Latin school

Latin school

Latin school was the grammar school of fourteenth to sixteenth century Europe. Emphasis was placed, as the name indicates, on learning to use Latin. The education given at Latin schools pressed mainly on grammar of the Latin language. It was presented in a way that shared meaningful or moral behaviours that were the norm at that time. [Grendler, p112.] Latin school prepared students for university, as well as enabling those of middle class status to rise above their station. It was therefore not unusual for children of commoners to attend Latin schools, especially if they were expected to pursue a career within the church. [Wiesner-Hanks, p122.] Although Latin schools existed in many parts of Europe in the fourteenth century and were more open to the laity, prior to that the Church allowed for Latin schools for the sole purpose of training those who would one day become clergymen. [Grendler, p6.] Latin schools have progressed from their Medieval roots in the 1400s to Renaissance around 1450s. They later lost their popularity as universities and other Catholic orders began to prefer the vernacular. [Burke, p84.]


Medieval Background

The Medieval world thought of grammar as a foundation from which all forms of scholarship should originate. [Piltz, p17.] Grammar schools otherwise known as Latin schools taught Latin by using Latin. [Burke, p84.] Being propagated by the sacerdotal set as a dialect, Rome esteemed Latin, Christian customs were expressed in it and some of the laity, although not instructed formally, spoke and wrote Latin. [Burke, p84.] Courts, especially church courts, used Latin in their proceedings. At some point, a member of the nobility argued that this practice was unfair since peasants cannot understand the language. [Burke, p84.]

Students often studied in Latin school for about five years, but by their third year students would be deemed as "knowledgeable enough" in Latin grammar to assist the master teacher in teaching the younger or less skilled pupils. [Grendler, p4.] Seven seemed an appropriate age for boys to start school which was also seen as a development from early childhood to boyhood. However, older men who wanted to study were not discouraged as long as they could pay the fees. [Orme, p129.] Students usually finished their schooling, during their late teens but those who desired to join the priesthood had to wait until they were twenty-four in order to get accepted. There was normally a limit to how long a student can stay in school for instance if a relative was one of the school's founders then an extended stay was possible. [Orme, p130.]

Schools were managed by appointing a commune who then employed a teacher and paid their salary. These schools usually had limited supervision of communes. Freelance Latin masters opened up their own schools quite frequently and would provide Latin education to anyone willing to pay. These freelance schools usually taught students in the master's home. Others taught as a tutor in a student's household by either living there or making daily visits to teach. [Grendler, p5.] Students ranged from those who were members of peasantry to those of the elite. If a serf's child wanted to go to school payment given to the lord was required as well as his consent. [Orme, p131.]

Renaissance and Early Modern Perceptions

As Europeans experienced the intellectual, political, economic and social innovations of the Renaissance so did their attitudes towards Medieval Latin schools. Humanists of the Renaissance criticized Medieval Latin calling it "barbaric jargon". [Ferguson, p89.] Scholars like the Dutch humanist, Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1563), denounced the church and the way it taught. He desired that a Renaissance in the Catholic church should accompany the study of the Classics. [Wiesner-Hanks, p130.] Humanist ideas became so influential that residents in Italian states began to call for a new kind of education in Latin. [Wiesner-Hanks, p32.] Schools and academies that centered on instructing Classical Literature, History, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Natural Philosophy, Arithmetic, some Medieval Texts, Greek as well as modern foreign languages, emerged. They called this new curriculum the "Studia Humanitatis". [Wiesner-Hanks, p122.]

Latin school formed the basis of education in the elite Italian city-states. [Grendler, p110.] Positions such as headmaster of grammar schools or professor of Latin grammar, rhetoric and dialect, were filled in by erudite humanists. [Wiesner-Hanks, p129.] Guarino da Verona, another humanist, devised three stages for humanistic learning which are: the elementary, the grammatical and the rhetorical. [Woodward, p38.] Humanists held the belief that by being a learned individual they were contributing to society's benefit. Hence, humanistic education constituted the intermediate and advanced levels for most of the urban population. [Wiesner-Hanks, p32.] It created an opportunity to advance an individual's social status since more institutions intellectual, political and economic sought workers who possessed a background in classical Latin as well as training in humanistic scripts. [Grendler, p136.]

