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410, the Saxons or English poured over the land, and by
the middle of the fifth century the Romanized Britons were
exterminated or driven out of the whole of the east, south, and
midlands, and their towns burnt or abandoned. So far as the
Anglicized portion of the island was concerned, Roman civiliza-
tion was swept away ; Christianity and the Latin language dis-
appeared, and heathen English lived in their place. Attempts
have been, and are still, made from time to time to prove
that Roman institutions and even schools remained, but they
invariably break down from lack of facts to support them.
As the result of the latest scientific investigation of the history
of the English conquest of England, Professor Oman, assisted
by Professor Haverfield, the chief authority on Roman Britain,
writes in England before the Norman Conquest : " The in-
vaders . . . had well-nigh exterminated the earlier Christian
inhabitants. . . . The English had from the first spared a
certain number of the conquered Britons. . . . But it is
certain that they were but a remnant and exercised no in-
fluence on their masters ; it is not even clear that they pre-
served their Christianity."

Meanwhile on the Continent in spite of barbarian invasions
the schools continued.

In the succeeding age, born in 431, the year after St.
Augustine's death, on the other side of the Mediterranean, St.
Sidonius Apollinaris flourished as grammar schoolmaster, im-
perial official, writer of vers de soctitt and bishop. He was
educated in Lyons Grammar School (Carmina, xx. I) with his
fellow-poet Avitus, who became prefect of Aries, and for a
short year Emperor of the West. Among his epistles are
two addressed to the masters of the rhetoric schools of Vienne
and Perigueux respectively (Ep. v. 10; viii. n), the latter
written in 483. A letter to his son at school at Lyons warns
him, very much as a modern father might, against taking
part in loose talk.

In the generation following Augustine, Sedulius, recog-
nized as a Christian poet in a decree of Pope Gelasius in 496,
and specially recommended by Colet for St Paul's School in


1518, was a teacher of philosophy in Italy, before he wrote
his Easter Song (Carmen Paschale], under Theodosius and
Valentinian, 450-5. Dracontius, who calls himself pupil of
the grammarian Felicianus, " who had restored letters to Carth-
age," wrote a sacred poem in good hexameters, " De laudibus
Dei," in 484-96, which bear evident traces of the school of
rhetoric (Teuffel, Roman Literature, 1900, ii. 508) ; while a MS.
Codex Salmasianus preserves poems of a schoolmaster (schol-
asticus] named Coronatus, who wrote under the Vandal king
Hilderic at the same place. Under Theodoric the Ostrogoth,
King of Italy 493-526, there is abundant evidence that the
study of classics continued, though Latin was dying out as a
vernacular language and becoming more and more a merely
literary vehicle. It is sufficient to mention Boethius, the
dominant author of the Middle Ages, partly because of his
Consolations of Philosophy, partly because of his school books
on Aristotle. The special work on school training attri-
buted to him'duringthe Middle Ages, De disciplina Scolartum,
is easily detected as the product of at least six centuries
later, since it is full of stories about life in the University of
Paris. Striking testimony to the continuance of education in
grammar schools is found in the works of Ennodius, a native
of Gaul, Bishop of Ticinum (Pavia), 513-21, in which are
preserved twenty-eight speeches (dictiones\ composed in and
for the school of rhetoric. Some seven of them relate to actual
episodes in the school of Deuterius at Milan ; including one
on the removal of the school into new quarters, which had
been a law court in the Forum. A chance phrase, torn from
the context, " I now detest the very name of liberal studies,"
has been misinterpreted by Dr. Sandys and others to mean
that, as bishop, Ennodius repudiated the classics, and the
inference has been drawn that the whole Church did so. But
the phrase ends a letter to Arator, the future poet, who turned
the Acts of the Apostles into hexameters, advising him not
to give up without long consideration the life of a man of the
world for that of learning. It only expresses that which all
scholars have at times felt, like Faust, their own weariness of
the literary life. That Ennodius did not as bishop re-
pudiate the classics is obvious from one of his speeches made
on the admission of this same Arator to the school, when in a


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somewhat similar spirit he contrasts the work of the school-
master "who possesses and draws water from the Castalian
spring itself," with his own dry work as a preacher, " shut into
a corner of the Church ". When Arator won a school prize,
the learned Bishop delivered another speech in praise of
classical literature, in which he indulges in the usual exag-
geration, such as Cicero, imitating the Greeks, bestowed
on it in his speech Pro Archia, and Richard of Bury in
his Polybiblion, and modern plagiarists have bestowed on
the "hundred best books". Ennodius testifies clearly enough
that the Christian bishop of the sixth century was not
necessarily opposed to classical learning nor the Christian
Church to grammar schools.

