Vol. 5, Chapter XI. Universities and Cathedrals

88. Schools

Literature: John of Salisbury: Metalogicus, Migne, 199. 823-946. — Guibert of Nogent: De vita sua, I. 4-7; Migne, 153. 843-850. — A. H. L. Heeren: Gesch. d. class. Lit. im MlA., 2 vols. Götting., 1822. — S. R. Maitland: The Dark Ages, Essays on the State of Rel. and Lit., 800-1200 a.d., Lond., 1845, 5th ed. 1890. — H. Heppe: D. Schulwesen d. MlA., etc., Marb., 1860. — Schaarschmidt: J. Saresberiensis (John of Salisbury), Leip., 1862. — Léon Maître: Les écoles épiscopales el monastiques de l’occident, 768-1180 a.d., Paris, 1866. — E. Michaud: G. de Champeaux et les écoles de Paris au 12e siècle, Paris, 1867. — J. B. Mullinger: The Schools of Chas. the Great, Lond., 1877; Hist. of the Univ. of Cambr. to 1535, Cambr., 1873. — *R. L. Poole: The School of Chartres, being chap. IV of his Illustr. of the Hist. of Med. Thought. — *F. A. Specht: Gesch. d. Unterrichtswesens in Deutschland von d. ältesten Zeiten bis zur Mitte des 13ten Jahrh., Stuttg., 1885. — *A. and G. Schmid: Gesch. d. Erziehung bis auf unsere Zeit, pp. 94-333, Stuttg., 1892. — Miss Drane: Christ. Schools and Scholars, Lond., 2d ed. 1881. — *J. E. Sandys: A Hist. of Class. Scholarship from 600 b.c. to the end of the M. A., Cambr., 1903. — Mirbt: Publizistik im Zeitalter Greg. VII., pp. 104 sqq. — Rashdall: Universities, vol. I.

Education and the advance of true religion are inseparable. The history of literary culture in this period is marked by the remarkable awakening which started in Western Europe in the latter part of the eleventh century and the rise of the universities in the twelfth century. The latter was one of the most important events in the progress of the intellectual development of the race. The renaissance of the eleventh century showed itself in a notable revival of interest in schools, in the appearance of eminent teachers, in a renewed study of the classics, and in an enlarged sweep of the human mind.

The municipal schools of the Roman Empire were swept away by the barbarian invasions of the fourth and fifth centuries, and few vestiges of them were left. The weight of opinion in the Church had been hostile to Pagan learning from the time of Tertullian and Jerome and culminated in Justinian’s act, closing the university of Athens. But it is doubtful whether the old Roman schools would have withstood the shock from the assaults of Goth, Vandal, and Hun, even had Church teachers been friendly to classical literature.

The schools of the earlier Middle Ages were associated with the convents and cathedrals, and it was not till the thirteenth century that the municipal school appeared again, and then it was in the far North, in Germany, and the Lowlands. The first name in the history of the new education is Cassian who founded the convent school of St. Victor, Marseilles, 404. But it was to Benedict of Nursia that Western Europe owed the permanent impulse to maintain schools. The Benedictine Rule made education an adjunct of religion, provided for the training of children by members of the order, and for the transcription of manuscripts. To the Benedictines, especially to the Cistercians, are our libraries indebted for the preservation of the works of classical and patristic writers.

The wise policy of Charlemagne in establishing the Palace school, a sort of normal school for the German Empire, and in issuing his Capitularies bearing on education, and the policy of Alfred in England, gave a fresh impulse to learning by the patronage of royalty. Alcuin at the court of Charlemagne, Asser in England, and John Scotus Erigena at the court of Charles the Bold, were some of the more eminent teachers. It is possible the education was not confined to clerics, for convents had two kinds of schools, the one, the interior, for oblates intended for the monastery, and the exterior school which seems to have had a more general character. The cathedral schools had for their primary, if not for their sole purpose, the training of youth for cathedral positions — canonici puri. The main, if not the exclusive, purpose of education was to prepare men for the priesthood and the convent. In the eleventh century all the convents and cathedrals in Germany had schools, — Corvey on the Weser and Hildesheim being noted; and, in Italy, the schools of Milan and Parma were well known.

But in that century the centre of education shifted to France. The schools at Bec, Rheims, Orleans, Laon, and Paris had no rivals and their fame attracted students, even monks, priests, and bishops, from England and Germany. The fame of Rheims, where Gerbert, afterwards Sylvester II., d. 1003, had won the title of “restorer of studies,” gave way to the greater fame of Bec, under Lanfranc and Anselm. Students were drawn from afar and, in the judgment of the glowing panegyrist, Ordericus Vitalis, Athens, in its most flourishing period, would have honored Lanfranc in every branch of learning. These two priors were followed by a succession of teachers whom Ordericus calls “careful pilots and skilful charioteers.” Seldom has so splendid a compliment been paid a teacher by a man risen to eminence as was paid by Alexander II. to Lanfranc, on Lanfranc’s visit to Rome, after he was made archbishop of Canterbury. Rising to welcome him with open arms, the pope remarked to the bystanders that he received Lanfranc as his teacher, at whose feet he had sat, rather than as archbishop. Guibert of Nogent, who died about 1120, is authority for the statement that teachers were very rare in France in his early years, but, at the time when he was writing, every considerable town in France had a teacher. That mothers were anxious to have their sons educated is evident from the example of Guibert’s statement concerning his own mother.

As in the earlier period of the Middle Ages, so in this middle period, the idea of universal education was not thought of. Nor was there anything such as we call belles lettres and general literature. All literature had an immediate bearing on religious subjects. Such men as Walter Map and John of Salisbury, who approach nearest our modern idea of men of letters, were clerics. The founders of convents, like Herlouin, founder of Bec, were often men who could neither read nor write. Ordericus says that during the reigns of six dukes, before Lanfranc went to Bec, scarce a single Norman devoted himself to studies. Duke William of Aquitaine, d. 1030, however, was educated from childhood and was said to have spent his nights in reading till sleep overcame him, and to have had a collection of books.