Still considered as the language of the learned, Latin was esteemed and used frequently in the academic field. [Goldgar and Frost, p320.] However, at the start of the fourteenth century writers started writing in the vernacular. [Wiesner-Hanks, p30.] Due to this event and the common practice of interweaving Latin with a dialect even at advanced stages in learning, the precedence of Latin schools from other pedagogical institutions diminished. [Black, p275.]

Latin Church Schools

Clergy often funded ecclesiastical schools where clerics taught. Many historians argue that up until 1300 the Church had a monopoly on education in Medieval Italy. [Grendler, p6.] Latin church schools seemed to appear around the twelfth century, however very few remained after the 1300s as a vernacular, more definite form of Latin school emerged in Italy. [Grendler, p5.] In some areas in Spain during the late fifteenth century, the church encouraged priests and sacristans to train others in reading and writing. [Wiesner-Hanks, p119.]

After the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic church tried to deal with the surfacing of Protestant Latin schools that involved itself with orienting church authorities and pastors. [Wiesner-Hanks, p122.] John Calvin, a reformer, taught Latin grammar along with the Geneva catechism. [Wiesner-Hanks, p122.] Nevertheless, there were some reformers who wanted to cease using Latin in worship, finding the vernacular a more efficient language to use. [Burke, p89.] In the latter part of the sixteenth century, the Catholic Reformation supported the establishhment of municipal schools.
Jesuits founded their own schools and offered free training in Latin grammar, Philosophy, Theology, Geography, Religious Doctrine and History for boys. It was important for Jesuits as well as the Catholic Reformation to instruct clergymen as well as laymen in this type of education. The Jesuits pursued the significance of education to their order and took over the teaching responsibilities in Latin schools and secondary schools along with other Catholic orders in several Catholic areas. [Wiesner-Hanks, p122.]

Latin School Curriculum

The Latin school curriculum was based mainly on reading Classical and some Medieval authors. Students had to learn the principles of "Ars Dictaminis" in order to learn how to write formal letters. Authors often had lists of books that were supposed to be used in the curriculum that would teach students grammar. These texts however, were often not the original texts, as more often than not, texts were changed to include moral stories or to display rules of grammar. [Grendler, p114. ] These were usually in the form of fables or poems. New students generally started off with easy basic grammar, and steadily moved into harder Latin readings such as the "Donatus" ("Ars Minor" stage), which was a syntax manual that was memorized, or even more advanced with glossaries and dictionaries. Although many teachers used many books that varied from person to person, the most popular textbook would have been the "Doctrinale". [Grendler, p111.] The "Doctrinale" was a long verse of Latin grammar. This textbook dealt with parts of speech, syntax, quantity and meter, as well as figures of speech. The Doctrinale as well as a large sum of other books (though not nearly as popular) was often referred to as the "canon of textbooks". [Grendler, p114.] Similarly, as the student advanced into the "Ars Dictaminis" stage more theory and practice writing formal or prose letters were focused on. Poetry was often a teachers favorite as it taught not only Latin, but mnemonic value and "truth". [Grendler, p114.] Poetry was not chiefly studied during the medieval times, although some classic poems were taken into the curriculum. However, during the Renaissance, pupils greatly studied poetry in order to learn metrics and style. As well, it was viewed as a broader study of Latin grammar and rhetoric, which often included concepts, and analysis of words [Grendler, p235.]

"Ars Dictaminis"

"Ars Dictaminis" was an area of study that was created in the latter part of the Medieval Era as a response to the demand for social communication as offices for religious and political leaders increased. [Grendler, p114.] Rhetoric was seen as a method of persuasion and so there were five distinct aspects of "Ars Dictaminis" that assured this. These five elements were: "how to word a question; how to dispose material; how to find the right words and effective stylistic devices; how to commit everything to memory; how to find the right intonation and suitable gestures". During the Renaissance however, rhetoric developed into the study of how to write official and private letters as well as records. [Piltz, p21.] The revised "Ars Dictaminis" took its guidelines from one of Cicero's works, the "de inventione" and pseudo-Ciceronian "Rhetorica" and "Herennium". There were five main parts: the "salutatio" (salutation), "benevolentiae" (winning the agreement of the recipient through the arrangement of words), "narratio" (the point of the discussion), "petitio" (petition), and "conclusio" (conclusion). This systematic presentation was attributed to the Medieval preference for hierarchal organization. [Grendler, p115.]

