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Historical Sketches: Volumes 1 To 3 -Blessed John Henry Newman

AS nations are inscrutably brought within the sacred fold, and inscrutably cast without it, so are they used, while within it, in this way or that, according to the supreme will and for the greater glory of Him, who has brought them into being from some common ancestor, and holds them together by unity of government or by traditionary ideas. One Catholic nation is high in the world, another low; one rises and expands into an Empire, another is ever in the position of subject or even dependent. England and Ireland were, in the darkest age of Christian history, the conservators of sacred and profane knowledge: not, however, for any merit of their own, but according to the good pleasure of their Maker: and, when the time came, in His counsels, for the revival of learning on the Continent, then He dispensed with their ministry, and put them aside. It is a remarkable fact, to which I have already alluded, that the appearance of the Danes off the coasts of England and Ireland, the destroyers in both islands of religion and science, synchronizes with the rise of Charlemagne, the founder of modern civilization.

Christianity, which hitherto might be considered as a quality superinduced upon the face of society, now became the element, out of which society grew into shape and reached its stature. The Church had battled with the Roman Empire, and had eventually vanquished it; but, while she succeeded in teaching it the new song of the Saints, she did not demand of it that flexibility of the organs of speech which only exists in the young. It was the case of an old man learning a foreign tongue; its figure, gait, attitudes, and gestures, and in like manner its accent, belonged to an earlier time. Up to the point at which a change was imperative, its institutions were suffered to remain just as they had been in paganism; christianized just so far as to enable them to work christian-wise, however cumbrously or circuitously. And as to the system of education in particular, I suppose the primary, or, as they may be better called, the grammar schools, as far as they were not private speculations, were from first to last in the hands of the State; state-institutions, first of pagan, then of mixed education. I do not mean to say that there are no traces in Christian antiquity of a higher pattern of education, in which religion and learning were brought together,—as in the method of teaching which St. Basil and St. Gregory brought into Asia Minor from Alexandria, and in the Benedictine Schools of Italy; but I am speaking of what the Christian Empire did, and again of what the Church exacted from it. She for the most part confined herself to the education of the clergy, and their ecclesiastical education; the laity and secular learning seem to have been still, more or less, in the charge of the State;—not, however, as if this were the best way of doing things, as the attempts I have spoken of bore testimony, but, because she found things in a certain state, and used them as best she could. Her aim was to make the Empire Christian, not to revolutionize it; and, without a revolution of society, the typical form of a Christian polity could not have been given to the institutions of Rome. But, when society was broken up, and had to be constructed over again, the case was different; it would have been as preposterous, under such circumstances, not to build it up upon Catholicity, as it would have been to attempt to do so before. Henceforth, as all government, so all education, was to be founded on Revealed Truth. Secular teaching was to be united to sacred; and the Church had the supervision both of lay students and of profane learning.

The new state of things began in the Frankish Empire; but it is observable how Rome after all strikes the key note of the movement. Charlemagne indeed betook himself to the two Islands of the North for a tradition; Alcuin, an Englishman, was at the head of his educational establishments; he came to France, not with sacred learning only, but with profane; he set up schools for laity as well as clergy; but whence was it that he in turn got the tradition which he brought? His history takes us back to that earlier age, when Theodore of Tarsus, Primate of England, brought with him thither from Rome the classics, and made Greek and Latin as familiar to the Anglo-Saxons as their native tongue. Alcuin was the scholar of Bede and Egbert; Egbert was educated in the York school of Theodore, and Bede in that of Benedict Biscop and of John precentor of the Vatican Basilica. Here was the germ of the new civilization of Europe, which was to join together what man had divided, to adjust the claims of Reason and of Revelation, and to fit men for this world while it trained them for another. Charlemagne has the glory of commencing this noble work; and, whether his school at Paris be called a University or not, he laid down principles of which a University is the result, in that he aimed at educating all classes, and undertook all subjects of teaching.

In the first place, however, he turned his attention to the Episcopal Seminaries, which seem to have been institutions of the earliest times of Christianity, though they had been in great measure interrupted amid the dissolution of society consequent upon the barbarian inroads, as various passages in these Essays have already suggested. His restoration lasted for four centuries, till Universities rose in their turn, and indirectly interfered with the efficiency of the Seminaries, by absorbing them into the larger institution. This inconvenience was set right at a later period by the Council of Trent, whose wise regulations were in turn the objects of the jealousy of the Josephism of the last century, which used or rather abused the University system to their prejudice. The present policy of the Church in most places has been to return to the model both of the first ages and of Charlemagne.

