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barbarism and general ignorance through which it passed, and only in modern times has it tried to come back to the spirit of the teachings of its founder.


The map also shows conditions as they were in Europe at the end of the fourth century A.D. Syria, Egypt, Africa, and a portion of Asia Minor were overwhelmed by the Saracens in the seventh century and became Mohammedan, but Constantinople held out until 1453. The eastern division eventually gave rise to the Greek Catholic Church of Greece, the Balkans, and Russia, while the western division became the Roman Catholic Church of western Europe. At Constantinople Greek learning was preserved until the West was again ready to receive it. The Eastern Empire for a time retained control of Sicily and southern Italy (the old _Magna Graecia_), but eventually these were absorbed by western or Latin Christianity.]

THE FUTURE STORY. For the long period of intellectual stagnation which now followed, the educational story is briefly told. But little formal education was needed, and that of but one main type. It was only after the Church had won its victory over the barbarian hordes, and had built up the foundations upon which a new civilization could be developed, that education in any broad and liberal sense was again needed. This required nearly a thousand years of laborious and painful effort. Then, when schools again became possible and learning again began to be demanded, education had to begin again with the few at the top, and the contributions of Greece and Rome had to be recovered and put into usable form as a basis upon which to build. It is only very recently that it has become possible to extend education to all.

In Part II we shall next trace briefly the intellectual life of the Middle Ages, and the reawakening, and in Part III we shall, among other things, point out the deep and lasting influence of the work of these ancient civilizations on our modern educational thoughts and practices.


1. Point out the many advantages of a universal religion for such a universal Empire as Rome developed, and the advantages of Emperor worship for such an Empire.

2. What do modern nations have that is much akin to Emperor worship?

3. Explain why Stoicism made such an appeal to the better-educated classes at Rome.

4. Why is an emotional faith better adapted to the mass of people than an intellectual one?

5. Explain how the Hebrew scribes, administering such a mixed body of laws, naturally came to be both teachers and judges for the people.

6. Illustrate how the Hebrew tradition that the moral and spiritual unity of a people is stronger than armed force has been shown to be true in history.

7. What great lessons may we draw from the work of the Hebrews in maintaining a national unity through compulsory education?

8. Why was Jesus’ idea as to the importance of the individual destined to make such slow headway in the world? What is the status of the idea to-day (a) in China? (b) in Germany? (c) in England? (d) in the United States? Is the idea necessarily opposed to nationality or even to a strong state government?

9. Show how the political Church, itself the State, was the natural outcome during the Middle Ages of the teachings of the early Christians as to the relationship of Church and State.

10. Is it to be wondered that the Romans were finally led to persecute “the vast organized defiance of law by the Christians”?

11. Show how the Christian idea of the equality and responsibility of all gave the citizen a new place in the State.

12. State the reasons for the gradually increasing lack of sympathy and understanding between the eastern and western Fathers of the Church, and which finally led to the division of the Church.

13. Explain what is meant by “a State within a State” as applied to the Church of the third and fourth centuries. Did this prove to be a good thing for the future of civilization? Why?

14. Would Rome probably have been better able to withstand the barbarian invasions if Christianity had not arisen, or not? Why?

15. Show how the Christian attitude toward pagan learning tended to stop schools and destroy the accumulated learning.

16. What was the effect of the Christian attitude toward the care of the body, on scientific and medical knowledge, and on education? Was the Christian or the pagan attitude more nearly like that of modern times?

17. Why did the emphasis on form of belief, in the third and fourth centuries, come to supersede the emphasis on personal virtues and simple faith of the first and second centuries?

18. Compare the work of the Sunday School of to-day with the catechumenal instruction of the early Christians.


In the accompanying _Book of Readings_ the following selections are reproduced:

27. The Talmud: Educational Maxims from. 28. Saint Paul: Epistle to the Romans.
29. Saint Paul: To the Athenians.
30. The Crimes of the Christians.
(a) Minucius Felix: The Roman Point of View. (b) Tertullian: The Christian Point of View. 31. Persecution of the Christians as Disloyal Subjects of the Empire. (a) Pliny to Trajan.
(b) Trajan to Pliny.
32. Tertullian: Effect of the Persecutions. 33. Eusebius: Edicts of Diocletian against the Christians. 34. Workman: Certificate of having Sacrificed to the Pagan Gods. 35. Kingsley: The Empire and Christianity in Conflict. 36. Lactantius: The Edict of Toleration by Galerius. 37. Theodosian Code: The Faith of Catholic Christians. 38. Theodosian Code: Privileges and Immunities granted the Clergy. 39. Apostolic Constitutions: How the Catechumens are to be instructed. 40. Leach: Catechumenal Schools of the Early Church. 41. Apostolic Constitutions: Christians should abstain from all Heathen Books.
42. The Nicene Creed of 325 A.D.
43. Saint Benedict: Extracts from the Rule of. 44. Lanfranc: Enforcing Lenten Reading in the Monasteries. 45. Saint Jerome: Letter on the Education of Girls.


1. Characterize the type of education to be provided and the status of the teacher, as shown in the selections from the Talmud (27). Compare with Rome. With Athens.

2. Characterize the attitude of Saint Paul toward the Romans (28). Does his description of Athens (29) tally with the description of the Athenians given in the text?

3. Was it possible for the Roman and the Christian to understand one another, thinking as they did in such different terms (30 a-b)?

4. Considering Pliny and Trajan (31 a-b) as Roman officials, with the Roman point of view, and taking into account the time in the history of world civilization, would you say that they were quite tolerant of rebels within the State?

5. Compare the privileges and immunities granted the clergy (38) with the privileges previously given by Constantine to physicians and teachers (26).

6. Characterize the irrepressible conflict as pictured by Kingsley (35). Name a few other somewhat similar conflicts in world history.

7. Outline the type of instruction for catechumens as directed in the Apostolic Constitutions (39).

8. What would have been the effect of the continued rejection of secular books called for in the Apostolic Constitutions (41)?

9. What was the governmental advantage of the adoption of the Nicene Creed (42)?

10. Why did the rule of Saint Benedict (43) requiring readings and study lead to the copying and preservation of manuscripts?

11. What does the selection from Lanfranc (44) indicate as to the state of monastic learning?

12. Was there anything pedagogically sound about the letter of Saint Jerome (45) on the education of girls? Discuss.


* Dill, Sam’l. _Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire_.
Fisher, Geo. P. _Beginnings of Christianity_. * Fisher, Geo. P. _History of the Christian Church_. * Hatch, Edw. _Influence of Greek Ideas and Usages upon the Christian Church_. (Hibbert Lectures, 1888.)
Hodgson, Geraldine. _Primitive Church Education_. Kretzmann, P. E. _Education among the Jews_. MacCabe, Joseph. _Saint Augustine_.
* Monro, D. C. and Sellery, G. E. _Mediaeval Civilization_. * Swift, F. H. _Education in Ancient Israel to 70 A.D._ Taylor, H. O. _Classical Heritage of the Middle Ages_. Wishart, A. W. _Short History of Monks and Monasticism_.






THE WEAKENED EMPIRE. Though the first and second centuries A.D. have often been called one of the happiest ages in all human history, due to a succession of good Emperors and peace and quiet throughout the Roman world, [1] the reign of the last of the good Emperors, Marcus Aurelius (161-180 A.D.), may be regarded as clearly marking a turning-point in the history of Roman society. Before his reign Rome was ascendant, prosperous, powerful; during his reign the Empire was beset by many difficulties– pestilence, floods, famine, troubles with the Christians, and heavy German inroads–to which it had not before been accustomed; and after his reign the Empire was distinctly on the defensive and the decline. Though the elements contributing to this change in national destiny had their origin in the changes in the character of the national life at least two centuries earlier, it was not until now that the Empire began to feel seriously the effects of these changes in a lowered vitality and a weakened power of resistance.

The virtues of the citizens of the early days of the Republic, trained according to the old ideas, had gradually given way in the face of the vices and corruption which beset and sapped the life of the upper and ruling classes in the later Empire. The failure of Rome to put its provincial government on any honest and efficient civil-service basis, the failure of the State to establish and direct an educational system capable of serving as a corrective of dangerous national tendencies, the lack of a guiding national faith, the gradual admission of so many Germans into the Empire, the great extent and demoralizing influence of slavery [2]–all contributed to that loss of national strength and resisting power which was now becoming increasingly evident. Other contributing elements of importance were the almost complete obliteration of the peasantry by the creation of great landed estates and cattle ranches worked by slaves, in place of the small farms of earlier days; the increase of the poor in the cities, and the declining birth-rate; the introduction of large numbers of barbarians as farmers and soldiers; and the demoralization of the city rabble by political leaders in need of votes. Captured slaves performed almost every service, and a lavish display of wealth on the part of a few came to be a characteristic feature of city life. [3] The great middle, commercial, and professional classes were still prosperous and contented, but luxury, imported vices, slavery, political corruption, and new ideals [4] had gradually sapped the old national vitality and destroyed the resisting power of the State in the face of a great national calamity. Rome now stood, much like the shell of a fine old tree, apparently in good condition, but in reality ready to fall before the blast because it had been allowed to become rotten at the heart. Sooner or later the boundaries of the Empire, which had held against the pressure from without for so long, were destined to be broken and the barbarian deluge from the north and east would pour over the Empire.

[Illustration: FIG. 31. A BODYGUARD OF GERMANS A relief from the Column of Marcus Aurelius, at Rome, erected to celebrate his victories over the Marcomanni, and other German tribes.]

THE BOUNDARIES OF THE EMPIRE ARE BROKEN. While temporary extensions of territory had at times been made beyond the Rhine and the Danube, these rivers had finally come to be the established boundaries of the Empire on the north, and behind these rivers the Teutonic barbarians, or _Germani_, as the Romans called them, had by force been kept. To do even this the Romans had been obliged to admit bands of Germans into the Empire, and had taken them into the Roman army as “allies,” making use of their great love for fighting to hold other German tribes in check. In 166 A.D. the plague, brought back by soldiers returning from the East, carried off approximately half the population of Italy. This same year the Marcomanni (see Figure 18), a former friendly tribe, invaded the Empire as far as the head of the Adriatic Sea, and it required thirteen years of warfare to put them back behind the Danube. Even this was accomplished only by the aid of friendly German tribes. From this time on the Empire was more or less on the defensive, with the barbarian tribes to the north casting increasingly longing eyes toward “a place in the sun” and the rich plunder that lay to the south, and frequently breaking over the boundaries. Rome, though, was still strong enough to put them back again.

