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(pedagogos ac magistros) after the custom of the Canterbury
folk." The word in the original is Cantuariorum, which may
be also translated Kentish folk. It is, however, immaterial
whether we translate " Kentish " or " Canterbury " folk, since
Canterbury, as the metropolis of the Kentish kingdom, and
as the royal and archiepiscopal city, was naturally the seat of
the chief school, as it was also, by the express testimony of a
Saxon writer, "of the Supreme Court of the Kentish king-
dom ". But if the school had already a custom of its own
and was established enough to become a model for other
kingdoms in 631, by whom could it have been established
except by Augustine, or at what epoch could it have been
established except at the first establishment of the see ?
Felix was a Burgundian who had come over to England and
been consecrated by Archbishop Honorius, one of the last
survivors of Augustine's original band of missionaries. That
Sigberct and Felix should have thought it necessary to estab-
lish a school on the christianization of East Anglia and the
founding of the East Anglian see, in 631, strengthens the in-
ference that St. Augustine and King Ethelbert had done the
same in the establishment of the see at Canterbury in 598.

We need not discuss and dissect the unwarrantable claim
that Sigberct's school was at Cambridge. The East Anglian
see was settled at Dunwich and Dunwich has been rightly
claimed by the East Anglian historians as the seat of Sig-
berct's school, and, wrongly, as therefore the oldest school
in England. But this is through the default of the Canter-
bury historians who went astray seeking the founder of


their school in the Greek archbishop Theodore, of whom more
hereafter. It is obvious that the school which was taken
as the model, and which furnished the first masters to the
school founded on its model, like Winchester to Eton 800
years later, must be older than the copy. Even if Dunwich
School had not perished, the primary place among the schools,
as among the churches, of England must be assigned to

The vexed question of which is " Our Oldest School " is
therefore settled in favour of the ancient Grammar School of
the city or cathedral church of Canterbury the terms are con-
vertible known, though only since the eighteenth century, as
the King's School, Canterbury.

Recently, the claim of Canterbury, generally accepted
since its first assertion in The Times of 14 September, 1896,
reinforced by detailed exposition in articles in the same paper
of 7 September, 1897, and in The Guardian of 12 and 19
January, 1 898, has been questioned, and the priority sought to
be assigned to Rochester Cathedral School. The basis of the
Rochester claim was eventually reduced in a letter to The
Times of 4 January, 191 1, to a statement in " an old history of
Rochester," that " in the year 604 Justus endowed six secular
priests for the instruction of youth " there. This statement,
involving a school with five assistant masters, a number unheard
of and undreamt of in English schools before the eighteenth
century, is absolutely incredible. Even if the " old history "
the date and provenance of which have been asked for but
have not been vouchsafed were accepted as an authority com-
parable to that of Bede, it could not make us accept Rochester
as the older school. To do so would be to set the disciple
above his master. For the See of Rochester was an offshoot
of and subordinate to Canterbury. " In 604," says Bede,
"Augustine, Archbishop of Britain, ordained two bishops,
Mellitus and Justus, the first as bishop of the East Saxons
with his see at St. Paul's, London, and the other as bishop at
Rochester ; in which the king built St. Andrew's church, and
he gave to the bishops of each of those churches many gifts as
he had done at Canterbury ; and added lands and property for
the use of those who were with the bishops " their clerks or


If it is inferred from this and it is a perfectly fair infer-
ence that Rochester School and, by parity of reasoning, St.
Paul's School, London, were established as a part of those
episcopal establishments in 604, from the very same inference,
and on the authority of the same record, it must be admitted
that Rochester and London were later than Canterbury, their
mother, mistress, and model, by six years.

Two years after the establishment of Dunwich Grammar
School on the model of Canterbury, we hear of the establish-
ment of a Song School at York, for which also Canterbury
was the model. When Paulinus, one of Augustine's Canterbury
mission, after Christianizing King Edwin and York in 627, fled
from it after the battle of Heathfield, in which Edwin was
defeated and killed by an unholy alliance between the heathen
Penda of Mercia and the Christian Welsh in 633, he left be-
hind him James, the deacon who " though an ecclesiastic, was
also a saint ". Bede, writing as a monk, thought none but
monks really holy. When peace was restored in the province
i.e. after Oswald had recovered it by the battle of Heaven-
field in 635 "when the number of the faithful increased,
James acted as master to many in church chanting after the
Roman or Canterbury fashion," i.e. the Gregorian as dis-
tinguished from the Ambrosian or Milanese chant.

