The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200

The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200

The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200

The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200


"In The Envy of Angels, C. Stephen Jaeger studies the German and French cathedral schools, the major centers of secular learning in Europe until the rise of the universities in the twelfth century. Jaeger argues that cathedral schools revived the learning of classical antiquity, shaped the codes of civility and courtesy, and ultimately transformed the social and intellectual life of Europe. He further proposes that the schools were closely associated with medieval humanism and the Renaissance of the twelfth century, with the rise of Gothic style in architecture and sculpture, and with the formation of a courtly society, courtly literature, and courtly love. The story of the rise and fall of the cathedral schools from 950 to 1200 is also the story of the transition in Europe from a charismatic world based on orality, memory, and personal authority to an intellectual culture based on literacy, texts, and written records. Jaeger is particularly concerned with this notion of charismatic culture; he argues that the aim of charismatic teaching was to shape the student's character through the mystical force of the master's personality. The curriculum was not primarily defined by the set texts of study; the teacher himself was the curriculum, his presence radiating a transforming force to his students. The essential feature of charismatic culture is that it makes the body and the physical presence into the medium which transmits cultural values. The controlled body with all its attributes - grace, posture, charm, sensuality, beauty - is the work of art of the eleventh century. If this ideal did not register in sculpture, art, or fiction, it is because the eleventh century had or sought the thing itself. The human presence was the raw material ready to be shaped and formed like the clay on the potter's wheel or the sculptor's marble block, and the end product was a disciplined human being. The Envy of Angels will be of interest to students and scholars of medieval history, religion, literature, and art." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


Carolingian education is oriented to the practical and spiritual needs of two institutions: the royal/imperial court and the church. The first looks toward civil administration, the second toward the religious life. Court education is a minor subject in Carolingian times. It affects few people at the highest level of lay society and is badly documented. The church and religious education virtually monopolize the records. The phrase "Carolingian educational revival" refers to a broad program of learning whose content is Christian but whose beneficiaries are both lay and clergy. We begin with a look at this dominant and better understood model.

Ecclesiasticae disciplinae

An education in a cathedral or a monastery served a limited range of purposes: the rudiments of letters and the liberal arts, the reading and understanding of the Bible within the traditions of patristic scholarship ; preaching and converting; a Christian life according to the Benedictine rule; other more specific purposes within the sphere of church functions, among which music and the performance of the liturgy were especially prominent. The liberal arts occupied an important position, but were ancillary to the study of scripture. The description of the education of Sturmi, founder and first abbot of Fulda and a student of Boniface, in his biography by Eigil (written in the 790s illustrates some of these concerns:

. . . this holy priest strove to instruct the lad Sturmi for the service of God Almighty. . . . Having committed the Psalms to memory, and having learned a great many readings in incessant study, the boy began to understand sacred scripture in its spiritual sense; he also took pains to learn with the utmost diligence the mysteries of the four gospels of Christ. He strove to the limits of his capacity to store in the treasure chamber of his heart both the new and the old Testament through assiduous reading. Night and day his thoughts were, as it is written, on the law of the Lord.

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