The Alphabetum catholicorum of Arnaldus of Villanova, an edition and study
Burnam, Hope Lampert (university of Toronto)
PhD Thesis, University of Toronto (1996)
On the title page to the 1553 edition of his catechism, John Calvin defined a catechism as “a formulary for instructing children in Christianity set as a dialogue.” Although catechisms have traditionally be regarded as an innovation of the Reformation and an outgrowth of late medieval lay devotional manuals, they were known as early as the thirteenth century and were based on a centuries-old tradition of instructing children in the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary. This dissertation includes an edition of the Alphabetun catholicorum, a catechism written by Arnaldus of Villanova in Montpellier about 1295, and a study of its place in religious history.
There is no modern history of children’s catechetical instruction in the Middle Ages, and it is difficult to trace because it was generally conducted by illiterate parents and godparents outside a formal setting. However, surviving church canons and liturgical documents suggest that beginning in the eighth century parents and godparents were expected to teach their children the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. This duty was reemphasized in the wake of the the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), and the first documents explaining to parents how to do so seem to have appeared in the mid-thirteenth century.