Thursday 7 September 2023

'Great Mary's Holy Nativity': September 8

The birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary is commemorated on September 8 and is a feast found on our earliest Irish calendars. The Martyrology of Oengus records:
8. Thou shalt commemorate Mary: thou art not deadened on a scanty meal: with Timothy and three hundreds of martyrs. 
and the scholiast notes:
8. is commemorated .i. natiuitas etc. Mary's nativity is commemorated here, on a scanty meal, for pit means a meal, quasi dixisset thou shouldst not fast on Mary's feast. 
It is obviously a mark of the joyful nature of the feast and its importance that the normal fasting rules are set aside and a 'scanty meal' is not deemed appropriate. 
The Martyrology of Tallaght also records the feast as:
Natiuitas Mariae matris Iesu 
and the later twelfth-century Martyrology of Gorman notes:

Noemghein Maire móre 
Great Mary's holy nativity.
Canon O'Hanlon in the September volume of his Lives of the Irish Saints has a short article about the Feast in which he mentions that the County Wexford parish of Kilnenor was one of those which held a traditional pattern on September 8. I was able to consult an online version of the Ordnance Survey Letters which Canon O'Hanlon had cited in his footnotes and there I learnt that this pattern 'was held on the 8th of September till the year 1798, when it was abolished'.

Article VI. Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
In the ancient Irish Church, the Festival of the Birth of our Divine Lord's Mother was celebrated on the eighth day of September, as we learn from the Feilire of Aengus. On this there is a short comment. About the year 695, this feast was appointed by Pope Servius. In various parts of Ireland, this festival was celebrated formerly with very special devotion, as parishes, churches and chapels had been dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and this was a favoured festival day. The patrons or patterns that until of late were yearly celebrated very conclusively attest it. In Kilnenor parish, County of Wexford, there is a holy well, at which a patron was formerly held on the 8th of September. According to a pious tradition a concert of angels is said to have been heard in the air to solemnize the Nativity or Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


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Sunday 3 September 2023

The Night when the Book-Satchels Fell: Death of Saint Lon-garadh

Book of Armagh Satchel. Source: TCD

September 3 is the feast of Saint Lon-garadh, a saint with a reputation as one of the chief scholars of Ireland. I have previously posted a full account of this saint here, but below a reminder of the famous story about how the book satchels fell to the ground in all the monasteries of Ireland in sorrow at his death. Sadly, little historical information has survived about Saint Lon, but the legend associated with him was mentioned in the first lecture given by Professor Eugene O'Curry in March 1855 at the Catholic University of Ireland:

There is a curious account of a private collection of books, “of all the sciences", as it is expressed, given in a note to the Féliré, or metrical Festology of Aengus Celé Dé, or the "Culdee"; it is to this effect: Saint Colum Cille having paid a visit to Saint Longarad of Ossory, requested permission to examine his books, but Longarad having refused, Colum then prayed that his friend should not profit much by his refusal, whereupon the books became illegible immediately after his death; and these books were in existence in that state in the time of the original author, whoever he was, of the note in the Féliré.
The passage is as follows: it is a note to the stanza of the great poem, for September 3; which is as follows:



[NOTE.]—"Longarad the white-legged, of Magh Tuathat, in the north of Ossory (Osraighé); i.e., in Uibh Foirchellain; ie in Magh Garad, in Disert Garad particularly, and in Cill Gabhra in Sliabh Mairge, in Lis Longarad. The ‘white legged', i.e., from great white hair which was on his legs; or his legs were transparently fair. He was a Suidh (Doctor or Professor) in classics, and in history, and in judgment (law), and in philosophy [filidecht]. It was to him Colum Cille went on a visit; and he concealed his books from him; and Colum Cille left a ‘word' [of imprecation] on his books, i.e., 'May it not be of avail after thee', said he, that for which thou hast shown inhospitality'. And this is what has been fulfilled, for the books exist still, and no man can read them. Now, when Longarad was dead, what the learned tell us is, that all the book-satchels of Erinn dropped [from their racks] on that night. Or they were the satchels which contained the books of sciences [or, professions] which were in the chamber in which Colum Cille was, that fell. And Colum Cille and all that were in that house wondered, and they were all astounded at the convulsions of the books, upon which Colum Cille said: 'Longarad', said he, in Ossory, i.e., a Sai  (Doctor) in every science [it is he] that has died now'. 'It will be long until that is verified', said Baithin. May your successor [for ever] be suspected, on account of this', said Colum Cille; et dixit Colum Cille:

Lon is dead [Lon is dead];
To Cill Garad it is a great misfortune;
To Erinn with its countless tribes;
It is a destruction of learning and of schools.
Lon has died, [Lon has died]; 

In Cill Garad great the misfortune;
It is a destruction of learning and of schools,
To the Island of Erinn beyond her boundaries". 

