Friday 1 September 2023

Irish Teachers in the Carolingian Revival of Learning, Part I

Following on from Archbishop John Healy's article on the Irish scholar Dicuil the Geographer, below is the first part of a paper by the Most Reverend William Turner (1871-1936) on 'Irish Teachers in the Carolingian Revival of Learning', published in the Catholic University of America's Bulletin in 1907. Bishop Turner, a noted educationalist in his Diocese of Buffalo, published a History of Philosophy in 1903.   Although his scholarship is now over a hundred years old, there is still much of value in his work. For a modern scholar's assessment of the medieval Irish scholars on the continent there is a video of a talk by Dr. Alexander O'Hara on 'The Irish at the Carolingian Court and the Europeanization of Europe' available here. Dr O'Hara remarked in response to a question that there are roughly forty Irish scholars who have been identified in the sources, Bishop Turner will introduce us to many of them. I will reprint Part Two of his paper tomorrow.


Historians have often deplored the fact that the Irish teachers who contributed so largely to the success of the Carolingian revival of letters lacked a proper sense of the importance of the work they were doing. Indeed, the charge might with justice be brought against the medieval teachers generally that they were deficient in historical insight, that they took no adequate care that the growth and development of the work in which they were engaged should be recorded for the benefit of posterity. Important though that literary revival was which took its origin from the patronage extended to learning by Charles the Great, yet, there is not a single contemporary narrative to tell us who they were that contributed to its success, or to trace its progress through the various provinces of the vast empire over which Charles reigned. It is known, however, that the movement owes much to the Irish teachers who, under Charles and his successors, appeared here and there throughout the Continent of Europe, and were acknowledged to be the traditional custodians of the light of learning which everywhere else except in Ireland was almost totally extinguished. But, though none of those pioneers of learning thought it worth while to leave behind him a narrative of his achievements and those of his contemporaries, we have in the manuscripts to be found in the principal libraries of Germany, France and Italy a trustworthy and perfectly objective account of the literary activity of the Irish scholars of the ninth and tenth centuries. We regret that these men carried the spirit of self-effacement so far as completely to avoid the tribute of public monuments, laudatory epitaphs and state or ecclesiastical record of their public services; for that very reason, however, when we find the undying record of their intellectual work in the books which they wrote and copied, we feel that the modern world has a right to know how much it owes to them, and we are sure that the praise which they were far from seeking will be generously conceded, once the magnitude of their work is known.

Ussher was the first to recognize that the truest record of the activity of the Irish teachers of Charlemagne's time is to be found in the manuscripts dating from the ninth and tenth centuries. In his Veterum Epistolarum Hibernicarum Sylloge he publishes valuable material from unedited letters on Irish topics. Since Ussher's time, however, much has been done towards editing the literary legacy of the early middle ages, and in all the works relating to that period attention is naturally given to the share which the Irish monks took in the Carolingian revival of letters. Dümmler and Traube, editors of the Carolingian poets, have rescued the names of many of these Irish scholars from oblivion, and given us the sometimes too scanty record of their career as teachers. Zimmer, who has contributed so much to the scientific study of the Irish language, has collected in a brief essay an array of names and facts to justify his judgment that it was the Irish teachers who “laid the foundation stone of that edifice of culture which we are still building." Hauréau, too a diligent student of the manuscripts, devotes a special chapter to the Irish schools in his Singularités historiques et littéraires (Paris, 1894). Perhaps no one has written more sympathetically than Ozanam, especially in his Études germaniques and in his Documents inédits. More recently, Canon Bellesheim, taking advantage of the materials furnished in the “Monumenta Germaniae," describes at length the labors of the Irish monks in the first volume of his History of the Church in Ireland. The writer of the present article not only aims at summarizing and arranging the results of the foregoing studies, but also hopes to be able to add something from his own study of the manuscripts of the ninth and tenth centuries.

