mardi 19 mai 2015

Bienheureux ALCUIN de YORK, abbé


Rabanus Maurus (à gauche), soutenu par Alcuin (au milieu), présente son travail à Otgar de Mayence (à droite), Manuscrit: Vienne, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, cod.652, fol. 2v (Fulda, 2ième quart du 9ième siècle)

Bienheureux Alcuin

En charge de l'Abbaye de Saint Martin de Tours ( 804)

Sa famille était originaire d'York en Angleterre et c'est là qu'il fit ses études dans l'école épiscopale où l'on enseignait les arts (lettres), la grammaire et les Saintes Ecritures. Il aimait fréquenter la bibliothèque qui contenait aussi Aristote, Virgile et Cicéron. Alcuin fut chargé très tôt d'y être professeur. Il alla à Rome pour rapporter à son évêque le "pallium" et c'est sur le chemin du retour qu'il rencontra Charlemagne à Parme. De cette rencontre naquirent une grande amitié et une grande estime entre eux deux. Sa mission accomplie, Alcuin revint à la cour de Charlemagne et c'est ainsi que fut fondée l'école du palais (école palatine). Il fut en même temps attaché à l'abbaye de Saint Josse-sur-Mer dont il fut abbé. A quelque temps de là, l'empereur lui donna la charge de l'abbaye de Saint Martin de Tours dont les domaines étaient considérables. Alcuin était fidèle, mais n'hésitait pas à tenir tête à l'empereur, malgré tant de largesses. C'est ainsi qu'il lui écrivit cette remarque à propos de la conversion forcée des Saxons :"On peut être attiré par la foi, mais non y être forcé. Etre contraint au baptême ne profite pas à la foi." L'Eglise accepta le culte populaire qui range le très docte Alcuin parmi les bienheureux.

Bienheureux Alcuin.

Parent de Saint Willibrord, Alcuin naquit d'une famille anglo-saxonne en Northumbrie. On ne connaît exactement ni le lieu ni la date de sa naissance. Alcuin fut élevé à l'école épiscopale renommée d'York, qui possédait, outre les œuvres de Pères et des Docteurs, les écrits des philosophes et poètes païens, tels que Pline, Aristote, Cicéron, Virgile, Boèce, etc.… 

On pense, depuis Mabillon (vers 1630), que Alcuin fut moine bénédictin de l'abbaye d'York fondée dans la tradition de Saint Benoît Biscop. Alcuin fut ordonné diacre, à une date inconnue, et resta diacre toute sa vie. Sous l'archevêque Aelbert, Alcuin fut appelé à diriger l'école cathédrale d'York, qui était devenue le principal centre intellectuel de l'Europe. 

A la mort d'Aelbert, son successeur Eanbald, envoya Alcuin à Rome pour solliciter pour lui-même (Eanbald) la pallium. Pendant ce voyage, Alcuin rencontra Charlemagne à Parme en 781. Une fois sa mission pour l'archevêque d'York terminée, Alcuin se fixa près de l'empereur, de 782 à 790. Il fut doté des abbayes de Ferrières et de Saint Loup de Trèves. Alcuin s'employa aussitôt à ranimer le culte des lettres, dont la disparition inquiétait Charlemagne. Il dirigea également l'école du palais. 

En 796, Alcuin avait obtenu du roi des Francs, l'abbaye Saint Martin de Tours. Il travailla à la faire revivre, à partir de l'an 801, avec le concours de Benoît d'Aniane, ancien maître de l'école du palais de Pépin le Bref. Alcuin établit à Tours une école renommée, où il fit venir quelques-uns de ses anciens élèves d'York. 

Alcuin mourut le 19 mai 804 à Troyes. Son disciple Raban Maur devait l'inscrire comme saint dans son martyrologe. Mais on ne connaît aucune mention d'un culte public à son sujet… Il est possible que le moine anglo-saxon participa à l'auréole décernée à Charlemagne…

Bienheureux Alcuin d'York, abbé (bénédictin?)
(alias Flaccus Albinus)

Né à York, Angleterre, vers 735; mort à Saint-Martin à Tours, France, le 19 mai 804. Alcuin étudia sous saint Edbert à l'école cathédrale d'York, y fut ordonné diacre, et en 767, en devint le directeur. Sous sa direction, elle devint un centre d'érudition fort connu.