The most brilliant teachers of this era were Anselm of Laon, William of Champeaux, Bernard of Chartres, William of Conches, and, above all, Abaelard. They all belonged to France. In their cases, the school followed the teacher and students went not so much to a locality as to an educator. More and more, however, the interest centred in Paris, which had a number of schools, — the Cathedral school, St. Genevieve, St. Victor, St. Denis. Our knowledge of these men is derived chiefly from Abaelard and John of Salisbury. John studied in France for twelve years, 1137-1149, and sat under them all. His descriptions of the studies of the age, and the methods and rivalries of teachers, are given in the Metalogicus.

William of Champeaux, d. 1121, the pupil of Anselm of Laon, won fame at the Cathedral school of Paris, but lost his position by clash with the brilliant abilities of Abaelard. He retired to St. Victor and spent the last eight years of his life in the administration of the see of Chalons. He was an extreme realist.

The teaching of Anselm of Laon and his brother Ralph drew students from as far south as Milan and from Bremen in the North. The brothers were called by John of Salisbury the “splendid luminaries of Gaul,” and “doctor of doctors” was an accepted appellation of Anselm. This teacher, d. 1117, perhaps the pupil of Anselm of Bec, had Abaelard among his hearers and won his contumely. But John of Salisbury’s praise, and not Abaelard’s contempt, must determine our judgment of the man. His glossa interlinearis, a periphrastic commentary on the Vulgate, was held in high esteem for several centuries.

Bernard of Chartres, about 1140, was celebrated by John of Salisbury as the “most overflowing spring of letters in Gaul in recent times” and, the most perfect Platonist of our age.” He acknowledged his indebtedness to the ancient writers in these words, “We are as dwarfs mounted on the shoulders of giants, so that we are able to see more and further than they; but this is not on account of any keenness of sight on our part or height of our bodies, but because we are lifted up upon those giant forms. Our age enjoys the gifts of preceding ages, and we know more, not because we excel in talent, but because we use the products of others who have gone before.”

William of Conches, d. 1152 (?), got his name from the Norman hamlet in which he was born. Like his teacher, Bernard of Chartres, he laid stress upon a thorough acquaintance with grammar as the foundation of all learning, and John of Salisbury seems to have written the Metalogicus to vindicate the claims his teachers made for the fundamental importance of this study as opposed to dialectics. But he was advocating a losing cause. Scholasticism was crushing out the fresh sprouts of humanism. William of Conches took liberties with received opinions and denied that Eve was literally created from Adam’s rib. The root of his teachings Poole finds in William’s own words, “through knowledge of the creature we attain to the knowledge of the Creator.”

The studies continued, at least theoretically, to follow the scheme of the old trivium, including grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic; and the quadrivium, including arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. These branches had a wider scope than we associate with some of the titles. Grammar, for example, with Bernard of Chartres, included much more than technical rules and the fundamental distinctions of words. It took in the tropes and figures of speech, analyzed the author’s body of thought, and brought out the allusions to nature, science, and ethical questions. The teaching extended far beyond the teaching of the Capitularies of Charlemagne. Nevertheless, all these studies were the vestibule of theology and valuable only as an introduction to it. Jacob of Vitry, d. 1244, comparing the seven liberal arts with theology, said, “Logic is good for it teaches us to distinguish truth from falsehood, grammar is good for it teaches how to speak and write correctly; rhetoric is good for it teaches how to speak elegantly and to persuade. Good too are geometry which teaches us how to measure the earth, arithmetic or the art of computing which enables us to estimate the brevity of our days, music which reminds us of the sweet chant of the blessed, astronomy which leads us to consider the heavenly bodies shining resplendently before God. But far better is theology which alone can be called a liberal art, since it alone delivers the human soul from its woes.”

Innocent III., through the canons of the Fourth Lateran, ordered all cathedrals to have teachers of grammar and lectors in theology, and offered the rewards of high office only to those who pursued hard study with the sweat of the brow. He had in mind only candidates of theology.

The text-books in use for centuries were still popular, such as Cassiodorus, the Isagoge of Porphyry, Aristotle on the Categories; and his De interpretatione, Boethius on Music and the Consolations of Philosophy, Martianus Capella and the grammars of Priscian and Donatus. A new movement, however, was distinctly perceptible, and nothing is more sure proof of it than the open use of the classics by some of the leading educators in their lectures and their use in the writings of the time.

The condemnation, passed by Jerome on the ancient classics, was adopted by Cassian and handed down to the later generations. The obscurantists had the field with little or few exceptions for centuries. It is not to Alcuin’s credit that, in his latter years, he turned away from Virgil as a collection of “lying fables” and, in a letter to a novice, advised him not to assoil his mind with that poet’s rank luxuriance. It was argued by Leo, in his reply to Arnulf of Orleans, 991, that the Apostle Peter was not acquainted with such writers as Plato, Virgil, and Terence, or any of the pseudo-philosophers, and God had from the beginning not chosen orators and philosophers but ignorant and rustic men as His agents. Peter the Venerable raised his voice against them. But such warnings were not sufficient to induce all men to hold themselves aloof from the fascinations of the Latin writers.