In 275 A.D., after a five years’ struggle, the Eastern Emperor gave the province of Dacia, to the south of the Danube, to the Visigoths, in an effort to buy them off from further invasion and warfare. This eased the pressure for another century. In 378 A.D., now pressed on by the terrible Huns from behind, the Visigoths, as a body, invaded the Eastern Empire, and in the Battle of Adrianople, near Constantinople, defeated the Roman army, slew the Roman Emperor, definitely broke the boundaries of the Empire, and they and the Ostrogoths now moved southward and settled in Moesia and Thrace. The Germans at Adrianople learned that they could beat the Roman legions, and from this time on it was they, and not the Romans, who named the terms of ransom and the price of peace. A few years later, under Alaric, the Visigoths invaded Greece, then turned westward through Illyria to the valley of the Po, in northern Italy, which they reached in the year 400. In 410 the great calamity came when they captured and sacked Rome. The effect produced on the Roman world by the fall of the Eternal City, as the news of the almost incredible disaster penetrated to the remote provinces, was profound (R. 48). For eight hundred years Rome had not been touched by foreign hands, and now it had been captured and plundered by barbarian hordes. It seemed to many as though the end of the world were approaching. The Visigoths now turned west once more, carrying with them the beautiful sister of the Emperor as a captive bride of the chief, and finally settled in Spain and southern Gaul, which provinces were thenceforth lost to Rome. This was the first of the great permanent inroads into the Empire, and from now on Roman resistance seemed powerless to stop the flood.

[Illustration: FIG. 32. THE GERMAN MIGRATIONS The barriers of the Empire along the Rhine and the Danube now are broken down. Take a pencil and trace the route followed by each of these peoples.]

A PERIOD OF TRIBAL MOVEMENTS. The Hunnish pressure also started the Vandals and Suevi, and within fifty years they had been able to move across Germany, France, and Spain, plundering the cities on their way. Finally they crossed to the northern coast of Africa, where they became noted as the great sea pirates of the Mediterranean. In 455 they crossed back to Italy, and Rome was sacked for the second time by barbarian hordes. The Huns, under the leadership of Attila, the so-called “Scourge of God,” now moved in and ravaged Gaul (451) and northern Italy (452), and then, at the intercession of the Roman Pope Leo, were induced by a ransom price to return to the lower Danube, where they have since remained. In 476 the barbarian soldiers of the Empire, tired of camp life and demanding land on which they too might settle, rose in revolt, displaced the last of the Western Emperors, and elevated Odovacar, a tribesman from the north, as ruler in his stead. The Western Roman Empire was now at an end. In 493 Theodoric, King of the Ostrogoths, became king of Italy.

Between 443 and 485 the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes left their earlier homes in what is now Denmark and northwestern Germany, and overran eastern and southern Britain. In 486 the Franks, a great nation living along the lower Rhine, began to move, and within two generations had overrun almost all of Gaul. In 586 the Lombards invaded and settled the valleys of northern Italy, displacing the Ostrogoths there. Slavic tribes now moved into the Eastern Empire–Serbs and Bulgars–and settled in Moesia and Thrace. Southeastern Europe thus became Slavic-Greek, as western Europe had become Teutonic-Latin. Figure 32 shows the results of these different migrations up to about 500 A.D.

EUROPE TO BE TEUTONIC-LATIN. In the seventh century another great wave of people, of a different racial stock and religion–Semitic and Mohammedan– starting from Arabia and along the shores of the Red Sea, swept rapidly through Egypt and Africa and across into Spain and France. For a time it looked as though they might overrun all western Europe and bring the German tribes under subjection. Fortunately they were definitely stopped and decisively defeated by the Franks, in the great Battle of Tours, in 732. They also overran Syria and Persia, but were held in check in Asia Minor by the Eastern Empire, which did not completely succumb to barbarian inroads until Constantinople was taken by the Turks, in 1453.

The importance of the result, to the future of our western civilization, of this battle in the West can hardly be overestimated. The future of European government, law, education, and civilization was settled on that Saturday afternoon in October, on the battle plains of Tours. [5] It was a struggle for mastery and dominion between the Aryan and Semitic races, between the Christian and Mohammedan religions, between the forces representing order on the one side and destruction on the other, and between races destined to succeed to the civilization of Greece and Rome and a race representing oriental despotism and static conditions.

[Illustration: FIG. 33. THE KNOWN WORLD IN 800 This map shows the great extent of the Mohammedan conquests. The part marked as “European Heathen” was added to Christianity within the next few centuries, and became a part of our Latin-Teutonic or western civilization.]

Driven back across the Pyrenees by the Franks, these people settled in Spain; later developed there, for a short period, a for-the-time remarkable civilization, but one that only slightly influenced the current of European development; and then disappeared as a force in our western development and progress. We shall meet them again a little later, but only for a little while, and then they concern our western development no more.

Our interest from now on lies with the Teutonic-Latin peoples of western Europe, for it is through them that our western civilization has been worked out and has come down to us.

WHO THESE INVADERS WERE. A long-continued series of tribal migrations, unsurpassed before in history, had brought a large number of new peoples within the boundaries of the old Empire. They finally came so fast that they could not have been assimilated even in the best days of Rome, and now the assimilative and digestive powers of Rome were gone. Tall, huge of limb, white-skinned, flaxen-haired, with fierce blue eyes, and clad in skins and rude cloths, they seemed like giants to the short, small, dark- skinned people of the Italian peninsula. Quarrelsome; delighting in fighting and gambling; given to drunkenness and gluttonous eating; possessed of a rude polytheistic religion in which _Woden_, the war god, held the first place, and Valhalla was a heaven for those killed in battle; living in rude villages in the forest, and maintaining themselves by hunting and fishing–it is not to be wondered that Rome dreaded the coming of these forest barbarians (R. 46).

[Illustration: FIG 34. A GERMAN WAR CHIEF Restored, and rather idealized (From the Musee d’Artillerie at Paris)]

The tribes nearest the Rhine and the Danube had taken on a little civilization from long contact with the Romans, but those farther away were savage and unorganized (Rs. 46, 47). In general they represented a degree of civilization not particularly different from that of the better American Indians in our colonial period, [6] though possessing a much larger ability to learn. The “two terrible centuries” which brought these new peoples into the Empire were marked by unspeakable disorder and frightful destruction. It was the most complete catastrophe that had ever befallen civilized society.

[Illustration: FIG. 35. ROMANS DESTROYING A GERMAN VILLAGE (From the Column of Marcus Aurelius, at Rome) Note the circular huts of reeds, without windows, and with but a single door.]

THEY SETTLE DOWN WITHIN THE EMPIRE. Finally, after a period of wandering and plundering, each of these new peoples settled down within the Empire as rulers over the numerically larger native Roman population, and slowly began to turn from hunting to a rude type of farming. For three or four centuries after the invasions ceased, though, Europe presented a dreary spectacle of ignorance, lawlessness, and violence. Force reigned where law and order had once been supreme. Work largely ceased, because there was no security for the results of labor. The Roman schools gradually died out, in part because of pagan hostility (all pagan schools were closed by imperial edict in 529 A.D.), and in part because they no longer ministered to any real need. The church and the monastery schools alone remained, the instruction in these was meager indeed, and they served almost entirely the special needs of the priestly and monastic classes. The Latin language was corrupted and modified into spoken dialects, and the written language died out except with the monks and the clergy. Even here it became greatly corrupted. Art perished, and science disappeared. The former Roman skill in handicrafts was largely lost. Roads and bridges were left without repair. Commerce and intercourse almost ceased. The cities decayed, and many were entirely destroyed (R. 49).

The new ruling class was ignorant–few could read or write their names– and they cared little for the learning of Greece and Rome. Much of what was excellent in the ancient civilizations died out because these new peoples were as yet too ignorant to understand or use it, and what was preserved was due to the work of others than themselves. It was with such people and on such a basis that it was necessary for whatever constructive forces still remained to begin again the task of building up new foundations for a future European civilization. This was the work of centuries, and during the period the lamp of learning almost went out.

BARBARIAN AND ROMAN IN CONTACT. Civilization was saved from almost complete destruction chiefly by reason of the long and substantial work which Rome had done in organizing and governing and unifying the Empire; by the relatively slow and gradual coming of the different tribes; and by the thorough organization of the governing side of the Christian Church, which had been effected before the Empire was finally overrun and Roman government ceased. In unifying the government of the Empire and establishing a common law, language, and traditions, and in early beginning the process of receiving barbarians into the Empire and educating them in her ways and her schools, [7] Rome rendered the western world a service of inestimable importance and one which did much to prepare the way for the reception and assimilation of the invaders. [8] In the cities, which remained Roman in spirit even after their rulers had changed, and where the Roman population greatly preponderated even after the invaders had come, some of the old culture and handicrafts were kept up, and in the cities of southern Europe the municipal form of city government was retained. Roman law still applied to trials of Roman citizens, and many Roman governmental forms passed over to the invader chiefly because he knew no other. The old Roman population for long continued to furnish the clergy, and these, because of their ability to read and write, also became the secretaries and advisers of their rude Teutonic overlords. In one capacity or another they persuaded the leaders of the tribes to adopt, not only Christianity, but many of the customs and practices of the old civilization as well. These various influences helped to assimilate and educate the newcomers, and to save something of the old civilization for the future. Being strong, sturdy, and full of youthful energy, and with a large capacity for learning, the civilizing process, though long and difficult, was easier than it might otherwise have been, and because of their strength and vigor these new races in time infused new life and energy into every land from Spain to eastern Europe (R. 50).

The most powerful force with which the barbarians came in contact, though, and the one which did most to reduce them to civilization, was the Christian Church. Organized, as we have seen, after the Roman governmental model, and as a State within a State, the Church gained in strength as the Roman government grew weaker, and was ready to assume governmental authority when Rome could no longer exert it. The barbarians here encountered an organization stronger than force and greater than kings, [9] which they must either accept and make terms with or absolutely destroy. As all the tribes, though heathen, possessed some form of spirit or nature worship or heathen gods, which served as a basis for understanding the appeal of the Church, the result was the ultimate victory, and the Christianizing, in name at least, of all the barbarian tribes. This was the first step in the long process of civilizing and educating them.

THE IMPRESS OF CHRISTIANITY UPON THEM. The importance of the services rendered by bishops, priests, and monks during what are known as the _Dark Ages_ can hardly be overestimated. In the face of might they upheld the right of the Church and its representatives to command obedience and respect. [10] The Christian priest gradually forced the barbarian chief to do his will, though at times he refused to be awed into submission, murdered the priest, and sacked the sacred edifice. That the Church lost much of its early purity of worship, and adopted many practices fitted to the needs of the time, but not consistent with real religion, there can be no question. In time the Church gained much from the mixture of these new peoples among the old, as they infused new vigor and energy into the blood of the old races, but the immediate effect was quite otherwise. The Church itself was paganized, but the barbarians were in time Christianized.

Priests and missionaries went among the heathen tribes and labored for their conversion. Of course the leaders were sought out first, and often the conversion of a chieftain was made by first converting his wife. After the chieftain had been won the minor leaders in time followed. The lesson of the cross was proclaimed, and the softening and restraining influences of the Christian faith were exerted on the barbarian. It was, however, a long and weary road to restore even a semblance of the order and respect for life and property which had prevailed under Roman rule.

One of the most interesting of all the conversions was that made by the Bishop Ulphilas (c. 313-383) among the Visigoths, before they moved westward from their original home north of the Danube, in what is now southwestern Russia. Ulphilas was made bishop and sent among them in 343, and spent the remainder of his life in laboring with them. He devised an alphabet for them, based on the Greek, and gave them a written language into which he translated for them the Bible, or rather large portions of it. In the translation he omitted the two books of Kings and the two Samuels, that the people might not find in them a further stimulus to their great warlike activity.

