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When I read Alcuin’s acrostic poem, “The Holy Cross,” I get the feeling that maybe the Dark Ages weren’t as dark as they are often portrayed.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m under no illusion that I would want to live in a time of widespread poverty, warfare, disease, and superstition. But “The Holy Cross” reminds me that even with these obstacles, people possessed intellect and sought beauty. To craft a poem that can be read line by line as well as a cross within a diamond within a square requires sophistication.

Visit English Historical Fiction Authors for more about this example of early medieval intellect.

Manuscript dedication

Raban Maur (left), supported by Alcuin, dedicates his work to Archbishop Otgar of Mainz (public domain image via Wikimedia Commons).

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