It is perhaps no proof of the continuance of schools in
Western Europe that the Eastern capital, Constantinople, in
the first quarter of the sixth century saw the composition of
the chief of all Latin grammars, that of Priscian, who, as
Cassiodorus says, "was in our time a teacher at Constanti-
nople ". It is in fact mainly a translation of the Greek Apol-
lonios and of the commentary of Dionysius Thrax. But its
composition, and its subsequent ascendancy throughout the
Middle Ages, testified by the existence of over 1000
MSS., sufficiently show that there were grammar schools
creating a demand for Latin grammars, even on the largest

At the opposite end of the Roman world, Virgilius Maro,
a grammarian of Toulouse, who wrote, it must be admitted, in
a fantastic and almost unintelligible style, introducing from
Greek new words and misapplying old ones, like some of the
word-torturing writers of our own day, is nevertheless a suffi-
cient witness of the continuance of the public schools in the
West at the beginning of the next, the sixth century. In an
amusing discussion, which, according to him, lasted fourteen
days and nights between Galbungus and Terentius as to
whether the pronoun Ego, " I," can be used in the vocative
case, he shows a keen wit, sharpened by dialectic ; nor is the
point discussed more minute or trivial than some of those of
our modern scientific grammarians. Virgilius mentions his
own master yneas and several other grammar masters, though
it is probable that most of them and their discussions are mere


jeux <f esprit. He tells us that libraries were then divided into
two parts, classical and Christian.

At Rome, between 526 and 534, we have striking evidence
of the care with which the grammar schools were looked after by
the State, even under the barbarian invaders, in a letter written
by Cassiodorus ( Var. ix. 20) in the name of Athalaric, son of
Theodoric, " King of the Goths and Romans," to the Senate.
After an eloquent exposition of the claims of the grammar
school as " the fairest foundation of literature, the glorious
mother of eloquence," and grammar as " the mistress of words,
the tiring-maid of the human race . . . the special possession
of the lords of Rome, unknown to barbarian kings," he requests
the Senate to see that when one master succeeds another, there
is no delay in the payment of his stipend to the new man, and
that it is regularly paid half-yearly. For " if," he says, " the
royal wealth is bestowed on actors for the public enjoyment, and
they, who are not necessary, obtain their pay with exact punc-
tuality, how much more ought those to receive it without de-
lay who produce good conduct, and nourish intelligence for the
benefit of the empire".

Venantius Fortunatus, born at Treviso, who settled at
Tours under the protection of Gregory of Tours, its bishop,
and wrote about 570 a life of St. Martin of Tours in three
books of hexameters, tells us how he had been educated in the
grammar and rhetoric schools ; " he had imbibed the rills of
grammar and drunk from the deep pools of rhetoric ". In a
preface to Pope Gregory, quoting the Greek rhetorical terms in
Greek letters, he prays pardon for any metrical blunders ; not
without reason, as he makes the first syllables of initium and
adhuc long. Of Gregory the Great himself, Gregory of Tours
says that he was " so well grounded in grammar, logic, and
rhetoric that no one in Rome was considered even second
to him," which must mean that he had attended a public
grammar school and rhetoric school. For whenever, as in
the case of some of the bishops, whose lives Fortunatus wrote,
one was brought up in a monastery it is specially recorded.
For by this time the monasteries, which at first were peopled
with those who had, like St. Augustine, fled from the world
after having exhausted all its pleasures, were beginning to be
recruited from boys brought up in them from infancy. But


the monasteries did not then, nor, as will be seen, except for
a very few years in the Carlovingian period, keep public
schools for general education.