[Illustration: FIG. 36. A PAGE OF THE GOTHIC GOSPELS (_reduced_) One of the treasures of the library of the University or Upsala, in Sweden, is a manuscript of this translation by Bishop Ulphilas. Greek letters, with a few Runic signs were used to represent Gothic sounds. The word “rune” comes from a Gothic word meaning “mystery.” To the primitive Germans it seemed a mysterious thing that a series of marks could express thought.]

Christianity had been carried early to Great Britain by Roman missionaries, and in 440 Saint Patrick converted the Irish. In 563 Saint Columba crossed to Scotland, founded the monastery at Iona, and began the conversion of the Scots. After the Angles and Saxons and Jutes had overrun eastern and southern Britain there was a period of several generations during which this portion of the island was given over to Teutonic heathenism. In 597 Saint Augustine, “the Apostle to the English,” landed in Kent and began the conversion of the people, that year succeeding in converting Ethelbert, King of Kent. In 626 Edwin, King of Northumbria, was converted, and in 635 the English of Wessex accepted Christianity. The English at once became strong supporters of the Christian faith, and in 878 they forced the invading Danes to accept Christianity as one of the conditions of the Peace of Wedmore. (See Map, Figure 42.)

In 496 Clovis, King of the Franks, and three thousand of his followers were baptized, following a vow and a victory in battle; [11] in 587 Recarred, King of the Goths in Spain, was won over; and in 681 the South Saxons accepted Christianity. The Germans of Bavaria and Thuringia were finally won over by about 740. Charlemagne repeatedly forced the northern Saxons to accept Christianity, between 772 and 804, when the final submission of this German tribe took place. Finally, in the tenth century, Rollo, Duke of the Normans, was won (912); Boleslav II, King of the Bohemians, in 967; and the Hungarians in 972. In the tenth century the Slavs were converted to the Eastern or Greek type of Christianity, and Poland, Norway, and Sweden to the Western or Roman type. The last people to be converted were the Prussians, a half-Slavic tribe inhabiting East Prussia and Lithuania, along the eastern Baltic, who were not brought to accept Christianity, in name, until near the middle of the thirteenth century, though efforts were begun with them as early as 900. As late as 1230 they were still offering human sacrifices to their heathen gods to secure their favor, but soon after this date they were forced to a nominal acceptance of Christianity as a result of conquest by the “Teutonic Knights.” It was thus a thousand years after its foundation before Europe had accepted in name the Christian faith. To change a nominal acceptance to some semblance of a reality has been the work of the succeeding centuries.

WORK OF THE CHURCH DURING THE MIDDLE AGES. Everywhere throughout the old Empire, and far into the forest depths of barbarian lands, went bishops, priests, and missionaries, and there parishes were organized, rude churches arose, and the process of educating the fighting tribesmen in the ways of civilized life was carried out. It was not by schools of learning, but by faith and ceremonial that the Church educated and guided her children into the type she approved. Schools for other than monks and clergy for a time were not needed, and such practically died out. The Church and its offices took the place of education and exercised a wholesome and restraining influence over both young and old throughout the long period of the Middle Ages. These the Church in time taught the barbarian to respect. The great educational work of the Church during this period of insecurity and ignorance has seldom been better stated than in the following words by Draper:

Of the great ecclesiastics, many had risen from the humblest ranks of society, and these men, true to their democratic instincts, were often found to be the inflexible supporters of right against might. Eventually coming to be the depositaries of the knowledge that then existed, they opposed intellect to brute force, in many instances successfully, and by the example of the organization of the Church, which was essentially republican, they showed how representative systems may be introduced into the State. Nor was it over communities and nations that the Church displayed her chief power. Never in the world before was there such a system. From her central seat at Rome, her all-seeing eye, like that of Providence itself, could equally take in a hemisphere at a glance, or examine the private life of any individual. Her boundless influences enveloped kings in their palaces, and relieved the beggar at the monastery gate. In all Europe there was not a man too obscure, too insignificant, or too desolate for her. Surrounded by her solemnities, every one received his name at her altar; her bells chimed at his marriage, her knell tolled at his funeral. She extorted from him the secrets of his life at her confessionals, and punished his faults by her penances. In his hour of sickness and trouble her servants sought him out, teaching him, by her exquisite litanies and prayers, to place his reliance on God, or strengthening him for the trials of life by the example of the holy and just. Her prayers had an efficacy to give repose to the souls of his dead. When, even to his friends, his lifeless body had become an offense, in the name of God she received it into her consecrated ground, and under her shadow he rested till the great reckoning-day. From little better than a slave she raised his wife to be his equal, and, forbidding him to have more than one, met her recompense for those noble deeds in a firm friend at every fireside. Discountenancing all impure love, she put round that fireside the children of one mother, and made that mother little less than sacred in their eyes. In ages of lawlessness and rapine, among people but a step above savages, she vindicated the inviolability of her precincts against the hand of power, and made her temples a refuge and sanctuary for the despairing and oppressed. Truly she was the shadow of a great rock in many a weary land. [12.]

THE CIVILIZING WORK OF THE MONASTERIES. No less important than the Church and its clergy was the work of the monasteries and their monks in building up a basis for a new civilization. These, too, were founded all over Europe. To make a map of western Europe showing the monasteries established by 800 A.D. would be to cover the map with a series of dots. [13] The importance of their work is better understood when we remember that the Germans had never lived in cities, and did not settle in them on entering the Empire. The monasteries, too, were seldom established in towns. Their sites were in the river valleys and in the forests (R. 69), and the monks became the pioneers in clearing the land and preparing the way for agriculture and civilization. Not infrequently a swamp was taken and drained. The Middle-Age period was essentially a period of settlement of the land and of agricultural development, and the monks lived on the land and among a people just passing through the earliest stages of settled and civilized life. In a way the inheritors of the agricultural and handicraft knowledge of the Romans, the monks became the most skillful artisans and farmers to be found, and from them these arts in time reached the developing peasantry around them. Their work and services have been well summed up by the same author just quoted, as follows:

It was mainly by the monasteries that to the peasant class of Europe was pointed out the way of civilization. The devotions and charities; the austerities of the brethren; their abstemious meal; their meager clothing, the cheapest of the country in which they lived; their shaven heads, or the cowl which shut out the sight of sinful objects; the long staff in their hands; their naked feet and legs; their passing forth on their journeys by twos, each a watch on his brother; the prohibitions against eating outside of the wall of the monastery, which had its own mill, its own bakehouse, and whatever was needed in an abstemious domestic economy (Figure 38); their silent hospitality to the wayfarer, who was refreshed in a separate apartment; the lands around their buildings turned from a wilderness into a garden, and, above all, labor exalted and ennobled by their holy hands, and celibacy, forever, in the eye of the vulgar, a proof of separation from the world and a sacrifice to heaven–these were the things that arrested the attention of the barbarians of Europe, and led them on to civilization. [14]

THE PROBLEM FACED BY THE MIDDLE AGES. That the lamp of learning burned low during this period of assimilation is no cause for wonder. Recovery from such a deluge of barbarism on a weakened society is not easy. In fact the recovery was a long and slow process, occupying nearly the whole of a thousand years. The problem which faced the Church, as the sole surviving force capable of exerting any constructive influence, was that of changing the barbarism and anarchy of the sixth century, with its low standards of living and lack of humane ideals, into the intelligent, progressive civilization of the fifteenth century. This was the work of the Middle Ages, and largely the work of the Christian Church. It was not a period of progress, but one of assimilation, so that a common western civilization might in time be developed out of the diverse and hostile elements mixed together by the rude force of circumstances. The enfeebled Roman race was to be reinvigorated by mixture with the youthful and vigorous Germans (R. 50); to the institutions of ancient society were to be added certain social and political institutions of the Germanic peoples; all were to be brought under the rule of a common Christian Church; and finally, when these people had become sufficiently civilized and educated to enable them to understand and appreciate, “nearly every achievement of the Greeks and the Romans in thought, science, law, and the practical arts” was to be recovered and made a part of our western civilization.

In this chapter we have dealt largely with the great fundamental movements which have so deeply influenced the course of human history. In the chapters which immediately follow we shall tell how learning was preserved during the period and what facilities for education actually existed; trace the more important efforts made to reestablish schools and learning; and finally describe the culmination of the process of absorbing and educating the Germans in the civilization they had conquered that came in the great period of recovery of the ancient learning and civilization–the age of the Renaissance.


1. Do the peculiar problems of assimilation of the foreign-born, revealed to us by the World War, put us in a somewhat similar position to Rome under the Empire as relates to the need of a guiding national faith?

2. Outline how Rome might have been helped and strengthened by a national school system under state control.

3. Outline how our state school systems could be made much more effective as national instruments by the infusion into their instruction of a strong national faith.

4. Try to picture the results upon our civilization had western Europe become Mohammedan.

5. The movement of new peoples into the Roman Empire was much slower than has been the immigration of foreign peoples into the United States, since 1840. Why the difference in assimilative power?

6. How do you think the Roman provinces and Italy, after the tribes from the North had settled down within the Empire, compared with Mexico after the years of revolution with peons and brigands in control? With Russia, after the destruction wrought by the Bolshevists?

7. Explain the importance of the long civilizing and educating work of Rome among the German tribes, in preparing the means for the preservation of Roman institutions after the downfall of the Roman government.

8. What does the fact that Roman institutions and Roman thinking continued and profoundly modified mediaeval life indicate as to the nature of Roman government and the Roman power of assimilation?

9. Though Rome never instituted a state school system, was there not after all large educational work done by the government through its intelligent administration?

10. Show how the breakdown of Roman government and Roman institutions was naturally more complete in Gaul than in northern Italy, and more complete in northern than in central or southern Italy, and hence how Roman civilization was naturally preserved in larger measure in the cities of Italy than elsewhere.

11. Show how the Christian Church, too, could not have completely dispensed with Roman letters and Roman civilization, had it desired to do so, but was forced of necessity to preserve and pass on important portions of the civilization of Rome.

12. What do you think would have been the effect on the future of civilization had the barbarian tribes overrun Spain, Italy, and Greece during the Age of Pericles?

13. What modern analogies do we have to the civilizing work of the monks and clergy during the Middle Ages?

14. Picture the work of the monasteries in handing on to western Europe the arts and handicrafts and skilled occupations of Rome. Cite some examples.

15. What civilizing problem, somewhat comparable to that of barbarian Europe, have we faced in our national history? Why have we been able to obtain results so much more rapidly?


In the accompanying _Book of Readings_ the following selections are reproduced:

46. Caesar: The Hunting Germans and their Fighting Ways. 47. Tacitus: The Germans and their Domestic Habits. 48. Dill: Effect on the Roman World of the News of the Sacking of Rome by Alaric.
49. Giry and Reville: Fate of the Old Roman Towns. 50. Kingsley: The Invaders, and what they brought. 51. General Form for a Grant of Immunity to a Bishop. 52. Charlemagne: Powers and Immunities granted to the Monastery of Saint Marcellus.


1. State the differences in character Caesar observes (46) between the Gauls to the west of the Rhine and the Germans to the east.

