« AnkstesnisTęsti »
a citadel of wisdom, many came forth illustrious, both for probity of manners, and for learning. St. Isidore gave this
for this and all similar schools in Spain, — Cura nutriendorum parvulorum pertinebit ad virum, quem elegerit pater, sanctum sapientemque atque ætate gravem, informantem parvulos non solum studiis literarum sed etiam documentis magisterioque virtutum.'"*
Before the close of the fifteenth century, nearly all Western Europe was covered over with schools. This is especially true of England and many parts of Germany. All the great renowned universities of Europe were founded prior to the Reformation, such as the universities of Bologna, Paris, Oxford, and Cambridge. In England, the monasterial, cathedral, and parochial schools, nearly all of which were destroyed by the Reformation, brought education within the reach of the great mass of the people. Nor less solicitous was the Church for the multiplication of books and the establishment of libraries. Cassiodorus had early set the example to the inonasteries, by placing his own splendid library in Monte Cassino. Nearly all the monasteries were graced and enriched by valuable libraries. In each monastery was a scriptorium, and a number of monks employed in copying and binding manuscripts. Mabillon speaks of the immense manual labor exercised by the Cistercians and Carthusians in copying manuscripts and in writing them out for the public. not troubled at the labor through fatigue,” says Thomas à Kempis, in addressing youth ; " for God is the cause of every good work, who will render to every man his recompense, according to his pious intention, in heaven. When you are dead, those persons who read the volumes which were formerly written beautifully by you will then pray for you : and if he who giveth a cup of cold water shall not lose his reward, much more he who gives the living waters of wisdom shall not lose his recompense in heaven." Estates and legacies were often bequeathed for the support of the scriptorium in abbeys. At Montrouge, indulgences were often given for a supply of books. The Pope, by his bull, in the year 1246, requests the monks and other persons to send, at their own expense, books to the churches of Prussia and Livonia, which were unprovided. One can hardly restrain his indignation, when he recollects that the rich libraries of the universities and abbeys of England, collected by the pious and learned churchmen through so many ages, were nearly all destroyed by the enlightened Reformers in the sixteenth century ; or repress his disgust at the Protestant journalist, who, after his brethren have done their best to obliterate every literary monument of Catholic antiquity, has the effrontery to come forward in open day and charge the Catholic Church with having "ever waged a deadly war upon literature.” Alas! none are so blind as those who will not
* See Mores Catholici. Kenelm H. Digby, Esq., II. c. vi. Mr. Digby has collected, in his second volume, ample proofs of the position we are endeavouring to maintain ; and we refer the reader generally to the work, for a reference to the authorities on which we rely for many of our own
The period of which we speak was no less remarkable for the number and ripeness of its scholars. The scholars at the universities, unless we must discredit all accounts, numbered, taking into consideration the difference of population, as fifty to one to what they do now. It must be remembered, that, in those days of Popish ignorance and superstition, the schools were open to the poorest, and in most cases nearly free of expense. Hence it was that the great body of the clergy, and the majority of the eminent prelates and dignitaries of the Church, were from the lowest ranks of social life. This, too, may account for the number of scholars, and the general diffusion of education. History informs us of the thousands of scholars that flocked from all parts of Europe to attend upon the lectures of the famous Abelard, and that, when he retreated to a solitary spot at some distance from Paris, they flocked around him, and actually built up a not inconsiderable village, solely for the purpose of residing near him. At Oxford, in England, one thousand scholars were annually educated gratis. One writer informs us, that, at the same university, there were above fifteen thousand students in 1264, of those only whose names were entered on the matriculation books. We are told, that, in 1300, the number there was thirty thousand, which also was the number in 1340. The university of Cambridge was also crowded to a degree which seems at the present time almost incredible. " At the Reformation, all these things were altered. A great part of the houses of both universities went to ruin ; all the schools attached to the monasteries were destroyed ; most of the cathedral schools and colleges were converted to private purposes ; education was discouraged in every possible manner, — was allowed only to the rich, and positively forbidden to the poor, as a most dangerous and pernicious article. At the period of the English Revolution, in 1688, the mass of the English people were buried in the grossest ignorance; even long after, when the Wesleys first started, they talked almost in the same style of the ignorance of the people of Cornwall, - nay, of the people in the very heart of London, — as they would of the South Sea islanders ; and the correctness of their description was allowed to be but too faithful.” * And yet one of the spiritual sons of Wesley has the temerity to come forward and charge the Catholic Church with hostility to learning! Really, this is too bad. After the Protestants, a new race of Goths and Vandals, have swept over half of Europe, destroyed the schools Catholicism had founded, dispersed or burned the libraries which she had with immense labor and expense been collecting for ages, and succeeded in reducing the mass of the people to a state of grovelling ignorance, it is too bad for a descendant of these same Goths and Vandals to turn round and charge this very ignorance upon the Catholic Church. And this is what the maligners of the Roman Catholic Church are continually doing ; and if the outraged Catholic attempts to repel the charge by quoting facts, the mob stands ready to shoot him down in the street, or to enlighten him by the blaze of his Church or his dwelling in fames ! Well did the bluff old Samuel Johnson say : Sir, the Catholic Church is the most calumniated Church in the world.”