Alcuin fit le voyage de Rome pour obtenir le pallium pour son évêque, et à Parme, il rencontra Charlemagne, qui fit aussitôt appel à ses services pour les besoins de l'enseignement. Il fut invité par Charlemagne pour fonder une école à sa court, à Aachen, en Germanie, en 781, école dont Charlemagne lui-même deviendra l'élève. Alcuin devint aussi le conseiller de Charlemagne.

Alcuin fut nommé par Charlemagne abbé de l'abbaye Saint-Martin de Tours en 796. A Tours, il restaura l'observance monastique, avec l'aide de saint Benoît d'Aniane. Par la suite, il sera aussi abbé des monastères de Ferrières, Troyes et Cormery. Il n'est pas certain si Alcuin a jamais été ordonné au-delà du diaconat, bien que certains érudits pensent qu'il soit devenu prêtre dans ses dernières années.

Sous sa direction, l'école d'Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen) devint un des plus grands centres d'érudition en Europe. Il fut la force motrice et l'esprit de la renaissance Carolingienne, et fit de la court Franque le centre de la culture Européenne et de l'érudition. Il combattit l'illetrisme à travers le royaume, instaura un système d'éducation élémentaire, et établit un système d'éducation supérieure basé sur l'étude de 7 arts libéraux, le trivium et quadrivium, qui sera la base du curriculum de l'Europe médiévale.

Il encouragea l'utilisation des anciens textes, et fut un théologien et exégète remarquable. Utilisant ses talents, il combattit l'hérésie de l'Adoptianisme [version Espagnole, 8ème siècle], qui fut condamnée au Synode de Francfort de 794, et il exerca une influence sur la liturgie Romaine qui durera plusieurs siècles. Il écrivit des commentaires bibliques et des poèmes, et fut l'auteur de centaines de lettres, dont beaucoup existent encore, et d'un texte de rhétorique largement utilisé, le Compendia.

Il mourrut à Saint-Martin à Tours, où il avait développé une de ses plus célèbres écoles. Bien que son culte n'aie jamais été formellement confirmé, nombre de martyrologes reprennent son nom comme bienheureux. Il a aussi pu avoir été Bénédictin. (Attwater2, Bénédictins, Delaney).

Alcuin (740-804) et la maternité divine

Alcuin (+ 804) s’est vu confié sa mission d’enseignement par Charlemagne, et il eut un grand rayonnement sur l’école carolingienne du sanctuaire de Fulda (Allemagne). Il eut comme disciple Raban Maure qui développa cette même école.

Le danger de l'adoptianisme

Au VIIIe siècle, un des dangers les plus graves qui menaçait la pureté de la foi ecclésiale venait de l'Espagne, où une nouvelle forme d'adoptianisme enseignait que le Christ ne fût pas le Fils naturel de Dieu mais un simple fils adoptif.

Dans ce cas, on n'adore plus Jésus, Dieu semble lointain, et le salut n'est pas donné !

Ce n'est pas l'Évangile.

La réponse d'Alcuin

Commentant l'Évangile de saint Jean, Alcuin explique que le Verbe n'a pas perdu son éternité quand il a voulu devenir homme dans le temps :

« L'évangéliste bienheureux, pour montrer en Christ la propriété d'une personne seule affirme :
"Le Verbe s’est fait chair" (Jn 1, 14) ;

le Verbe qui était auprès de Dieu avant que le monde soit et par qui tout fut créé,

le Verbe qui n'a pas perdu son éternité quand il a voulu devenir homme dans le temps, en assumant l'humanité dans un corps virginal.

Cette Vierge a fait que l'homme qui vient dans le temps devienne ce qu'il était depuis toujours : le Fils de Dieu : d'une part né avant les temps, d'autre part né dans le temps, mais afin que notre Seigneur Jésus Christ soit un unique et parfait Fils de Dieu.

Prenant une image, Alcuin explique que la Vierge Marie a absorbé la couleur pourpre de la divinité quand sur elle est descendu l'Esprit Saint et qu’elle fut recouverte de l'ombre du Très-haut:

« La bienheureuse Vierge Marie en gardant l'intégrité de son corps, l'a engendré Dieu et homme. Elle, plus blanche que la laine, splendide dans sa virginité et incomparable à aucune autre vierge sous le ciel, fut si extraordinaire et si grande qu'elle devint la seule qui put accueillir en son sein la divinité.