2. What German characteristics that Tacitus describes (47) would prove good additions to Roman life?

3. Do the emotions of Saint Jerome on hearing of the sacking of Rome (48) reveal anything as to the extent to which the Roman had become a Churchman and the Churchman a Roman? Illustrate.

4. Is it probable that a quarter-century of Bolsheviki rule in Russia would produce results comparable to those described by Giry and Reville (49)?

5. Is Kingsley right in stating (50) that the best elements of all the modern European peoples came from the barbarian invaders? State what seem to you to be the important contributions of barbarian invader, Roman, and Churchman.

6. Do the grants of privileges and immunities shown in the general form (51)and the specific form (52) seem to follow naturally from the earlier grants to physicians and teachers (26) and to the clergy (38)? Point out the relationship.


* Adams, G. B. _Civilization during the Middle Ages_. Church, R. W. _The Beginnings of the Middle Ages_. Kingsley, Chas. _The Roman and Teuton_. * Thorndike, Lynn. _History of Mediaeval Europe_.




THE LOW INTELLECTUAL LEVEL. As was stated in the preceding chapter, the lamp of learning burned low throughout the most of western Europe during the period of assimilation and partial civilization of the barbarian tribes. The western portion of the Roman Empire had been overrun, and rude Germanic chieftains were establishing, by the law of might, new kingdoms on the ruins of the old. The Germanic tribes had no intellectual life of their own to contribute, and no intellectual tastes to be ministered unto. With the destruction of cities and towns and country villas, with their artistic and literary collections, much that represented the old culture was obliterated, [2] and books became more and more scarce. [3] The destruction was gradual, but by the beginning of the seventh century the loss had become great. The Roman schools also gradually died out as the need for an education which prepared for government and gave a knowledge of Roman law passed away, and the type of education approved by the Church was left in complete control of the field. As the security and leisure needed for study disappeared, and as the only use for learning was now in the service of the Church, education became limited to the narrow lines which offered such preparation and to the few who needed it. Amid the ruins of the ancient civilization the Church stood as the only conservative and regenerative force, and naturally what learning remained passed into its hands and under its control.

The result of all these influences and happenings was that by the beginning of the seventh century Christian Europe had reached a very low intellectual level, and during the seventh and eighth centuries conditions grew worse instead of better. Only in England and Ireland, as will be pointed out a little later, and in a few Italian cities, was there anything of consequence of the old Roman learning preserved. On the Continent there was little general learning, even among the clergy (R. 64 a). Many of the priests were woefully ignorant, [4] and the Latin writings of the time contain many inaccuracies and corruptions which reveal the low standard of learning even among the better educated of the clerical class. The Church itself was seriously affected by the prevailing ignorance of the period, and incorporated into its system of government and worship many barbarous customs and practices of which it was a long time in ridding itself. So great had become the ignorance and superstition of the time, among priests, monks, and the people; so much had religion taken on the worship of saints and relics and shrines; and so much had the Church developed the sensuous and symbolic, that religion had in reality become a crude polytheism instead of the simple monotheistic faith of the early Church. Along scientific lines especially the loss was very great. Scientific ideas as to natural phenomena disappeared, and crude and childish ideas as to natural forces came to prevail. As if barbarian chiefs and robber bands were not enough, popular imagination peopled the world with demons, goblins, and dragons, and all sorts of superstitions and supernatural happenings were recorded. Intercommunication largely ceased; trade and commerce died out; the accumulated wealth of the past was destroyed; and the old knowledge of the known world became badly distorted, as is evidenced by the many crude mediaeval maps. (See Figure 46.) The only scholarship of the time, if such it might be called, was the little needed by the Church to provide for and maintain its government and worship. Almost everything that we to-day mean by civilization in that age was found within the protecting walls of monastery or church, and these institutions were at first too busy building up the foundations upon which a future culture might rest to spend much time in preserving learning, much less in advancing it.


THE MONASTERIES DEVELOP SCHOOLS. In this age of perpetual lawlessness and disorder the one opportunity for a life of repose and scholarly contemplation lay in the monasteries. Here the rule of might and force was absent (R. 52), and the timid, the devout, and the studiously inclined here found a refuge from the turbulence and brutality of a rude civilization. The early monasteries, and especially the monastery of Saint Victor, at Marseilles, founded by Cassian in 404, had represented a culmination of the western feeling of antagonism to all ancient learning, but with the founding of Monte Cassino by Saint Benedict, in 529 A.D., and the promulgation of the Benedictine rule (R. 43), a more liberal attitude was shown. [5] This rule was adopted generally by the monasteries throughout what is now Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and England, and the Benedictine became the type for the monks of the early Middle Ages. To this order we are largely indebted for the copying of books and the preservation of learning throughout the mediaeval period.

The 48th rule of Saint Benedict, it will be remembered (R. 43), had imposed reading and study as a part of the daily duty of every monk, but had said nothing about schools. Subsequent regulations issued by superiors had aimed at the better enforcement of this rule (R. 44), that the monks might lead devout lives and know the Bible and the sacred writings of the Church. Imposed at first as a matter of education and discipline for the monks, this rule ultimately led to the establishment of schools and the development of a system of monastic instruction. As youths were received at an early age [6] into the monasteries to prepare for a monastic life, it was necessary that they be taught to read if they were later to use the sacred books. This led to the duty of instructing novices, which marks the beginning of monastic instruction for those within the walls. As books were scarce and at the same time necessary, and the only way to get new ones was to copy from old ones, the monasteries were soon led to take up the work once carried on by the publishing houses of ancient Rome, and in much the same way. This made writing necessary, and the novices had to be instructed carefully in this, as well as in reading. [7] The chants and music of the Church called for instruction of the novices in music, and the celebration of Easter and the fast and festival days of the Church called for some rudimentary instruction in numbers and calculation.

Out of these needs rose the monastery school, the copying of manuscripts, and the preservation of books. Due to their greater security and quiet the monasteries became the leading teaching institutions of the early part of the Middle-Age period, and those who wished their children trained for the service of the Church gave them to the monasteries (R. 53 a). The development of the monastic schools was largely voluntary, though from an early date bishops and rulers began urging the monasteries to open schools for boys in connection with their houses, and schools became in time a regular feature of the monastic organization. From schools only for those intending to take the vows (_oblati_), the instruction was gradually opened, after the ninth century, to others (_externi_) not intending to take the vows, and what came to be known as “outer” monastic schools were in time developed.

[Illustration: FIG. 38. BIRD’S-EYE VIEW OF A MEDIAEVAL MONASTERY (From an engraving by Viollet-le-Duc, dated 1718, of the Cistercian Abbey of Citeaux, in France) This monastery was founded in the forests of what is now northeastern France, in 1198 A.D., and was the first of a reformed Benedictine order, known as Cistercians. For an explanation of the monastery, see the opposite page. (Note: explanation follows.)

_Explanation of the Monastery opposite_: The cross, by the roadside, indicates the entrance gate. Passing through the orchards and fields, the traveler reached the outer gate-house. At the almonry (_C_) food and drink were given out; on the second floor rooms for the night could be had; in the little chapel (_D_) prayers could be said; and in the stable (_F_) the traveler’s horse could be cared for for the night. An inner gate through (_E_) opened into an inner court, around which were the barns, chicken- yards, cow-sheds, etc. The Abbot lived at _H_. _G_ was a dormitory for the lay brothers who did the heavy work of the monastery, and who entered the church (_N_) at the rear through a special doorway (_S_). All of these buildings were considered as outside the monastery proper.

Inside were the great church (_N_), with the library (_P_) in the rear. Seven _scriptoria_ are shown on the side of the library building. _M_ was the large dormitory for the monks, and _R_ the infirmary for old and sick brothers. _I_ was the kitchen, _K_ was the dining-hall (refectory), and _L_ the stairs to the upper dormitory rooms. _C_ and _E_ are two cloisters with corridors on the four sides, somewhat similar to the cloisters shown for the monastery on Plate I. The copying of books often took place in these cloisters, though a _scriptorium_ was usually found under the library, the library proper, as in Plate 2, being on the second floor (_P_) and reached by a winding stair. A wall surrounded the monastery grounds, and a stream of running water passed through them.]

The monasteries became the preservers of learning. Another need developed the copying of pagan books, and incidentally the preservation of some of the best of Roman literature. The language of the Church very naturally was Latin, as it was a direct descendant of Roman life, governmental organization, citizenship, and education. The writings of the Fathers of the Western Church had all been in Latin, and in the fourth century the Bible had been translated from the Greek into the Latin. This edition, known as the _Vulgate_ [8] _Bible_, became the standard for western Europe for ten centuries to come. The German tribes which had invaded the Empire had no written languages of their own, and their spoken dialects differed much from the Latin speech of those whom they had conquered. Latin was thus the language of all those of education, and naturally continued as the language of the Church and the monastery for both speech and writing. All books were, of course, written in Latin.

Under the rude influences and the general ignorance of the period, though, the language was easily and rapidly corrupted, and it became necessary for the monasteries and the churches to have good models of Latin prose and verse to refer to. These were best found in the old Latin literary authors–particularly Caesar, Cicero, and Vergil. To have these, due to the great destruction of old books which had taken place during the intervening centuries, it was necessary to copy these authors, [9] as well as the Psalter, the Missal, [10] the sacred books, and the writings of the Fathers of the Church (Rs. 55, 56). It thus happened that the monasteries unintentionally began to preserve and use the ancient Roman books, and from using them at first as models for style, an interest in their contents was later awakened. While many of the monasteries remained as farming, charitable, and ascetic institutions almost exclusively, and were never noted for their educational work, a small but increasing number gradually accumulated libraries and became celebrated for their literary activity and for the character of their instruction. The monasteries thus in time became the storehouses of learning, the publishing houses of the Middle Ages (Rs. 54, 55, 56), teaching institutions of first importance, and centers of literary activity and religious thought, as well as centers for agricultural development, work in the arts and crafts, and Christian hospitality. Many developed into large and important institutions (R. 69).

THE COPYING OF MANUSCRIPTS. [11] The work of the more important monasteries and the monastic churches in copying books was a service to learning of large future significance. While many of the books copied were for the promotion of the religious service, such as Missals and Psalters (R. 55), and many others were tales of saints and wearisome comments on the sacred writings, a few were old classical texts representing the best of Roman literary work. A few monastic chronicles and histories of importance were composed by the brothers, and also preserved for us by the copying process.

The production of a single book was a task of large proportions, and explains in part the small number of volumes the monasteries accumulated. After the raids of the Mohammedans across Egypt, in the seventh century, the supply of Egyptian papyrus stopped because of the interruption of communications, and the only writing material during the Middle Ages was the skin of sheep or goats or calves. Sheepskins were chiefly used, and a book of size might require a hundred or more skins. These were first soaked in limewater to loosen the hair, then scraped clean of hair and flesh, and then carefully stretched on board frames to dry. After they had dried they were again scraped with sharp knives to secure an even thickness, and then rubbed smooth with pumice and chalk. When finished, the clean, shining, cream-colored skin was known as vellum, [12] or parchment. This was next cut into pages of the desired size and arranged ready for writing. The larger pieces were used for large books, such as are shown in Plate 2, and the remnants to produce small books. The inks, too, had to be prepared, and the pages ruled.