We have not room to speak of what was taught in the schools to which we have referred, but in the more renowned was taught at least what were called the seven liberal arts, which embraced as wide a range of studies as is common in our schools and colleges now. The number of literary men in the period of which we are speaking was proportionally much greater than it is now in Protestant countries. Of their eminence, of the value of their attainments, doubtless, different opinions may be formed. Guizot, an unsuspected authority, Protestant and philosopher as he is, commends the poetry of St. Fortunatus in the sixth century, and institutes a comparison between the poems of St. Avitus, Bishop of Vienna, in the same century, on the Creation, the Fall, and Expulsion from Paradise, and the Paradise Lost of Milion, and even in some respects awards the palm to the Catholic Bishop. Speaking of the literary state from the sixth century to the eighth, he says, indeed, that the literature was then religious and practical, but he is astonished at the wonderful intellectual activity and development, at the immense number of literary works which
• Arbitrary Power, Popery, Protestantism. Philadelphia. Fithian, 1842, pp. 99, 100.
were produced, and which form a veritable and rich literature. *
In the seventh and eighth centuries, learning, we all know, flourished in England. In the ninth century, it suffices to mention the great Alcuin, Scotus Erigena, and the celebrated Raban Maur. Scolus Erigena was a native of Ireland, and flourished as chief of the School of the Palace under Charles-le-Chauve of France. As
is a speculator, he fell into some errors; but he was a man of extensive learning, had travelled in Greece and the East, was a profound Greek scholar, and was probably acquainted with Hebrew. He was familiar with the philosophers, especially Plato and Aristotle. In the eleventh century, literary studies and intellectual activity strike us everywhere throughout the Latin world. It is enough for us to mention St. Anselm, an Italian, and Archbishop of Canterbury. His Monologium, to say nothing of his other writings, is sufficient to immortalize his name as a writer and a philosopher. It is the most successful effort to demonstrate the existence of God we have ever seen. That single work were more than enough to redeem the age in which it was written.
From the eleventh century down to the sixteenth, literature and science received no check. The four hundred
which preceded the Reformation were ages of prodigious activity. In them we meet with the great names of Abelard, under whom Heloïsa studied philosophy, Greek, and Hebrew, — St. Bernard, Albert the Great, whose works make up twenty-two huge folio volumes, - Vincent de Beauvais, St. Thomas Aquinas, the prince of the scholastics, and who, as a metaphysical writer, has never been surpassed, --St. Bonaventure, Roger Bacon, Petrarch, Dante, &c. All these were Catholics, many of them Italians, men who stand out as the great men of the race; and yet the Church that produced them, and reveres their memory, has ever warred upon thought and intelligence, and sought to produce and perpetuate ignorance !
If we come down to the period since the Reformation, we shall find the Church of Rome the steadfast friend of literature, and in every department maintaining at least an equality with her Protestant rivals. Italy was distinguished in the sixteenth century for her literary preëminence over all the rest of Europe. German literature slept from the Reformation, till awakened about the middle of the last century ; English genius half expired with the establishment of the Protestant religion. Shak
* Civilization en France. Leçon xvi. Paris. 1829,
VOL. II. NO. I.
speare belongs to the Catholic world, not to the Protestant; for not a thought or expression can be detected in all his works which indicates even a Protestant tendency, and, if not technically a Catholic, he was at least formed under Catholic influences and nourished by Catholic traditions. Milton was a strange compound of heathenism and Catholicism, with a dash of Puritanism. But the most successful portions of his great poem are those in which he remains true to Catholic tradition. What was the boasted literature of England in the days of Queen Anne, but a feeble imitation of the French school of Louis Quatorze ? Dryden and Pope were both Catholics. The Society of Jesus, founded by Ignatius Loyola, bas always been considered as peculiarly dear to the Popes of Rome; and the members of this Society, we all know, have not been more remarkable for their missionary zeal and enterprise, than for their literary and scientific attainments. Yet the Church of Rome has ever waged a deadly war upon literature !
The Northern nations of Europe are Protestant; the Southern are Catholic. Which are really the most distinguished for literary attainments, even at this moment ? Surely, France and Italy will not be obliged to yield the palm to England and Germany.
In simple erudition, Germany may rank respectably ; but Italy or France can boast scholars at least the equal of her
And Catholic Germany is no longer behind Protestant Germany. England is out of the question. She is distinguished only for her industrial enterprises, her commercial ambition, her overgrown wealth, and the ignorance and destitution of the immense majority of her population.
The fatal influence of the Reformation on literature is well known, and is admitted by many Protestant writers, as the following passage from Blackwood's Magazine may testify.
“The pontificate of Leo the Tenth commenced in 1513. His patronage of literature is too well known to be long dwelt upon; yet, during his life, literature was fated to receive the severest check it had ever yet received. This was occasioned by the Reformation, whose dawn, while it shed light upon the regions of theology, looked frowningly upon those of profane learning. In fact, the all-important controversy then at issue so thoroughly engrossed the minds of men, as to divert them for a while from other studies. The quick eye of Erasmus saw this; and, casting down the weapons of theological strife, which he had grasped in the first onset, he left the field, exclaiming, in a tone of heartfelt anguish, Ubicumque regnat Lutherismus, ibi literarum est interitus; Wherever Lutheranism prevails, there learning perishes."