Because anno Domini dating (setting the annual calendar from the birth of Christ) was still relatively new in A.D. 1000, historians doubt the year had much apocalyptic significance for medieval men and women. A Burgundian monk named Raoul Glaber spoke a few years later of "numerous signs and prodigies that had occurred before, after, and around the year 1000" and more around 1033 (the millennium of Christ's death and resurrection), but that's about the only evidence for first-millennium fever. That's not to say, however, that the turn of the first millennium was quiet, or that late medieval Christianity was little interested in end-times speculation. Quite the contrary.

Surrender at Golgotha

Around 950, a monk named Adso wrote the most complete treatise on the Antichrist to date. The Antichrist would come from the Jewish tribe of Dan, he argued, and would be raised in the East.

Before he could come, however, a Frankish king must reign. This king would triumph over all the enemies of Christendom and rule a peaceful, Christian world. He would then go to Golgotha to surrender his crown, and this would signal the coming of the Antichrist.

Adso's notion of "The Last World Emperor" became widespread, and soon became the ideal for temporal power. The Chanson de Roland, written about 1095, depicted Charlemagne (d. 814) as a messianic ruler who triumphed over all Muslims and pagans. Count Emich of Leisingen, a leader of the First Crusade, massacred Jews who refused to convert because he was convinced God had summoned him to be a Last World Emperor. At the same time, tensions between national and church rulers were waxing, and kings and emperors used Adso's messianism in their defense.

Church corruption (greed, sexual license, and power ...

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