En effet comme la laine s'imbibe du sang de la cochenille afin que la pourpre, faite de cette même laine devienne digne d'une majesté impériale - en effet celui qui la revêt exclusivement est digne de la majesté impériale, - de la même façon, quand l'Esprit Saint descendit sur la bienheureuse Vierge, la puissance du Très Haut étendit sur elle son ombre pour que la laine resplendît de la couleur rouge pourpre de la divinité et fut vraiment digne d'être revêtue par l'éternel Empereur.

De cette façon, la bienheureuse Vierge Marie est devenue aussi bien Théotokos que christotokos. En effet même si avant elle, dans le peuple il a y eu des "christotokai", c'est-à-dire des mères de christ-messies, cependant elles ne sont pas restées vierges et elles n’ont pas été ombragées par l'Esprit Saint ni par la puissance du Très-Haut, de sorte d'être trouvée dignes d'engendrer Dieu. Marie par contre n'est pas seulement christotokos ; elle est la seule Théotokos ; c'est la seule vierge qui, en concevant par l’œuvre de l'Esprit Saint et de la puissance du Très-Haut, a reçu une si grande gloire à donner le jour à Dieu, c'est-à-dire au Fils de Dieu, coéternel et consubstantiel au Père.

Marie est vierge avant l’enfantement, pendant l’enfantement et après l’enfantement.

En effet, il convient que Dieu qui en naît augmente le mérite de la chasteté, pour que l'intégrité ne fût pas violée par l'arrivée de celui qui serait venu pour guérir ceci qui il était corrompu.

Du reste, il ne dédaigna pas d'entrer dans un sein virginal resserré celui qui règne sur les cieux, qui remplit l'immensité de la création entière et à la naissance duquel les troupes d’anges descendirent pour chanter : " Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des cieux et paix sur terre aux hommes de bonne volonté." (Lc 2,14). »

Alcuin, De fide sanctae et individuae Trinitatis 3, 14, PL 101, 46-47

En commentant les paroles de Jésus à sa mère à l'occasion des noces de Cana, Alcuin met bien en évidence, par la doctrine christologique des deux natures, le rapport qui relie le Sauveur à sa Mère :

« Il ne jette pas le discrédit sur sa Mère, lui qui nous ordonne d'honorer le père et la mère ; et il ne nie pas qu'elle est sa Mère, dès lors qu’il ne se refusa pas de prendre chair de sa chair...

Mais quand, sur le point d'opérer un miracle, il dit : "Qu'il y a entre moi et toi, femme ?" (Jn 2,4) le Christ entend signifier qu'il n'a pas pris de celle qui est sa mère dans l'ordre temporel le principe de sa divinité par lequel il allait opérer le miracle, mais qu'il l'a reçu depuis l'éternité de son Père.»

Alcuin, In Joannem, I, 2, 3-4, PL 100, 766-767

En termes très clairs, Alcuin entend donc préciser que Marie est vraie Mère de Dieu parce qu'elle a donné une nature humaine au Fils éternel du Père ; mais que d'autre part, elle n'a rien à voir avec l'origine divine et éternelle de ce Fils.

Cependant, en faisant allusion à la scène du Calvaire (Jn 19, 25-27), l'auteur complète sa pensée :

« Mais l'heure viendra où il montrera ce qu'il a en commun avec la Mère lorsque, mourant sur la croix, il remettra la Vierge au disciple vierge.»

Alcuin, In Joannem, I, 2, 4, PL 100, 767 A

De la vraie foi jaillit l'amour personnel

La contemplation de Marie mère de Dieu conduit Alcuin à une attitude respectueuse et confiance envers Marie. Alcuin a une dévotion personnelle touchante, en voici de très beaux exemples :

« Tu es mon doux amour, mon bijou, le grand espoir de mon salut.

Aide ton serviteur o Vierge glorieuse.

Ma voix résonne entre mes larmes ; mon cœur brûle d'amour.

Prête attention aussi aux prières de tous mes frères qui t'implorent : O Vierge, tu es pleine de grâce ; par ton intermédiaire, que la grâce du Christ puisse nous sauver. »

Alcuin, PL 101, 771 B

« Puissent la dévotion et l'honneur rappeler ta mémoire en ce lieu, Reine du ciel, toi qui es le plus grand espoir de notre vie.

Regarde avec ton habituelle pitié les fils de Dieu qui t'invoquent, o Vierge très humble.

