Grammar and Her Children: Learning to Read in the Art of the Twelfth Century
Marginalia, Vol. 9, (2009)
The inclusion of the liberal arts in the sculptural programmes of a handful of twelfth-century French church façades proclaimed the importance of education as a means of understanding God and his creation. The arts of grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, music, geometry and astronomy also appeared in contemporary metalwork and manuscripts, which were visible to a more restricted audience. Of the seven arts which represented a classical tradition of education, however, only one, the art of grammar, was sometimes represented as a teacher. In the famous example on the south portal of the west façade of Chartres cathedral, probably made c.1145-1150, the personified figure of Grammar carried a book and an instrument of discipline, whilst two students were gathered at her knees.