Alcuin of York (/ˈælkwɪn/; Latin: Flaccus Albinus Alcuinus; c. 735 – 19 May 804 AD) – also called Ealhwine, Alhwin or Alchoin – was an English scholar, clergyman, poet and teacher from York, Northumbria. He was born around 735 and became the student of Archbishop Ecgbert at York. At the invitation of Charlemagne, he became a leading scholar and teacher at the Carolingian court, where he remained a figure in the 780s and '90s.
Alcuin wrote many theological and dogmatic treatises, as well as a few grammatical works and a number of poems. He was made Abbot of Tours in 796, where he remained until his death. "The most learned man anywhere to be found", according to Einhard's Life of Charlemagne (ca. 817-833), he is considered among the most important architects of the Carolingian Renaissance. Among his pupils were many of the dominant intellectuals of the Carolingian era.
Alcuin of York
|Died||19 May 804|
|Venerated in||Anglican Communion, Roman Catholic Church, as a blessed|
Alcuin was born in Northumbria, presumably sometime in the 730s. Virtually nothing is known of his parents, family background, or origin. In common hagiographical fashion, the Vita Alcuini asserts that Alcuin was 'of noble English stock,' and this statement has usually been accepted by scholars. Alcuin's own work only mentions such collateral kinsmen as Wilgils, father of the missionary saint Willibrord; and Beornrad (also spelled Beornred), abbot of Echternach and bishop of Sens. Willibrord, Alcuin and Beornrad were all related by blood.
In his Life of St Willibrord, Alcuin writes that Wilgils, called a paterfamilias, had founded an oratory and church at the mouth of the Humber, which had fallen into Alcuin's possession by inheritance. Because in early Anglo-Latin writing paterfamilias ("head of a family, householder") usually referred to a ceorl, Donald A. Bullough suggests that Alcuin's family was of cierlisc status: i.e., free but subordinate to a noble lord, and that Alcuin and other members of his family rose to prominence through beneficial connections with the aristocracy. If so, Alcuin's origins may lie in the southern part of what was formerly known as Deira.
The young Alcuin came to the cathedral church of York during the golden age of Archbishop Ecgbert and his brother, the Northumbrian King Eadberht. Ecgbert had been a disciple of the Venerable Bede, who urged him to raise York to an archbishopric. King Eadberht and Archbishop Ecgbert oversaw the re-energising and re-organisation of the English church, with an emphasis on reforming the clergy and on the tradition of learning that Bede had begun. Ecgbert was devoted to Alcuin, who thrived under his tutelage.
The York school was renowned as a centre of learning in the liberal arts, literature, and science, as well as in religious matters. It was from here that Alcuin drew inspiration for the school he would lead at the Frankish court. He revived the school with the trivium and quadrivium disciplines, writing a codex on the trivium, while his student Hraban wrote one on the quadrivium.
Alcuin graduated to become a teacher during the 750s. His ascendancy to the headship of the York school, the ancestor of St Peter's School, began after Aelbert became Archbishop of York in 767. Around the same time Alcuin became a deacon in the church. He was never ordained a priest. Though there is no real evidence that he took monastic vows, he lived as if he had.
In 781, King Elfwald sent Alcuin to Rome to petition the Pope for official confirmation of York's status as an archbishopric and to confirm the election of the new archbishop, Eanbald I. On his way home he met Charlemagne (whom he had met once before), this time in the Italian city of Parma.
Alcuin's intellectual curiosity allowed him to be reluctantly persuaded to join Charlemagne's court. He joined an illustrious group of scholars that Charlemagne had gathered around him, the mainsprings of the Carolingian Renaissance: Peter of Pisa, Paulinus of Aquileia, Rado, and Abbot Fulrad. Alcuin would later write that "the Lord was calling me to the service of King Charles."
Alcuin became Master of the Palace School of Charlemagne in Aachen (Urbs Regale) in 782. It had been founded by the king's ancestors as a place for the education of the royal children (mostly in manners and the ways of the court). However, Charlemagne wanted to include the liberal arts and, most importantly, the study of religion. From 782 to 790, Alcuin taught Charlemagne himself, his sons Pepin and Louis, as well as young men sent to be educated at court, and the young clerics attached to the palace chapel. Bringing with him from York his assistants Pyttel, Sigewulf, and Joseph, Alcuin revolutionised the educational standards of the Palace School, introducing Charlemagne to the liberal arts and creating a personalised atmosphere of scholarship and learning, to the extent that the institution came to be known as the 'school of Master Albinus'.