These Song Schools became even more general than the
Grammar Schools. The Song School at Rochester is expressly
mentioned by Bede in Theodore's time as being derived from
Canterbury. Putta, whom Archbishop Theodore found at
Rochester, and made bishop there, is described " as well in-
structed in ecclesiastical, learning, . . . and especially skilled in
the art of chanting in church after the Roman fashion, which he
had learnt from the pupils of the blessed Pope Gregory him-
self". This Putta, when Rochester was ravaged by the King
of Mercia in 675, settled down as a simple parish priest in
Mercia and went about " teaching church singing (ecclesiae
carmina) wherever he was asked ".

The twin schools of Grammar and Song, which have often
been confounded as if they were one school, are found side by
side in connexion with all the great churches, that is in all the
great centres of population, from the age of Augustine and
Ethel bert to the age of Cranmer and Edward VI, as distinct


foundations, completely differentiated in function as they were
in their teaching, and generally in their government. In small
places they were sometimes united under one master. Though
as late as 1519 a school-author, who had been Headmaster first
of Eton and then of Winchester, William Herman, asserted in
echo of Quintilian, himself copying the Greeks, that, without a
knowledge of music, grammar cannot be perfect, yet the
teaching of singing and music, so often rashly asserted to be
the main work of the pre-Reformation school, and the Song
Schools which gave it, were always subordinate and secondary
to the teaching of grammar and the Grammar School. To
a large extent the Song Schools performed the function of
Elementary Schools, while the Grammar Schools were the
Secondary Schools, and, before the days of Universities, gave
university or higher education as well. Our main task is
to follow the foundations and fortunes of the Grammar

For the Song Schools were in essence special or profes-
sional schools for those engaged in the actual performance of
the services, and useful mainly for them, whereas the Grammar
Schools gave a general education, as much needed by the
statesman, the lawyer, the civil servant, and the clerk as by
the priest or cleric. For a Grammar School meant a school
which taught the classics, especially the Latin language
and literature ; the terms being interchangeable. All schools,
in the ordinary parlance, schools simpliciter, schools without
an epithet, schools other than special schools, such as schools
of law, of medicine, or later, of theology, or of song, or
writing, or of arms, or dancing, or of needlework, were Grammar
Schools, scale gramaticales, ludi literarii. These schools de-
scend direct from Rome and indirectly from Alexandria.

They were no creation of Christianity or of Christian
times : no development of catechetical schools or of church
officers. For it is certain that our schools are not derived,
as sometimes alleged, from the catechetical schools, beginning
with that of St. Mark at Alexandria, whom the learned nun,
Miss Drane, depicted as teaching a sort of elementary school
in which the grey barbarian learnt the rudiments side by side
with the Christian child. The smallest study of the meaning
of catechumen and the object of catechetical teaching should


have prevented this hypothesis from ever being presented, or
rather, such a wild guess from ever having been made.

Catechetical schools, so called, were nothing more than
courses of lectures to catechumens, who, whether they were
new converts or long-standing Christians, were grown-up
people being prepared for baptism by catechesis, that is oral
instruction, in the principles of the Christian faith. In the
first three centuries of the Christian Church no one dreamt of
baptizing infants. To do so would have seemed not so much
profane, though it would have been that, as preposterous.
Baptism was the supreme rite, the admission to the highest
grade in the Christian gild, not as now the first initiation into
it. Tertullian, writing in the third century on Baptism, ex-
horts the faithful to get over the business of marriage and
founding families before they incur the awful responsibilities
of baptism, a regeneration, a new birth of the soul, which was
freed from all sin thereby, a " baptism of repentance ". He
asks, referring to the proposal made by some that children of
three or four years old no one had suggested new-born babies
should be baptized, why should the age of innocence be in a
hurry to get its sins remitted ? A century and a half later, when
Augustine, at the age of fourteen, clamoured to be baptized,
his mother told him to wait until he was older and had a
deeper sense of responsibility. To be baptized was to be
illuminated, and a passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews had
given rise to, or perhaps rather expressed, the current belief
that mortal sin committed after baptism could not be forgiven.
" For as touching those who have once been illuminated . . .
but then have fallen away it is impossible to renew them again
unto repentance." The age of thirty, the traditional age at
which Christ was baptized, was regarded as the normal age for
baptism, but many put it off to their death-beds, and then
risked being unable to receive it because through physical or
mental weakness they were unable to repeat or understand the