Gerbert taught Virgil, Statius, Terence, Juvenal, Persius, Horace, and Lucan. From these he passed on to the department of philosophy. Peter Damiani compared the study of the poets and philosophers to the spoiling of the Egyptians. They served to sharpen the understanding; the study of the writers of the Church to build a tabernacle to God. Anselm of Bee recommended the study of Virgil and other classics, counselling the exclusion of such treatises as contained suggestions of evil. John of Salisbury’s teachers were zealous in reading such writings. John, who in the small compass of the Metalogicus quotes no less than seven classical poets, Statius, Martian, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Catullus, and Persius, and some of these a number of times, says that if you search in Virgil and Lucan, you will be sure to find the essence of philosophy, no matter what philosophy you may profess. He complained of the old school who compared the student of the classic poets and historians to the slow-going ass, and laughed at him as duller than a stone. Abaelard gave to Virgil the esteem due a prophet. Peter of Blois, d. 1204, the English archdeacon, quotes Cicero, Sallust, Livy, Curtius, Tacitus, Suetonius, Seneca (Letters), and other writers. Grosseteste was familiar with Ovid, Seneca, Horace, and other classics. But the time for the full Renaissance had not yet come. In the earliest statutes of the University of Paris the classics were excluded from the curriculum of studies. The subtle processes of the Schoolmen, although they did not altogether ignore the classic compositions, could construct the great theological systems without their aid, though they drew largely and confidently upon Aristotle.

The Discipline of the schools was severe. A good flogging was considered a wholesome means of educational advancement. It drove out the evil spirits of intellectual dullness and heaviness. Degere sub virga, to pass under the rod, was another expression for getting an education. At a later date, the ceremony of inducting a schoolmaster included the presentation of a rod and required him, at least in England, to show his prowess by flogging a boy publicly. If the case of Guibert of Nogent was a typical one, then the process of getting an education was indeed a painful piece of physical experience.

Guibert’s account of his experiences is the most elaborate description we have of medieval school life, and one of the most interesting pieces of schoolboys’ experience in literature. The child, early sent to school by his widowed mother, was unmercifully beaten with fist and rod by his teacher, a man who had learned grammar in his advanced years. Though the teacher was an indifferent grammarian, Guibert testifies to the vigor of his moral purpose and the wholesome moral impression he made upon his pupils. The whipping came every day. But the child’s ardor for learning did not grow cold. On returning to his home one evening and loosening his shirt, his mother saw the welts and bruises on his shoulders, for he had been beaten black and blue that day; she suggested, in indignation and pity, that her boy give up preparation for the priesthood, and offered to give him the equipment for the career of a knight. But Guibert, greatly excited, resented any such suggestion.

At Cluny the pupils slept near the masters, and if they were obliged to get up at night, it was not till they had the permission of a master. If they committed any offence in singing the Psalms or other songs, in going to bed, or in any other way, they were punished in their shirts, by the prior or other master, with switches prepared beforehand.

But there were not wanting teachers who protested against this method. Anselm urged the way of affection and confidence and urged that a skilful artificer never fashioned his image out of gold plate by blows alone. With wise and gentle hand he pressed it into shape. Ceaseless beating only brutalizes. To an abbot who said “day and night we do not cease to chastise the children confided to our care and yet they grow worse and worse,” Anselm replied: “Indeed! And when they are grown up, what will they become? Stupid dolts. A fine education that, which makes brutes of men!… If you were to plant a tree in your garden and were to enclose it on all sides, so that it could not extend its branches, what would you find when, at the end of several years, you set it free from its bounds? A tree whose branches were bent and scraggy, and would it not be your fault for having so unreasonably confined it?”

The principle ruled that an education was free to all whose circumstances did not enable them to pay for it. Others paid their way. Fulbert of Chartres took a fee from the rapidly increasing number of students, regarding philosophy as worth what was paid for it. But this practice was regarded as exceptional and met with opposition. The words of Alcuin, “If you desire to study, you will have what you seek without money,” were inscribed on the convent of St. Peter at Salzburg. It was the boast that the care given to the humblest scholar at Cluny was as diligent as the care given to children in the palace.


89. Books and Libraries

Literature: E. Edwards: Libraries and Founders of Libraries, Lond., 1865. — T. Gottlieb: Mittetalt. Bibliotheken, Leip., 1890. — F. A. Gasquet: Notes on Med. Libraries, Lond., 1891. — E. M. Thompson: Hd. book of Gr. and Lat. Palaeography, Lond., 1893. Contains excellent facsimiles of med. MSS., etc. — J. W. CLARK: Libraries in the Med. and Renaiss. Periods, Cambr., 1894. — G. R. Putnam: Books and their Makers, 476-1709, 2 vols. N. Y., 1896 sq. See his elaborate list of books on monastic education, libraries, etc., I. xviii. sqq. — Mirbt: Publizistik in Zeitalter Greg. VII., pp. 96 sqq. and 119 sqq. — *Maitland: The Dark Ages. — *W. Wattenbach: D. Schriftwesen in Mittelalter, 3d ed., Leip., 1896. — Art. Bibliothek in Wetzer-Welte, II. 783 sqq. Transl. and Reprints of Univ. of Pa. II. 3.

Books and schools go together and both are essential to progress of thought in the Church. The medieval catalogue of the convent of Muri asserts strongly the close union of the intellectual and religious life. It becomes us, so it ran, always to copy, adorn, improve, and annotate books, because the life of the spiritual man is nothing without books.

Happy was the convent that possessed a few volumes. The convent and the cathedral were almost the sole receptacles for books. Here they were most safe from the vandalism of invaders and the ravages of fire, so frequent in the Middle Ages; and here they were accessible to the constituency which could read. It was a current saying, first traced to Gottfried, canon of St. Barbe-en-Auge, that a convent without a library is like a fortress without arms. During the early Middle Ages, there were small collections of books at York, Fulda, Monte Cassino, and other monasteries. They were greatly prized, and ecclesiastics made journeys to get them, as did Biscop, abbot of Wearmouth, who made five trips to Italy for that purpose. During the two centuries and more after Gregory VII., the use and the number of books increased; but it remained for the zeal of Petrarch in the fourteenth century to open a new era in the history of libraries. The period of the Renaissance which followed witnessed an unexampled avidity for old manuscripts which the transition of scholars from Constantinople made it possible to satisfy.