It is beyond the scope of this article to describe the work done during the seventh and eight centuries by the missionaries who left their monastic cells in Ireland to carry the tidings of the Gospel to the newly arrived conquerors of Gaul, Germany and Italy. Their deeds are part of the history of the Christianization of Europe. It is sufficient for our present purpose to remark that they prepared the way for the teachers who were to follow in their footsteps. Columban in the country of the Jura Alps and the Appenines, St. Gall among the hills of the Allemanien, St. Fursey along the banks of the Marne, St. Foilan in what was afterwards the imperial city of Aix-la-Chapelle, St. Kilian in Würzburg, St. Cataldo in Tarentum, and many others less well known, such as St. Disibod at Kreuznach on the Rhine, St. Livinius at Ghent, exorcised a ministry which was educational as well as religious. They not only preached the doctrines of Christianity, but, also, as far as was possible, imparted to their converts some of that love of learning which they brought with them from their native land. Columban, for instance, is recognized to have been the greatest poet of his time.  Poetry, however, may have been a pastime for him; it was a profession for his successors of the ninth and tenth centuries. Their mission was different from his. They had to deal with a people completely, or almost completely Christianized, and the task which they were called on to perform was not the religious conversion, but the intellectual and literary education of the nations.

In order to avoid a confusion which, in spite of reiterated assertion on the part of historians, is still to be met in the treatment of this subject, it is necessary to point out that, in the records of the ninth and tenth centuries, "Scotia" meant, not the present Scotland (Scotia Minor), but Ireland (Scotia Major); that "Scotus," consequently, is to be translated "Irishman." Ussher proves this at great length and with extraordinary wealth of learning, quoting from the classical writers of antiquity and the medieval writers down to Caesar of Heisterbach (13th cent.). The reader will, therefore, not be misled by the name Scot, or Scottish monk, applied to the Irish scholars by recent writers such as Traube, Dümmler and Zimmer.

In trying to account for a phenomenon which is extraordinary, if not unique, in the history of education, namely the appearance of so many Irish teachers at widely distant places on the continent during the ninth and tenth centuries, we must not only bear in mind the Celtic love of change, which has often been adduced as an adequate explanation of that extraordinary exodus, but must take into account also the peculiar conditions of the time. The organization of the Irish Church was almost entirely monastic; there were bishops, of course, but some of these, at least, were without sees, episcopi vagantes, it being the custom to raise to the episcopal dignity monks who had distinguished themselves by piety or learning. Perhaps we are to interpret in this light the enigmatic words of St. Gall monk Ekkehard IV (died about 1036), who in his Liber Benedictionum says "In Ireland the priests and bishops are one and the same: In Hibernia Episcopi et Presbyteri unum sunt." Where the Church organization was largely monastic the clergy did not feel that they were “addicted to the glebe," and, once their monasteries were destroyed, they turned naturally to the foundations which their fellow-countrymen, Columban, Gall, Fintan and others had established on the continent of Europe. It does not surprise us, therefore, to find that the date of the first invasions of the Danes is coincident with the beginning of that exodus which carried the light of learning from the ruined sanctuaries of Ireland to the monastic schools of France, Italy and Germany. Besides, it was a custom among the clergy of Ireland to make pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to Rome, and in many instances the returning pilgrim, instead of going back to his native land, was induced to settle down with his fellow-countrymen in their new monastic home on the continent. All these circumstances were added to the Irish teachers' love of learning, which outweighed their love for their native land, and sent them into voluntary exile. It was not long after the first Danish incursion into Ireland that Walahfrid Strabo writing from the monastery of Reichenau, on the Bodensee (Lake Constance) refers to the "Irish, to whom travel has become a second nature." Walahfrid was writing from personal knowledge, as is evident from the records of his monastery, in which the names of many Irishmen appear. Eric of Auxerre (about 850), who was personally indebted to the teaching of the Irish monks, writes to Charles the Bald in the words so often quoted: "Why should I mention Ireland, whose sons, undeterred by the perils of the seas, have flocked to our shores, the whole country, one might say, having emigrated with its crowd of philosophers." Alcuin, too, though not, as we shall see, a willing witness to the fame of Ireland's scholars, tells us that "it has long since been a custom for very learned teachers to come from Ireland to Britain, Gaul and Italy."

