Cathedral Schools: The Institutional Development of Twelfth-Century Education

Cathedral Schools: The Institutional Development of Twelfth-Century Education

By J. Hanrahan

Report of the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Historical Association, Vol.43:1 (1964)

Introduction: The great age of the cathedral schools came in the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries. Before that, in the ninth and tenth centuries, the monastic schools had been more important; but there had always been a certain unease about the monastic schools, a certain suspicion that intensive study and especially teaching of the arts was somehow alien to the life of the monk, and the monastic reformers of the eleventh and twelfth centuries were generally opposed to such schools. Thus it was in the cathedral schools that the great increase of interest in learning, that was so much a part of the late eleventh century, was reflected.

All of the major cathedrals had their schools. A student of the generation around 1100, who sought learning beyond the ordinary and was desirous of hearing the best masters, would have to travel from school to school. To Rheims he might go if he sought instruction in letters, although the best days of the school there were in the past; to Tournai, where a popular and well-disciplined school was run by Master Od “skilled in all the seven liberal arts, but especially in dialectics”; to Lille, where Master Raimbertus, in opposition to Odo, upheld nominalist ideas; to Noyon, a bit later, to hear the grammatical teaching of Master Guardmundus; to Laon, to which city the spreading fame of Master Anselm was drawing students to the arts and of theology from all over Latin Christendom; to Paris, where a disciple of Anselm of Laon, Master William of Champeaux, was attracting hearers in dialectics and rhetoric; to Chartes, where the glories of the school that had been so famous a century before under Bishop Fulbert were being revived under Bishop Ivo; to anyone of a number of other famous schools he might go to receive instruction in the arts or in the theological wisdom of Scripture and the Fathers, for which the arts were a preparation.

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