In this role as adviser, he took issue with the emperor's policy of forcing pagans to be baptised on pain of death, arguing, "Faith is a free act of the will, not a forced act. We must appeal to the conscience, not compel it by violence. You can force people to be baptised, but you cannot force them to believe." His arguments seem to have prevailed – Charlemagne abolished the death penalty for paganism in 797.
Charlemagne gathered the best men of every land in his court, and became far more than just the king at the centre. It seems that he made many of these men his closest friends and counsellors. They referred to him as 'David', a reference to the Biblical king David. Alcuin soon found himself on intimate terms with Charlemagne and the other men at court, where pupils and masters were known by affectionate and jesting nicknames. Alcuin himself was known as 'Albinus' or 'Flaccus'. While at Aachen, Alcuin bestowed pet names upon his pupils – derived mainly from Virgil's Eclogues. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "He loved Charlemagne and enjoyed the king's esteem, but his letters reveal that his fear of him was as great as his love.
In 790 Alcuin returned from the court of Charlemagne to England, to which he had remained attached. He dwelt there for some time, but Charlemagne then invited him back to help in the fight against the Adoptionist heresy which was at that time making great progress in Toledo, the old capital of the Visigoths and still a major city for the Christians under Islamic rule in Spain. He is believed to have had contacts with Beatus of Liébana, from the Kingdom of Asturias, who fought against Adoptionism. At the Council of Frankfurt in 794, Alcuin upheld the orthodox doctrine against the views expressed by Felix of Urgel, an heresiarch according to the Catholic Encyclopaedia. Having failed during his stay in Northumbria to influence King Æthelred in the conduct of his reign, Alcuin never returned home.
He was back at Charlemagne's court by at least mid-792, writing a series of letters to Æthelred, to Hygbald, Bishop of Lindisfarne, and to Æthelhard, Archbishop of Canterbury in the succeeding months, dealing with the Viking attack on Lindisfarne in July 793. These letters and Alcuin's poem on the subject, De clade Lindisfarnensis monasterii, provide the only significant contemporary account of these events. In his description of the Viking attack, he wrote: "Never before has such terror appeared in Britain. Behold the church of St Cuthbert, splattered with the blood of God's priests, robbed of its ornaments."
In 796 Alcuin was in his sixties. He hoped to be free from court duties and upon the death of Abbot Itherius of Saint Martin at Tours, Charlemagne put Marmoutier Abbey into Alcuin's care, with the understanding that he should be available if the king ever needed his counsel. There he encouraged the work of the monks on the beautiful Carolingian minuscule script, ancestor of modern Roman typefaces.
Alcuin died on 19 May 804, some ten years before the emperor, and was buried at St. Martin's Church under an epitaph that partly read:
Dust, worms, and ashes now ...
Alcuin my name, wisdom I always loved,
Pray, reader, for my soul.
The majority of details on Alcuin's life come from his letters and poems. There are also autobiographical sections in Alcuin's poem on York and in the Vita Alcuini, a Life written for him at Ferrières in the 820s, possibly based in part on the memories of Sigwulf, one of Alcuin's pupils.
The collection of mathematical and logical word problems entitled Propositiones ad acuendos juvenes ("Problems to Sharpen Youths") is sometimes attributed to Alcuin. In a 799 letter to Charlemagne the scholar claimed to have sent "certain figures of arithmetic for the joy of cleverness," which some scholars have identified with the Propositiones. The text contains about 53 mathematical word problems (with solutions), in no particular pedagogical order. Among the most famous of these problems are: four that involve river crossings, including the problem of three anxious brothers, each of whom has an unmarried sister whom he cannot leave alone with either of the other men lest she be defiled (Problem 17); the problem of the wolf, goat, and cabbage (Problem 18); and the problem of "the two adults and two children where the children weigh half as much as the adults" (Problem 19). Alcuin's sequence is the solution to one of the problems of that book.
Alcuin made the abbey school into a model of excellence and many students flocked to it. He had many manuscripts copied using outstandingly beautiful calligraphy, the Carolingian minuscule based on round and legible uncial letters. He wrote many letters to his English friends, to Arno, bishop of Salzburg and above all to Charlemagne. These letters (of which 311 are extant) are filled mainly with pious meditations, but they form an important source of information as to the literary and social conditions of the time and are the most reliable authority for the history of humanism during the Carolingian age. Alcuin trained the numerous monks of the abbey in piety, and it was in the midst of these pursuits that he died.
