No, not everyone believed in a flat earth in the Middle Ages


” IVoltaire’s fault again! For many centuries, a particularly negative view of the Middle Ages has imposed itself in the study of history. One look at the movies, series and works to illustrate their action on it – long enough to be clear: everything is grey, dirty streets, vulgarity and gloom. However, many historians fight vigorously against this miscalculation, which is far from historical reality. A battle over the occasion of the publication of their book: “The Flat Earth: A False Idea of ​​Genealogy” was indirectly led by historians Sylvie Noni and Violin Giacomotto-Charra.

An “ambiguous parenthesis”?

Certainly, the work of the two women is not exclusively devoted to the rehabilitation of the Middle Ages. But looking at the history of “platism”, a theory claiming that the Earth is flat, it is clear that, contrary to popular belief, this belief was never widespread during the medieval period. “The idea of ​​a round Earth was indeed already established”, Mathilde Fontez, editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Epsilu, told Franceinfo: “There was no imagination of obscene parentheses in this period of history. And the researchers also point out that Catholic The Church did not oppose the idea.”

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Voltaire and the Anticlericals

In fact, extend the work of two researchers, the idea that the Middle Ages believed the Earth to be flat … is due to Voltaire’s fault. In his work, which is very critical of the Catholic Church, the philosopher is said to have combined the “Platist” commentary of the Christian Lactante of the 2nd century with those of Saint-Augustine, though already convinced that the Earth was round. “From there, Voltaire affirmed that all of the Church’s founding fathers shared the view that the Earth was flat, and that he applied this doctrine to all of Christendom”, summarizes Mathilde Fontez.

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After Voltaire, opponents of the Church developed this rhetoric: “It all developed during the 19th century: Protestants and peoples added more to condemn the Church’s hold on scientific knowledge”, concluded Mathilde Fontez. . And in the subtext, the speech does not change: “It all describes the Middle Ages of darkness that would have preceded the progress of modern science, which today turns out to be completely false”. Today, says FranceInfo, 9% of French people believe it’s possible that the Earth is flat—proof that obscurity isn’t always where we expect it to be.


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