Dans ta clémence, prête toujours attention à nos supplications et diriges avec tes prières nos jours partout et toujours. »

Alcuin, PL 101, 749

Sources :

GAMBERO Luigi, Maria nel pensiero dei teologi latini medievali, ed San Paolo, 2000, p. 61-67

L’oeuvre politique d’Alcuin à la cour de Charlemagne

 « Une rencontre entre deux grands hommes eut d’heureuses conséquences » écrit l’historien Pierre Racine  en introduction de son article sur Alcuin, paru dans le magnifique ouvrage de Jacques Le Goff, Hommes et Femmes du Moyen-Age. Il est vrai que la rencontre entre le moine northumbrien Alcuin et le roi des Francs Charles à Parme, en Italie aux alentours de 780, bouleversa les rapports entre l’Église et la royauté pippinide, et inaugura ce que les historiens appellent la « première renaissance carolingienne ». Bien que l’oeuvre d’Alcuin à la cour de Charlemagne ait de nombreux aspects, nous verrons ici les évolutions politiques qu’a connues le règne de Charlemagne, attribuées en grande partie à Alcuin mais également dues à la volonté propre du souverain.
Origine et formation

Alcuin naît en Northumbrie – région de York, en Angleterre – aux environs de 730. Issu sans doute de famille noble, Alcuin fait ses études à l’école de la cathédrale d’York en tant qu’élève d’Aelbert. Devenu bibliothécaire de l’école en 766, il est nommé maître d’école en 780 où il enseigne la littérature classique, la grammaire antique et les mathématiques, base du comput — calcul destiné à fixer la date des fêtes mobiles du calendrier ecclésiastique —, tout en subordonnant les sciences profanes à la Bible dont l’exégèse est selon lui la base du savoir. Cette même année, Alcuin fait la rencontre qui va changer sa vie, Charles, roi des Francs, à Parme. Impressionné par les qualités intellectuelles et la vivacité d’esprit de l’ecclésiastique, le roi l’invite à le suivre à la cour en 781.
Rôle politique

Alcuin va jouer un rôle majeur dans la politique carolingienne de cette fin du VIIIe siècle. De 782 à 796, il dirige l’école palatine où sont formés les enfants des nobles de l’entourage du roi. Dès son arrivée au service du souverain franc, il va célébrer en ce roi sacré le Christ Roi et Prêtre.

Déjà à la mort du pape Hadrien Ier fin 795, Alcuin voyait en le roi franc un « nouveau David », à la fois roi et prophète : « Le Christ, de nos jours, a concédé à son peuple comme rector (souverain) et doctor (professeur) un roi David de même virtus (mérite, valeur) et de même foi. »

Dans une autre lettre datée du 26 décembre 796, jour de l’accession de Léon III au trône pontifical, Alcuin, sur ordre de son maître Charles, déclare à l’intention du souverain pontife :

«Voici quelle est notre tâche. À l’extérieur, protéger, les armes à la main, avec le secours de la grâce divine, la sainte Église du Christ de l’invasion des païens et de la dévastation des infidèles; et à l’intérieur, défendre le contenu de la foi catholique. La vôtre, très saint Père, par la prière de vos mains levées au ciel à l’instar de Moïse, est d’aider notre armée jusqu’à ce que, par votre intercession, sous la conduite et par le don de Dieu, le peuple chrétien ait toujours la victoire sur les ennemis de son saint nom et que Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ soit glorifié dans le monde entier. »

Cette lettre montre bien à quel point le pape, jusqu’alors souverain des âmes des chrétiens, est relégué au rang de simple puissance sacerdotale, n’ayant plus qu’un rôle de prière. Charles, de par son sacre, reçoit directement ses ordres de Dieu, et n’a donc aucune autre autorité au-dessus de lui. Le roi possède ainsi à la fois le pouvoir temporel et le pouvoir spirituel, car il a en charge et la sauvegarde de son royaume et le salut des âmes des chrétiens, rôle qui appartenait auparavant au souverain pontife. Dans les faits, Charlemagne profite de la faiblesse politique du pape Léon III, qui est d’ailleurs chassé de son trône par une révolte romaine, et qui ne se rétablit sur le Saint-Siège qu’avec l’intervention du roi franc.

