"Sacred Sabbath" in 11th Century




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By FRANK H. YOST, Professor of Church History, Theological Seminary

In a chronicle ,written by a monk named Lam­' bert, who lived in the monastery of Hersfeld, Germany, in the eleventh century, we find men­tion of the "sacred Sabbath." It is in connection with an experience of a large company of pil­grims, numbering many hundreds, and including both noblemen and knights, bishops and priests. They had reached Palestine from Germany in the Fs ter season of the year 1065, thirty years before the first crusade, on their way to visit the holy places in and around Jerusalem, and were attacked by a force of twelve thousand Saracens and be­sieged in a town called Ramulo. Lambert tells us that the siege lasted "all the preparation day, the whole of the sacred Sabbath, until about the third hour of the paschal day," or Easter. A translation of this interesting passage is as fol­lows:

"The Arabs were not able to sustain the Christians' attack at any point or fighting line, so they [the Arabs] changed their tactics from a disorderly rabble to a siege, and undertook to overcome by starvation and weakness those whom they could not conquer by the sword. And so they divided the great numbers in which they abounded (there were twelve thousand of them gathered together) so that reinforcements succeeded attackers in the prose­cution of the siege, and provided for the Christians little or no opportunity even for taking a breath. The Sara­cens supposed that on account of a lack of everything by which human life is customarily maintained, the Chris­tians could not bear up long under the strain of fight­ing. Thus the Christians fought without rest all the preparation day, the whole of the sacred. Sabbath, until about the third hour of the paschal day [Easter Sunday, March 27, 1065: toto parasceue, toto Sabbato sancto usque ad terciam fere horam paschalis diei], neither did hostile wickedness grant them even a small point of time in which to restore the body by so much as snatching a nap."—Annals of Lambert of Hers feld, for the year 1065, in Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scrip tores (printing of 1844), Vol. V, p. 169.

Eventually the Arabs were put to flight, but what interests us is the fact that the chronicler, an orthodox Roman Catholic monk of the eleventh century, who has produced one of the most im­portant and accurate medieval chronicles extant, gives to the seventh day of the week, which fol­lowed the preparation Friday and preceded Easter, the title "the sacred Sabbath." He was not ob­serving the Sabbath, but he recognized it as the "sacred Sabbath."