However fabulous this legend may appear, it will suffice, at all events, to show in what estimation books were held in the time of the scholiast of the works of Aengus, and also the prevalent belief in his time in the existence of an Irish literature at a period so long antecedent to his own. The probability is that the books were so old at the time of this writer as to be illegible, and hence the legend to account for their condition.

Eugene O’Curry, Lectures on the Manuscript Materials of Ancient Irish History (Dublin, 1861),  17-18.

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Saturday 2 September 2023

Irish Teachers in the Carolingian Revival of Learning Part II

In the concluding part to his 1907 paper on 'Irish Teachers in the Carolingian Revival of Letters', Bishop William Turner brings together a further selection of interesting Irish scholars active in continental Europe. He deals with the famous John Scotus Eriugena in this section but some of the lesser-known figures are also quite intriguing. Whilst I was aware that the Irish took Latin names, this paper made me aware of how many aliases were also scripturally-based. I had no idea, for example, that there was at least one Irish scholar called Israel. Bishop Turner's writing perhaps shows its age in its ready acceptance of stereotypical imaginative Celts versus stolid Anglo-Saxons, but he has brought many overlooked and neglected figures to our attention here, some of whom I hope to follow up on in future posts.



Contemporaneous with the Irish colony at Liège was the no less important Irish colony at Laon. That very ancient center of Christianity in France had, as early as the sixth century, been the scene of the missionary activity of the wandering Celt. Thither in the ninth century, flocked many of those scholars whom Eric of Auxerre described as a "herd of philosophers' from Ireland. Eric himself studied there, and had for his teacher Elias. This Elias was, apparently, one of those who changed their native names for the latinized form of a scriptural name. That he was an Irishman is proved by the testimony of Gautbert (tenth century), which occurs in a Leyden manuscript, to the effect that "Elias, of the same nation as John the Scot (Scotigena), taught Eric (of Auxerre) and, as a reward for his learning (sapientia), was made Bishop of Angoulème." Another contemporary document published by Delisle gives Elias as bishop of Angoulème, and a third contemporary witness, Ademar (in the third book of his Histories), tells us that the celebrated Theodulf of Orleans had for "his heir in philosophy" Elias the Irishman, Bishop of Angoulème. The first mentioned document goes on to enumerate the members of the Laon colony, and among the names that occur are Daoch, Israel, Egroal, Gono, and Remi, the successor of Eric at the school of Auxerre. Of these, all except the last two were Irish. From other sources we know that among the scholars at Laon were Martin, Luido and Duncan, or Dunchad. Martin was beyond doubt, an Irishman; for the Annals of Laon have the following entry under the year 875: "Martin the Irishman fell asleep in the Lord." He wrote poems in Greek which bear his name and in which he styles himself "a Greek." There may be some doubt as to the nationality of Luido; but Dunchad was certainly an Irishman and a bishop. While teaching at St. Remigius' at Rheims, Dunchad composed a commentary on the astronomical section of the work of Martianus Capella on the seven liberal arts. The commentary exists, in part, at least, in a tenth century manuscript in the British Museum, and is there entitled distinctly "COMMENTUM DUNCHAT (H superscr) PONTIFICIS HlBERNIENSIS QUOD CONTULIT SUIS DISCIPULIS IN MONASTERIO SCI. REMIGII DOCENS SUPER ASTROLOGIA CAPELLAE, etc." By a strange misreading of DUNIS for DOCENS, O'Connor  interprets the title to mean that Dunchad taught at Down. The authors of l'Histoire litteraire are at a loss to account for Dunchad's journey to France; they consider it to be undeniable that he taught at Rheims, but cannot determine whether he was bishop of an Irish or of a French see; indeed it is not necessary to suppose that he was bishop of any diocese. Besides mentioning the astronomical commentary they tell us of another work of Dunchad, a book of "observations" on Pomponius Mela, in which he tried to give his pupils a taste for geography, "then so universally neglected." This Dunchad is not to be confounded with Duncan, or Donnacan, another Irishman, who, according to the Chronicon Scotorum, was son of Maeltuile, was a scribe and an anchorite, and died in Italy in 843. To the school of Laon belonged also John Scotus Eriugena and his brother Aldhelm, of whom mention will be made later.
From Laon sprang the school of Auxerre. The city of St. Germain had, even in the earliest times, been associated with the legendary accounts of the life of St. Patrick. And when, in the ninth century, Eric and Remi learned profane wisdom from the Irish teachers at Laon, Ireland was simply making return for the sacred lore which St. Patrick was supposed to have received at the school of St. Germain. The school of Auxerre is well known in medieval history as an important center of literary and philosophical activity. There Eric and Remi, following in the footsteps of their Irish teachers at Laon, expounded the text of Martianus Capella and the treatises of the Latin grammarians, and showed in their own writings the influence of Eriugena, Elias and Israel. Perhaps it should be added here that, besides the Israel who taught at Laon, there was another Israel, also an Irishman, who, in 947, was present at the Council of Verdun. He was a monk of the monastery of St. Maximin of Trier, and, as the teacher of Bruno of Cologne, influenced the educational reform of the Rhineland in the tenth century. Of his pupil, Bruno, it is said that he carried his books about with him as the Hebrews carried the Ark of the Covenant. Mention should also be made of the curious manuscripts found at Laon, which date from the time of the Irish settlement there. Among them are a glossary (an explanation of words) attached to a Greek grammar, written, probably, by the Martin of whom we have already spoken, a Greek lexicon, and a Hebrew alphabet, with explanations. These are very interesting specimens of early medieval knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, and are highly prized by modern students of philology.