Alcuin, dans de nombreuses lettres à son maître, l’exhortait à ne pas obéir aux autorités ecclésiastiques. Dans l’une de ces lettres, il précise l’ordre hiérarchique du monde chrétien:

« Trois dignités ont été jusqu’ici les plus élevées au monde. La première est la dignité apostolique qui donne le droit de gouverner en qualité de vicaire le siège du bienheureux Pierre, prince des apôtres. Comment celui qui le détient a été traité, je le sais par vous-même – il est question ici de la révolte contre Léon III. La deuxième est la dignité impériale avec l’administration séculière de la seconde Rome – Constantinople est le siège de l’empire d’Orient. Par quel acte impie le maître de l’Empire a été dépossédé non par des étrangers, mais par ses propres concitoyens, tout le monde le sait – Irène, veuve de l’Empereur Léon IV prit le pouvoir à la mort de son mari. Mais lorsque son fils Constantin VI devint majeur en 790, elle lui fit crever les yeux et le détrôna. La troisième est la dignité royale que Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ vous a donnée en partage pour faire de vous le chef du peuple chrétien, plus puissant que le Pape et l’Empereur, plus remarquable par votre sagesse, plus grand par la noblesse de votre gouvernement. »

Il est flagrant ici qu’Alcuin place Charlemagne au-dessus des deux grandes autorités de l’époque, le Pape et l’Empereur. En réalité, la chose est plutôt évidente : le pape est faible et dépend entièrement du bon vouloir de Charlemagne pour conserver son trône, et le siège impérial d’Orient est vacant. Alcuin appelle alors son maître à remplir seul les deux fonctions de pape et d’Empereur : c’est la théocratie impériale que met en place Alcuin en suggérant à Charlemagne d’accéder à l’Empire, ce qui sera fait à la Noël 800.
Conclusion

Alcuin meurt abbé de Saint Martin de Tours — poste qu’il occupait depuis 796 — en 804, soit dix ans avant Charlemagne. Il a été question ici de l’influence d’Alcuin dans le domaine politique à la cour de Charlemagne : comment s’est peu à peu développée l’idée de théocratie impériale, remise en question de la théorie gélasienne – du nom du pape Gélase au Ve siècle – qui voulait la dualité du pouvoir entre temporel et spirituel ainsi que la primauté de ce dernier sur le premier. Cependant, à la mort de Charlemagne en 814, Louis, seul héritier de l’Empereur, va peu à peu perdre de l’influence et de son autorité auprès des ecclésiastiques en réaffirmant la doctrine gélasienne. L’Empereur sera même évincé du pouvoir par son fils Lothaire en 833.

Nicolas Champion
Sources :

·        CHELINI Jean, Histoire religieuse de l’Occident médiéval, Paris, Pluriel, 2010
·        GAUVARD Claude, Dictionnaire du Moyen Age, Paris, PUF, 2012
·        GUILLOT Olivier, RIGAUDIERE Albert, SASSIER Yves, Pouvoirs et institutions de la France médiévale, Paris, Armand Collin, 2011
·        LE GOFF Jacques, Hommes et Femmes du Moyen-Age, Paris, Flammarion, 2012



 Alcuin
Albinus Flaccus, Alkuin, Alchvine

vers 735-804
Il est né à York. Élève d'Aelbert, il lui succède comme maître à l'église épiscopale  d'York. En 781 il rencontre Charlemagne à Parme. En 782 il est nommé par Charlemagne « Maître des écoles du palais». Il retourne en Angleterre en 786 pour des raisons inconnues. Il est en mission pour Charlemagne en 790. En 794 il participe au synode de Francfort. Il est en 796, abbé du monastère de Saint-Martin de Tours où il organise un modèle d'école monastique

Dans sa Vita Alcuini (825) Sigulf signale une théorie musicale dans les œuvres d'Alcuin. Aurélien de Réomé (vers 840-850), dans la seconde partie de son traité, présente les modes selon Alcuin. Il n'existe pas d'autres sources. Nous donnons toutefois un jeu de références qui constituent les sources de la musica d'Alcuin dans la tradition musicologique.

