Now this leads immediately to the fourth group, the Lay Movements. In some way the sectarian movements are lay movements. But as the word secta means, they “cut” themselves off from the body of the church. There were other way to introduce monastic ideals partly into secular life, namely the so-called tertiarii , the “third orders.” There was a “first order” of St. Francis (the men’s order); their second order was the women’s order (the nuns); and later on a third order was created (the laymen, who did not enter the cloister nor were they celibate, but they subjected themselves partly to the discipline of the monastic orders, and as such produced a kind of lay piety which towards the end of the Middle Ages became stronger and stronger and prepared the Reformation, which in some way is a lay movement.
5) The fifth movement which I must mention as a bearer of medieval piety is the Great individuals of Church history. But they are not great individuals as the Renaissance has introduced them. They are great individuals as representatives of something objective, namely of the”holy legend.” The holy legend starts with the Bible, goes through all centuries. , “Legend” does not simply mean “unhistorical” it is a mixture of history and interpretation and stories connected with it, and hanging usually on great individuals who themselves never had any connection with these stories, but they are representatives: so legendary history is a history of representatives of the spirit of the Church.
That’s a, very important thing – this meant that the Catholic Christian of the Middle Ages was aware of a continuation from the Biblical times and even the Old Testament period and even before that, going back to Adam and Noah, through all history, always represented by great individuals who are not interesting as individuals but as representatives of the tradition and the spirit in which the people lived. This seems to me more important than the superstitious use of these individuals as objects of prayer, if they had become saints. The holy legend was a reality which, like nature, was something in which one lived. It is a reality in which the living tradition expresses itself symbolically. And those of you who have some interest in religious art will see that up to Giotto, the great figures of medieval art are not so much individuals but representatives of the Divine presence in a special event or a special form and character.