The main writing was done with black, but the page was frequently bordered with red, gold, or some other bright color, while many beautiful illustrations were inserted by artistic monks. Sometimes an initial letter was beautifully embellished, as is shown in Figure 39; sometimes illustrations were introduced in the body of the page, of which Figures 39 and 40 are types; and sometimes a colored illustration was painted on a sheet of vellum and inserted in the book. Figure 44 represents such an illustrated page in an old manuscript. Finally, when completed, the lettered and illustrated parchment sheets were arranged in order, sewed together with a deerskin or pigskin string, bound together between oaken boards and covered with pigskin, properly lettered in gold, fitted with metal corners and clasps (R. 57), as shown in Plate 2, and often chained to their bookrack in the library with heavy iron chains as well. (See Figure 71 and Plate 2.) Still further to protect the volume from theft, an anathema against the thief was usually lettered in the volume (R. 58).

[Illustration: FIG. 39. INITIAL LETTER FROM AN OLD MANUSCRIPT This shows the beautiful work done by some of the nuns and monks in “illuminating” the books they copied. This was done in colors by a nun, who pictured her own work in this initial letter L.]

Such was the painfully slow method of producing and multiplying books before the advent of printing, and in days when skill in copying manuscripts was not particularly common, even among the monks. It required from a few months to a year or more to produce a few copies, depending on the size and nature of the work, whereas to-day, with printing-presses, five thousand copies of such a book as this can be printed and bound in a few days.

[Illustration: FIG. 40. A MONK IN A SCRIPTORIUM (From an illuminated picture in a manuscript in the Royal Library at Brussels) This picture shows the beautiful work done in “illuminating” manuscript books by mediaeval writers. Each copy was a work of art. This represents a better type of _scriptorium_ than is usually shown.]

THE SCRIPTORIUM. An important part of the material equipment of many monasteries, in consequence, came to be a _scriptorium_, or writing-room, where the copying of manuscripts could take place undisturbed. In some monasteries one general room was provided, though it was customary to have a number of small rooms at the side of the library. In the monastery shown in Figure 38, seven small rooms for this purpose are shown built out on one side of the library. Sometimes individual cells along a corridor were provided. The advantage of the single room in which a number of monks worked came when an edition of eight or ten copies of a book was to be prepared. One monk could then dictate, while eight or ten others carefully printed on the skins before them what was dictated by the reader. [13] Figure 40 shows a monk at work, though here he is copying from a book before him. After an edition of eight or ten copies of a book had been prepared and bound the extra copies were sent to neighboring and sometimes distant monasteries, sometimes in exchange for other books, and sometimes as gifts to brothers who had longed to read the work (R. 55). New monasteries were provided with the beginnings of a library in this way, and churches were supplied with Missals, Psalters, and other books needed for their services.

The writing-room, or rooms, came to be a very important place in those monasteries noted for their literary activity. West gives an interesting description of the _scriptorium_ at Tours, where the learned English monk, Alcuin, was Abbot from 796 to 804, and which at the time was the principal book-writing monastery in Frankland. Describing Alcuin’s labors to secure books to send to other monasteries in Charlemagne’s kingdom, he says:

We can almost reconstruct the scene. In the intervals between the hours of prayer and the observance of the round of cloister life, come hours for the copying of books under the presiding genius of Alcuin. The young monks file into the _scriptorium_, and one of them is given the precious parchment volume containing a work of Bede or Isidore or Augustine, or else some portion of the Latin Scriptures, or even a heathen author. He reads slowly and clearly at a measured rate while all the others seated at their desks take down his words, and thus perhaps a score of copies are made at once. Alcuin’s observant eye watches each in turn, and his correcting hand points out the mistakes in orthography and punctuation. The master of Charles the Great, in that true humility that is the charm of his whole behavior, makes himself the writing-master of his monks, stooping to the drudgery of faithfully and gently correcting their many puerile mistakes, and all for the love of studies and the love of Christ. Under such guidance, and deeply impressed by the fact that in the copying of a few books they were saving learning and knowledge from perishing, and thereby offering a service most acceptable to God, the copying in the _scriptorium_ went on in sobriety from day to day. Thus were produced those improved copies of books which mark the beginning of a new age in the conserving and transmission of learning. Alcuin’s anxiety in this regard was not undue, for the few monasteries where books could be accurately transcribed were as necessary for publication in that time as are the great publishing houses to-day. [14]

Charlemagne’s empire at his death is shaded darker than other parts of the map.]

MONASTIC COLLECTION. Despite the important work done by a few of the monasteries in preserving and advancing learning, large collections of books were unknown before the Revival of Learning, in the fourteenth century. The process of book production in itself was very slow, and many of the volumes produced were later lost through fire, or pillage by new invaders. During the early days of wood construction a number of monastic and church libraries were burned by accident. In the pillaging of the Danes and Northmen on the coasts of England and northern France, in the ninth and tenth centuries, a number of important monastic collections there were lost. In Italy the Lombards destroyed some collections in their sixth-century invasion, and the Saracens burned some in southern Italy in the ninth. Monte Cassino, among other monasteries, was destroyed by both the Lombards and the Saracens. From a number of extant catalogues of old monastic libraries we know that, even as late as the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, a library of from two to three hundred volumes was large. [15] The catalogues show that most of these were books of a religious nature, being monastic chronicles, manuals of devotion, comments on the Scriptures, lives of miracle-working saints, and books of a similar nature (Rs. 55, 56). A few were commentaries on the ancient learning, or mediaeval textbooks on the great subjects of study of the time (R. 60). A still smaller number were copies of old classical literary works, and of the utmost value (R. 57).

THE CONVENTS AND THEIR SCHOOLS. The early part of the Middle Ages also witnessed a remarkable development of convents for women, these receiving a special development in Germanic lands. Filled with the same aggressive spirit as the men, but softened somewhat by Christianity, many women of high station among the German tribes founded convents and developed institutions of much renown. This provided a rather superior class of women as organizers and directors, and a conventual life continued, throughout the entire Middle Ages, to attract an excellent class of women. This will be understood when it is remembered that a conventual life offered to women of intellectual ability and scholarly tastes the one opportunity for an education and a life of learning. The convents, too, were much earlier and much more extensively opened for instruction to those not intending to take the vows than was the case with the monasteries, and, in consequence, it became a common practice throughout the Middle Ages, just as it is to-day among Catholic families, to send girls to the convent for education and for training in manners and religion. Many well-trained women were produced in the convents of Europe in the period from the sixth to the thirteenth centuries.

The instruction consisted of reading, writing, and copying Latin, as in the monasteries, as well as music, weaving and spinning, and needlework. Weaving and spinning had an obvious utilitarian purpose, and needlework, in addition to necessary sewing, was especially useful in the production of altar-cloths and sacred vestments. The copying and illuminating of manuscripts, music, and embroidering made a special appeal to women (R. 56), and some of the most beautifully copied and illuminated manuscripts of the mediaeval period are products of their skill. [16] Their contribution to music and art, as it influenced the life of the time, was also large. The convent schools reached their highest development about the middle of the thirteenth century, after which they began to decline in importance,

LEARNING IN IRELAND AND BRITAIN. As was stated earlier in this chapter, the one part of western Europe where something of the old learning was retained during this period was in Ireland, and in those parts of England which had not been overrun by the Germanic tribes. Christian civilization and monastic life had been introduced into Ireland probably as early as 425 A.D., and probably by monastic missionaries from Lerins and Saint Victor (see Figure 41). Saint Patrick preached Christianity to the Irish, about 440 A.D., and during the fifth and sixth centuries churches and monasteries were founded in such numbers over Ireland that the land has been said to have been dotted all over with churches, monasteries, and schools. Saint Patrick had been educated in the old Roman schools, probably at Tours when it was still an important Roman provincial city. Other early missionaries had had similar training, and these, not sharing the antipathy to pagan learning of the early Italian church fathers, had carried Greek and Latin languages and learning to Ireland. Here it flourished so well, largely due to the island being spared from invasion, that Ireland remained a center for instruction in Greek long after it had virtually disappeared elsewhere in western Christendom. So much was this the case, says Sandys, in his _History of Classical Scholarship_, “that if any one knew Greek it was assumed that he must have come from Ireland.”

In 565 A.D., Saint Columba, an eminent Irish scholar and religious leader, crossed over to what is now southwestern Scotland, founded there the monastery of Iona, and began the conversion of the Picts. Saint Augustine landed in Kent in 597, and had begun the conversion of the Angles and Saxons and Jutes who had settled in southeastern Britain, while shortly afterwards the Irish monks from Iona began the conversion of the people of the north of Britain. The monastery of Lindisfarne was founded about 635 A.D., and soon became an important center of religious and classical learning in the north. Irish and English monks also crossed in numbers to northern Frankland, and labored for the conversion of the Franks and Saxons.

In 664 A.D., at a council held at Whitby, the Irish Church in England and the Roman Church were united, and a great enthusiasm for religion and learning swept over the island. In 670, Theodore of Tarsus and the Abbot Hadrian, whom Bede, the scholar and historian of the early English Church, describes as men “instructed in secular and divine literature both Greek and Latin” (R. 59 a), arrived in England from southern Italy and began their work of instructing pupils in Greek and Latin (R. 59 b). Both taught at Canterbury, and raised the cathedral school there to high rank. In 674 the monastery at Wearmouth was founded, and in 682 its companion Yarrow. These were endowed with books from Rome and Vienne, and soon became famous for the instruction they provided. It was at the twin monasteries of Wearmouth and Yarrow that the Venerable Bede (673-735), whose _Ecclesiastical History of England_ gives us our chief picture of education in Britain in his time, was educated and remained as a lifelong student. [17] As a result of all these efforts a number of northern monasteries, as well as a few of the cathedral schools, early became famous for their libraries, scholars, and learning. This culture in Ireland and Britain was of a much higher standard than that obtaining on the Continent at the time, because the classical inheritance there had been less corrupted.

THE CATHEDRAL SCHOOL AT YORK. One of the schools which early attained fame was the cathedral school at York, in northern England. This had, by the middle of the eighth century, come to possess for the time a large library, and contained most of the important Latin authors and textbooks then known (R. 61). In this school, under the _scholasticus_ Aelbert, was trained a youth by the name of Alcuin, born in or near York, about 735 A.D. In a poem describing the school (R. 60), he gives a good portrayal of the instruction he received, telling how the learned Aelbert “moistened thirsty hearts with diverse streams of teaching and the varied dews of learning,” and sorted out “youths of conspicuous intelligence” to whom he gave special attention. Alcuin afterward succeeded Aelbert as _scholasticus_, and was widely known as a gifted teacher. Well aware of the precarious condition of learning amid such a rude and uncouth society, he handed on to his pupils the learning he had received, and imbued them with something of his own love for it and his anxiety for its preservation and advancement. It was this Alcuin who was soon to give a new impetus to the development of schools and the preservation of learning in Frankland.