Catechumens therefore were grown persons being in-
formed or instructed in the mysteries of Christianity, trans-
lated by the Latin audientes, hearing or audience.

There are two sets of early catechetical lectures extant.
The famous Didache or Teaching of the Apostles, now recog-


nized as being a guide to catechists, is simply an exposition of
the doctrines and services of the Church, a theological treatise.
The Catechetical Lectures of Cyril of Alexandria, Bishop of
Jerusalem, delivered in 347, are eighteen homilies or expository
sermons, addressed to grown-up congregations. The title of
the first is "To those to be enlightened," the illuminandi. The
second is on the necessity for " Repentance and remission of
sins," and the third expounds that " Baptism gives remission ".
The last thirteen go steadily through the Creed, expounding
and explaining the meaning and importance of its articles.
There is not a word in them to suggest that this catechist
is educating the young. Chiefly he is arguing against the
heathen as a missionary nowadays might in preaching to
Hindoos, Brahmins, or Chinese sages.

The Great Catechism of Gregory of Nyssa, written about
380, was lately cited in the American Cyclopedia of Education
(1912) as giving him "a place in the realm of pedagogy".
Nobody who had ever looked at it could possibly claim it as a
pedagogical work. Like Clement of Alexandria's Pedagogue
of 1 50 years before, it is a theological textbook pure and simple,
which did not even, as the Pedagogue had done, treat the Church
under the metaphor of a school, of which the tutor was Christ.
So too Augustine of Hippo's work On catechizing beginners (De
catechizandis rudimentis\ written in the year 400, is no treat-
ise on educational method, but a handbook of that which is
called, in the title of one of the divinity professors at Oxford,
pastoral theology, a series of hints how to meet the difficulties
presented to or by catechumens of varying degrees of educa-
tion and intelligence. Its object may be seen at once from
the opening words, " You said that when you were a deacon at
Carthage, you often had those brought to you who were to be
instructed in the Christian faith".

There was not even any building set apart for the cate-
chizing, which could be called a Catechetical School. When
Origen in 203 was employed at the age of eighteen as catechist by
Bishop Demetrius of Alexandria, he is said to have been given
the duty of teaching in the church. By Ambrose of Milan
in 380 the baptistery itself was appropriately used for the
purpose. He relates how when, after reading and expounding
the lessons, he had sent away the bulk of the catechumens,


he taught the competent (competentes\ the advanced cate-
chumens who were candidates for actual baptism at the ensuing
Easter, the Creed itself.

The early Church as a whole was opposed to education, be-
cause the usual school education, being based on the study of
the poets, was necessarily mixed up with the pagan mythology,
and the higher education in the " philosophy of the Greeks "
was mistrusted. So though the Church was wise enough to
make use of learned converts when it got them, these
were often compelled to defend themselves and apologize for
their education and learning. Thus Gregory of Nazianzus
in his Panegyric on his friend St. Basil, delivered about 382,
while descanting on their life together at the University of
Athens, has to defend " that external culture which many
Christians ill-judgingly abhor as mischievous and dangerous
and keeping us afar from God ". " As we compound healing
drugs from reptiles, so from secular literature we receive
principles of inquiry and speculation while we reject their
idolatry. They aid us in our religion by our knowledge of
the difference between the worse and the better. We must
not then dishonour education because some do so, but rather set
down those who do as boorish and uneducated, desiring all to be
as they are in order to escape the detection of their want of