With Virgil, Bishop of Salsburg, the well-known Irish scholar, and his conflict with St. Boniface concerning the existence of the Antipodes, we are not here concerned, as it falls outside the scope of this study. So also does the literary activity of St. Kilian of Würzburg. It must, however, be noted that these were by no means the only Irish men of learning who appeared in continental Europe during the seventh and eight centuries. Virgil had for contemporary a certain Sampson, or Samson, "genere Scottus," about whom, also, St. Boniface complained. He had also for companion a bishop named Dobdan the Greek, who accompanied him from Ireland. To explain the singular fact of a Greek bishop coming from Ireland, Ussher tells us that, down to his day, there was a Greek church near Trim in County Meath. A simpler explanation, however, is given by Zimmer, namely, that Dobdagrecus is merely the latinized form of the Irish name Dubdachrich which occurs in many of the continental annals of that time; for instance, in the Lorscher Annals for the year 726 “Martin and Dobdecric abbots died.”

Another contemporary and fellow-countryman of Virgil, Thaddaeus, Abbot of Ratisbon, tells us that St. Kilian of Wurzburg was accompanied by Colonatus and Totnan, and that Virgil had for companions "seven other bishops, who, according to the custom of their venerable Irish predecessors, proposed to visit the Holy Land and to see with the eyes of the body the ground which the Lord had trodden.” This custom, we shall see, prevailed also in the ninth century, the pilgrimage to Rome or to Jerusalem being, as has been said, the preliminary to a permanent settlement in Germany, France, or Switzerland. In the correspondence between St. Boniface and Pope Zachary we find mention of a Clement, an Irishman, against whom many irregularities are alleged. In view of the misunderstanding which later on arose between the Irish teachers and the Anglo-Saxons on the Continent, it is interesting to note that Boniface, the Anglo-Saxon, brings Clement, the Irishman, to task for not accepting the treatises and the teachings of "the Holy Fathers Jerome, Augustine and Gregory" similarly, it will be alleged in the following century that the celebrated Irishman, John the Scot, inclined too much to the opinions of the Greek Fathers, and underrated the Latin Fathers.

We come now to the reign of Charlemagne, whose enlightened efforts on behalf of education resulted in a revival of learning far more important in its consequences than that which is known as the Renaissance. The edict by which Charles commanded the establishment of schools throughout his vast empire has been called "the charter of modern education" and it may be said, without exaggeration, that never in the whole history of the intellectual life of Europe was authoritative legislation more sorely needed, and seldom, if ever, was legislative interference in educational matters more happy in its results. Alcuin, the English monk whom Charles appointed as the first master of his Palace School, deserves credit for the wisdom he displayed in advising the monarch in his educational reforms, and the ability with which he carried out the emperor's design. Whether he studied in Ireland or, as is more probable, received all his early education at the Cathedral School of York, he is justly considered as a representative of the learning which, at a time when Britain, like the rest of Europe, was plunged in darkness, was carried by the Irish missionaries to their Saxon neighbors. It is not necessary to detract from Alcuin 's fame in order to do full justice to the Irish teachers who preceded him, accompanied him, or followed him to the court of Charlemagne and were, it would seem, received with special favor there. Indeed, the monarch seems to have had a special affection not only for the wandering Irish scholars who sought hospitality within his realm, but also for the Irish nation generally. If we are to believe the Monk of St. Gall, who wrote the History of Charles the Great, two Irish scholars appeared in France before the arrival of Alcuin, were welcomed by the king, and entrusted by him with the execution of his educational schemes. One of these was named Clement and the other, Joseph (?). Too much importance, however, should not be attached to the details of the story. Still, we know from other sources that there were two Irish scholars named Clement and Joseph in France shortly after the arrival of Alcuin. We know, too, that as early as 786 Charles erected at Amarbaric, near Verden, a monastery “for the Irish”, over which an Irishman named Patto ruled as abbot. After the death of Suibert Bishop of Verden, Patto was promoted to that See and succeeded at the monastery by a countryman named Tanco. Equally certain, inexplicable as it may seem, is the fact that cordial relations of a very special kind existed between Charlemagne and the Irish princes and people. The writer known as the Saxon poet (end of the 9th century) bears explicit testimony to the fact that the Irish professed allegiance to the Frankish king and Einhard, the contemporary and biographer of Charles, tells us that by his munificence he had attached to himself the Irish chiefs and that there were extant letters from them to him in which they professed their allegiance. Whatever the explanation of these allusions, it is undeniable that during the reign of Charlemagne andmhis immediate successors the chief share of the literary revival which belongs to that period and is known as the Carolingian Renaissance fell to the Irish teachers in Frankland, and if we except Alcuin, Rhabanus and Fredegis, the men who founded that educational system to which the latter Middle Ages owe everything and the modern world more than it generally acknowledges were Irishmen.

