Weekly reading review #2


In chapter seven of The Medieval Church, Joseph H. Lynch and Phillip C. Adamo reveal to us the methods and results of becoming a more educated and enlightened society. The effects of the Carolingian Renaissance were far-reaching, from the liturgical service of the Church to the Frankish aristocrats within the empire.

In section one, “Cultural Decline,” the drive to get back to the idealized orthopraxy of the early Roman Church would need to start with raising the education levels of the secular, regular, and laity with depleting monetary resources. Critical issues arose when the amount of literature was plentiful, but those who could read, understand, and teach the Latin that it was written in were few.

Section two, “The Court School,” we are introduced to the top down influential leadership Charlemagne employed to educate adults, as well as, children by importing teachers from countries that experienced recent educational revivals. In a generation, or forty year period, the Franks would stand with other intellectual leaders and contribute through writing, book copying, artistic and architectural work.

We are introduced in section three to the “Cathedral Schools” where the problems mentioned above became a reality. The lack of resources coupled by royally appointed bishops saw a growing division between the well and poorly educated clergy due to the whim of the bishop.

In section four, “Monastic Schools,” we find the monasteries better suited for this undertaking for two apparent reasons. First, Benedict’s rule of oblation made education a part of the monastic lifestyle which ensured never to be at a loss for teachers or abbots. Second, the monastic life centered around routine and this could present a more systematic methodology of learning.

By section five, “The Seven Liberal Arts,” we familiarize ourselves with the content taught in these developing institutions of learning. Even though the four mathematical arts (geometry, astronomy, arithmetic, and music) took a backseat to the emphasis of the literary three (grammar, rhetoric, and dialect). This old Roman-era approach caused the Carolingian reformers to develop new forms of chanting, texts to be sung, and musical notation, as well as preserving the scriptures, church fathers, liturgies, etc., through copying practices.

In section six, “Books and Handwriting,” the seeds of this renaissance are evident by the volume of works past down to us which have enabled the large ninth century library of 600 to 1,000 books to grow into major university libraries today bearing the fruit consisting of millions of books. The development of a new writing style, named the Carolingian minuscule, was so admired by the Italian Renaissance that it “became the basis for the printed letters on this very page” (Lynch and Adamo, 115).

The Carolingian Renaissance is, at the same time, powerful and subtle in this period. The drive for education had a longer reach through history than may have been expected. If the goal of this renaissance was to become more like ancient Rome in education, then I think that achievement had been realized as Italians mistook their work for that of Roman antiquity. When we hold up the understanding of the Carolingian minuscule with the conduit of the Gutenberg printing press, will credit shift back to this renaissance for enabling the education battle cry of the sixteenth-century Reformers, “Ad Fontes!”?