Alcuin is the most prominent figure of the Carolingian Renaissance, in which three main periods have been distinguished: in the first of these, up to the arrival of Alcuin at the court, the Italians occupy a central place; in the second, Alcuin and the Anglo-Saxons are dominant; in the third (from 804), the influence of Theodulf, the Visigoth is preponderant.
Alcuin also developed manuals used in his educational work – a grammar and works on rhetoric and dialectics. These are written in the form of dialogues, and in two of them the interlocutors are Charlemagne and Alcuin. He wrote several theological treatises: a De fide Trinitatis, and commentaries on the Bible. Alcuin is credited with inventing the first known question mark, though it didn't resemble the modern symbol.
Alcuin transmitted to the Franks the knowledge of Latin culture which had existed in Anglo-Saxon England. A number of his works still exist. Besides some graceful epistles in the style of Venantius Fortunatus, he wrote some long poems, and notably he is the author of a history (in verse) of the church at York, Versus de patribus, regibus et sanctis Eboracensis ecclesiae.
According to David Clark, passages in some of Alcuin's writings display homosocial desire, even possibly homoerotic imagery. However, Clark says it is not possible to determine whether they were the result of an outward expression of erotic feelings. Historian John Boswell cited this as a personal outpouring of Alcuin's internalized homosexual feelings. Others agree that Alcuin at times "comes perilously close to communicating openly his same sex desires", and this reflects the erotic subculture of the Carolingian monastic school, but also perhaps a 'queer space' where "erotic attachment and affections may be safely articulated".
Erotic and religious love are intertwined in Alcuin's writings, and he frequently "eroticizes his personal relationships to his beloved friends". Alcuin's friendships also extended to the ladies of the court, especially the queen mother and the king's daughters, though David Bromell is of the opinion that Alcuin's relationships with these women never reached the intense level of those of the men around him.
Alcuin was a close friend of Charlemagne's sister Gisela, Abbess of Chelles, whom he "hailed as a noble sister in the bond of sweet love". He wrote to Charlemagne's daughters Rotrudis and Bertha that "the devotion of my heart specially tends towards you both because of the familiarity and dedication you have shown me." His nickname for Gisela was Julia, for Rotrudis Columba. He dedicated the last two books of his commentary on John's gospel to them both.
The interpretation of homosexual desire has been disputed by Allen Frantzen, who identifies Alcuin's language with that of medieval Christian amicitia or friendship. Karl Liersch, in his 1880 inaugural dissertation, cites several passages from poems by Theodulf of Orleans. In these poems Theodulf reports that Alcuin had a female muse named Delia at the king's court (she was probably Charlemagne's daughter). Delia is also the addressee of several poems by Alcuin.
Douglas Dales and Rowan Williams say "the use of language drawn [by Alcuin] from the Song of Songs transforms apparently erotic language into something within Christian friendship – 'an ordained affection'."
Despite inconclusive evidence of Alcuin's personal passions, he was clear in his own writings that the men of Sodom had been punished with fire for "sinning against nature with men" – a view commonly held by the Church at the time. Such sins, argued Alcuin, were therefore more serious than lustful acts with women, for which the earth was cleansed and revivified by the water of the Flood, and merit to be "withered by flames unto eternal barrenness."
For a complete census of Alcuin's works, see Marie-Hélène Jullien and Françoise Perelman, eds., Clavis scriptorum latinorum medii aevi: Auctores Galliae 735–987. Tomus II: Alcuinus. Turnhout: Brepols, 1999.
Of Alcuin's letters, just over 310 have survived.
The Alcuin Club is an Anglican organization devoted to preserving or restoring church ceremony, arrangement, ornament, and practice in an orthodox manner. It was founded in 1897, with its first publication, English Altars by W. H. St. John Hope, appearing in 1899. The club is dedicated to the Book of Common Prayer and conformity to its exact rubric. In the 20th century, the club was active in the debate over the rewriting of the Book of Common Prayer for the 1920 revision. Its influence faded somewhat after the first part of the century and it is now dedicated to studying ceremony of all Christian churches. Nonetheless, the club's members are active in the liturgical researches of the Anglican churches. Membership in the club is now around 600, with half being in the United Kingdom and many in the United States.
The Alcuin Club selects works on liturgy and ceremony and hagiography every year to include in its collections. These collections represent significant scholarship.Alcuin College, York
Alcuin College is a college of the University of York located on Siward's Howe.