Charles the Bald, who, after the treaty of Verdun, (842), reigned over the Western half of the empire, and from 875 to 877 bore the title of emperor, emulated the example of his grandfather, Charlemagne, as a patron of letters. During his reign Irish scholars flocked in great numbers to the Continent. The monarch was fond of discussing knotty questions, and had a keen taste for the subtle disputations to which the Irish dialecticians were devoted. Encouraged by his patronage, the Irish monks migrated in so great numbers to France that hostelries were built for their exclusive use. The most eminent of these, the scholar who found most favor with the emperor and attained the highest fame as a learned man, was John Scotus Eriugena. From the time when he first set foot in France (about 845), he was recognized as the most accomplished linguist in the empire and one of the ablest theological thinkers in the world of Latin Christianity. At the emperor's request he translated from the Greek the works of the Neo-Platonic writer known as Pseudo-Dionysius, and at the invitation of some of the prelates of the Church in France he entered into the controversy then waged concerning the theory of Predestination propounded by the monk Gotteschalk. According to a tale first told by William of Malmesbury and since often repeated, the emperor, on one occasion, asked the Scot, who sat opposite him at table, "What is the difference between a Scot and a sot?" "The table is all that is between them just now," promptly answered the royal guest. Of John's extraordinary learning, of his profound, though heterodox, philosophical interpretation of nature, of his theological errors, of his ingenious poems, in which Greek and Latin are often intermingled in the most bewildering fashion, the historians of medieval philosophy, theology and letters have treated at great length. It will be sufficient here to call attention to what is new in the literature, already vast, which has grown up around the biography and criticism of John the Scot. First, with regard to the name. It is now proved by a careful examination of the manuscripts that, while "John the Scot" was the only name by which he was known to his contemporaries the name by which he called himself, and by which he was known to the earliest copiers of his translations was "Eriugena." This form is to be preferred to "Erigena" and "lerugena," both because, as Professor Baeumker has shown, it has in its favor the authority of the oldest manuscripts, and also because it is the more correct philological compound, its meaning being "a native of Erin." Recent investigationhas also shown that Eriugena is not the author of the satiricalpoem so long ascribed to him, in which the manners and customs of ecclesiastical Rome are mercilessly arraigned.The poem is now known to have been written by a Neapolitangrammarian about the year 878. That there was, however,a keen edge to John's wit is evident from his epitaph on a miserly bishop, Hincmar by name, "who never did a noble deed, till he died." It has also been shown, in recent times, that Eriugena had disciples, not only among his contemporaries, such as Elias, Bishop of Angouleme, Wicbald, Bishop of Auxerre, Martin, and Luido of Laon, and Eric and Remi of Auxerre, but also in subsequent times among the Cistercians. Finally, Dr. Rand, Assistant Professor of Latin at Harvard, has published (Munich, 1906), the glosses which are found in so many ninth and tenth century copies of Boethius' Opuscula Sacra, and shown that they are to be ascribed to John the Scot.
From an entry in a book preserved in the National Library of Paris it appears that there was at Laon in the middle of the ninth century a certain "Aldhelm, brother of John the Scot." Notwithstanding the Anglo-Saxon form of the name, this student at Laon is believed by critics to have been John's brother in the literal sense, and, therefore, one of the Irish colony at that place.
Another Irish teacher who attained prominence and enjoyed royal favor at the court of Charles the Bald was Manno, at one time Master of the palace school, and, probably, Eriugena 's successor in that post. He was head of the Chapter at St. Oyen in Burgundy in 870. He died in 880. Manno had among his pupils at the palace school many of the most distinguished ecclesiastics of the time, such as Bishops Stephen, Mancio and Ratbold. By an inexcusable error arising from Manno 's knowledge of Greek, the Jesuit writer Dessel in his Bibliotheca Belgica (Louvain 1643) affirms that Manno was of Greek nationality, a blunder which is repeated by Stockl in his Geschichte der Padogogik. Dümmler has published a letter which after referring to "the doctrine of John the Scot" in the matter of the accent of a Greek word, goes on to say, "When I was at the palace at Compiegne, Manno told me the meaning of mechano and mechania (leg. mechanica)." The letter was written about the year 870, and is interesting not only for the mention of Manno, but also for the light it throws on the educational, scientific and general cultural conditions at that time.
Before we turn from the northern kingdoms of the empire to study the foundations of Irish schools in the southern provinces, we must notice, if only briefly, the Irish teachers who found their way to the various ecclesiastical settlements in Lorraine and the neighboring countries. In the diocese of Metz, the monastery of Vassor (Vallis decor, Walciodorus) was founded by Irish monks in the ninth century and had for its first abbot Maccallin. In 950 Maccallin was succeeded by Cadroe, who, though a Scotchman, was educated in Ireland. To Cadroe succeeded Fingan, to whom was entrusted, later, the monastery of St. Symphorianus at Metz. In Ghent "the holy Irish Abbot Columban," (died 987), in Burgundy Anatolius and Maimbod, and in Cologne Mimborinus renewed in the tenth century the monastic spirit which had first been implanted in those regions by Irish missionaries three hundred years previously. 
Among the most famous of all the Irish foundations of learning in Europe were those which in the ninth and tenth centuries flourished in the country of the Allemanien in Southern Germany. At Rheinau, on the Rhine, about five miles above Schaffhausen, there appeared about the middle of the ninth century Fintan, or Findan. Fintan was born about the year 800 in Leinster; while still a youth he fell into the hands of the Danes, was taken to the Orkney Islands, escaped to France, made a pilgrimage to Rome, returned to Switzerland under the patronage of Count Wolf, and in 851 was made Abbot of Rheinau. There he died in 878. This Irish exile spending his lonely vigils among the hills of the Allemanien heard voices of angels and demons calling to him through the night. And the language of the spirits was the ancient tongue of the Gael. Fortunately, the author of the Life of St. Fintan, written in the tenth century, was an Irishman, who could remember and write down the words spoken in the vision to the saint, and the words, as recorded by him are among the very oldest specimens of the Irish language that have come down to us.  There were Irishmen at Rheinau, however, even before the time of Fintan, as is evident from the records of the monastery. This fact accounts for the presence at Schaffhausen of a celebrated Irish manuscript, Adamnan's Life of Columba, transcribed by Dorbene, Abbot of Iona (died 713). The manuscript was discovered in 1851 by Dr. Keller. It had lain, how long no one can tell, at the bottom of a heap of rubbish on an old book shelf in the public library of Schaffhausen.