To the convents of Western Europe, letters and religion owe a lasting debt, not only for the preservation of books, but for their multiplication. The monks of St. Benedict have the first place as the founders of libraries and guardians of patristic and classical literature. Their Rules required them to do a certain amount of reading each day, and at the beginning of Lent each received a book from the cloistral collection and was expected to read it “straight through.” This direction shines as a light down through the history of the monastic institutions, though many a convent probably possessed no books and some of them had little appreciation of their value.

A collection of several hundred books was relatively as large a library as a collection of hundreds of thousands of volumes would be now. Fleury, in the twelfth century, had 238 volumes, St. Riquier 258. The destruction of the English monastery of Croyland in the eleventh century involved the loss of “300 original and more than 400 smaller volumes.” The conventual buildings were destroyed in the night by fire. The interesting letter of the abbot Ingulph, relating the calamity, speaks of beautiful manuscripts, illuminated with pictures and adorned with crosses of gold. The good abbot, after describing the loss of the chapel, infirmary, and other parts of the buildings, went on to say “our cellar and the very casks, full of beer, were also burnt up.”

Catalogues are preserved from this period. Edwards gives a list of thirty-three medieval catalogues of English libraries. The catalogue of Prüfening in Salzburg, 1158, prepared by, “one who was a born librarian,” arranged the volumes in three classes: copies of the Scriptures, the Fathers, and modern writers. The books most frequently found, were the Bible, or parts of it, the liturgical books, — Augustine, Gregory the Great, Jerome, and Ambrose, — and among the writers of the Carlovingian age, Bede and Alcuin. The catalogue of Corbie, Picardy, dating from the twelfth century, gives 39 copies of Augustine, 16 of Jerome, 13 of Bede, 15 of Boethius, and 5 of Cicero, as well as copies of Terence, Livy, Pliny, and Seneca. Of later medieval writers, the works of Anselm, Bernard, Hugo, and Abaelard are found most often, but many collections were without a single recent writer. The otherwise rich collection of St. Michelsberg, in Bamberg, had only a single recent work, the Meditations of Anselm. The Prüfening library had a copy each, of Anselm, Hugo, Abaelard, the Lombard and Gratian. Classical authors were common. The library at Durham had copies of Cicero, Terence, Virgil, Horace, Claudian, Statius, Sallust, Suetonius, Quintilian and other Latin authors. Sometimes the classics were catalogued by themselves as at Neumünster.

Gifts of books were regarded as worthy benefactions. Peter, bishop of Paris, before starting out for the Holy Land, gave 300 works over to the care of the convent of St. Victor. Grosseteste willed his collection to the Oxford Franciscans. Gerbert, afterwards Sylvester II., says that the liberality of friends enabled him to buy a number of books in Rome, Italy, and Flanders. The admiring chronicler treats it as a claim to fame, that Theodoric secured, for his abbey of St. Evroult, the books of the Old and New Testaments and an entire set of Gregory the Great. Others followed his good example and secured the works of Jerome, Augustine, Ambrose, and other Fathers. Peter the Venerable declared that at Cluny books, notably the works of Augustine, were held more precious than gold.

Libraries were sometimes given with the stipulation that the books should be loaned out. This was the case with Jacob of Carnarius who, in 1234, gave his library to the Dominicans of Vercelli on this condition. In 1270, Stephen, at one time archdeacon of Canterbury, donated his books to Notre Dame, Paris, on condition of their being loaned to poor theological students, and Peter of Joigny, 1297, bequeathed his collection directly to poor students. In the following century Petrarch left his books to St. Marks, Venice, and Boccaccio willed his possessions of this kind to the Augustinian friars of Florence.

Manuscripts were sometimes offered at the altar or at the shrines of saints as offerings for the healing of the giver’s soul, — pro remedio animae suae. On the other hand, in cases of emergency, books were put in pawn or sold. William of Longchamps, bishop of Ely, 1190, pawned 13 copies of the Gospels for the redemption of Richard I. The abbot Diemo of Lorsch, 1139, needing money to pay for military equipments, sold three books ornamented with gold and precious stones. Here and there, a tax was levied for the benefit of a library, as in the case of Evesham, 1215, and the synod of Lyons the same year adopted a like expedient. Prince Borwin of Rostock, in 1240, gave the monastery of Dargun a hide of land, the proceeds of which were to be used for the needs of the library.

Of all books, copies of the Scriptures were held in highest esteem. They were often bound in covers, inlaid with gold and silver, and sometimes ornamented with precious stones and richly illuminated. Paul, abbot of St. Albans, placed in the abbey-library eight Psalters and two Gospels highly ornamented with gold and gems, as well as a copy of the Collects, a copy of the Epistles, and 28 other books. In 1295, the dean of St. Paul’s found in the cathedral 12 copies of the Gospels adorned with jewels, and a thirteenth copy kept in a case with relics.

Books were kept first in armaria or horizontal presses and the librarian was called armarius. About the fourteenth century shelves were introduced along the cloistral walls. As early as the thirteenth century books were fastened by chains to protect them from being stolen by eager readers. The statutes of Trinity College, Cambridge, 1350, required that certain books remain continually in the library, chained to their places, for the use of the fellows. This custom was still in vogue in England in the sixteenth century, when copies of the English Bible were kept chained to the reading desks in the churches. The old Benedictine rule was still enforced for the distribution of books. Lanfranc’s statutes for the English Benedictines, 1070, required the return of the books by the monks the first Sunday in Lent. They were then to be laid out on the floor and distributed for the ensuing year, one book to each monk. Any one failing to read his book was obliged to fall on his face and confess his neglect. The loan of books was not uncommon. Bernard borrowed and lent as did Peter the Venerable. The Cistercians provided for such loans to outside parties and the synod of Paris, 1212, insisted that convents should not recede from this good practice which it pronounced a work of mercy.