It is one out of 9 colleges at the university, being the nearest to the library on the Heslington West part of the campus.Alcuin School
Alcuin School is an independent, non-sectarian, co-educational day school in Dallas, Texas. With Montessori and International Baccalaureate programs, it serves students from 18-months-old through the 12th grade. Alcuin is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest, recognized by the Association Montessori Internationale, and is an IB World School.Alcuin Schulten
Alcuin Schulten (born 1972) is a Dutch former figure skater. He competed for the Netherlands in men's singles and in pair skating with his sister Jeltje Schulten.Alcuin Society
A voluntary association established in 1965 by Geoff Spencer, the Alcuin Society is a non-profit organisation founded for the book arts. It is located in Canada. It should not be confused with the Alcuin Club, an Anglican publishing society.
Among the other six founding members is Basil Stuart-Stubbs.The society is named after the Alcuin of York.Carolingian Renaissance
The Carolingian Renaissance was the first of three medieval renaissances, a period of cultural activity in the Carolingian Empire. It occurred from the late 8th century to the 9th century, which took inspiration from the Christian Roman Empire of the fourth century. During this period, there was an increase of literature, writing, the arts, architecture, jurisprudence, liturgical reforms, and scriptural studies.
The Carolingian Renaissance occurred mostly during the reigns of Carolingian rulers Charlemagne and Louis the Pious. It was supported by the scholars of the Carolingian court, notably Alcuin of York. Charlemagne's Admonitio generalis (789) and Epistola de litteris colendis served as manifestos.
The effects of this cultural revival were mostly limited to a small group of court literati. According to John Contreni, "it had a spectacular effect on education and culture in Francia, a debatable effect on artistic endeavors, and an unmeasurable effect on what mattered most to the Carolingians, the moral regeneration of society". The secular and ecclesiastical leaders of the Carolingian Renaissance made efforts to write better Latin, to copy and preserve patristic and classical texts, and to develop a more legible, classicizing script. (This was the Carolingian minuscule that Renaissance humanists took to be Roman and employed as humanist minuscule, from which has developed early modern Italic script.) They also applied rational ideas to social issues for the first time in centuries, providing a common language and writing style that enabled communication throughout most of Europe.Carolingian minuscule
Carolingian minuscule or Caroline minuscule is a script which developed as a calligraphic standard in Europe so that the Latin alphabet of Jerome's Vulgate Bible could be easily recognized by the literate class from one region to another. It was developed for the first time, in about 780, by a Benedictine monk of Corbie Abbey (about 150 km north of Paris), namely, Alcuin of York. It was used in the Holy Roman Empire between approximately 800 and 1200. Codices, pagan and Christian texts, and educational material were written in Carolingian minuscule throughout the Carolingian Renaissance. The script developed into blackletter and became obsolete, though its revival in the Italian Renaissance forms the basis of more recent scripts.Dutch Figure Skating Championships
The Dutch Figure Skating Championships (Dutch: Nederlandse kampioenschappen kunstschaatsen) are a figure skating national championship held annually to determine the national champions of the Netherlands. Skaters compete in the disciplines of men's singles, ladies singles, pair skating, and ice dancing. Skaters compete at the senior, junior (A), novice (B), and debs (C) levels.Eanbald (died 796)
Eanbald (died 10 August 796) was an eighth century Archbishop of York.Eanbald (floruit 798)
Eanbald (died c. 808) was an eighth century Archbishop of York and correspondent of Alcuin.Ecgfrith of Mercia
Ecgfrith was king of Mercia from 29 July to December 796. He was the son of Offa, one of the most powerful kings of Mercia, and Cynethryth. In 787, Ecgfrith was consecrated king, the first known consecration of an English king, probably arranged by Offa in imitation of the consecration of Charlemagne's sons by the pope in 781. Around 789, Offa seems to have intended that Ecgfrith marry the Frankish king Charlemagne's daughter Bertha, but Charlemagne was outraged by the request and the proposal never went forward.According to the Croyland Chronicle "he (Ecgfrith) was seized with a malady, and departed this life." His reign lasted 141 days.Ecgfrith was succeeded by a distant relative, Coenwulf, presumably because Offa had arranged the murder of nearer relatives in order to eliminate dynastic rivals. According to a contemporary letter from Alcuin of York, an English deacon and scholar who spent over a decade at Charlemagne's court as one of his chief advisors:
That most noble young man has not died for his sins, but the vengeance for the blood shed by the father has reached the son. For you know how much blood his father shed to secure the kingdom upon his son.Alcuin added: "This was not a strengthening of the kingdom, but its ruin."HP 48 series
The HP 48 is a series of graphing calculators using Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) and the RPL programming language, produced by Hewlett-Packard from 1990 until 2003. The series include the HP 48S, HP 48SX, HP 48G, HP 48GX, and HP 48G+, the G models being expanded and improved versions of the S models. The models with an X suffix are expandable via special RAM (memory expansion) and ROM (software application) cards. In particular, the GX models have more onboard memory than the G models. The G+ models have more onboard memory only. The SX and S models have the same amount of onboard memory.