So elaborate a defence of education and culture in a
bishop could hardly have been needed if there were schools
of the church itself which gave this very education and
culture. With scarcely an exception all the early Fathers
who made their mark in Christian literature and apologetics
are known to have been educated in the ordinary pagan
grammar and rhetoric schools. Thus the first recorded so-called
master of the Alexandrian Catechetical School, Pantaenus,
who taught in the reign of the Emperor Severus, A.D. 181,
had been himself a Stoic philosopher, ,and is said by Jerome
to have been sent to India as a missionary to the Brahmins
and philosophers there. Eusebius places him " finally at the
head of the Alexandrian school," doing what ? giving a general
education to the young ? No but " commenting on the
treasures of God's truth, both orally and in writing ". Clement
of Alexandria, his colleague and successor, had also been a


student in the philosophy schools of Greece and Italy before he
became the convert of Pantaenus. His Stromata patch-work
or miscellanies are full of classical and philosophical learn-
ing acquired in his pagan days. His disciple and successor as
catechist, Origen, had been a pupil of Ammonius Saccas,
the Neo-Platonist philosopher, and was supporting him-
self and his mother and six brothers as master of a Greek
grammar school when he was made master of the catechetical
school on the flight of Clement from persecution. We are ex-
pressly told that he thereupon gave up his school and sold his
library. Later he had to leave Alexandria and went to Athens
and Rome, and on his return appointed as assistant-catechist,
" Heracles the priest, who continued to wear the dress of a philo-
sopher ". The phrase shows that Heracles' learning too was de-
rived from the ordinary schools. Origen afterwards taught a
school of philosophy at Caesarea. Dionysius, the next in suc-
cession, in 232, was also a heathen, and brought up in the
heathen schools before being converted by Origen ; he con-
tinued to act as catechist until he became Bishop of Alexandria
in 247. Little appears to be known of their successors as
given by Jerome. But it can hardly be doubted that they
had one and all been educated in their youth in the public

For in the next century precisely the same education in
the grammar, rhetoric, and philosophical schools was enjoyed
by the two great Fathers, Basil and Gregory of Nazianzus.
They, unlike those before mentioned, were born Christians. But
they went to school at Caesarea in Cappadocia under Carterius.
Of Basil, Gregory says that he was brought up by his father
a "common," i.e. public, teacher of virtue, but he was brought
up in religion by his grandmother Macrina. Basil afterwards
went to Csesarea in Palestine to study Greek and Latin
literature, i.e. to a grammar school. Here, according to Jerome,
Origen, who after his flight from Alexandria had set up a
school of philosophy, " gradually introduced the matter of
faith in Christ". But this sounds legendary. Basil's con-
temporary Gregory makes no mention of Origen or Christian
teaching there. If true, the story shows, not that the school
kept by Origen was a catechetical school giving general educa-
tion, but that he took a mean advantage as teacher of a


professedly undenominational school of philosophy to use it for
denominational propaganda.

When Gregory and Basil met again as students at
Athens, Gregory tells how "two ways were known to us, the
first of greater value, the second of smaller consequence, the
one leading to our sacred building and to our teachers there,
the other to secular instruction ". So speaks the bishop in
after years. We may be pretty sure that as the object of
their going to Athens was to learn the classics, rhetoric, and
philosophy, the road to the secular schools was the important
one at the time. Even in the funeral oration on Basil, from
which these facts are derived, this peeps out. While Gregory
tells us nothing about their going to church or their catecheti-
cal instruction, he enlarges on their University life, their
initiation as freshmen, being subject to a mock debate and
argument, ending with a triumphant procession to and sham
storming of the Public Bath. Gregory extols the abilities
and application of Basil, not in Christian but in pagan learn-
ing, his knowledge of languages, acquired before his arrival at
Athens, his powerful rhetoric, his attainments in grammar
" which perfects our tongues in Greek, compiles history, pre-
sides over metres and legislates for poetry, and in philosophy,
practical and speculative, and particularly that part of it con-
cerned with logical demonstration called Dialectic ". Basil was,
however, no mathematician. Astronomy and geometry he
grasped, but " excessive application to these he despised as
useless for those who sought after piety ". Medicine he learnt,
both theory and practice, because of his own physical delicacy
and with a view to visiting the sick.