The book-room, or scriptorium, was part of a complete conventual building. It served as a place of writing and of transcribing manuscripts. Sometimes a monk had his own little book-room, called scriptoriolum, or kept books in his cell. Nicholas, Bernard’s secretary, described his little room as next to the infirmary and “filled with choice and divine books.” Peter of Celle, successor to John of Salisbury in the see of Chartres, spoke of his scriptoriolum as filled with books, where he could be free from the vanity and vexations of the world. The place had been assigned to him, he said, for reading, writing, meditating, praying, and adoring the Lord.

Abbots themselves joined to their other labors the work of the copyist. So it was with Theodoric of St. Evroult, 1050-1057, a skilful scribe who, according to Ordericus Vitalis, left “splendid monuments of his calligraphic skill,” in copies of the Collects, Graduale, and Antiphonary which were deposited in the convent collection. Theodoric also secured the services of others to copy commentaries and the heptateuch. Convents were concerned to secure expert transcribers. Copying was made a special feature of St. Albans by the abbot Paul, 1077-1093. He secured money for a scriptorium and brought scribes from a distance. In the latter part of the eleventh century, Hirschau in Southern Germany was noted for this kind of activity, through its abbot William, who saw that twelve good copyists were trained for his house. These men made many copies and William is said to have presented books to every convent he reformed. The scribe, Othlo of Emmeram, of the same century, has left us a list of the books he gave away.

Diligence as a copyist sometimes stood monks in good stead when they came to face the realities of the future world. Of such an one, Ordericus makes mention. This monk had copied with his own hand a bulky volume of Scripture, but he was a man of many moral offences. When the evil spirits laid claim to his soul, the angels produced the holy volume which the monk had transcribed. Every letter was counted and balanced against a sin. At last, it was found the letters had a majority of one. The devils tried to scrape up another sin, but in vain, and the Lord permitted the fortunate monk to return to the body and do proper penance.

Copying was sometimes prescribed as a punishment for cloistral offences and the Carthusian rules withheld wine from the monk who was able to copy and would not ply his art. It seems at times to have been a most confining and wearisome task. Lewis, a monk of Wessobrunn in Bavaria, had some of this feeling when he appended to a transcription of Jerome’s commentary on Daniel the following words and claimed the prayers of the reader: — 

Dum scripsit friguit, et quod cum lumine solis

Scribere non potuit, perfecit lumine noctis.

“When he wrote he froze, and what he could not complete by the light of day, he finished by the light of the night.”

The price of books continued to be high till the invention of the printing-press. A count of Anjou paid for a copy of the homilies of Haimo of Halberstadt 200 sheep and a large quantity of provisions. In 1274, a finely written Bible sold for 50 marks, about $l70, when labor cost a shilling a day. Maitland computed that it would take a monk ten months to transcribe the Bible and that the labor would be worth to-day £60 or £70. The prices, however, were often greatly reduced, and Richard of Bury, in his Philobiblion, says that he purchased from the convent of St. Albans 32 volumes for £50.

The copyists, like the builders of the cathedrals, usually concealed their names. It was a custom with them to close their task by appending some pious or, at times, some witty sentiment. A line, frequently appended, ran, finito libro, sit laus et gloria Christo. “The book is finished. Praise and honor be to Christ.” The joy authors often feel at the completion of their writings was felt by a scribe when he wrote, libro completo, saltat scriptor pede leto. “Now the book is done, the scribe dances with glad foot.” Another piously expressed his feelings when he wrote, dentur pro penna scriptori caelica regna. “May the heavenly reward be given to the scribe for his work with the quill.”

The pleasures of converse with books in the quiet of a library are thus attractively set forth by a medieval theologian, left alone in the convent when the other monks had gone off for recreation: — 

“Our house is empty save only myself and the rats and mice who nibble in solitary hunger. There is no voice in the hall, no footstep on the stairs …. I sit here with no company but books, dipping into dainty honeycombs of literature. All minds in the world’s literature are concentrated in a library. This is the pinnacle of the temple from which we may see all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them. I keep Egypt and the Holy Land in the closet next to the window. On the side of them are Athens and the empire of Rome. Never was such an army mustered as I have here. No general ever had such soldiers as I have. No kingdom ever had half such illustrious subjects as mine or subjects half as well disciplined. I can put my haughtiest subjects up or down as it pleases me …. I call Plato and he answers “here,” — a noble and sturdy soldier; “Aristotle,” “here,” — a host in himself. Demosthenes, Pliny, Cicero, Tacitus, Caesar. “Here,” they answer, and they smile at me in their immortality of youth. Modest all, they never speak unless spoken to. Bountiful all, they never refuse to answer. And they are all at peace together …. All the world is around me, all that ever stirred human hearts or fired the imagination is harmlessly here. My library cases are the avenues of time. Ages have wrought, generations grown, and all their blossoms are cast down here. It is the garden of immortal fruits without dog or dragon.”