The time was, however, one of transition. It was the era
in which the schools were passing from secular to ecclesiastical
control. Gregory of Tours himself is the first eminent literary
man who is recorded as having received his education, not in
a public school but from two bishops of Clermont, Galens and
Avitus. His Latin was defective in consequence, and his
knowledge of the classics confined to Virgil and Sallust. " St."
Lubin, who became Bishop of Chartres in 544, was, according
to a life nearly contemporary " an agreeable teacher," and
taught and superintended the teaching of his successor Caletric ;
while it is recorded in set terms of Bethaire that, though
a Roman born in Italy, he came to Chartres to be taught by
Bishop Pappol, who c. 573 proclaimed him "teacher of divinity
and (school) master of that whole city ". He became bishop him-
self in 594. So of Launomaurus, St. Lomer, afterwards Abbot
of Courgeon, c. 550, it is stated that his parents " had handed
him to a certain venerable priest, Chirmir, to be imbued with
sacred literature and morals ". In a letter written in 595 Pope
Gregory rates Desiderius, " Bishop of Gaul " at Vienne (Ep.
xi. 54), because " as we cannot relate without shame, it has
come to our knowledge that your brotherhood teaches gram-
mar to certain persons : which we take all the worse as it
converts what we formerly said to lamentation and mourn-
ing, since the praise of Christ cannot lie in one mouth with
the praise of Jupiter. Consider yourself what a crime it is for
bishops to recite what would be improper for a religiously
minded layman ". If, he says, it afterwards appears that he
has not been employed on trifles and secular literature, so
much the better. Part of this sentence is an adaptation of
Jerome at his worst, but it is valuable as showing that even in
the Christian grammar schools the old curriculum was retained
and boys were i still brought up on Virgil's Eclogues. For the
words are a distinct reference to the line Ab Jove principium,
Musae, Jovis omnia plena, and the loves of Corydon and

This letter has been sometimes interpreted as showing that
Gregory was wholly opposed to learning. But this interpreta-


tion is inconsistent with his own writings and acts. What he
objected to was not the teaching of school generally, but its
being taught by the bishop, whose business was prayer, psalm-
singing, and preaching, not teaching. Gregory always recog-
nized the necessity of classical study for the young. But he
did not think it should be mixed with religious instruction in
those charged with the care of the Church. This letter is the
more remarkable because, at the end, it becomes a letter of in-
troduction for the second batch of missionaries to the English,
clerks and monks, whom Gregory was sending with Laurence
the priest and Mellitus the abbot to Augustine of Canterbury,
thus bringing us into direct connexion with the conversion
of the English and the foundation of the first English school,
already recorded.



IT is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. By a
curious chance, it is to the first great recorded outbreak
in Europe of the bubonic plague that England owes the
name most famous in the history of its early schools, that of
the Greek Archbishop, Theodore of Tarsus ; just as to the
second and third great outbreaks, the Black Death and the
Secunda Pestis of 1349 and 1361, it owes its most famous
"Public" School, Winchester College. After the death of
Archbishop Deusdedit, the first native English archbishop,
in 664, Wighard, " a good man and a fit priest," was nominated
by the Kings of Kent and Northumberland as his successor
and sent to Rome for consecration. There the plague caught
and carried off him and all his party. So the Pope first offered
the vacant post to Hadrian, an African, a monk in the Niri-
dane monastery near Naples, " brought up alike in monastic
and ecclesiastical learning" a distinction all important in
the early history of schools ' ' and of the greatest skill in both
the Greek and Latin tongues". Greek was no doubt still
the vernacular of the towns of Southern Italy. Hadrian
modestly declined the office, and suggested first a monk of a
neighbouring monastery, who proved to be too fat, and then
" a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, named Theodorus, a man in-
structed both in secular and divine literature, Greek and Latin,
and of venerable age " he was already sixty-six years old
who accepted the office. By an odd coincidence of name, this
Greek Deusdedit, this foreigner, who would nowadays be super-
annuated from the Civil Service and from the mastership of
any public school, proved one of the most active archbishops
who ever sat on the throne of Canterbury. Theodore being