To these Seminaries he added, what I have spoken of as his characteristic institution, grammar and public schools, as preparatory both to the Seminaries and to secular professions. Not that they were confined to grammar, for they recognized the trivium and quadrivium; but grammar, in the sense of literature, seems to have been the principle subject of their teaching. These schools were established in connexion with the Cathedral or the Cloister; and they received ecclesiastics and the sons of the nobility, though not to the exclusion of the poorer class.

Charlemagne probably did not do much more than this; though it was once the custom to represent him as the actual founder of the University of Paris. But great creations are not perfected in a day; without doing everything which had to be done, he did many things, and opened the way for more. It will throw light upon his position in the history of Christian education, to quote a passage from the elaborate work of Bulæus, on the University of Paris, though he not unnaturally claims the great Emperor as its founder, maintaining that he established, not only the grammar or public schools already mentioned, but the higher Studia Generalia. This assumption, well founded or not, will not make his account less instructive, if, as I have supposed, Charlemagne certainly introduced ideas and principles, of which the University was the result.

“It is observable,” says Bulæus, “that Charles, in seeking out masters, had in view, not merely the education of his own family, but of his subjects generally, and of all lovers of the Christian Religion; and wished to be of service to all students and cultivators of the liberal arts. It is indeed certain that he sought out learned men and celebrated teachers from all parts of the world, and induced them to accept his invitation by rewards and honours, on which Alcuin lays great stress. ‘I was well aware, my Lord David,’ he says, ‘that it has been your praiseworthy solicitude ever to love and to extol wisdom; and to exhort all men to cultivate it, nay, to incite them by means of prizes and honours; and out of divers parts of the world to bring together its lovers as the helpers of your good purpose; among whom you have taken pains to secure even me, the meanest slave of that holy wisdom, from the extremest boundaries of Britain.’

“It is evident hence, that Charles’s intention was not to found any common sort of schools, such, that is, as would have required only a few instructors, but public schools, open to all, and possessing all kinds of learning. Hence the necessity of a multiplicity of Professors, who from their number and the remoteness of their homes might seem a formidable charge, not only to the court, or to one city, but even to his whole kingdom. Such is the testimony of Eginhart, who says: ‘Charles loved foreigners and took great pains to support them; so that their number was a real charge, not to the Palace alone, but even to the realm. Such, however, was his greatness of soul, that the burden of them was no trouble to him, because even of great inconveniences the praise of munificence is a compensation.’

“Charles had in mind to found two kinds of schools, less and greater. The less he placed in Bishops’ palaces, canons’ cloisters, monasteries, and elsewhere; the greater, however, he established in places which were public, and suitable for public teaching; and he intended them, not only for ecclesiastics, but for the nobility and their children, and on the other hand for poor scholars too; in short, for every rank, class, and race.

“He seems to have had two institutions before his mind, when he contemplated this object; the first of them was the ancient schools. Certainly, a man of so active and inquiring a mind as Charles, with his intercourse with learned persons and his knowledge of mankind, must have been well aware that in former ages these two kinds of schools were to be found everywhere; the one kind few in number, public, and of great reputation, possessed moreover of privileges, and planted in certain conspicuous and central sites. Such was the Alexandrian in Egypt, the Athenian in Greece; such under the Roman Emperors, the schools of Rome, of Constantinople, of Berytus, which are known to have been attended by multitudes, and amply privileged by Theodosius, Justinian, and other princes; whereas the other kind of schools, which were far more numerous, were to be found up and down the country, in cities, towns, villages, and were remarkable neither in number of students nor in name.

“The other pattern which was open to Charles was to be found in the practice of monasteries, if it really existed there. The Benedictines, from the very beginning of their institution, had applied themselves to the profession of literature, and it has been their purpose to have in their houses two kinds of school, a greater or a less, according to the size of the house; and the greater they wished to throw open to all students, at a time when there were but few laymen at all who could teach, so that externs, seculars, laymen, as well as clerics, might be free to attend to them. However, true as it was that boys, who were there from childhood intrusted to the monks, bound themselves by no vow, but could leave when they pleased, marry, go to court, or enter the army, still a great many of the cleverest of them were led, either by the habits which they acquired from their intercourse with their teachers, or by their persuasion, to embrace the monastic life. And thus, while the Church in consequence gained her most powerful supports, the State, on the other hand, was wanting in men of judgment, learning, and experience, to conduct its affairs. This led very frequently to kings choosing monks for civil administration, because no others were to be found capable of undertaking it.

