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What would we call a time of unsurpassed cultural invention? When teachers and students came together and founded the university? When poets, painters, and sculptors produced works of art utterly unlike any that had been made before? When risk-taking merchants established international trade and banking? When chartered towns flourished under home rule, and kings were closer to governors or even mayors than to presidents or prime ministers now?
When ordinary artisans erected the most beautiful structures upon earth? When the glorious twelve-tone scale came into being, and the foundations were laid for Bach and Beethoven? When for three hundred years Europe was warmer than now, and harvests were bountiful, and grapes grew on the English hillsides?
When women enjoyed more freedom and social influence than they would again until the Industrial Revolution? When celebrations were filled with color, and both sin and repentance were brave? When popular drama swept across a continent after more than a thousand years of slumber? When Thomas Aquinas addressed every question a man could ask, and Francis preached in saintly simplicity?
We’d call them the Brilliant Ages – and that’s what the high Middle Ages were.
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