CHARLEMAGNE AND ALCUIN. In 768 there came to the throne as king of the great Frankish nation one of the most distinguished and capable rulers of all time–a man who would have been a commanding personality in any age or land. His ancestors had developed a great kingdom, and it was his grandfather who had defeated the Saracens at Tours (p. 113) and driven them back over the Pyrenees into Spain. This man Charlemagne easily stands out as one of the greatest figures of all history. For five hundred years before and after him there is no ruler who matched him in insight, force, or executive capacity. He is particularly the dominating figure of mediaeval times. Born in an age of lawlessness and disorder, he used every effort to civilize and rule as intelligently as possible the great Frankish kingdom. Wars he waged to civilize and Christianize the Saxon tribes of northern Germany, to reduce the Lombards of northern Italy to order, and to extend the boundaries of the Frankish nation. At his death, in 814, his kingdom had succeeded to most of the western possessions of the old Roman Empire, including all of what to-day comprises France, Belgium, Holland, and Switzerland, large portions of what is now western Germany and northern Italy, and portions of northern Spain. (See Figure 41.)

Realizing better than did his bishops and abbots the need for educational facilities for the nobles and clergy, he early turned his attention to securing teachers capable of giving the needed instruction. These, though, were scarce and hard to obtain. After two unsuccessful efforts to obtain a master scholar to become, as it were, his minister of education, he finally succeeded in drawing to his court perhaps the greatest scholar and teacher in all England. At Parma, in northern Italy, Charlemagne met Alcuin, in 781, and invited him to leave York for Frankland. After obtaining the consent of his archbishop and king, Alcuin accepted, and arrived, with three assistants, at Charlemagne’s court, in 782, to take up the work of educational propaganda in Frankland.

This monastery, located on a high hill and resembling a mediaeval fortress as one approaches it, was founded in 1341 by a Florentine merchant. The picture shows the cloisters and interior court. Eighteen cells, two churches, and other rooms are entered from the cloisters. A few monks were still in residence there late as 1905, one of whom is seen, but the monastery was then in the process of being closed by the Italian Government.]


“Ponderous Folios for Scholastics made”

This shows the large oak-bound and chained books as well as a common type of bookrack used in churches and monasteries during the earlier period.]

The plight in which he found learning was most deplorable, presenting a marked contrast to conditions in England. Learning had been almost obliterated during the two centuries of wild disorder from 600 on. From 600 to 850 has often been called the darkest period of the Dark Ages, and Alcuin arrived when Frankland was at its worst. The monastic and cathedral schools which had been established earlier had in large part been broken up, and the monasteries had become places for the pensioning of royal favorites and hence had lost their earlier religious zeal and effectiveness. The abbots and bishops possessed but little learning, and the lower clergy, recruited largely from bondmen, were grossly ignorant, greatly to the injury of the Church. The copying of books had almost ceased, and learning was slowly dying out.

THE PALACE SCHOOL. There had for some time been a form of school connected with the royal court, known as the _palace school_, though the study of letters had played but a small part in it. To the reorganization of this school Alcuin first addressed himself, introducing into it elementary instruction in that learning of which he was so fond. The school included the princes and princesses of the royal household, relatives, attaches, courtiers, and, not least in importance as pupils, the king and queen. To meet the needs of such a heterogeneous circle was no easy task.

The instruction which Alcuin provided for the younger members of the circle was largely of the question and answer (catechetical) type, both questions and answers being prepared by Alcuin beforehand and learned by the pupils. Fortunately examples of Alcuin’s instruction have been preserved to us in a dialogue prepared for the instruction of Pepin, a son of Charlemagne, then sixteen years old (R. 62). With the older members the questions and answers were oral. For all, though, the instruction was of a most elementary nature, ranging over the elements of the subjects of instruction of the time. Poetry, arithmetic, astronomy, the writings of the Fathers, and theology are mentioned as having been studied. Charlemagne learned to read Latin, but is said never to have mastered the art of writing. It was not an easy position for any one to fill. To quote from West’s description: [18]

Charles wanted to know everything and to know it at once. His strong, uncurbed nature eagerly seized on learning, both as a delight for himself and a means of giving stability to his government, and so, while he knew he must be docile, he was at the same time imperious. Alcuin knew how to meet him, and at need could be either patiently jocular or grave and reproving. Thus, on one occasion when he had been informed of the great learning of Augustine and Jerome, he impatiently demanded of Alcuin, “Why can I not have twelve clerks such as these?” Twelve Augustines and Jeromes! and to be made arise at the king’s bidding! Alcuin was shocked. “What!” he discreetly rejoined, “the Lord of heaven and earth had but two such, and wouldst thou have twelve?” But his personal affection for the king was most unselfish, and he consequently took great delight in stimulating his desire for learning….

He studied everything Alcuin set before him, but had special anxiety to learn all about the moon that was needed to calculate Easter. With such an eager and impatient pupil as Charles, the other scholars were soon inspired to beset Alcuin with endless puzzling questions, and there are not wanting evidences that some of them were disposed to levity and even carped at his teachings. But he was indefatigable, rising with the sun to prepare for teaching. In one of his poetical exercises he says of himself that “as soon as the ruddy charioteer of the dawn suffuses the liquid deep with the new light of day, the old man rubs the sleep of night from his eyes and leaps at once from his couch, running straightway into the fields of the ancients to pluck their flowers of correct speech and scatter them in sport before his boys.”

CHARLEMAGNE’S PROCLAMATIONS ON EDUCATION. After reorganizing the palace school, Alcuin and Charlemagne turned their attention to the improvement of education among the monks and clergy throughout the realm. The first important service was the preparation and sending out of a carefully collected and edited series of sermons to the churches containing, “in two volumes, lessons suitable for the whole year and for each separate festival, and free from error.” These Charlemagne ordered used in the churches (R. 63). He also says, “we have striven with watchful zeal to advance the cause of learning, which has been almost forgotten by the negligence of our ancestors; and, by our example, also we invite those whom we can to master the study of the liberal arts,” meaning thereby to incite the bishops and clergy to a study of the learning of the mediaeval time. The volumes and letter were sent out in 786, four years after Alcuin’s arrival at the court. Further to aid in the revival of learning, Charlemagne, in 787, imported a number of monks from Italy, who were capable of giving instruction in arithmetic, singing, and grammar, and sent them to the principal monasteries to teach.

In 787 the first general proclamation on education of the Middle Ages was issued (R. 64 a), and from it we can infer much as to the state of learning among the monks and clergy of the time. In this document the king gently reproves the abbots of his realm for their illiteracy, and exhorts them to the study of letters. The signature is Charlemagne’s, but the hand is Alcuin’s. In it he tells the abbots, in commenting on the fact that they had sent letters to him telling him that “sacred and pious prayers” were being offered in his behalf, that he recognized in “most of these letters both correct thoughts and uncouth expressions; because what pious devotion dictated faithfully to the mind, the tongue, uneducated on account of the neglect of study, was not able to express in a letter without error.” He therefore commands the abbots neither to neglect the study of letters, if they wish to have his favor, nor to fail to send copies of his letter “to all your suffragans and fellow bishops, and to all the monasteries.” Two years later (789) Charlemagne supplemented this by a further general admonition (R. 64 b) to the ministers and clergy of his realm, exhorting them to live clean and just lives, and closing with:

And let schools be established in which boys may learn to read. Correct carefully the Psalms, the signs in writing, the songs, the calendar, the grammar, in each monastery and bishopric, and the catholic book; because often some desire to pray to God properly, but they pray badly because of incorrect books.

In 802 he further commanded that “laymen shall learn thoroughly the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer” (R. 64 c). Finally, in his enthusiasm for schools, Charlemagne went so far as to direct that “every one should send his son to school to study letters, and that the child should remain at school with all diligence until he should become well instructed in learning.” Charlemagne, of course, was addressing freemen of the court and the official classes. That he ever meant to include the children of the laboring classes, or that the idea of compulsory education ever entered his head, may well be doubted.

EFFECT OF THE WORK OF CHARLEMAGNE AND ALCUIN. The actual results of the work of Charlemagne and Alcuin were, after all, rather meager. The difficulties they faced are almost beyond our comprehension. Nobles and clergy were alike ignorant and uncouth. There seemed no place to begin. It may be said that by Charlemagne’s work he greatly widened the area of civilization, created a new Frankish-Roman Empire to be the inheritor of the civilization and culture of the old one, checked the decline in learning and reawakened a desire for study, and that he began the substitution of ideas for might as a ruling force among the tribes under his rule. That for a time he gave an important impetus to the study of letters, which resulted in a real revival in the educational work of some of the monasteries and cathedral schools, seems certain. Men knew more of books and wrote better Latin than before, and those who wished to learn found it easier to do so. The state of society and the condition of the times, however, were against any large success for such an ambitious educational undertaking, and after the death of Charlemagne, the division of his empire, and the invasions of the Northmen, education slowly declined again, though never to quite the level it had reached when Charlemagne came to the throne. In a few schools there was no decline, and these became the centers of learning of the future. Charlemagne having substituted merit for favoritism in his realm, promoting to be bishops and abbots the most learned men of his time, many of these became zealous workers in the cause of education and did much to keep up and advance learning after his death.

Among the most able of his helpers was Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans. He carried out most thoroughly in his diocese the instructions of the king, giving to his clergy the following directions:

Let the priests hold schools in the towns and villages, and if any of the faithful wish to entrust their children to them for the learning of letters, let them not refuse to receive and teach such children. Moreover, let them teach them from pure affection, remembering that it is written, “the wise shall shine as the splendor of the firmament,” and “they that instruct many in righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and forever.” And let them exact no price from the children for their teaching, nor receive anything from them, save what their parents may offer voluntarily and from affection.

Another able assistant was Alcuin himself, who, after fourteen years of strenuous service at Charlemagne’s court, was rewarded by the king with the office of Abbot at the monastery of Saint Martin, at Tours. There he spent the last eight years of his life in teaching, copying manuscripts, and writing letters to bishops and abbots regarding the advancement of religion and learning. The work of Alcuin in directing the copying of manuscripts has been described. In a letter to Charlemagne, soon after his appointment, he reviews his labors, contrasts the state of learning in England and Frankland, and appeals to Charlemagne for books from England to copy (R. 65). So important was his work as a teacher as well that at his death, in 814, most of the important educational centers of the kingdom were in the hands of his former pupils. Perhaps the most important of all these was Rabanus Maurus, who became head of the monastery school at Fulda. We shall learn more of him in the next chapter.


NEW INVASIONS; THE NORTHMEN. Five years after Alcuin went to Frankland to help Charlemagne revive learning in his kingdom, a fresh series of barbarian invasions began with the raiding of the English coast by the Danes. In raid after raid, extending over nearly a hundred years, these Danes gradually overran all of eastern and central England from London north to beyond Whitby, plundering and burning the churches and monasteries, and destroying books and learning everywhere. By the Peace of Wedmore, effected by King Alfred in 878, the Danes were finally given about one half of England, and in return agreed to settle down and accept Christianity. The damage done by these invaders was very large, and King Alfred, in his introduction to an Anglo-Saxon translation of Pope Gregory’s _Pastoral Care_ (R. 66), gives a gloomy picture of the destruction wrought to the churches and the decay of learning in England.