Not far from Rheinau, situated on Lake Constance, was the still more celebrated monastery of Reichenau (Augia dives), which, during the early middle ages, was seldom without a number of Irish monks within its walls. Thither, in the ninth century, during the reign of Abbot Walahfrid, came Irish scholars, teachers of Greek, who inaugurated a period of literary activity and brought with them many valuable manuscripts. And, despite the numerous incursions of the Hungarians, despite the repeated destruction of the monastery and its library by fire, Reichenau continued to be one of the most important centers of the book industry in Germany. The manuscripts now in the library of Carlsruhe are the remnants of the literary treasures amassed by the monks at the abbey of Reichenau. Unfortunately, we do not know the names of these Irish teachers and scribes. For instance, we have no record of the name of the Irishman who was the teacher of the abbot Erlebold (823-838) at the beginning of the literary era of the monastery. It will be remembered that it was at Reichenau Walahfrid wrote of the "Irish to whom the habit of travel has become a second nature."
Reichenau's fame, great as it was, was outshone by that of the neighboring monastery of St. Gall. This monastic retreat, situated in the heart of the Alpine range above Lake Constance, was founded in the seventh century by St. Gall, the companion and countryman of St. Columban. It became during the ninth century the favorite stopping place for Irish pilgrims, who in their journeys to and from Rome and the Holy Land, loved to linger round the shrines which contained the sacred relics of their own saints, such as Kilian, Columban and Gall. Two such pilgrims, Moengal (called in Latin Marcellus), and his uncle, Marcus, a bishop, returning from Rome, in the year 841, were induced to remain at St. Gall and, becoming members of the community (this is not certain in the case of Marcus), donated all their books to the monastic library. Moengal had been Abbot of Bangor; that is, if he is the same person as the Moengal mentioned both in the Annals of the Four Masters and in the Annals of Ulster. His influence as a teacher was evidently appreciated at St. Gall; for he was placed at the head of the "inner school" (for the training of clerics, the future monks of St. Gall, while Iso, the representative of the learning of Fulda, was given charge of the "outer school" for the education of lay students). Moengal’s activity as a teacher continued until 871, the date of his death. He had for pupils, Notker, Tutilo, Ratpert, Hartmann and Waltramm. We are told expressly that he taught the seven liberal arts as well as theology, and that, under his guidance, the monks of St. Gall became proficient in the art of music. Indeed, the achievements of his pupils are the best tribute to his success as a teacher. Notker's activity in the various departments of sacred and profane learning are well known; especially is he noted for his use of the vernacular (Old German) in many of his writings most important material for the study of German philology. Tutilo was the artist of the group; we are told that he attained extraordinary proficiency in the use of stringed instruments (the harp?), and the visitor to St. Gall can still see and admire his carvings in ivory. Fortunately these men found in the writer of the Annals of St. Gall a faithful chronicler of their daily life, and, thanks to him, we can form a vivid detailed picture of the group of scholars: Notker, surnamed the Stammerer, the student of logic and translator of Boethius; Tutilo, the poet, musician, painter and sculptor; Waldramm, the librarian of the monastery, and poet ; Salomon and Hartmann, both of whom were afterwards bishops. These were accustomed to gather, at night, in the writing-room (scriptorium), to discuss their literary projects; and when their enemy, Sindolf, the refectorarius, who suspected that their midnight gatherings had something to do with the "dark art," was caught playing the spy, the sons of learning were not slow to mete out to him the punishment which his eavesdropping deserved. Whatever these men achieved in the realm of literature and art they owed, in large measure, to the training they received from Moengal. In the tenth century, Faillan and Clemens, both Irishmen, were teachers at St. Gall. The former is distinctly styled "head of the school " (magister scolarum); he died in 991, as appears from the Necrology of the monastery.  In 841, the year in which Moengal arrived, there arrived also another Irish teacher, Eusebius. Soon, however, he retired, like many of his countrymen before him, to some mountain fastness, where he led the life of a recluse. Throughout the ninth and tenth centuries, Irish scholars continued to arrive at St. Gall, such as Brendan, Dubslan, Adam, David, Melchomber, Fortegian, Chinchon, Hepidan, and Dubduin, whose names occur in the necrologies and other records. The last of these it was who in somewhat rude verses deplores the ascendancy of the German element in the monastery founded by an Irish saint, and extols the achievement of the monks of Irish nationality, to whose credit he places the conversion of England and Germany.
Not only are the Irish teachers associated with the school of dialectic that flourished at Auxerre and with the logical studies of the monastery of St. Gall (we have from the school of logic in St. Gall not only the treatises published by Hattemer and Piper, but also several hitherto unedited works, including a set of verses on the valid moods in the three syllogistic figures a kind of forerunner of the "Barbara, Celarent" of Peter the Spaniard). They are also associated with abstruse metaphysical and mystical theological speculations suggested by the works of the Neo-Platonists, of which the rest of Europe at that time understood very little. For example, the Irishman, Macarius Scotus, who lived in the ninth century in the abbey of Corbey, commenting on a passage of St. Augustine's De Quantitate Animae, revived the doctrine of monopsychism; that is to say, he taught that there is but one mind, or intellect, in which all men participate. Unfortunately, his work is lost; we have, however, an answer to it from the pen of the celebrated Ratramnus .
The influence of the Irish teachers was felt not only in Southern Germany, but also in Austria and Northern Italy. In the tenth century Coloman and several companions, returning from Rome, settled in Austria, founded several monasteries in the neighborhood of Vienna, and, no doubt, inaugurated there the literary activity for which their fellow countrymen were distinguished. At Verona, in the ninth century, appeared an Irish monk from Bobbio, who was placed at the head of the school of St. Zeno. He seems, judging from a poem of his which has come down to us, to have run away from Bobbio, and the verses in which he describes his longing for the old home and the community of St. Columban have the ring of genuine pathos:

Nocte dieque gemo quia sum peregrinus et egens.
(Poet. Aevi Carol, III, 688.)

Towards the end of the same century there was another Irish teacher at Verona. (Ibid., 639, n.)

At Bobbio, on the Trebia, among the wildest, but most picturesque, of the Ligurian Appenines, Columban had made his monastic home, and there, after all his missionary labors, he found a final resting place. To this shrine of the greatest of Ireland's missionary saints pious scholars from Erin frequently found their way, bent on honoring the relics of their monastic founder. There Cummian, the aged bishop, found a haven of rest (about 750); there, by his piety and devotion, he earned the esteem of Luitprand, king of the Lombards. His epitaph was written by John, whom we judge from the title magister to have been the head of the school at Bobbio.  It was to Bobbio that, as we have seen, Dungal, the poet and astronomer, retired from the field of active work as a teacher, and it was to the library of Bobbio that he bequeathed his books, as a gift to St. Columban. Fortunately, we are as well informed about the library of Bobbio as we are about the school of St. Gall. We have a catalogue made in the tenth century showing the titles of the books it contained at that time. In it we find many interesting entries; for example,"Also the books which Dungal, the chief scholar among the Irish, gave to St. Columban ... a book in Latin on the Irish language." As is well known, the Muratorian Fragment, which contains the oldest extant list of the Books of the New Testament, now in the Ambrosian Library, formerly belonged to the library of Bobbio. Finally, students of the history of mathematics will remember that it was while Abbot of Bobbio (982) that Gerbert, afterwards Pope Sylvester II, wrote his work on geometry, making use of the manuscripts which he found in the library of the monastery, especially of the works of the Roman surveyors.