Pour Alcuin, comme pour tous les hommes de ce temps il s'agit non pas d'inventer, mais d'apprendre ce qui a été découvert auparavant par les hommes sages; et les sages ne sont pas les créateurs des arts qu'ils ont transmis; il les ont trouvés, créés par Dieu dans les choses mêmes... Il y a dans les sept arts libéraux, dont les traits sont fixés par une tradition déjà longue, une im-personnalité qui ne laisse aucune place à l'intrusion d'un progrès individuel. L'oeuvre person-nelle ne peut être qu'une oeuvre d'organisation et de transmission. Les philosophes n'ont pas créé mais ont seulement découvert ces arts; c'est Dieu qui les a créés dans les choses naturelles; et les hommes les plus sages les y ont trouvé. Organisateur de l'enseignement dans le royaume de Charles, Alcuin s'est penché sur son contenu. Mais ni les sources ni l'esprit du temps ne poussent à lui attribuer la rédaction d'un traité de musique, un des sept arts libéraux

Manuscrits

  • Ms. Cpv 2269, Wien, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, XIIIe siècle, f. 7v-8r
  • Ms. lat. 776, Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, XIe siècle, provient de la Cathédrale Sainte Cécile d'Albi, f. 147
  • Ms. Lat. 1084, id., origine à l'abbaye Saint-Géraud d'Aurillac, XIe-XIIe siècles, f. 159-160v: Octo toni consistunt in musica [...]
  • Ms. 318, Monte Cassino, Biblioteca Abbaziale, originaire de S. Maria de Albaneto, XIe siècle [Pseudo Alcuin]

Éditions

  • GERBERT MARTIN (1720-1793), dans «Scriptores ecclesiastici de musica sacra potissimum [3 v.]», St.-Blasien 1784; Hildesheim, Olms 1967, (I) p. 26-27

Autres écrits

  • Édition électronique des œuvres d'Alcuin dans la Latin Library
  • FORSTER FROBENIUS, Édition complète des œuvres d'Alcuin. Ratisbonne 1777 [repris par Migne]
  • MIGNE JACQUES-PAUL (1800-1875), Patrologiae cursus completus. Serie latina [221 v.]. Petit Montrouge 1844-1855; Turnhout 1966 (100-101) [œuvre complète, manque quelques lettres]
  • Œuvres complètes. Duchesne, Paris 1617
  • JAFFÉ PH., WATTENBACH WILHELM & DÜMMLER ERNST, Monumenta Alcuiniana. Dans «Bibliotheca Rerum Germanicarum». Berlin 1873 [éd. des lettres d'Alcuin (293 contre 230 chez Migne), poèmes sur les saints de l'Église d'York, la vie de Saint-Willibrord, et la vie d'Alcuin (v. 829)]

Bibliographie

Études musicales
  • ANGIE ARTHUR, Die Tradition der Notenwerte im gregorianischen Choral. Dans «Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch» (29) 1934, p. 22-31
  • BRAMBACH WILHELM, Die Musiklitteratur des Mittelalters bis zur Blüthe der Reichenauer Sängerschule. Dans «Mittheilungen aus der Grossherzoglichen Badischen Hof- und Landesbibliothek», Karlsruhe 1883, p. 5-6
  • EITNER ROBERT (1832-1905), Die Kirchentonarten in ihrem Verhältnisse zu den griech. Tonleitern, nebst ihrer geschichtlichen Entwicklung. Dans «Monatshefte für Musikgeschichte» (4) 1872, p. 169-184, 189-206
  • KAMMERMEIER ALEXANDER, Das Graduale von Albi (Paris BN 776) (thèse). Mainz. dir. Christoph-Hellmut Mahling
  • KORNMÜLLER UTTO, Die alten Musiktheoretiker. Dans «Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch» (1) 1886, p. 1-21; (2) 1887, p. 1-21; (4) 1889, p. 1-19; (6) 1891, p. 1-28; (18) 1903, p. 1-28;
  • MARKOVITS MICHAEL, Das Tonsystem der abendländischen Musik im frühen Mittelalter. Dans «Publikationen der Schweizerischen Musikforschenden Gesellschaft» (II/30), Bern-Stuttgart 1977, p. 100
  • PIETZSCH GERHARD, Die Musik im Erziehungs- und Bildungsideal des ausgehenden Mittelalters. 1932, p. 64
  • SCHULER MANFRED, Die Musik an den Höfen der Karolinger. Dans «Archiv für Musikwissenschaft» (27) 1970, p. 33
  • RISM B III 1, p. 41, 90
  • RISM B III 2, p. 64-59
Autres études
  • BASTGEN HUBERT, Alkuin und Karl des Großen in ihren wiss. und Kirchenpolitik Ansichten. Dans «Historisches Jahrbuch der Görres-Gesellschaft» (32), Köln 1911, p. 809
  • BOAS MARCUS, Alkuin und Cato. Leiden 1937
  • BRÉHIER ÉMILE, La philosophie au Moyen-Âge. Dans «L'évolution de l'humanité», Albin Michel Paris 1937; 1971, p. 46, 49-50, 65, 68
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Le texte attribué à Alcuin (Gerbert)

