Mandeville, LA – The beginnings of Western culture are to be found in the new spiritual community which arose from the ruins of the Roman Empire owing to the conversion of the Northern barbarians to the Christian faith. The Christian Church inherited the traditions of the Empire. It came to the barbarians as the bearer of a higher civilization, endowed with the prestige of Roman law and the authority of the Roman name. The breakdown of the political organization of the Roman Empire had left a great void which no barbarian king or general could fill, and this void was filled by the Church as the teacher and law-giver of the new peoples. The Latin Fathers— Ambrose, Augustine, Leo and Gregory were in a real sense the fathers of Western culture, since it was only in so far as the different peoples of the West were incorporated in the spiritual community of Christendom that they acquired a common culture.
It is this, above all, that distinguishes the Western development from that of the other world civilizations. The great cultures of the ancient East, like China and India, were autochthonous growths which represent a continuous process of development in which religion and culture grew together from the same sociological roots and the same natural environment. But in the West it was not so. Primitive Europe outside the Mediterranean lands preserved no common centre and no unified tradition of spiritual culture. The people of the North possessed no written literature, no cities, no stone architecture. They were, in short, “barbarians”; and it was only by Christianity and the elements of a higher culture transmitted to them by the Church that Western Europe acquired unity and form. – Richard Dawson, Religion and The Rise of Western Culture