In addition to all those whose names we have succeeded in gathering from various sources, both edited and unedited, there were, no doubt, many teachers from Ireland of whom the continental records make no mention whatsoever. It is equally certain that, among anonymous works composed during the ninth and tenth centuries, there were some which are to be added to the credit of the Irish scholars. Sometimes there is an indication, a point of style, a characteristic mistake in orthography, an allusion, a turn of phrase, which warrants the critic in surmising that the author of the work was Irish. Thus, Dümmler is able to hazard the hypothesis that an elegy to Bishop Gunthar of Cologne is the work of an Irish scholar. Frequently, the mere fact that a work contains Greek words, or reveals an acquaintance with Greek, is taken as a sufficient proof of its Irish origin.
Whenever the Irish scribe used the characteristic Irish script, the origin of the book is, of course, evident even to the casual observer. It is as easy to distinguish a page of Latin written in Irish script from a page written in the continental style as it is to distinguish a printed page of German from a printed page of English. The Irish scribes, however, did not always use their own style of writing. In fact, the continental student found the Irish style of writing so difficult that he would have none of it. In the old booklists we often meet the entry, "Written in Irish characters: cannot be read" "Scottice scriptus, legi non potest." And when parchment became scarce, as it did in the eleventh century, or when the supply in the monastery gave out, the Irish books were often the first to be sacrificed. Sometimes they were used in binding other books; we find pages from them pasted inside bookcovers, and if a still greater number of them were not sacrificed in this way it was probably because of the illuminations which gave them a value independently of their legibility. Nevertheless, the Irish form of letters influenced the style of alphabet generally used on the continent in the ninth and tenth centuries. And not only in respect to the form of letters, but also in such matters as the preparation of the parchment, the mixing of the ink, etc., did the Irish scribes influence the technique of bookmaking. Dr. Keller, Nigra, and others who have devoted attention to the matter, tell us that the ink used by the Irish scribes was of superior quality, and that it is still distinguishable by its extraordinary freshness; even Bede remarked the durability and brightness of the red ink used by the Irish scribes of his time. The perfection to which the Irish brought the art of illumination is well known. Their work in this department of the fine arts is an unceasing source of astonishment to the modern critic, who knows how far the continental artist fell below the level of their attainment. The Irish illuminated manuscripts are distinguishable principally by the delicate, and at the same time complicated, geometrical tracings, the curiously symbolical representations of men, animals and plants, the symmetrical wordspacing, all of which, however, was done with the quill (the usual implement of writing among the Irish, as appears from a representation of St. John in the Book of Kells), and, so far as we know, without the aid of a compass. Examined under a microscope, these intricate designs do not reveal a single flaw. The Book of Kells, the Book of Armagh, the Lindisfarne Gospels, etc., which are to be seen in the libraries of Ireland and England, are not the only samples that have come down to us of the "Illuminated Hosts of the Books of Erin.'  Dr. Keller has made a study of the Irish manuscripts in the libraries of Switzerland, and, in an interesting work on the subject, has given some beautiful specimens of illumination and other ornamental work. He has a theory that not only the knowledge of Greek, for which the Irish teachers were famous, but also their art of illumination, was taught them by Greek monks from Alexandria who, he thinks, began to settle in Ireland early in the Christian era. However this may be, the specimens of Irish scroll work which he gives and the illustrations which are so generally reproduced nowadays from the Book of Kells, though they do not do full justice to the originals, give some idea of the perfection to which the Irish scribes brought the art of bookmaking. The Irish manuscripts are, however, interesting also from another point of view. The scribe whose sometimes uncongenial task it was to copy a treatise on Latin grammar would often adorn the margin of his page with a short poem of his own composition or with some side remark, such as "This is a dull page," "Night is drawing nigh," "The parchment is bad, the ink is bad; I'll say no more about it." These remarks and the marginal verses are sometimes in Irish, and constitute some of the most precious specimens of the old forms of the Gaelic language. The St. Gall copy of Priscian is especially interesting from this point of view. It is described by Nigra in his Reliquie celtiche (Turin, 1892). In it we meet invocations of Irish saints written on the margin (e.g., "St. Patrick, help me," "St. Brigit, aid the writer"), the names of Irish scribes who wrote the book, e.g., Maelpatrick, Dongus, Finguin, Cobtach, (Coffey), and an occasional set of verses, such as the quatrain in which the scribe, turning aside for a moment from the text of the grammarian, commemorates the song of the thrush singing in the green hedge outside the monastery walls. Finally, the Irish scribes who wrote in the schools of Switzerland and Germany left in their marginal notes and in the vocabularies which they drew up for the use of their students specimens of the old German language, for which the modern philologist is very grateful. For instance, among the most cherished treasures in the library of St. Gall is the little volume, Vocabularius Sancti Galli, said to have been used by St. Gall himself, but more probably written about 750. It contains Latin words with their German equivalents, written in Irish characters.
From the manuscript records alone it would not be difficult to show that the Irish teachers in the ninth and tenth centuries possessed a knowledge of Greek which was quite beyond the attainments of the continental scholars of that time. We have, however, more striking proofs in the achievements of John Scotus Eriugena, Sedulius and the Irish colony at Laon. In fact, the only question among modern critics is how to account for a condition which was certainly exceptional. The contemporaries of John the Scot expressed their surprise that one who came from the farthest regions of the earth could be so familiar with a language which was a closed book to those who stood closest to the center of ancient classic culture. And modern French and German scholars, students of the history of the early middle ages, can do little more than re-echo the note of astonishment.