Other bands of these Northmen (Danes and Norwegians) began to prey on the northern coast of Frankland, and in the tenth century seized all the coast of what is now northern France and down as far as Paris and Tours. From Tours to Corbie (see Figure 41) churches and monasteries were pillaged and burned, Tours and Corbie with their libraries both perishing. Amiens and Paris were laid siege to, and disorder reigned throughout northern Frankland. _The Annals of Xanten_ and the _Annals of Saint Vaast_, two mediaeval chronicles of importance, give gloomy pictures of this period. Three selections will illustrate:

According to their custom the Northmen plundered East and West Frisia and burned … towns…. With their boats filled with immense booty, including both men and goods, they returned to their own country. [19]

The Normans inflicted much harm in Frisia and about the Rhine. A mighty army of them collected by the river Elbe against the Saxons, and some of the Saxon towns were besieged, others burned, and most terribly did they oppress the Christians. [20]

The Northmen ceased not to take Christian people captive and kill them, and to destroy churches and houses and burn villages. Through all the streets lay bodies of the clergy, of laymen, nobles, and others, of women, children, and suckling babes. There was no road or place where the dead did not lie, and all who saw Christian people slaughtered were filled with sorrow and despair. [21]

After much destruction, Rollo, Duke of the Normans, finally accepted Christianity, in 912, and agreed to settle down in what has ever since been known as _Normandy_. From here portions of the invaders afterward passed over to England in the Norman Conquest of 1066. This was the last of the great German tribes to move, and after they had raided and plundered and settled down and accepted Christianity, western Europe, after six centuries of bloodshed and pillage and turmoil and disorder, was at last ready to begin in earnest the building-up of a new civilization and the restoration of the old learning.

WORK OF ALFRED IN ENGLAND. The set-back to learning caused by this latest deluge of barbarism was a serious one, and one from which the land did not recover for a long time. In northern Frankland and in England the results were disastrous. The revival which Charlemagne had started was checked, and England did not recover from the blow for centuries. Even in the parts of England not invaded and pillaged, education sadly declined as a result of nearly a century of struggle against the invaders (R. 66). Alfred, known to history as _Alfred the Great_, who ruled as English king from 871 to 901, made great efforts to revive learning in his kingdom. Probably inspired by the example of Charlemagne, he established a large palace school (R. 68), to the support of which he devoted one eighth of his income; he imported scholars from Mercia and Frankland (R. 67); restored many monasteries; and tried hard to revive schools and encourage learning throughout his realm, and with some success. [22] With the great decay of the Latin learning he tried to encourage the use of the native Anglo-Saxon language, [23] and to this end translated books from Latin into Anglo- Saxon for his people. In his Introduction to Gregory’s volume (R. 66) he expresses the hope, “If we have tranquillity enough, that all the free- born youth now in England, who are rich enough to be able to devote themselves to it … be set to learn … English writing,” while those who were to continue study should then be taught Latin. The coming of the Normans in 1066, with the introduction of Norman-French as the official language of the court and government, for a time seriously interfered with the development of that native English learning of which Alfred wrote.

In the preceding chapter and in this one we have traced briefly the great invasions, or migrations, which took place in western Europe, and indicated somewhat the great destruction they wrought within the bounds of the old Empire. In this chapter we have traced the beginnings of Christian schools to replace the ones destroyed, the preservation of learning in the monasteries, and the efforts of Charlemagne and Alfred to revive learning in their kingdoms. In the chapter which follows we shall describe the mediaeval system of education as it had evolved by the twelfth century, after which we shall be ready to pass to the beginnings of that Revival of Learning which ultimately resulted in the rediscovery of the learning of the ancient world.


1. Picture the gradual dying-out of Roman learning in the Western Empire, and explain why pagan schools and learning lingered longer in Britain, Ireland, and Italy than elsewhere.

2. At what time was the old Roman civilization and learning most nearly extinct?

3. Explain how the monasteries were forced to develop schools to maintain any intellectual life.

4. Explain how the copying of manuscripts led to further educational development in the monasteries.

5. Would the convents have tended to attract a higher quality of women than the monasteries did of men? Why?

6. Explain why Greek was known longer in Ireland and Britain than elsewhere in the West.

7. What was the relative condition of learning in Frankland and England, about 900 A.D.?

8. What light is thrown on the conditions of the civilization of the time by the small permanent success of the efforts of Charlemagne, looking toward a revival of learning in Frankland?

9. Explain how Latin came naturally to be the language of the Church, and of scholarship in western Europe throughout all the Middle Ages.

10. After reading the story of the migrations, and of the fight to save some vestiges of the old civilization, try to picture what would have been the result had Rome not built up an Empire, and had Christianity not arisen and conquered.


In the accompanying _Book of Readings_ the following selections are reproduced:

53. Migne: Forms used in connection with monastery life: (a) Form for offering a Child to a Monastery. (b) The Monastic Vow.
(c) Letter of Honorable Dismissal from a Monastery. 54. Abbot Heriman: The Copying of Books at a Monastery. 55. Othlonus: Work of a Monk in writing and copying Books. 56. A Monk: Work of a Nun in copying Books. 57. Symonds: Scarcity and Cost of Books. 58. Clark: Anathemas to protect Books from Theft. 59. Bede: On Education in Early England. (a) The Learning of Theodore.
(b) Theodore’s Work for the English Churches. (c) How Albinus succeeded Abbot Hadrian. 60. Alcuin: Description of the School at York. 61. Alcuin: Catalogue of the Cathedral Library at York. 62. Alcuin: Specimens of the Palace School Instruction. 63. Charlemagne: Letter sending out a Collection of Sermons. 64. Charlemagne: General Proclamations as to Education. (a) The Proclamation of 787 A.D.
(b) General Admonition of 789 A.D. (c) Order as to Learning of 802 A.D.
65. Alcuin: Letter to Charlemagne as to Books and Learning. 66. King Alfred: State of Learning in England in his Time. 67. Asser: Alfred obtains Scholars from Abroad. 68. Asser: Education of the Son of King Alfred. 69. Ninth-Century Plan of the Monastery at Saint Gall.


1. Point out the similarity between: (a) The form for offering a child to a monastery and the monastic vow (53 a-b), and a modern court form for renouncing or adopting a child. (b) The letter of dismissal from a monastery (53 c), and the modern letter of honorable dismissal of a student from a college or normal school.

2. Compare the type of books copied by the Abbot of Saint Martins (55) and those copied by the nun at Wessebrunn (56).

3. Was the evolution of the school-teacher out of the copyist at Ratisbon (55), by a specialization of labor, analogous to the process in more modern times?

4. Explain the mediaeval belief in the effectiveness to protect books from theft of such anathemas as are reproduced in 58.

5. What do the selections from Bede (59 a-c) indicate as to the preservation of the old learning in the cities of southern Italy? What as to the condition of learning and teaching in England in Bede’s day?

6. What is the status of education indicated by the selections from Alcuin, on the cathedral school at York (60) and the palace school instruction of Pepin (62)?

7. What was the condition of learning among the higher clergy and monks as shown by Charlemagne’s proclamations (64)?

8. What was the extent of the destruction wrought by the Danes in England, as indicated by King Alfred’s Introduction to Pope Gregory’s _Pastoral Care_ (66), and his efforts to obtain scholars from abroad (67)?

9. What was the character of the education King Alfred provided for his son (68)?

10. Study out the plan of the monastery of Saint Gall (69), and enumerate the various activities of such a center.


* Adams, G. B. _Civilization during the Middle Ages_. * Clark, J. W. _Libraries in the Medieval and Renaissance Period_. * Cutts, Edw. L. _Scenes and Characters of the Middle Ages_. * Eckenstein, Lina. _Women under Monasticism_. Leach, A. F. _The Schools of Mediaeval England_. Munro, D. C. and Sellery, G. E. _Medieval Civilization_. Montalembert, Count de. _The Monks of the West_. Taylor, H. O. _Classical Heritage of the Middle Ages_. Thorndike, Lynn. _History of Mediaeval Europe_. West, A. F. _Alcuin, and the Rise of Christian Schools_. * Wishart, A. W. _Short History of Monks and Monasticism_.




1. _Elementary instruction and schools_

MONASTIC AND CONVENTIONAL SCHOOLS. In the preceding chapters we found that, by the tenth century, the monasteries had developed both inner monastic schools for those intending to take the vows (oblati), and outer monastic schools for those not so intending (externi). The distinction in name was due to the fact that the _oblati_ were from the first considered as belonging to the brotherhood, participating in the religious services and helping the monks at their work. The others were not so admitted, and in all monasteries of any size a separate building, outside the main portion of the monastery (see Figure 38), was provided for the outer school. A similar classification of instruction had been evolved for the convents.

[Illustration: FIG. 43. AN OUTER MONASTIC SCHOOL (After an old wood engraving)]

The instruction in the inner school was meager, and in the outer school probably even more so. Reading, writing, music, simple reckoning, religious observances, and rules of conduct constituted the range of instruction. Reading was taught by the alphabet method, as among the Romans, and writing by the use of wax tablets and the stylus. Much attention was given to Latin pronunciation, as had been the practice at Rome. As Latin by this time had practically ceased to be a living tongue, outside the Church and perhaps in Central Italy, the difficulties of instruction were largely increased. The Psalter, or book of Latin psalms, was the first reading book, and this was memorized rather than read. Copy- books, usually wax, with copies expressing some scriptural injunction, were used. Music, being of so much importance in the church services, received much time and attention. In arithmetic, counting and finger reckoning, after the Roman plan, was taught. Latin was used in conversation as much as possible, some of the old lesson books much resembling conversation books of to-day in the modern languages (R. 75). Special attention seems to have been given to teaching rules of conduct to the _oblati_, [1] and much corporal punishment was used to facilitate learning. Up to the eleventh century this instruction, meager as it was, constituted the whole of the preparatory training necessary for the study of theology and a career in the Church. In the convents similar schools were developed, though, as stated in the last chapter, much more attention was given to the education of those not intending to take the vows.

SONG AND PARISH SCHOOLS. In the cathedral churches, and other larger non- cathedral churches, the musical part of the service was very important, and to secure boys for the choir and for other church services these churches organized what came to be known as _song schools_ (R. 70). In these a number of promising boys were trained in the same studies and in much the same way as were boys in the monastery schools, except that much more attention was given to the musical instruction. The students in these schools were placed under the _precentor_ (choir director) of the cathedral, or other large church, the _scholasticus_ confining his attention to the higher or more literary instruction provided. The boys usually were given board, lodging, and instruction in return for their services as choristers. As the parish churches in the diocese also came to need boys for their services, parish schools of a similar nature were in time organized in connection with them. It was out of this need, and by a very slow and gradual evolution, that the parish school in western Europe was developed later on.

CHANTRY SCHOOLS. Still another type of elementary school, which did not arise until near the latter part of the period under consideration in this chapter, but which will be enumerated here as descriptive of a type which later became very common, came through wills, and the schools came to be known as _chantry schools_, or _stipendary schools_. Men, in dying, who felt themselves particularly in need of assistance for their misdeeds on earth, would leave a sum of money to a church to endow a priest, or sometimes two, who were to chant masses each day for the repose of their souls. Sometimes the property was left to endow a priest to say mass in honor of some special saint, and frequently of the Virgin Mary. As such priests usually felt the need for some other occupation, some of them began voluntarily to teach the elements of religion and learning to selected boys, and in time it became common for those leaving money for the prayers to stipulate in the will that the priest should also teach a school. Usually a very elementary type of school was provided, where the children were taught to know the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Salutation to the Virgin, certain psalms, to sign themselves rightly with the sign of the cross, and perhaps to read and write (Latin). Sometimes, on the contrary, and especially was this the case later on in England, a grammar school was ordered maintained. After the twelfth century this type of foundation (R. 73) became quite common.