Note that the similarly named hp 48gII (2004) is not really a member of the series, but rather much more closely related to the hp 49g+.
The hardware architecture developed for the HP 48 series became the basis for the HP 38G, with a simplified user interface and an infix input method, and the HP 49G with various software enhancements. Likewise, the hardware and software design of the HP 48 calculators are themselves strongly influenced by other calculators in the HP line, most of all by the HP-18C and the HP-28 series.Higbald of Lindisfarne
Higbald of Lindisfarne (or Hygebald) was Bishop of Lindisfarne from 780 or 781 until his death on 25 May 803. Little is known about his life except that he was a regular communicator with Alcuin of York; it is in his letters to Alcuin that Higbald described in graphic detail the Viking raid on Lindisfarne on 8 June 793 in which many of his monks were killed.Osbald of Northumbria
Osbald was a king of Northumbria during 796. He was a friend of Alcuin, a bishop from York who often sent him letters of advice.
Osbald was a violent man and most likely a murderer as modern records suggest. On 9 January AD 780, he killed Bearn, the son of King Ælfwald by burning him to death at Selectune (possibly Silton, North Yorkshire). In 793 Alcuin wrote two letters to Osbald urging him to give up his extravagant way of life. He criticised his greedy behaviour, luxurious dress and his pagan hair style. He warned him to devote himself to God because “Luxury in emperors means poverty for the people”.
Osbald became king of Northumbria in 796 at a time when it was dissolving into anarchy. He ruled for 27 days before being abandoned by the royal household and deserted by the people. He went into exile in Lindisfarne. Here Alcuin wrote Osbald a letter urging him to become a knight. After Osbald’s refusal Alcuin sent another letter. It read:
“My dear friend Osbald … I am disappointed in you for not taking my advice. I urged you in my letter that you should give up this way of life. Do not add sin to sin by ruining your country and shedding blood. Think how much blood of emperors, princes, and people has been shed through you and your clan.”Shortly afterwards, Osbald sailed to Pictland with his companions, where he was given refuge by Caustantín, King of the Picts.
Osbald gave his name to two places in and around the area of Northumbria:
Osbaldwick, YorkOsbald died in AD 799 and was buried in an unmarked grave in York Minster.Saint Vincent College
Saint Vincent College is a private Benedictine liberal arts college in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1846 by Boniface Wimmer, a monk from Bavaria, Germany. It was the first Benedictine monastery in the United States. It is operated by the Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey.Wihtberht
Saint Wigbert, (Wihtberht) (May 7, 675 - August 13, 747) born in Wessex around 675, was an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk and a missionary and disciple of Saint Boniface who travelled with the latter in Frisia and northern and central Germany to convert the local tribes to Christianity. His feast day is August 13.Wilgils
Wilgils of Ripon, also known as Wilgisl and Hilgis, was a seventh century saint and hermit of Anglo-Saxon England, who was the father of St Willibrord. His feast day is 31 January.Willibrord
Willibrord (Latin: Villibrordus; c. 658 – 7 November AD 739) was a Northumbrian missionary saint, known as the "Apostle to the Frisians" in the modern Netherlands. He became the first Bishop of Utrecht and died at Echternach, Luxembourg.Æthelbert of York
Æthelbert (died 8 November 780) was an eighth-century scholar, teacher, and Archbishop of York. Related to his predecessor at York, he became a monk at an early age and was in charge of the cathedral's library and school before becoming archbishop. He taught a number of missionaries and scholars, including Alcuin, at the school. While archbishop Æthelbert rebuilt the cathedral and sent missionaries to the Continent. Æthelbert retired before his death, and during his retirement built another church in York.
See also Renaissance philosophy
|Early Middle Ages|
|High Middle Ages|
|Mysticism and reforms|
Begga, the daughter of Pepin I, married Ansegisel, the son of Arnulf of Metz, and was the mother of Pepin II.