Among Alcuin's associates was Josephus Scotus. He accompanied Alcuin to France about the year 790, became a friend of St. Liudger, the Apostle of the Frisians, was made abbot (of what monastery, we do not know), and, as appears from a letter of Alcuin, died before the year 804. He is author, of the numerous Latin poems, some of which are addressed to Alcuin, some to Charlemagne, and some to St. Liudger. Several of these are acrostics, and very ingenious, for example, the verses in which he treats of the various titles conferred on Our Lord by the sacred writers. He also wrote a treatise consisting of extracts from St. Jerome's commentaries on Isaiah; the work exists in several manuscripts, the most beautiful of which is the ninth century Ms.(No. 254) in the library of St. Gall, where, however, it is officially attributed to Bede. Students of the history of philosophy know of a celebrated manuscript containing Glosses on the Isagoge of Porphyry, belonging to the ninth century, discovered by Cousin, in which the line occurs:

Iepa hunc scripsi glossans utcunque libellum.

The word "Iepa," more correctly "Icpa," which has puzzled so many critics, is acknowledged to be written on the space left by an erasure; but all attempts to restore the original name have failed. Now it is, to say the least, interesting to find that in a seventeen-line poem of Josephus which he prefixed to the excerpts from St. Jerome there are eleven lines which end with some form of the word “libellus”; from his other poems we see that he liked to introduce his own name, and the manuscripts tell us that he often spelled it "Ioseppus." It is possible that in place of "Iepa" there stood in the original copy some contraction of "Ioseppus." If this surmise be correct, we are entitled to give to Josephus a place among the dialecticians as well as among the poets and exegetes.

A man whose name should be mentioned in this account of the Carolingian revival is Colcu, or Colga, who was Josephus' teacher in Ireland, and, according to some, Alcuin's teacher also. For although he lived and died at Clonmacnoise, it is no exaggeration to say that he contributed to the revival of learning on the Continent as much as many of those whose names are associated with that movement. He is mentioned in Dunelm's History of the Anglo-Saxon Kings and by Alcuin; the latter calls him the teacher of Josephus Scotus. Colcu is known to be the author of the collection of prayers entitled "Scuab Crabhaigh" or "Besom of Devotion."

More immediately connected with the literary revival inaugurated by Charlemagne was Clement the Irishman. He was, as we have seen, one of the teachers who, according to the monk of St. Gall, landed in France “about the time when Charles began to reign alone," that is, after Karlman's death in 791. Apparently he was not long in acquiring a reputation as a grammarian and a teacher; for, when Alcuin left the court of Charles to become Abbot of the monastery of Tours Clement succeeded him as Master of the Palace School. (This is the incident to which Alcuin is understood to refer when he speaks of the “Egyptians” having taken the place of the "Latins" at the Court). After the death of Charles he seems to have retained his prominent position under Louis the Pious, to whom he dedicated his work on grammar. The esteem in which he was held is evident from the complimentary reference to him in the poems of Prudens, a contemporary, and from the fact that scholars were sent to him from the monastery of Fulda, among whom was Modestus (Reccheo) the friend of Candidus (Bruun), the latter being, probably, the author of the celebrated Dicta candidi de Imagine Dei. Clement was present at Ingelheim in 826, when the court celebrated with great pomp the baptism of the Danish King Harald. At the end of his career he retired from his duties as teacher at the Palace School and went to spend his last days with his countrymen at Wurzburg, where lay the remains of St. Kilian. From an entry in the Würzburg Necrology it may be inferred that he died there. Clement wrote a grammatical work, remarkable for its erudition and for the extraordinary range of reading which it shows. Especially interesting is the allusion to “the Greeks who are our teachers in every branch of learning” This is a precious testimony to the knowledge of Greek among the Irish scholars at a time when that language was almost unknown in Latin Europe.