2. _Advanced instruction_

CATHEDRAL AND HIGHER MONASTIC SCHOOLS. As the song schools developed the cathedral schools were of course freed from the necessity of teaching reading and writing, and could then develop more advanced instruction. This they did, as did many of the monasteries, and to these advanced schools those who felt the need for more training went. As grammar was, throughout all the early part of the Middle Ages, the first and most important subject of instruction, the advanced schools came to be known as _grammar schools_, as well as cathedral or episcopal schools (R. 72). The cathedral churches and monasteries of England and France early became celebrated for the high character of their instruction (R. 71) and the type of scholars they produced. All these schools, though, suffered a serious set-back during the period of the Danish and Norman invasions, many being totally destroyed. On the continent, due to the greater deluge of barbarism and the more unsettled condition of society, more difficulty was experienced in getting cathedral schools established, as the following decree of the Lateran Church Council of 826 indicates:

Complaints have been made that in some places no masters nor endowment for a grammar school is found. Therefore all bishops shall bestow all care and diligence, both for their subjects and for other places in which it shall be found necessary, to establish masters and teachers who shall assiduously teach grammar schools and the principles of the liberal arts, because in these chiefly the commandments of God are manifest and declared.

These two types of advanced schools–the cathedral or episcopal and the monastic–formed what might be called the secondary-school system of the early Middle Ages (Rs. 70, 71). They were for at least six hundred years the only advanced teaching institutions in western Europe, and out of one or the other of these two types of advanced schools came practically all those who attained to leadership in the service of the Church in either of its two great branches. Still more, out of the impetus given to advanced study by the more important of these schools, the universities of a later period developed; and numerous private gifts of lands and money were made to establish grammar schools to supplement the work done by the cathedral and other large church schools.

THE SEVEN LIBERAL ARTS. The advanced studies which were offered in the more important monastery and cathedral schools comprised what came to be known as _The Seven Liberal Arts_ [2] of the Middle Ages. The knowledge contained in these studies, taught as the advanced instruction of the period, represents the amount of secular learning which was intentionally preserved by the Church from neglect and destruction during the period of the barbarian deluges and the reconstruction of society.

These Seven Liberal Arts were comprised of two divisions, known as:

(1) Grammar;
(2) Rhetoric;
(3) Dialectic (Logic).

(4) Arithmetic;
(5) Geometry;
(6) Astronomy;
(7) Music.

[Illustration: FIG. 44. THE MEDIEVAL SYSTEM OF EDUCATION SUMMARIZED Allegorical representation of the progress and degrees of education, from an illuminated picture in the 1508 (Basel) edition of the _Margarita Philosophica_ of Gregory de Reisch.

The youth, having mastered the Hornbook (ABC’s) and the rudiments of learning (reading, writing, and the beginnings of music and numbers), advances toward the temple of knowledge. Wisdom is about to place the key in the lock of the door of the temple. On the door is written the word _congruitas_, signifying Grammar. (“Gramaire first hath for to teche to speke upon congruite.”) On the first and second floors of the temple he studies the Grammar of Donatus, and of Priscian, and at the first stage at the left on the third floor he studies the Logic of Aristotle, followed by the Rhetoric and Poetry of Tully, thus completing the _Trivium_. The Arithmetic of Boethius also appears on the third floor. On the fourth floor he completes the studies of the _Quadrivium_, taking in order the Music of Pythagoras, Euclid’s Geometry, and Ptolemy’s Astronomy. The student now advances to the study of Philosophy, studying successively Physics, Seneca’s Morals, and the Theology (or Metaphysics) of Peter Lombard, the last being the goal toward which all has been directed.]

Beyond these came Ethics or Metaphysics, and the greatest of all studies, Theology. This last represented the one professional study of the early middle-age period, and was the goal toward which all the preceding studies had tended. This mediaeval system of education is well summarized in the drawing given on the opposite page, taken from an illuminated picture inserted in a famous mediaeval manuscript, recopied at Basle, Switzerland, in 1508.

Not all these studies were taught in every monastery or cathedral school. Many of the lesser monasteries and schools offered instruction chiefly in grammar, and only a little of the studies beyond. Others emphasized the Trivium, and taught perhaps only a little of the second group. Only a few taught the full range of mediaeval learning, and these were regarded as the great schools of the times (R. 71).

Rhabanus Maurus (776-865), one of the greatest minds of the Middle Ages, Abbot for years at Fulda, and a mediaeval textbook writer of importance, has left us a good description of each of the Seven Liberal Arts studies as they were developed in his day, and their use in the Christian scheme of education (R. 74).


Of the three studies forming the _Trivium_, grammar always came first as the basal subject. No uniformity existed for the other two.

1. GRAMMAR. The foundation and source of all the Liberal Arts was grammar, it being, according to Maurus, “the science which teaches us to explain the poets and historians, and the art which qualifies us to speak and write correctly” (R. 74 a). In the introduction to an improved Latin grammar, [3] published about 1119, grammar is defined as “The doorkeeper of all the other sciences, the apt expurgatrix of the stammering tongue, the servant of logic, the mistress of rhetoric, the interpreter of theology, the relief of medicine, and the praiseworthy foundation of the whole quadrivium.” Figure 45, from one of the earliest books printed in English, also emphasizes the great importance of grammar with the words: “Wythout whiche science (s)ycherly alle other sciences in especial ben of lytyl recomme(d).” In addition to grammar in the sense we know the study to-day, grammar in the old Roman and mediaeval mind also included much of what we know as the analytical side of the study of literature, such as comparison, analysis, versification, prosody, word formations, figures of speech, and vocal expression (R. 76). These were considered necessary to enable one to read understandingly the Holy Scriptures, and hence, “though the art be secular,” says Maurus, “it has nothing unworthy about it.”

[Illustration: FIG. 45. A SCHOOL: A LESSON IN GRAMMAR (After a woodcut printed by Caxton in _The Mirror of the World_, 1481 (?). From Blades’ _Life and Typography of William Caxton_, ii, Plate LVI)

This is a good example of early English printing. Can you read it? This “Old English,” like the German type (see Fig. 26), shows the change in Latin letters which came about with the copying of manuscripts during the Middle Ages. After the invention of printing the English soon returned to the Latin forms; the Germans are only now doing so.]

The leading textbook was that of Donatus, [4] written in the fourth century, and Donatus (_donat_) and grammar came to be synonymous terms. The text by Priscian, [5] written in the sixth century, was also extensively used. The treatment in each was catechetical in form; that is, questions and answers, which were learned. The text was of course in Latin, and the teacher usually had the only copy, so that the pupils had to learn from memory or copy from dictation. The cost of writing-material usually precluded the latter method. After sufficient ability in grammar had been attained, simple reading exercises or colloquies (R. 75), usually of a religious or moralizing nature, were introduced, though where permitted the Latin authors, especially Vergil, [6] were read. At Saint Gall, in Switzerland, and at some other places, many Latin authors were read; at Tours, on the other hand, we find the learned Abbot Alcuin saying to the monks: “The sacred poets are sufficient for you; there is no reason why you should sully your mind with the rank luxuriance of Vergil’s verse.”

2. RHETORIC. Rhetoric, as defined by Maurus, was “the art of using secular discourse effectively in the circumstances of daily life,” and enabling the preacher or missionary to put the divine message in eloquent and impressive language (R. 74 b). Much of the old Roman rhetoric had been taken over by grammar, but in its place was added a certain amount of letter and legal documentary writing. The priest, it must be remembered, became the secretary and lawyer of the Middle Ages, as well as the priest, and upon him devolved the preparation of most of the legal papers of the time, such as wills, deeds, proclamations, and other formal documents. Accordingly the art of letter-writing [7] and the preparation of legal documents were made a part of the study of rhetoric, and some study of both the civil (“worldly”) and canon (church) law was gradually introduced.

3. DIALECTIC. Dialectic, or logic, says Maurus, is the science of understanding, and hence the science of sciences (R. 74 c). By means of its aid one was enabled to unmask falsehood, expose error, formulate argument, and draw conclusions accurately. The study was one of preparation for ethics and theology later on. Extracts from the works of Aristotle, prepared by Boethius, and later his complete works, constituted the texts used. While grammar was the great subject of the seven during all the early Middle Ages, dialectic later came to take its place. After the rise of the universities and the organization of schools of theology, with theology more of a rational science and less a matter of dogma, dialectic came to hold first place in importance as a preparation for the disputations of the later Middle Ages. Theological questions formed the practical exercises, and the schools doing most in dialectic attracted many students because of this.

These three studies, constituting the _Trivium_, based as they were directly on the old Roman learning and schools, contained more that was within the teaching knowledge of the time than did the subjects of the _Quadrivium_, and also subject-matter which was much more in demand.


The _trivial_ studies, in most cases before the thirteenth century, sufficed to prepare for the study of theology, though those few who desired to prepare thoroughly also studied the subjects of the _quadrivium_. In schools not offering instruction in this advanced group some of the elements of its four studies were often taught from the textbooks in use for the _Trivium_. Particularly was this the case during the early Middle Ages, when the knowledge of arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy possessed by western Europe was exceedingly small. No regular order in the study of the subjects of this group was followed.

4. ARITHMETIC. Naturally little could be done in this subject as long as the Roman system of notation was in use (see footnote, i, p. 64), and the Arabic notation was not known in western Christian Europe until the beginning of the thirteenth century, and was not much used for two or three centuries later. So far as arithmetic was taught before that time, it was but little in advance of that given to novitiates in the monasteries, except that much attention was devoted to an absurd study of the properties of numbers, [8] and to the uses of arithmetic in determining church days, calculating the date of Easter, and interpreting passages in the Scriptures involving measurements (R. 74 d). The textbook by Rhabanus Maurus _On Reckoning_, issued in 820, is largely in dialogue (catechetical) form, and is devoted to describing the properties of numbers, “odd, even, perfect, imperfect, composite, plane, solid, cardinal, ordinal, adverbial, distributive, multiple, denunciative, etc.”; to pointing out the scriptural significance of number; [9] and to an elaborate explanation of finger reckoning, after the old Roman plan (see p. 65). Near the end of the tenth century Gerbert, [10] afterwards Pope Sylvester II, devised a simple abacus-form for expressing numbers, simple enough in itself, but regarded as wonderful in its day. This greatly simplified calculation, and made work with large numbers possible. He also devised an easier form for large divisions.

Gerbert’s form for expressing numbers may be shown from the following simple sum in addition:

_Arabic Form_ _Roman Form_ _Gerbert’s Form_ _M C X I_

—– ——— ——————- 4816 MMMMDCCCXVI IV VIII I VI

No study of arithmetic of importance was possible, however, until the introduction of Arabic notation and the use of the zero.