The records of the ninth and tenth centuries give us some interesting, though all too meagre, details of the personal appearance and habits of the Irish scholars who appeared at every center of learning on the continent. The "Scots," they tell us, traveled in groups. They often made the pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land before taking up their abode at some French or German school. They presented a somewhat unusual appearance, having, we are told, the curious custom of dyeing, or tattooing, their eyebrows. They carried their books about from place to place in a kind of satchel, called a capsa (these were sometimes very highly ornamental), and generally used, instead of the ordinary pilgrim's staff, a crooked stick which was sometimes called cambutta Scottorum. From kings and princes who loved learning they received a royal welcome, at monasteries where the Irish were already known they were given hospitality, if not for their own sake, at least for the sake of the books and the learning they brought with them. There is in the Stadts u. Universitäts Bibliothek at Munich a manuscript volume (cod. lat. 14412, the text of the book was written in the 14th cent.), which, according to a note on the inside of the cover, was acquired by a monastery from a "foreign priest for four loaves of bread 'a sacerdote peregrino pro quattuor panibus.'" The note may, perhaps, refer to the time when "peregrinus" and "Irishmen" were synonymous. One would like to know the circumstances of this barter of the cherished book for the bare necessities of life, though the exchange may have been common enough at the time of which we are treating. That the Irish scholars were not always received with favor, however, is only too evident. When Alcuin's monks at Tours saw some strange ecclesiastics at the gate, they exclaimed, "Here are some more of the British (Irish) strangers." And the incident may be taken as typical. Indeed, the naturally ardent temperament of the Irish teachers, their light, airy way of referring to their own superiority, as when the two of whom the monk of St. Gall speaks cried out in the market-place, "If any one desire wisdom, let him come to us and he will receive it," their occasional boastfulness, as when Sedulius, describing the scene at Bethlehem, remarks that, as the Magi from the "Orient brought gold, frankincense and myrrh as an offering to Christ, so the Irish from the West brought Him the tribute of their wisdom, all this was calculated to provoke opposition. And it did. We have seen how St. Boniface denounced the Irishman Clement for rejecting the authority of the Latin Fathers, Jerome, Augustine and Gregory. Similarly, Alcuin, contrasting his own loyalty to the Latin Fathers with the well known preference of the Irish for the Greeks, complained that the "Egyptians" had supplanted the "Latins" at the court of Charlemagne. In many of his letters he returns to the same charge, sometimes indirectly, as when he says, "There are some who seek their own praise by striving to throw blame on others," "There are some who are better prepared to carp at the sayings of others than to put their own sayings before the public," sometimes more pointedly as, "They esteem it less to answer according to custom and authority than to add reason by way of confirmation". There was a twofold occasion for this conflict. In the first place, there was a real incompatibility between the Anglo-Saxon and the Celtic temperament, an incompatibility which explains much of medieval as well as of modern history. In the next place, there was a real divergence of views between Alcuin and his followers on the one hand and the Irish teachers on the other. The Anglo-Saxon mind, as represented by Alcuin, was not highly speculative. Its range was bounded by facts; its self-imposed task was to understand and expound the positive in the Christian system. The Celtic mind, on the contrary, was highly speculative. It was eager to know and to explain, and, as far as natural inclination went, it stopped at nothing in its effort to grasp the speculative principles of all truth. It fed, by preference, on the Greek theological literature of the early Church. The favorite gospel of the Irish was St. John's, their favorite theologian was Pseudo-Dionysius, and their favorite profane author was Martianus Capella, who, though he wrote in Latin, was looked upon with suspicion by men like Alcuin because of the free Hellenic mould in which his treatment of the  seven liberal arts was cast. It is easy to see that Benedict of Aniane, the pupil of Alcuin, must have felt the keen edge of some Irishman's wit when he denounced the "syllogism of delusion," with which the Scots were accustomed to overwhelm their opponents. The most violent, one might say virulent, of the opponents of the Irish on the continent, was Theodulf, Bishop of Orleans. He ridiculed the Irish pronunciation of Latin. His favorite name for an Irishman was "Scotellus." In speaking of Clement, the Irishman, he employed language which may be said to represent the utmost limit of odium theologicum: "a lawless thing," "a dull horror," "a deadly foe," "a malignant pest." Even John the Scot, towering in gigantic proportions over all his contemporaries, did not escape the shafts of malignant criticism. Although he had been invited to take sides in the great theological controversy concerning Predestination, he received but scant courtesy from friend as well as foe. "Irish porridge" (pultes scottica), was the phrase applied by his critics to that particularly subtle mode of argumentation in which he and his countrymen excelled.
Notwithstanding hostile criticism, which, after all, was an unconscious tribute, the Irish teachers left a lasting impression on their own and subsequent generations. Not only were they the chief teachers of grammar, poetry, astronomy, music and geography at a time when these branches of culture had no other, or scarcely any other, representative on the continent of Europe, but they also profoundly influenced the course of medieval thought in matters of philosophy and theology. Their elucidations of the Gospel of St. John and their commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul formed a new school of exegesis, and it may be remarked, in passing, that their exposition was based, not on the commonly accepted Vulgate, but on an earlier Latin version and, sometimes, on the Greek text itself. They introduced the Neo-Platonic point of view in metaphysical speculation, and carried the art of dialectic to a higher point than it had ever before attained. It is no exaggeration to say that they were the founders of scholasticism and that Ireland is the Ionia of medieval philosophy. At the same time it is true that if the free, intellectual Hellenism with its background of Celtic imaginativeness and spirituality, which they represented, had not been held in check by the definite, inelastic Latinism, which stood for precise, juristic formularies in the place of vague ideals, the history of medieval thought would be very different from what it really is.