a Greek, the Pope was rather suspicious of his orthodoxy and
insisted on Hadrian's going to look after him " lest after the
manner of Greeks he should introduce something against the
true faith in the Church over which he was to preside ". Theo-
dore arrived at Canterbury on 27 May, 669, with the English
Benedict Biscop, whom he made Abbot of St. Paul's, after-
wards known as St. Augustine's monastery, close to the
cathedral but outside the walls of the city. Hadrian arrived a
year later and took over this abbey from Benedict, who became
a monastic founder in the North. " Soon afterwards," runs
one of the most famous passages in Bede's History, Theodore
" travelled through the whole island wherever the English races
were settled, and spread abroad the right rule of life, the
canonical mode of celebrating Easter, Hadrian going with him
and working with him in everything. And he was the first
archbishop whom the whole English Church consented to obey.
. . . And because both were abundantly learned in sacred and
profane literature, they collected crowds of disciples, and streams
of saving knowledge daily flowed from them to irrigate their
hearts, as together with holy writ they gave to their hearers
instruction both in the arts of metre and astronomy and ec-
clesiastical arithmetic. The proof is that even to this day,"
Bede wrote about 731, "some of their pupils survive, who
know Latin and Greek as well as their own language in which
they were born". Bede descants on the happiness of those
times, when " Christian kings were a terror to barbarians," and
" whoever wanted to be instructed in holy lessons had masters
at hand to teach them ". Further, " they spread the know-
ledge of the tones of musical singing in Church, which till then
they had known only in Kent," a Kentish precentor Edsi be-
ing imported 'by Wilfrid to Northumbria to teach it. This is
a lapse on Bede's part, as he had previously told us that Deacon
James had taught it forty years before.

It is strange that this account of what, in later times,
would have been called Theodore's metropolitical visitation
of all England, should have been quoted as evidence of his
founding of Canterbury School. Yet the passage, which has
nothing to do with Canterbury at all, is absolutely the sole
foundation on which the claim of Theodore to be its founder is
based. In the course of their progress about the country the


two not only preached theology but taught the art of metre,
so that the theologians might not make false quantities in
reading the lessons and chanting the psalms. By the ec-
clesiastical arithmetic which they taught was meant the way to
construct and use a proper calendar, so that the English might
not, like the British Church, be guilty of the heretical practice
of celebrating Easter, and with it the other movable feasts, at
the wrong time, according to the original Jewish and Greek
instead of the later Roman reckoning ; a matter which Bede,
throughout his ecclesiastical history, treats as of the very
first importance. But neither the calendar nor the Gregorian
chant can be considered grammar school subjects, nor is a
word said about the establishment of any school, except for

As for Canterbury itself, there is indeed indirect evidence
that both Theodore and Hadrian taught there. Albinus,
who succeeded Hadrian as Abbot of St Augustine's in 710, is
cited as a proof of his (Hadrian's) and Theodore's learning.
He was " so well taught in the study of grammar that he
knew Greek to no small extent and Latin not less than English,
his native tongue ". More specifically, Bede says in his pre-
face that Albinus was his chief authority for all the informa-
tion he gives about Augustine and Gregory, Albinus having
collected all the materials, documentary and traditional, about
them then existing in Kent. He " was the most learned man
of his time in everything, having been educated in the church
of Canterbury" by Theodore and Hadrian. Similarly, Bede
speaks of Tobias, Bishop of Rochester, who died in 726, as
being " a most learned man, for he was a pupil of Theodore
and Hadrian, and so together with a knowledge of literature,
ecclesiastical and general, Greek and Latin were as familiar to
him as his native tongue ". This may be accepted as proof
that Theodore and Hadrian taught in the school at Canter-
bury. But to teach in a school is one thing, to found it is
another. As Bede had already spoken of Canterbury School
as the model and parent for Dunwich in 631, the passages
cited can hardly be alleged as evidence of its foundation by
Theodore more than forty years later. What they do show
is the important fact that the Archbishop himself acted as a
teacher in the school which formed then, as in the fourteenth



century, an integral part of the foundation of his cathedral
church. At the latter date, the archbishop had delegated the
actual teaching to others, though still himself appointing the
master and acting as its governing body.