A contemporary and fellow-countryman of Clement was the grammarian Cruindmelus, who wrote a treatise on the art of versification, Tractatus de Metrica Ratione. The work is published by Keil, and in a special edition by Huemer.It is found in a great many manuscripts of the ninth and tenth centuries.

These grammarians, useful as their literary activity was, must be assigned inferior rank in comparison with the poets, astronomers and philosophers of Charlemagne's time. First among these is Dungal, who flourished between the years 811 and 827. We find mention of him in 812 as an Irish priest and scholar at the monastery of St. Denis under the protection of Abbot Waldo. We still have the letter which he wrote in 811 to Charlemagne in order to explain the eclipse of the sun which occurred, or was believed to have occurred, in 810. It is published by Migne and in the Monumenta Germaniae.  It is remarkable for the expression of astronomical views which at that time were considered to be advanced because they seemed to call in question the truth of the Ptolomaic system.

In 823 Dungal is mentioned in a Capitulary of Lothair, in 825 he was appointed by imperial decree to the position of teacher, or "Master" at Pavia; in 828 he appeared in controversy against Claudius of Turin who had written against the veneration of images. This is the last that we hear of Dungal except that he presented his library to the monastery of Bobbio, and from this fact we may, perhaps, infer that he spent his last years among his countrymen there. His library, or, at least, a part of it, is still preserved among the most precious treasures of the Ambrosian at Milan, and several volumes have the inscription, possibly in Dungal's own handwriting:

Sancte Columba, tibi Scotto tuus incola Dungal
Tradidit hunc librum, quo fratrum corda beentur.
Qui legis ergo, Deus pretium sit muneris ora.

Besides this Dungal there was, possibly, another scholar of the same name at Charles' court. Indeed, the name Dungal was common enough in the Irish records of the time; it occurs, for instance, twenty-four times in the Annals of the Four Masters, and it occurs once in the letters of Alcuin, where apparently, the Pavia teacher is meant. Writing to some monks in Ireland, Alcuin says: “Audiens per fratrem venerabilem vestrae eruditionis doctorem, Dungal episcopum etc.;” this, if it refers to our scholar, is the only place in which he is called a bishop. We shall not here delay to discuss the question agitated by Muratori, Tiraboschi, and, more recently by Dümmler, Simson and others, as to the existence of two Dungals at the court of Charlemagne. Dungal was a poet as well as an astronomer. He is the author of the poem which bears his name, and, according to the editor of the Poetae Aevi Carolini, probably also of the poems usually ascribed to "The Irish Exile" (Hibernicus exul.) Some of these poems are addressed to Charlemagne and some to members of the imperial family, for instance, to Grundrada, the emperor's cousin. In a poem addressed to this royal lady, Dungal, or the exile, shows that he could turn a neat compliment: “Quae ore nitens pulchro pulchrior es merito;" which is not at all clumsy for a ninth century astronomer-poet. Here and there, too, a reflection of the mood of the writer appears, which is somewhat unusual in the ninth century author; he refers to his exile, to his poverty, to his lowliness. Dungal was something of a philosopher, at least, as the word was then understood; among his poems are two which treat of the “seven liberal arts," the seven branches of science taught in the schools of that age.

Among the poets of the Carolingian age is to be reckoned the author of the verses inscribed “Planctus Caroli”, which is sometimes published as a work of Rhabanus Maurus (for example, by Migne), but which is now acknowledged to have been written in the Irish monastery of Bobbio. Some critics have sought to connect the poem with the name of a certain Columban, Abbot of St. Trond; this, however, is obviously a mistake arising from the mention of the Saint of that name towards the end of the poem. We must, therefore, be content with the somewhat vague identification of the author as an Irish monk of Bobbio.