Those Irish teachers must have been dimly conscious of the sublimity of their aims and the magnitude of their mission. For, in all their trials and amid all the clamor of race hatred and professional jealousy they preserved their ideals and were sustained in their devotion to learning. One can see in their writings that, though their mission called them to far distant lands, where their lot was that of an alien and an exile (peregrinus and exul occur very frequently in their descriptions of themselves), their heart yearned for Eire of their birth and the peaceful monastic homes from which they had been driven by the invader. What was said of Columkille might be said of each of his exiled brethren: "In his native land everything was dear to him, its mountains and valleys, its rivers and lakes, the song of its birds, the gentleness of its youth, the wisdom of its aged. He loved to steer his bark round its coast and to see the waves break on its shore. He even envied the driftwood which floated out from the shore of Iona, because it was free to land on the coast of Erin. He thought that death in Ireland was to be preferred to life in any other land, and when an Irishman was leaving Iona, he would say pathetically, "You are returning to the country which you love."

The foregoing pages are intended to set forth the details of the work of the Irish teachers, as far as it is possible to do so, from the scanty records which have come down to us. Of general tributes to the importance of that work there is no lack. That the Irish were the first teachers of scholastic theology as Mosheim expresses it, that, by carrying their talents and their learning to other lands, they won for their own country the high title of "Island of the Holy and the Learned," as Newman says: that their work formed, as Zimmer remarks, the actual foundation of our present concontinental system of civilization; that, as the distinguished historian of the Carolingian schools writes, "Ireland was thenone land where the Church achieved a double conquest unaidedmby the civil arm and unstained by the effusion of blood;" that from Ireland went forth that "enquiring, restless and often unruly Celtic spirit, touched and quickened by Hellenic thought, delighting in the discovery of new paths, impatient of every unproved formula, and accepting half mistrustfully, at best, what comes to it stamped with the highest sanction of wisdom and experience" all this is nowadays accepted as a commonplace in the history of medieval education. To show, however, that in these and similar statements there is no exaggeration, it seemed necessary to trace out the men who took a share in that work, to set down their names and recall their achievements, thus adding one more tribute to their fame, the tribute of their own writings, "for the glory of God and the honor of Erin," as the ancient scribes themselves were wont to express it. 


Catholic University Bulletin Vol 13 (1907), 562-581.



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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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