In view of the constant confusion between monastic
and ecclesiastic learning, it is important to remember that
Canterbury Cathedral at this time was not in the hands of the
monks, but of the secular, or ordinary, clergy. Augustine
himself was a monk, but so exceptional a thing was it at that
time for a monk to be made a bishop, that he thought it
necessary to send to the Pope for special instructions as to how
he, a monk, was to live with his clergy, and his embassy con-
sisted of a secular priest and a monk. The Pope answered
that the usual rule was to divide the possessions of the Church
into four ; one for the bishop and his household for hospitality
and maintenance ; another for the clergy ; a third for the poor ;
the fourth for repair of the fabric. But as Augustine was a
monk, he should imitate the early Church and live with his
clergy, having all things in common. But any clergy, not in
holy orders, who married were to have separate incomes pro-
vided for them. In fact, the monks were settled by Augus-
tine in the monastery of St. Paul, afterwards known by the
founder's own name, outside the walls of Canterbury. Its
primary object was to be a mausoleum for the burial of the
kings and bishops ; the pernicious practice of burial within the
walls of the cities and in the churches themselves not having
been introduced, and being indeed expressly forbidden by canon
law. Augustine's successor was not a monk but Laurence the
priest, who had been one of the special messengers to Gregory.
From this time to the eleventh century the cathedral seems
to have been entirely served by clerks or secular clergy.
Even the monastic historians admit that it was held by secular
canons from the year 833 to 1005. When, however, Arch-
bishop Elphege or Alphege was besieged and captured and
eventually killed by the Danes in I oil, it is represented that
there were monks who came out of the burning cathedral with
him and were all murdered. But this seems only an invention
of the post-Conquest monastic historian to cover and explain
the fact that in 1020 the Church was under a Dean, and there-
fore secular. Bishop Stubbs maintained that the great favourer


of monasticism, Dunstan, did not turn the secular clergy out
of his own episcopal see as his contemporary Ethelwold did
at Winchester. At what date the monks, who held Canter-
bury in the time of Lanfranc, were introduced is not known.
Eadmer, a monk, who wrote c. noo, gives an account of the
Saxon Cathedral which he remembered as a boy at school
before Lanfranc rebuilt it on an enlarged scale. It was on the
model of the Roman basilicas, a long pillared hall, and was
indeed " that very church which had been built by the Romans
as Bede bears witness ... in imitation of" St. Peter's. West
of the middle of the nave were two towers projecting beyond
the aisles. The south tower had on its south side the principal
door " called by the English of old time and even now ' Suth
dure' (South door) and often mentioned by this name in the
law books of the ancient kings. For here the Supreme Court
of Appeal for the kingdom was held." The North Tower
contained the school. " And as in the other tower forensic
contests and lay pleas were held, so in this one the youthful
brethren were instructed in learning the offices of the Church
day and night according to the times and seasons." In
Eadmer's day, therefore, it was the monastic school, the school
of the novices. But the Tower was not the natural place for
a monastic school. The general rule was for the monastic
school proper, the school of the novices, to be held in a corner
of the cloister ; and there are traces of the monastic school at
Canterbury as at Westminster in the cloister to this day, in
the solitaire boards carved in the seats where the boys used
to sit. The school in the North Tower must have been a tra-
dition from the days when the Church was secular and the
Tower was used as a public school to which the public had ac-
cess, not as the private school of the monks. The distinction
between the private monastic school of the monasteries and
the public clerical school is well marked, as we shall find
when we renew the acquaintance of this school in the thirteenth
century, outside the monastic precinct and in the town near
the archiepiscopal palace.

Meanwhile, for information as to what a cathedral school
in Saxon times was, and what it taught in detail, we must
wait till we can pass from Canterbury to York, and we must
go round by Winchester, Malmesbury, and Worcester on


the way. For in the generation after Theodore, the centre of
educational interest is no longer in Kent but in Wessex.

Wessex had been converted to Christianity by a new mission

Online LibraryArthur Francis LeachThe schools of medieval England → online text (page 4 of 39)