoke Italian, French, Provençal and Latin; the outstanding preacher Antony of Padua was of Portuguese origin; the no less famous preacher Berthold von Regensburg was of German origin; the Order third general (1240-1244) Aimone of Faversham was of English birth. Many names of Franciscan preachers of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century have come down to us, and these names evidence the diverse international community of the new Order [10].

A special emphasis should be made on the expansion of Franciscan missionary activity to other continents, especially to the Arab countries of North Africa. This above all refers to the work of Raymond Lullius, the founder of Catalan literature, who studied Arabic in order to preach Christianity among Muslims and eventually became the founder of European Arabic studies [5]. It should be emphasized that the study of Arabic in Europe had a long tradition as it was connected with the Arab conquest of Spain and Sicily, and with numerous contacts with Arab countries.

In Asia missionaries faced an even greater challenge as they had to communicate with the locals in a linguistic environment that was completely foreign to them: the Franciscans, for instance, were the first Europeans to visit the Mongol Empire. The account of the visit of the Franciscan papal envoy Plano Carpine to Khan Batyi (to the Golden Horde in 1245-1247) is still a fascinating source for the history of the Tatar-Mongol yoke, especially its famous description of the Tatar-Mongol horrifying ravaging of Russia and the siege and fall of Kiev [2].

Another mission consisting of Franciscan friars the Flemish Guilaume de Rubrouck and the Italian Bartolomeo da Cremona was sent to Khan Batyi in 1252 on orders from King Louis IX of France. They were to land in the Crimea (in the Italian fortress of Sudak) and reach the lower part of the Volga. Although their mission was unsuccessful (the Tatar Khan called himself ‘Lord of the World’ in his letter to the French King and demanded an oath of allegiance from him), its outcome was the book Journey to the Orient [1, с. 79-194] a geographical masterpiece of the Middle Ages, which greatly enlarged Europeans' knowledge of the Orient, of unknown peoples and their languages: Tatars, Kyrgyz, Tuvins, Koreans, and Chinese.

In later time, in the 14th century, the Franciscan preacher Odorico da Pordenone [8], who had preached in Armenia, Persia, India, and China, established a mission in Tibet. The Franciscan John of Montecorvino (Giovanni da Montecorvino), who had preached in India, founded a Catholic mission in China and Taiwan (Formosa island), became the first archbishop of Beijing, translated the Catholic Mass into Chinese and composed a poetic hymn in Chinese [7]. Having studied Chinese and Mongolian, he was also ambitious to teach Greek and Latin to children, build a Catholic church and language school just opposite the imperial palace in Beijing.

The linguistic problem was particularly acute when Christian missionaries arrived in the New World with Columbus' expedition in 1492 and faced the previously unknown languages of the American Indians, Those, as is well-known, are languages whose structure has nothing in common with the European languages. Nevertheless, the linguistic challenges were overcome and communication with the native population became possible fairly quickly, thanks to the missionaries' focus on learning local languages. Moreover, during the Age of the Great Geographical Discoveries Franciscans who always accompanied the intrepid explorers became not only missionaries and preachers, but also the first researchers of the New World culture, especially of Aztec antiquities. Bernardino de Sahagun's book General History of the Affairs of New Spain (1547-1577), written simultaneously in both Spanish and Nahuatl [9] was the first comprehensive encyclopedia of the culture of that ancient civilization.

Thus we see that linguistic activity has played a paramount role in the spread of Christianity since its inception; it is owing to this fact that Catholicism is the largest faith in the world judging by the number of their believers, and, above all, Catholics all over the world are united by a common linguistic component - the Latin language.

Список литературы

1. Zafarana Z. La predicazione francescana// Espansione del francescanesimo tra occidente e oriente l secolo ne XIII. Atti del VI Convegno Internazionale. Assisi, 12-14 ottobre 1978. Assisi. 1979. P. 203 – 250
2. Салимбене де Адам. Хроника /Пер.с лат. М.:РОССПЭН, 2004. 984 с
3. Baldelli I. L’azione del francescanesimo nella promozione delle lingue popolari nel Vecchio e nel Nuovo Mondo// Fondamenti. N 7. 1987. P.141 – 159
4. Freed J.B. The Friars and German Society in the Thirteenth Century. Cambridge, 1977
5. Schneyer J.B. Repertorium der lateinischen Sermones des Mittelalters fur die Zeit von 1150 – 1350. 9 voll. Munster, 1969 – 1980.
6. Doctor Illuminatus: a Ramon Llull Reader. Ed.A.Bonner. Princeton, 1993
7. Плано Карпини. История монгалов именуемых нами татарами. Перевод А.И.Малеина // Путешествия в восточные страны Плано Карпине и Рубрука. М.: Географгиз, 1957. – 272 с
8. Вильгельм де Рубрук. Путешествие в восточные страны. Перевод А.И.Малеина М: Географгиз, 1957. – 232 с
9. Marcellino da Civezza. Storia universale delle missioni francescane. Vol.III. Roma 1859. P.739-781
10. Lauren Arnold. Princely Gifts and Papal Treasures: The Franciscain Mission to China and its Influences on the Art of the West, 1250-1350. Desiderata Press, 1999. – 239 р
11. Sahagun, Bernardino de. Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espagna. Mexico. 1829

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