“Charles then, consulting for the common good, made literature in a certain sense secular, and transplanted it from the convents to the royal palace; in a word, he established in Paris a Universal School like that at Rome.

“Not that he deprived Monks of the license to teach and profess, though he certainly limited it, from a clear view that that variety of sciences, human and profane, which secular academies require, is inconsistent with the profession and devotion of ascetics; and accordingly, in conformity to the spirit of their institute, it was his wish that the lesser schools should be set up or retained in the Bishops’ palaces and monasteries, while he prescribed the subjects which they were to teach. The case was different with the schools which are higher and public, which, instead of multiplying, he confined to certain central and celebrated spots, not more than to three in his whole empire—Paris, and in Italy, Pavia and Bologna.”

Such certainly was the result, in which his reforms ended, even though they did not reach it; and they may be said to have directly tended to it, considering that it was their characteristic, in contrast with the previous schools, to undertake the education of laity as well as clergy, and secular studies as well as religious. But, after all, it was not in an Emperor’s power, though he were Charlemagne, to carry into effect in any case, by the resources peculiar to himself, so great an idea as a University. Benefactors and patrons may supply the framework of a Studium Generale; but there must be a popular interest and sympathy, a spontaneous coöperation of the many, the concurrence of genius, and a spreading thirst for knowledge, if it is to live. Centuries passed before these conditions were supplied, and then at length about the year 1200 a remarkable intellectual movement took place in Christendom; and to it must be ascribed the development of Universities, out of the public or grammar schools, which I have already described. No such movement could happen, without the rise of some deep and comprehensive philosophy; and, when it rose, then the existing Trivium and Quadrivium became the subjects, and the existing seats of learning the scene, of its victories; and next the curiosity and enthusiasm, which it excited, attracted larger and larger numbers to places which were hitherto but local centres of education. Such a gathering of students, such a systematizing of knowledge, are the notes of a University.

The increase of members and the multiplication of sciences both involved changes in the organization of the Schools of Charlemagne; and of these the increase of members came first. Hitherto there had been but one governor over the students, who were but few at the most, and came from the neighbourhood; but now the academic body was divided into Nations, according to the part of Europe from which they joined it, and each Nation had a head of its own, under the title of Procurator or Proctor. There were traces of this division, as we have seen in a former Chapter, in Athens; where the students were arranged under the names of Attic, Oriental, Arab, and Pontic, with a protector for each class. In like manner, in the University of Paris, there were four nations, first, the French, which included the middle and south of France, Spain, Italy, and Greece; secondly, the English, which, besides the two British islands, comprehended Germany and Scandinavia; thirdly, the Norman; and fourthly, the Picards, who carried with them the inhabitants of Flanders and Brabant. Again, in the University of Vienna, there were also four nations,—Austria, the Rhine, Hungary, and Bohemia. Oxford recognized only two Nations; the north English, which comprehended the Scotch; and the South English, which comprehended the Irish and Welsh. The Proctors of the Nations both governed and represented them; the double office is still traceable, unless the recent Act of Parliament has destroyed it, in the modern constitution of Oxford, in which the two Proctors on the one hand represent the Masters of Arts in the Hebdomadal Board, and on the other have in their hands the discipline of the University.

And as Nations and their Proctors arose out of the metropolitan character of a University, to which students congregated from the farthest and most various places, so are Faculties and Deans of Faculties the consequence of its encyclopedic profession. According to the idea of the institutions of Charlemagne, each school had its own teacher, who was called Rector, or Master. In Paris, however, where the school was founded in St. Genevieve’s, the Chancellor of that Church became the Rector, and he kept his old title of Chancellor in his new office. Elsewhere the head of the University was called Provost. However, it was not every one who would be qualified to profess even the Seven Sciences, of which the old course of instruction consisted, though the teaching was only elementary, and to become the Rector, Chancellor, or Provost, of the University; but, when these sciences became only parts of a whole system of instruction, which demanded in addition a knowledge of philosophy, scholastic theology, civil and canon law, medicine, natural history, and the Semitic languages, no one person was equal to the undertaking. The Rector fell back from the position of a teacher to that of a governor; and the instruction was divided among a board of Doctors, each of whom represented a special province in Science. This is the origin of Deans of Faculties; and, inasmuch as they undertook among themselves one of those departments of academical duty, which the Chancellor or Rector had hitherto fulfilled, they naturally became his Council. In some places the Proctors of the Nations were added. Thus, in Vienna the Council consisted of the Four Deans of Faculties, and the Four Proctors.