One of the most interesting of the Irish poets on the Continent during the Carolingian age is Donatus, who was bishop of Fiesole from 829 to 875. He was not only a poet, but also an ardent lover of learning and patron of the liberal arts. His Life, published in part by Ozanam from an eleventh century manuscript in the Laurentian Library of Florence, is interspersed with poems composed by the saintly bishop himself. Among these is the well-known description of Ireland. There is also extant the epitaph which Donatus composed and in which he describes himself as "Scottorum sanguine cretus," and tells how he united to his duties as a bishop those of a teacher of grammar and poetry.

After the death of Charlemagne and the dismemberment of the Empire the political conditions did not always favor the development of the educational system which the great emperor had inaugurated. The invasions of the Northmen and the Saracens disrupted many a school and scattered many a group of learned men. Nevertheless, the successors of Charles were, as a rule, favorable to the new learning, and continued to extend to the teachers from Ireland the welcome which he had always accorded to them. Thus, during the reign of Louis the Pious (814-840), flourished the famous astronomer and geographer, Dicuil, who dedicated an astronomical treatise to the emperor. That Dicuil was an Irishman is perfectly certain; he alludes more than once to Ireland as his country and to the "Scots" as his countrymen. The name, indeed, was a common one in Ireland at that time: at least seven persons of the name Dicuil, Dichul, or Dichull, appear in the Irish Annals of the seventh to the ninth century. The astronomer and geographer is, perhaps, the same as the Dicuil who was Abbot of Pahlacht in the ninth century. All that we know about him is: 1. That he is the author of (a) a celebrated geographical work entitled De Mensura Orbis Terrae (b) a poem, twenty-seven hexameters which he prefixed to a copy of a short treatise by Priscian; (c) an astronomical work in prose and verse, still unpublished. (The work is found in the Valenciennes Codex 386, pp. 73 to 76; it contains a dedication to Louis the Pious and mentions Dicuil by name). 2. That he had for teacher Suibneus. Now there were many Irish ecclesiastics and teachers who bore the name Suibhne (Sweeney); the person whose date seems to render it probable that he was the teacher of Dicuil is the abbot who died in 776, unless we admit with Ussher that Dicuil's master lived at a later period and was Suibne MacMailehuvai “anchorite and scribe” who died at Clonmacnoise. 3. That he wrote his geographical treatise in the year 825. The work by which Dicuil is best known, his geographical treatise De Mensura Orbis Terrae is more than a mere compilation from the writings of the ancients. It draws, of course, from the works of Pliny and Solinus, but it makes use also of the surveys of the Roman agrimensores, and, what is of more importance, of the personal observation of the author and his friends. Thus, Dicuil is the first geographer to speak of Iceland, which he calls Thule, and which he describes from the account given him by the (Irish) monks who had dwelt there from the first of February to the first of August. He describes the Faroe Islands according to the account of “a cleric on whom I can rely”, being in this case also the first to mention those regions. Again, when describing the Nile he introduces the narrative of a "Brother Fidelis," who, with a party of priests and monks made the journey from Ireland to the Holy Land. Our author was not more critical, however, than were his contemporaries. Still, he was a more than usually conscientious writer. For, when Pliny's figures seemed to him to be unreliable he left a blank space, so that the reader could fill it in according to the extent of his credulity. And who can blame him if he repeats without contradicting it the saying of Solinus that so great is the fertility of the soil of Ireland that the cattle had to be driven off the land at times for fear of overfeeding? It is easy, of course, to point to the mistakes and inaccuracies of Dicuil's work. We must, however, be just, and judge it, not by modern standards of scientific accuracy but by the standard which prevailed in the ninth century. "Antioch," writes Professor G. Stokes, "was the centre (about 600) of Greek culture and Greek tradition, and the Chronicle of Malalas, as embodied in Niebuhr's series of Byzantine historians, is a mine of information on many questions; but, compare it with the Irish work of Dicuil, and its mistakes are laughable."