"Studia Humanitatis"

"Studia Humanitatis" was the new curriculum founded in the Early Modern Era by humanists. [Wiesner-Hanks, p32.] In order to be able to move forward academically, a firm foundation in "Studia Humanitatis" starting from elementary school was necessary. Those who studied under "Ars Dictaminis" but did not have this background found it difficult to get accepted into chanceries following the year 1450. [Grendler, p136.] Those who did study under this discipline were taught Classical Literature, History, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Natural Philosophy, Arithmetic, some Medieval Texts, Greek as well as modern foreign languages. [Wiesner-Hanks, p122.] The use of pagan authors became more common as the church became less involved with the humanistic method used in academic institutions before university. [Grendler, p136.] "Colloquies" (1518), a book containing dialogues written for the study of Latin grammar, was written by Erasmus and became one of the most popular books of its time. Students of "Studia Humanista" were seen as well prepared for occupations pertaining to politics or business. Learning the Classics and other subjects in this curriculum enabled the individual to speak, argue and write with eloquence and relevance. [Wiesner-Hanks, p32.]

Other Institutions

Early Modern Children were first taught to read and write the vernacular and were then sent to Latin schools. If the parents were financially able, the child went even before he learned to read or write if the opportunity was present. [Wiesner-Hanks, p120.] Men were the usual students since women were either taught at home or in nunneries. [Orme, p129.] Subsequent to the Council of Trent's decision to cloister all female religious, female orders such as Ursulines and Angelicals conducted their own schools within their convents. [Wiesner-Hanks, p122.] University was the final stage of academic learning and within its walls Latin was the language of lectures and scholarly debates. [Burke, p84.] Jews however, including those who were converted into Christianity, were not allowed to teach so they developed their own schools which taught Doctrine, Hebrew and Latin. [Wiesner-Hanks, p122.]

See also

* "Ars Dictaminis"
* Donatus
* Grammar School
* Humanism
* Latin
* Latin Poetry
* "Studia Humanitatis"



* Black, Robert. "Humanism and Education in Medieval and Renaissance Italy: Tradition and Innovation in Latin Schools from the Twelfth to the Fifteenth Century". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

* Burke, Peter. "The historical anthropology of early modern Italy". Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

* Ferguson, Wallace K. "The Renaissance in Historical Thought: Five Centuries of Interpretation". Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin, 1948.

* Goldgar, Anne, and Robert I. Frost. "Institutional Culture in Early Modern Society". Boston: BRILL, 2004.

* Grendler, Paul F. "Schooling in Renaissance Italy Literacy and Learning, 1300-1600". Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.

* Orme, Nicholas. "Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England". New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

* Piltz, Anders. "The World of Medieval Learning". trans. David Jones. New Jersey: Barnes & Noble Books, 1978.

* Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E. "Early Modern Europe, 1450-1789". New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

* Woodward, William Harrison. "Studies in Education during the Age of the Renaissance 1400-1600". New York: Russell and Russell⋅Inc, 1965.

Further reading

* Courtenay, William J. 1987. "Schools and scholars in fourteenth-century England". Princeton: Princeton University Press.

* Hunt, Tony. 1991. "Teaching and learning Latin in thirteenth-century England". Woodbridge: D.S. Brewer.

* Martin, John Jeffries. 2007. "The Renaissance World". Abingdon: Routledge.

* Mehl, James V. 1993. Hermannus Buschius' Dictata utilissima: a textbook of commonplaces for the Latin school. "Humanistica Lovaniensia" 42: 102-125.

* Nellen, Henk J. M. 2005. Short but not sweet: the career of Gisbertus Longolius (1507-1543), headmaster of the Latin school in Deventer and professor at the University of Cologne. "Lias" 32: 3-22
* Verweij, Michiel. 2004. Comic elements in 16th-century Latin school drama in the low countries. "Humanistica Lovaniensia" 53: 175-190.

* WItt, Ronald. 1982. Medieval "ars dictaminis" and the beginnings of humanism: a new construction of the problem. "Renaissance Quarterly" 35: 1-35.

* Proctor, Robert E. 1990. The studia humanitatis: contemporary scholarship and renaissance ideals. "Renaissance Quarterly" 43: 813-818.

External links

* Schools in the Latin Wikipedia

* Latin Alphabet []

* The Latin Library []

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