Saint of the Day – 19 May – Saint Alcuin of York (c735-804) “The Schoolmaster of Europe.” Deacon, Confessor, Scholar, Teacher, Reformer, Defender of Catholic Doctrine, Founder of educational institutions in Monasteries and Cathedral Chapters, renowned Poet, Theologian and Writer. Accrdited with the the invention of cursive script, Alcuin established Scriptoria dedicated to copying and preserving ancient manuscripts, both pagan and Christian- that we have as much as we do, of the writings of classical Roman authors, is largely due to Alcuin and his scribes. Alcuin a;so revised and organised the Latin liturgy, preserved ancient prayers and helped develop plain chant. He advocated the Doctrine that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son jointly. Unfortunately, the East resented Blessed Charlemagne‘s assumption of the title of Holy Roman Emperor; this hardened their opposition to the Doctrine and contributed to the rift between East and West. Born in c735 at York, England and died on 19 May 804 at Tours, France of natural causes.
At the invitation of the Blessed Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian Court, where he remained a figure in the 780s and 790s. Before that, he was also a Court Chancellor in Aachen.
“The most learned man anywhere to be found,”according to Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne. This bold statement from Einhard, the Frankish scholar and Courtier to Charlemagne, is a touching assessment of Alcuin of York’s reach academically, spiritually and culturally. Alcuin is considered among the most important intellectual architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the era.
In the last half of the eighth century, Charlemagne presided over a revival of learning in the Frankish empire. Alcuin of York, a scholar Saint, was largely responsible for generating this cultural renewal – now called the Carolingian Renaissance. In 767, Alcuin became the Rector of the Minster school at York, where he had studied. An innovative educator, he improved the school, made its library one of England’s best and attracted outstanding students.
Charlemagne brought Alcuin to Aachen in 781 and appointed him as his Ecclesiastical and Educational Adviser. Later, although Alcuin was not a Priest and probably was not a Monk, Charlemagne installed him as the Abbot of the Monastery of St Martin at Tours. As Head of the Palace school, Alcuin elevated the culture at Court and sponsored educational enterprises throughout the realm. And, under his guidance, the Abbey at Tours became famous as a centre of learning. Alcuin also won his reputation as a Theologian and Liturgist. He wrote and spoke against the Adoptionists, heretics who claimed that Jesus was God’s adopted son. And Alcuin conducted a Liturgical reform which left its mark on the Roman style of worship. He revised the Roman Lectionary, the book of readings used in worship and put together a new Sacramentary, the book of formulas for Baptism and the other Sacraments.
He also wrote verse, textbooks and innumerable letters. As Adviser to Charlemagne, he played a special role in the education of the Royal family. As the following letter to one of Charlemagne’s sons shows, he held his heirs to a high Christian ideal:
“I rejoice my dearest son, in your devoted goodwill regarding both your generous almsgiving and your gentle rule. All this surely pleases God and deserves the mercy of His perpetual blessing. Always work to the utmost for the honour of God Almighty. In goodness and piety, follow the example of your most excellent father, so that by Christ’s Divine Clemency, you may inherit is blessings.
Listen faithfully to the poor and judge their cause with absolute justice. Do not permit the judges under you to judge for presents and gifts. For Holy Scripture says, gifts blind the hearts of the wise and subvert the words of the just. Hold in honour those who are true servants of God, for some come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly, are ravening wolves. Be prudent in thought and cautious in speech. Always set your hope on God, for He never fails them whose hope is set on Him. ”
Many of the ideas discussed within the Court found themselves in Alcuin’s correspondence to Charlemagne, to other members of the Court and those he maintained contact with in England. His letters express his interest in a range of pressing Theological and social issues of the day. In total, he left behind around 300 Latin letters which are invaluable as a source for this early medieval period. In one particular correspondence he discusses his discovery of the sad fate of Lindisfarne’s status as a cultural and religious sanctuary, altered forever by the Viking raid in 793. He expressed his great sorrow and analysed the event as God’s punishment for the behaviour of the people of Northumbria.
For his vast efforts as an educational reformer, history recognises Alcuin as “The Schoolmaster of Europe.” He died at the Abbey of Tours in 804, some 10 years before the Emperor and was buried at St Martin’s Church under an Epitaph which partly read:
4 thoughts on “Saint of the Day – 19 May – Saint Alcuin of York (c735-804) “The Schoolmaster of Europe.” Deacon, Confessor”
Outstanding Saint a man who unified the Churches, at least in the West, theology and rituals. Interesting what one man can do when in our recent past a long conclave with the same purpose known as Vatican 11 failed to do.(One mans opinion).
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And MINE – I join you in deriding VII.
Difference is – St Alcuin was a holy man – most of the participants at VII were heretics – known as “Modernists” and “Free Masons” – their sole purpose to destroy!
I know what you’re talking about esp. freemasons. Way before I converted I was a Master Mason.that is until I read between the lines and quit. I am now a 4th degree Knight of Columbus and proud of it.
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Wow Hughie – there is little you have not done!