Octo tonos in Musica consistere musicus scire debet, per quos omnis modulatio quasi quodam glutino sibi adhaerere videtur. Tonus est minima pars musicae regulae. Tamen sicut minima pars Grammaticae littera, sic minima pars Arithmeticae unitas: et quomodo litteris oratio, unitatibus acervus multiplicatus numerorum surgit, et erigitur ; eo modo et sonorum tonorumque linea omnis cantilena modulatur. Definitur autem ita : Tonus est totius constitutionis harmonicae differentia et quantitas, quae in vocis accentu sive tenore consistit. Nomina autem eorum apud nos usitata, ex auctoritate atque ordine sumpsere principia: nam quatuor eorum authentici vocantur. Ad principium eorum sonus refertur, eoquod aliis quatuor quidam ducatus et magiste-rium ab eis praebeatur. Unde et primi altiores, secundi inferiores. Authenticum graeca lingua auctorem sive magistrum dicimus: unde et libros antiquissimos atque firmos authenticos voca-mus: utpote qui pro sui firmitate aliis possunt auctoritatem magisteriumque praebere. Primus autem protus vocatur, id est, primus scilicet tonus. Secundus autem deuterus. Deuteros autem eadem graeca lingua secundarius sive recapitulatio vocatur. Unde et Deuteromium lex secunda, vel legis recapitulatio vocatur. Tertius tritus dicitur, qui similiter, eo quod sit tertius in ordine, triti nuncupatur nomine. Quartus Tetrachius eodem, quo caeteri, modo ab ordine suum vocabu-lum sumpsit; quia videlicet quartum principatus locum obtinet : tetra enim graeci quatuor dicunt. Plagii (obliqui, seu laterales) autem coniuncte dicuntur omnes quatuor. Quod nomen significare dicitur pars sive inferiores eorum: quia videlicet quatuor quaedam partes sunt eorum, dum ab eis ex toto non recedunt; et inferiores, quia sonus eorum pressior est, quam superiorum.

Jean-Marc Warszawski
novembre 1995-juin 2006
SOURCE : http://www.musicologie.org/Biographies/a/alcuin.html

Alcuin
(Alhwin, Alchoin; Latin Albinus, also Flaccus).

An eminent educator, scholar, and theologian born about 735; died 19 May, 804. He came of noble Northumbrian parentage, but the place of his birth is a matter of dispute. It was probably in or near York. While still a mere child, he entered the cathedral school founded at that place by Archbishop Egbert. His aptitude, and piety early attracted the attention of Aelbert, master of the school, as well as of the Archbishop, both of whom devoted special attention to his instruction. In company with his master, he made several visits to the continent while a youth, and when, in 767, Aelbert succeeded to the Archbishopric of York, the duty of directing the school naturally devolved upon Alcuin. During the fifteen years that followed, he devoted himself to the work of instruction at York, attracting numerous students and enriching the already valuable library. While returning from Rome in March, 781, he met Charlemagne at Parma, and was induced by that prince, whom he greatly admired, to remove to France and take up residence at the royal court as "Master of the Palace School". The school was kept at Aachen most of the time, but was removed from place to place, according as the royal residence was changed. In 786 he returned to England, in connection, apparently, with important ecclesiastical affairs, and again in 790, on a mission from Charlemagne. Alcuin attended the Synod of Frankfort in 794, and took an important part in the framing of the decrees condemning Adoptionism as well as in the efforts made subsequently to effect the submission of the recalcitrant Spanish prelates. In 796, when past his sixtieth year, being anxious to withdraw from the world, he was appointed by Charlemagne Abbot of St. Martin's at tours. Here, in his declining years, but with undiminished zeal, he set himself to build up a model monastic school, gathering books and drawing students, as before, at Aachen and York, from far and near. He died 19 May, 804. Alcuin appears to have been only a deacon, his favourite appellation for himself in his letters being "Albinus, humilis Levita". Some have thought, however, that he became a priest, at least during his later years. His unknown biographer, in describing this period, says of him, celebrabat omni die missarum solemnia (Jaffé, "Mon. Alcuin., Vita," 30). In one of his last letters Alcuin acknowledged the gift of a casula, or chasuble, which he promises to use in missarum solemniis (Ep. 203). It is probable that he was a monk, and a member of the Benedictine Order, although this also has been disputed, some historians maintaining that he was simply a member of the secular clergy, even when he exercised the office of abbot at Tours.