90. The Universities

Literature: Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, ed. by H. Denifle, O. P. and A. Chatelain, adjunct librarian of the Sorbonne, 4 vols. Paris, 1889-1897. This magnificent work gives the documents bearing on the origin, organization, customs, and rules of the University of Paris from 1200-1452; and forms one of the most valuable recent contributions to the study of the Middle Ages. — Auctarium Chartularii Univ. Paris., ed. by Denifle and Chatelain, 2 vols. Paris, 1893-1897. It gives the documents bearing on the Hist. of the English “nation” in Paris from 1393-1466. — Denifle: Urkunden zur Gesch. der mittelalt. Universitäten, in Archiv für Lit.- und Kirchengesch., V. 167 sqq., 1889. — Engl. trans. of the charter of Fred. Barbarossa, 1158; the Privilege of Philip Augustus, 1200; the charter of Frederick II. founding the Univ. of Naples; the Regulations of Robert de Courçon, 1215, etc., are given in the Trans. and Reprints of the Dep. of Hist., Univ. of Penn. — C. E. Bulaeus (Du Boulay): Hist. univ. Paris., etc., a Carolo Magno ad nostra tempora (1600), 6 vols. Paris, 1665-1678. A splendid work, but wrong in its description of the origin of the university and some matters of its organization. — F. C. von Savigny, Prof. in Berlin, d. 1861: Gesch. des röm. Rechts im M. A., Heidel., 2d ed., 1834, vol. III. — J. H. Newman: Office and Work of Universities, London, 1856, vol. III of his Hist. Sketches. An exaggerated estimate of medieval culture. I. Döllinger: D. Universitäten sonst und jetzt, in his Akad. Vorträge, Nordl., 1889. — *Denifle: D. Entstehung d. Universitäten d. Mittelalters bis 1400, Berlin, 1885, pp. 814. Marks an epoch in the treatment of the subject; is full of learning and original research, but repetitious and contentious. Denifle intended to write three more volumes. — *S. S. Laurie: The Rise and Constit. of Universities, etc., Camb., 1892. — G. Compayré: Abelard and Origin and Early Hist. of Universities, N. Y., 1898. — *H. Rashdall: The Universities of Europe in the M. A., 2 vols., Oxford, 1895. — P. SCHAFF: The Univ. Past, Present and Future, in Lit. and Poetry, pp. 256-278.

The university appears in Europe as an established institution in the twelfth century. It quickly became the restless centre of intellectual and literary life, the workshop of learning and scientific progress. Democratic in its constitution, it received men from every rank and sent them forth with new ideas and equipped to be the leaders of their age.



The universities were a product of the medieval mind, to which nothing in the ancient world, in any adequate way, corresponded. They grew up on the soil of the cathedral and conventual studies, but there was no organic continuity between them and the earlier schools. They were of independent growth, coming into being in response to a demand, awakened by the changed circumstances of life and the revival of thought in Europe. No clatter and noise announced their coming, but they were developed gradually from imperfect beginnings into thoroughly organized literary corporations.

Nor were the universities the immediate creation of the Church. Church authority did not bring them into being as it did the Crusades. All that can be said is that the men who wrought at their foundations and the lower superstructures were ecclesiastics and that popes were wise enough early to become their patrons and, as in the case of Paris, to take the reins of their general administration into their own hands. The time had come for a specialization of studies in the departments of human knowledge, the arts, law, medicine, and theology, which last, according to Jacob of Vitry, “alone can be called a liberal art, since it alone delivers the human soul from its woes.”

The universities owed their rise to the enthusiasm of single teachers whose dialectic skill and magnetism attracted students wherever they happened to be. Bologna through Irnerius and other teachers, and Paris through a group of men, of whom Abaelard was the most prominent figure, were the centres where the university idea had its earliest and most substantial realization. These teachers satisfied and created a demand for specialization in education.

Due credit must not be withheld from the guilds whose organization furnished a pattern for the university, especially in the case of Bologna. The university was the literary guild, representing a like-minded community of intellectual interests and workers. It is also possible that some credit must be given to Arabic influences, as in the case of the school of medicine at Salerno.

The first universities arose in Italy, the earliest of all being Salerno and Bologna. These were followed by Paris and other French universities. England came next, and then Spain. Prague was the first to embody the idea in Central Europe. The distinctively German universities do not date beyond the second half of the fourteenth century, Vienna, 1365, Erfurt, 1379, Heidelberg, 1385, Cologne, 1388. The three Scotch universities, St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, were established in the fifteenth century. That century also witnessed the birth of the far northern Universities of Copenhagen and Upsala. By the end of the fifteenth century there were nearly eighty of these academic institutions. Some of these passed out of existence and some never attained to more than a local celebrity.

Salerno, Bologna, Paris, Padua, Oxford, Cambridge, and other universities owed their existence to no papal or royal charter. Toulouse, 1229 and Rome, 1244 were the first to be founded by papal bulls. The University of Naples was founded by the emperor, Frederick II., 1224. The Spanish Universities of Palencia, 1212, Salamanca, 1230, and Seville, 1254, were established by the kings of Castile. Prague, 1347, was founded by a double charter from the pope and Charles IV. Some universities had their origin in disaffection prevailing in universities already established: Padua started in a defection of students from Bologna; Cambridge, in 1209, in a defection of students from Oxford, and Leipzig, in 1409, grew out of the dissatisfaction of the German “nation” with its treatment at Prague. Heidelberg is the earliest institution of papal creation which went over to the Reformation.



A university originally signified not a body of studies or a place where studies were prosecuted, but an aggregation of teachers and students — universitas magistrorum et scholarium. The term “university” was used of any group of persons and was a common expression for “Your body” or “all of you” — universitas vestra. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries it was frequently applied to guilds. The literary guild, or university, denoted the group of persons carrying on studies. The equivalent in the Middle Ages for the term “university,” as we use it, was studium and studium generale, “study” or, “general study.” Thus the University of Bologna was called studium Bononie or Bononiense, — as it is still called studio Bolognese in Italy, Paris, studium Parisiense, Oxford, studium Oxoniense. The addition “general” had reference to students, not to a variety of branches of knowledge, and denoted that the studium was open to students from every quarter. By the fifteenth century the term “university” had come to have its present meaning. The designation of a seat of learning as alma or alma mater dates from the thirteenth century.