As Nations preceded Faculties, we may suppose that Degrees, which are naturally connected with the latter, either did not enter into the original provisions of a University, or had not the same meaning as afterwards. And this seems to have been the case. At first they were only testimonials that a resident was fit to take part in the public teaching of the place; and hence, in the Oxford forms still observed, the Vice-Chancellor admits the person taking a degree to the “lectio” of certain books. Degrees would not at that time be considered mere honours or testimonials, to be enjoyed by persons who at once left the University and mixed in the world. The University would only confer them for its own purposes; and to its own subjects, for the sake of its own subjects. It would claim nothing for them external to its own limits; and, if so, only used a power obviously connate with its own existence. But of course the recognition of a University by the State, not to say by other Universities, would change the import of degrees, and, since such recognition has commonly been granted from the first, degrees have seldom been only what they were in their original idea; but the formal words by which they are denoted, still preserve its memory. As students on taking degrees are admitted “legere et disputare,” so are they called “Magistri,” that is, of the schools; and “Doctors,” that is, teachers, or in some places “Professors,” as the letters S.T.P. show, used instead of D.D.

It will be observed that the respective distributions into Faculties and into Nations are cross-divisions. Another cross-division, on which I shall not now enter, is into Colleges and Halls.

I conclude by enumerating the characteristic distinctions, laid down by Bulæus, between the public or grammar schools founded by Charlemagne, and the Universities into which eventually some of them grew, or, as he would say, which Charlemagne also founded.

First, he says, they differ from each other ratione disciplinæ. The Scholæ Minores only taught the Trivium (viz., Grammar, Logic, Rhetoric,) and the Quadrivium, viz., Geometry, Astronomy, Arithmetic, and Music,) the seven liberal Arts; whereas the Scholæ Majores added Medicine, Law, and Theology.

Next, ratione loci; for the Minores were many and everywhere, but the Majores only in great cities, and few in number. I have already remarked on the physical and social qualifications necessary for a place which is to become the seat of a great school of learning: Bulæus observes, that the Muses were said to inhabit mountains, Parnassus or Helicon, spots high and healthy and secured against the perils of war, and that the Academy was a grove; though of course he does not forget that the place must be accessible too, and in the highway of the world. “That the city of Paris,” he says, “is ample in size, largely frequented, healthy and pleasant in site, there can be no doubt.” Frederic the Second spoke the general sentiment, when he gave as a reason for establishing a University at Naples, the convenience of the sea coast and the fertility of the soil. We are informed by Matamorus, in his account of the Spanish Universities, that Salamanca was but the second site of its University, which was transferred thither from Palencia on account of the fertility of the neighbourhood, and the mildness of its climate. And Mr. Prescott speaks of Alcala being chosen by Cardinal Ximenes as the site for his celebrated foundations, because “the salubrity of the air, and the sober, tranquil complexion of the scenery, on the beautiful borders of the Henares, seemed well suited to academic study and meditation.”

The third difference between the greater and lesser schools lies ratione fundatorum. Popes, Emperors, and Kings, are the founders of Universities; lesser authorities in Church and State are the founders of Colleges and Schools.

Fourthly, ratione privilegiorum. The very notion of a University, I believe, is, that it is an institution of privilege. I think it is Bulæus who says, “Studia Generalia cannot exist without privileges, any more than the body without the soul. And in this all writers on Universities agree.” He reduces those privileges to two heads, “Patrocinium” and “Præmium;” and these, it is obvious, may be either of a civil or an ecclesiastical nature. There were formerly five Universities endowed with singular privileges: those of Rome, of Paris, of Bologna, of Oxford, and of Salamanca; but Antony à Wood quotes an author who seems to substitute Padua for Rome in this list.

Lastly, the greater and lesser schools differ ratione regiminis. The head of a College is one; but a University is a “respublica litteraria.”

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