Under the Emperor Lothair (840-855) there was formed at Liège a colony of Irish teachers and writers, the best-known of whom is Sedulius (Siadhal, or Shiel), sometimes called Sedulius the Younger, to distinguish him from another Sedulius, also an Irishman, who lived in the fifth century, and is the author of the famous Carmen Paschale and other sacred poems. Sedulius the Younger flourished from 840 to 860. He was beyond doubt an Irishman; it is difficult, however, to say with which of the six Siadhals he is to be identified who are mentioned by the Annals of the Four Masters between the years 785 and 855, certainly not with Siadhal, son of Fearadhach, who was Abbot of Kildare and died in 828. Of his life on the Continent we know merely that he was a teacher at St. Lambert at Liège about 850, that he enjoyed the favor of Lothair II (840-855), that he was a scribe and a poet. He had for patron and protector Bishop Hartgar of Liege (840-855), to whom he dedicated many of his poems. He wrote a very important treatise on the theory of government entitled De Rectoribus Christianis and a commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge, (or Introduction to the Logic of Aristotle) for which the basis may have been the Greek text, though the work was known to other Christian logicians only in the Latin translation. It is possible that towards the end of his days he went to Milan, as his countryman Dungal had gone to Pavia, and continued to teach there under the patronage of Lothair II. When contemporary writers, such as Dicuil and the author of the Annals of St. Gall mention Sedulius it is not always easy to say whether they meant the Older or the Younger. The former ranks high among the Latin poets; the latter, too, though he is often referred to as a mere grammarian, shows in his verses that he had the true gift; many of the poems he addressed to Hartgar exhibit a playfulness of imagination and lightness of touch that would have done credit to a writer of the most cultured period. His work De Rectoribus Christianis is a remarkable contribution to the medieval theory of the duties of a Christian prince, and deserves to be ranked with the classics on that subject, such as St. Thomas' De Regimine Principis and Dante's De Monarchia.

From incidental references in Sedulius' poems we infer that there was at Liege a regular colony of Irish scholars. We find, for example, mention of Fergus, a poet who wrote in praise of Charles the Bald, a scribe to whom we very probably owe one of our oldest copies of the great work of John Scottus Eriugena. We find mention also of Dermot. These, judging by their names, were Irish. The name, however, was not always a sure indication of the nationality of the monk, in those days. Many, like Clement, changed their Irish names into Latin equivalents, which could be more easily pronounced by their French or German contemporaries. Thus, we read of two Irish clerics, Caidoc and Fricorius, who went to France before the time of Alcuin. Caidoc, we are told, retained his name, but Fricorius changed his into "Hadrian," because "Fricorius" sounded barbarous to those not accustomed to the Irish language. How often did it happen that an Irish missionary, teacher, or scribe, by assuming a Latinized name, blotted out forever, as far as the records of the time are concerned, all trace of his nationality? Sedulius mentions in one of his poems Fergus, Blandus, Marcus and Beuchell, "the fourspan of the Lord, the glory of the Irish nation.” Since the publication of Sedulius' poems further light has been thrown on the Liège colony by the discovery of a collection of letters written in the ninth century and addressed, for the most part, to Franco, Bishop of Liège or of Tongres (854-901). The first of these is from an Irish cleric, perhaps Electus, to some bishop, possibly Franco, and offers no special problem. The second is from an Irish pilgrim, “Pauperculo et Scotto peregrino," who says that he is not a grammarian, that he is without skill in Latin, that he has returned “tired” from Rome, and that he will appreciate any favor granted him in Christ's name. The third is a petition on behalf of an aged Irish priest (the name, unfortunately, is illegible), who is footsore from his journey and unable to accompany his brethren in their pilgrimage to Rome; the petitioner begs that this pilgrim be kindly received by the Franks and given hospitality. The fourth letter is the most interesting of the collection. It is written by an Irish priest named Electus and addressed to Bishop Franco. It begins by setting before the bishop the sad mishap which took place during the petitioner's return from Rome, whither he had gone on a pilgrimage ("orationis causa"). His belongings, it seems, were seized and carried off by certain subjects of the bishop, who had been his fellow travelers on a ship. The belongings included vestments and various other articles, among them four garments ("osae") of Irish cloth ("Scotticae vestis"). He knows the culprits, and, since they reside near Namur, within the jurisdiction of the bishop, he begs that they be punished and compelled to restore the stolen property. There is nothing further known about Electus, though it is natural to suppose that he was a companion, or perhaps, a pupil of Sedulius.

(To be continued)

Catholic University Bulletin Vol 13 (1907), 382-399. 

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