A full university requires at least four faculties, the arts — now known at the German universities as the faculty of philosophy, — law, medicine, and theology. This idea was not embodied in the earliest foundations and some of the universities remained incomplete during their entire existence. Salerno was a medical school. Bologna was for more than a century only a school of law. Salamanca, the most venerable of existing Spanish educational institutions, did not have a faculty of theology till the end of the fourteenth century. Paris, which began as a seat of theological culture, had no formal provision for the study of civil law till the seventeenth century, although civil law was taught there before 1219. Nearly one half of the universities did not include theology in the list of studies. The Italian universities were, almost without an exception, at first confined to the study of jurisprudence and medicine. The reason for this may have been a purpose not to come into collision with the episcopal and conventual schools, which existed for the training of priests. The faculty of the arts, the lowest of the faculties, included the seven studies covered by the trivium and quadrivium, but was at a later period expanded so as to include metaphysical, linguistic, historic, and other studies not covered by the study of law, medicine, and theology. Theology was known as the highest and master study. Alexander IV., writing to Paris, 1256, said that theology ruled over the other studies like a mistress, and they followed her as servants.

The university had its own government, endowments, and privileges. These privileges, or bills of rights, were of great value, giving the body of teachers and students protection from the usual police surveillance exercised by municipalities and included their exemption from taxation, from military service except in cases of exigency, and from the usual modes of trial before the municipal authorities. Suits brought against members of the University of Paris were tried before the bishop of Paris. In Bologna, such suits were tried before the professor of the accused student or the bishop. By the privilege of Philip Augustus, 1200, the chattels of students at Paris were exempt from seizure by the civil officer. The university was a state within the state, a free republic of letters. The master and students formed, as it were, a separate class. When they felt that their rights were abused, they resorted to what was called cessation, cessatio, a suspension of the functions of the university or even removal to some other locality. In 1229 the University of Paris suspended for two years on account of the delay of Queen Blanche to give redress for the violent death of two students during the carnival. Many professors left Paris till not a single one of fame remained. The bishop of Paris launched excommunications against the chief offenders; but the university was victorious and the king made apology for the injuries inflicted and the pope revoked the ecclesiastical censures. Gregory IX., 1231, confirmed this privilege of suspending lectures. This feature survives in the German universities which cling to Lehrfreiheit, the professor’s liberty to teach, as conscience dictates, without fear of interference from the state.


The Model Universities

In the administration of their affairs the universities followed Bologna and Paris as models. In Bologna the students were in control, in Paris the masters in conjunction with the students. As for their relation to the pope and the authority of the Church, Bologna was always free, antipapal and anticlerical, as compared with her younger sister in France. The democratic principle had large recognition. The first element to be noticed is the part played by the different faculties. In Paris the faculties were fully organized by the middle of the thirteenth century. In 1281, the university as a body promised to defend each of its faculties. Long before that time each faculty passed upon its own degrees, regulated its own lectures, and performed other special acts.

The second element was the part which the so-called nations had in the administration. In Bologna there were four nations, the Italians, English, Provençals, and Germans. The students of Paris were likewise divided into four groups, representing France, Picardy (including the Netherlands), Normandy, and England, the last giving place, in 1430, to Germany. The distinctive organization at Paris goes back to the early years of the thirteenth century. At first floating colonies brought together by national and linguistic affinities, the nations were developed into corporate organizations, each with a code of its own. They were in turn divided into provinces. An elective official, known as the rector, stood at the head of the whole corporation. At Bologna he was called, as early as 1194, “rector of the associations,” rector societatum. He directed the affairs of the university in conjunction with a board of counsellors representing the provinces.

The first record calling the head of the University of Paris rector occurs in a bull of Alexander IV., 1259, but the office, no doubt, existed long before. He was chosen by the proctors or presidents of the four nations. The rector had to be a master of arts and might be a layman, but must be a celibate. He performed on great occasions, and wore a striking costume. He was responsible to the body whose agent he was. The Paris rector was addressed as “your amplitude,” vestra amplitudo.

At Paris there was also a chancellor, and he was the older officer. He stood at the head of the chapter of Notre Dame and was called interchangeably chancellor of the cathedral and chancellor of Paris. To him belonged the prerogative of giving the license to teach and confer degrees. His authority was recognized, time and again, by the popes, and also restricted by papal decree, so that what he lost the rector gained. In Bologna, by the decree of Honorius III., 1219, the archdeacon of the diocese conferred the degrees.



By 1264, at latest, each faculty at Paris had its own dean and exercised the right to grant the license to teach in its own department. Such license, — jus docendi, or legendi, — when conferred by Bologna or Paris, carried with it the right to teach everywhere, — jus ubique docendi. Gregory IX., 1233, and other popes conferred the same prerogative upon the masters of Toulouse and other universities but it seems doubtful whether their degrees were respected. Even a degree from Oxford did not carry the right of lecturing at Paris without a reëxamination. When Alexander IV. granted to the masters of Salamanca the right of teaching everywhere, Bologna and Paris were expressly excepted.

The question of medieval degrees offers much difficulty. There seem to have been three stages: bachelor, or baccalaureus, licentiate, and doctor or master. They corresponded to the three grades in the guilds: apprentice, assistant, and master. The bachelors were received after examination and did subordinate lecturing. The degree was not merely a testimonial of work done, but a certificate entitling the holder to ply the trade of reading or teaching. The titles, master, magister, doctor, dominus, and professor, scholasticus, were synonymous. “Doctor” was the usual title at Bologna, and “master” at Paris, but gradually “doctor” came to be used chiefly of the graduates in canon law at Paris, and “master” of graduates in theology. In his charter of 1224, Frederick spoke of the “doctors and masters in each faculty,” no doubt using the words as synonyms. The test for the degrees was called the “determination,” determinance, the main part of which was the presentation of a thesis and its defence against all comers.

