Fire of Love: A Medieval Description of Love

While in college, I took a class on the Middle Ages. This was, by far, my favorite class. Not only did we learn about the events during this magnificent time but also how these events were influenced by not only Christianity but also Islam, Judaism, and many of the mythological religions practiced by ancient Gaul, Greece, Rome, and the coastal regions of Africa.


For one of the required presentations, I had to research a prominent figure the time. His name was Richard Rolle and was, most probably, the first person to use the vernacular to deliver his faith, as both a traveling monk and later hermit. Rolle was considered an outcast by bishops and fellow monks because of his writing style. For him, the love one has for God should be a sensual feeling: heard, felt, and tasted instead of the structured papal belief that loving God is from the soul and not the feelings.
incendiumamoriso rolleFrom one of his best-known works, Incendium Amoris (The Fire of Love), Rolle writes about his mystical experiences and what he believes love should be like. While he was talking about loving God, the following passage, in my opinion, also describes a true love between two people:

I have found that to love Christ above all else will involve three things: warmth and song and sweetness. And these three as I know from personal experience, cannot exist for long without there being great quiet… In these three things (which are the sign of love in its most perfect form)…I call it fervour when the mind is truly ablaze with eternal love, and the heart similarly feels itself burning with a love that is not imaginary but real. For a heart set on fire produces a feeling of fiery love. I call it song when there is in the soul, overflowing and ardent, a sweet feeling of heavenly praise; when thought turns into song; when the mind is in thrall to sweetest harmony.

A true love, no matter what the occasion, transcends time and place, and lasts forever. What do you consider “true love”? Do you think Rolle should have been treated as an outcast simply because his ideas didn’t align with the papacy’s?

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