This prodigy, " whose ship was loaded with all the learn-
ing attainable by man," though he is represented as treat-
ing rhetoric as a by-work merely to assist him in Christian
philosophy, was, like Gregory himself, not baptized till after
he had been a student at Athens for five years, though
Gregory had, during a storm on his way to the University,
vowed to be baptized, if he escaped shipwreck.

Even after leaving Athens Basil spent some time as master of
a public rhetoric school before he became a priest and an ascetic,
when he inflicted on the world and himself the first coenobite
rule. Though he himself confessed the failure of his monastic


life, " though I have left the city as the source of innumerable ills,
yet I have not learned to leave myself ... so I have got no
great good from my retirement " ; yet in his later days he wrote,
" The choice lies between two alternatives, a liberal education,
which you may get by sending your, children to the public
schools, or the salvation of their souls, which you may secure by
sending them to the monks. Which is to win, learning or salva-
tion ? If you can unite both, do so ; but if not, choose the most
precious." Here again the learning of the public schools is
contrasted with the religion of the monks.

To clinch the argument we may cite the words of Gregory,
when the Emperor Julian in 362 is said to have aimed
a deadly blow at Christianity by closing the public schools
to Christians. Gregory attacked the edict in unmeasured
terms, insisting that he preferred learning to all earthly riches,
and held nothing in the world dearer, next to the joys of heaven
and the hopes of eternity. But why should Gregory have re-
garded the prohibition as a grievance if the Church had its own
ecclesiastical schools in which it itself gave literary and philo-
sophical instruction. What was the antithesis between edu-
cation and salvation if the monasteries gave a liberal education ?

No. The true models and source of the schools of England
are not the schools of the Church but the schools of heathen-
dom, the schools of Athens and Alexandria, of Rome, of Lyons,
of Vienne. They were in fact the very same " heathen " or
" pagan " or, in other words, Graeco -Roman institutions, in
which Horace and Juvenal, Jerome and St. Augustine had
learnt the scansion of hexameters and the accredited methods
of speech-making and argument. To understand the medieval
and the modern school, we must therefore know what the
Greek and Roman schools, both of classical times and of the
so-called Dark Ages, from which they were descended, were


ANCIENT Greece, the Hellas of the golden age of
Athenian ascendancy, knew no organized schools in
our sense. There were private tutors in various
subjects, music, reading, and gymnastics for boys ; peripatetic
and migratory lecturers de omnibus rebus et quibusdam aliis,
physics, law, ethics, divinity, philosophy, not only for youths,
but also for men who " in trim gardens took their pleasure," and
there found "retired leisure," <r^o\Tj, whence schola and school,
which they devoted to discussion. The organized school was
developed in Macedonian Greater Greece, at Alexandria and
Pergamus. A Mime of Herondas, called the Master (StSaovcaXoi?)
is the earliest literary picture of a school, c. 250 B.C. A
mother takes her boy to the grammar school (^pa^jjuarelov)
and asks the schoolmaster to give him a good flogging. He
has stripped the very roof off her house by his losses, gamb-
ling at odd-and-even and knucklebones, while his writing-tablet
lies neglected in a corner, and he says his repetition at the rate
of a word a minute. The master, nothing loth, brings out his
leather strap. The boy is hoisted on the back of another,
with two others to hold his hands and legs, and the strap is
applied till the boy is " as mottled as a water-snake," while the
mother still cries, " give it him, give it him," and threatens him
with gag and fetters. We can hardly imagine the Athenian
boy of the age of Pericles and Socrates being thus flogged
into the service of the Muses and threatened with the treatment
of a slave. But this method became the usual one. The only
actual picture that remains to us of an ancient Roman school,
a painting now at Naples, reproduces a similar scene.

At Rome, schools began, if not with the study of Greek,
at all events as a result of Greek influence. When captive
Greece captured Rome, it did so mainly by carrying schools



Online LibraryArthur Francis LeachThe schools of medieval England → online text (page 2 of 39)