Eight years was fixed by Robert de Courcon, 1215, as the period of preparation for the theological doctorate, but in the beginning of the fourteenth century it was extended to fourteen years. In the department of jurisprudence a course of eight years, — in medicine a course of six years, — was required.


Teachers and Studies

The teaching was done at first in convents and in private quarters. In 1253 there were twelve professors of theology in Paris, nine of them teaching in convents and belonging to the orders. University buildings were of slow growth, and the phenomenon presented by such great universities as Johns Hopkins, Cornell, and the University of Chicago, starting out fully equipped with large endowments and buildings, was unknown in the Middle Ages. Professors and students had to make their own way and at first no provision was made by king or municipality for salaries. The professor lived by lecture fees and the gifts of rich students. Later, endowments were provided, and cities provided funds for the payment of salaries. Colleges were at first bursaries, or hostels, where students lived together, gratuitous provision being made for their support. The earliest endowment of this kind, which still exists, is the college of the Sorbonne at Paris, founded by Robert of Sorbon, 1257, for sixteen secular students, four from each nation. The term “secular” was used in distinction from conventual. Another famous college was the college of Navarre on St. Genevieve, founded by the queen of Philip the Fair, Jeanne of Navarre, 1304. Rashdall, I. 478-517, gives a list of more than sixty colleges, or bursaries, founded in Paris before 1500. From being places of residence for needy students, the colleges came to include masters, as at Oxford and Cambridge. At Bologna the college system was never developed to the same extent as at Paris and in England.

With rare exceptions, the teachers in all the faculties were ecclesiastics, or, if laymen, unmarried. John XXII., in 1331, granted a dispensation to a married man to teach medicine in Paris, but it was an exception. Not till 1452 was the requirement of celibacy modified for the faculty of medicine in Paris, and till 1479 for Heidelberg; and not till a later date were the legal professors of Paris and Bologna exempted from this restriction. The Reformation at once effected a change in the universities under Protestant influence.

The lectures were given in Latin and students as well as masters were required to use Latin in conversation. Learning of any kind was regarded as too sacred a thing to be conveyed in the vulgar dialects of Europe. The studies at the University of Paris were authoritatively prescribed by the papal legate, Robert de Courcon, 1215. Gregory IX., 1231, also took part in stating what the text-books should be. The classics had no place. Certain works of Aristotle were forbidden, as were also, at a later date, the writings of Amauri of Bena, David of Dinant, and other supposed or real heretics. Gregory IX. warned the divinity students against affecting philosophy, and to be satisfied with becoming “theodocts.”


Attendance and Discipline

The attendance at the medieval universities has been a matter of much dispute. Some of the figures seem to be incredibly large. No matriculation books exist for the earliest periods, and not till the end of the fourteenth century do we have actual records of the number of graduations in Paris. Odefridus, a writer of the thirteenth century, gives the number of students at Bologna two generations before, as 10,000. Paris was reported to have had 25,000 students, and Oxford as many as 30,000, or at one time, to follow Wyclif, 60,000. Speaking of his own times Wyclif, however, gives the more reasonable figure, 3000. In his days of unobscured fame, Abaelard lectured to 3000 hearers, and this figure does not seem to be exaggerated when we consider the great attraction of his personality. In any estimate, it must be remembered that the student body included boys and also men well up in years. Rashdall makes 1500 to 3000 the maximum number for Oxford.

There was no such thing as university discipline in the thirteenth century, as we understand discipline. The testimonies are unanimous that the students led a wild life. Many of them were mere boys, studying in the department of arts. There were no dormitories, and the means of communication then at hand did not make it possible for parents to exercise the checks upon absent sons such as they may exercise to-day. Felix Platter, d. 1614, states in his autobiography that, as late as the middle of the sixteenth century, it required twenty days to make the journey from Basel to the school of Montpellier. At Paris students were excused from the payment of fees on account of the long distances from which they had come, the journeys often requiring several months and involving perils from robbers. Complaint was made in Paris, 1218, of scholars who broke into houses, carrying off girls and women; and in 1269 a public proclamation denounced gangs of students who broke into houses, ravished women, and committed robberies and “many other enormities hateful to God.” In Paris the inns — tabernae — were numerous. English students were noted for their drinking, and “to drink like an Englishman and to sing like a Norman” became proverbial. The duel was a common way of settling disputes, and Gregory IX., 1231, forbade students going through the streets carrying arms.

The rescript given by Frederick Barbarossa to Bologna, 1158, presented a picture of students as those “who exile themselves through love of learning and wear themselves out in poverty.” The facts do not support any rosy picture of social equality, such as we would expect in an ideal democracy. The number who were drawn to the universities from love of adventure and novelty must have been large. The nobleman had his special quarters and his servants, while the poor student begged his bread. It was the custom of the chancellor of Oxford to issue licenses for the needy to beg. At Bologna the rich occupied the first seats. Robert of Courçon commended the gift of garments and other articles to needy scholars.

The medieval universities were the centres of the ideals and hopes of the younger generation. There, the seeds were sown of the ecclesiastical and intellectual movements of after times and of the revolutions which the conservative groups pronounced scientific novelties and doctrinal heresies.

A medieval writer pronounced the three chief forces for the maintenance of the Catholic faith to be the priesthood, the empire, and the university. This was not always the case. From Paris went forth some of the severest attacks on the theory of papal absolutism, and from there, a century later, the reformers, Gerson and D’Ailly, proceeded. Hussitism was begotten at Prague. Wyclif’s teachings made Oxford a seat of heresy. Wittenberg, the last of the medieval universities to open its doors, protected and followed Luther. Basel, Pius II.’s creation, Heidelberg, Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, and other universities became the bulwarks of the new ideas. On the other hand, the Sorbonne, Louvaine, and Cologne ordered Luther’s works burnt. As an agent of culture and the onward progress of mankind, the Middle Ages made no contribution to modern times comparable in usefulness to the university.