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Monastic and cathedral schools were the places of elementary and higher learning for the laity in Carolingian times. Cathedral churches may be seen like the first to appear as soon as the very beginnings of Church: their ancestor, under the form of the so-called "episcopal churches", was dedicated to train clerics only and were attached to bishops' household. Monastic schools appeared later: they began with monasticism as the latter was reacting against what was seen as a decline of Christianity in the Late Roman Empire; monasticism was promoting itself like the institution which could provide not only communities members but children generally too with moral, religion, and culture, as the latter could be obtained in other places, but to the cost of Christian standards

By early Middle Ages and Carolingian times it was the monastic schools which came to take the principal burden of education of the laity. To the monasteries were coming both youngsters who were to become monks and those who were to enter secular careers. It it this way that Ireland monasteries were receiving people coming from England and the Continent for secular learning. An official distinction appeared during the 9th and 10th centuries, beginning at St. Gall, Fulda, and Reichenau, between "internal" and "external schools": "schola claustri" (cloister's school) were dedicated to teach future members of the monastery only, as "schola canonica, sive externa" became used to train people bound to return in the world. As far as cathedral schools are concerned, ancient episcopal churches had opened to laymen since the end of the Roman empire and the decline of State schools of the latter. Then, it is a bishop of Metz about 750 who is said to have been the real founder of the institution when he organized the clergy of his cathedral into a community and commanded them to conduct and manage the school attached to the church. The bishop had the general control as the "magister scholae" was the immediate superior of the school. In cities and towns where no cathedral church existed, it was the canons who organized like the clergy of Metz and created "canonicate schools"

Curriculum in monastic schools was the seven liberal arts (trivium: grammar, rhetoric, dialectic; quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music) as monks were pursuing too the art of healing, agriculture, building, and decorative arts. Monks were transcribing the Classics and the ecclesiastical works, and were writing "annales" noting year by year the important events of the Christianity. By Carolingian times, external schools of the monasteries had become recognized institutions attended by sons of the nobility and of the villagers of the neighbourhood too. In cathedral (and canonical) schools, a separation was done between an "elementary school" ("schola minor") and a "higher school" ("schola major"); the first one was teaching reading, writing and psalmody. The latter either the trivium alone (grammar, rethoric, and dialectic) or the seven liberal arts complete, adding too Scripture and "pastoral theology"

Website Manager: G. Guichard, site Learning and Knowledge In the Carolingian Times / Erudition et savoir à l'époque carolingienne, Page Editor: G. Guichard. last edited: 12/28/2010. contact us at