Educator and scholar

Of his work as an educator and scholar it may be said, in a general way, that he had the largest share in the movement for the revival of learning which distinguished the age in which he lived, and which made possible the great intellectual renaissance of three centuries later. In him Anglo-Saxon scholarship attained to its widest influence, the rich intellectual inheritance left by Bede at Jarrow being taken up by Alcuin at York, and, through his subsequent labours on the Continent, becoming the permanent possession of civilized Europe. The influences surrounding Alcuin at York were made up chiefly of elements from two sources, Irish and Continental. From the sixth century onward Irishmen were busy founding schools as well as churches and monasteries all over Europe; and from Iona, according to Bede, Aidan and other Celtic missionaries bore the knowledge of the classics, along with the light of the Christian faith, into Northumbria. Both Aldhelm and Bede had Irish teachers. Celtic scholarship appears, however, to have entered only remotely and indirectly into Alcuin's training. The strongly Roman cast which characterized the School of Canterbury, founded by Theodore and Hadrian, who were sent by the Pope to England in 669, was naturally reproduced in the School of Jarrow, and from this, in turn, in the School of York. The influence is discernible in Alcuin, on the religious side, in his devoted adhesion to Roman, as distinguished from particular local or national, traditions, as well as, in an intellectual way, in the fact that his knowledge of Greek, which was a favourite study with Irish scholars, appears to have been very slight.

An important feature of Alcuin's educational work at York was the care and preservation, as well as the enlargement, of its precious library. Several times he journeyed through Europe for the purpose of copying and collecting books. Numerous pupils, too, gathered around him, from all parts of England and the continent. In his poem "On the Saints of the Church of York", written, probably, before he took up his residence in France, he has left us a valuable description of the academic life at York, together with a list of the authors represented by its catalogue of books. The course of studies embraced, in the words of Alcuin, "liberal studies and the holy word", or the seven liberal arts comprising the trivium and the quadrivium, with the study of Scripture and the Fathers for those more advanced. A feature of the school that deserves mention was the organization of studies on the modern plan, the students being separated into classes, according to the subjects and divisions of subjects studied, with a special teacher for each class. But it was when he took charge of the Palace School that the abilities of Alcuin were most conspicuously shown. In spite of the influence of York, learning in England was declining. The country was a prey to dissensions and civil wars, and Alcuin perceived in the growing power of Charlemagne and his eagerness for the development of learning an opportunity such as even York, with all its pre-eminence and scholastic advantages, could not afford. Nor was he disappointed. Charlemagne counted on education to complete the work of empire-building in which he was engaged, and his mind was busy with educational projects. A literary revival, in fact, had already begun. Scholars were drawn from Italy, Germany, and Ireland, and when Alcuin, in 782, transferred his allegiance to Charlemagne, he soon found surrounding him at Aachen, in addition to the youthful members of the nobility he was called upon to instruct, a band of older learners some of whom were ranked among the best scholars of the time. Under his leadership the Palace School became what Charles had hoped to make it, the centre of knowledge and culture for the whole kingdom, and indeed for the whole of Europe. Charlemagne himself, his queen, Luitgard, his sister Gisela, his three sons and two daughters became pupils of the school, an example which the rest of the nobility were not slow to imitate. Alcuin's supreme merit as an educator lay, however, not merely in the training up of a generation of educated men and women, but above all, in inspiring with his own enthusiasm for learning and teaching the talented youths who flocked to him from all sides. His educational writings, comprising the treatises "On Grammar", "On Orthography", "On Rhetoric and the Virtues", "On Dialectics", the "Disputation with Pepin", and the astronomical treatise entitled "De Cursu et Saltu Lunae ac Bissexto", afford an insight into the matter and methods of teaching employed in the Palace School and the schools of the time generally, but they are not remarkable either for originality or literary excellence. They are mostly compilations — generally in the form of dialogues drawn from the works of earlier scholars, and were probably intended to be used as textbooks by his own pupils.

Alcuin, like Bede, was a teacher rather than a thinker, a gatherer and a distributor rather than an originator of knowledge, and in this respect, it is plain to us now, the bent of his genius responded perfectly to the imperative intellectual need of the age, which was the preservation and the representation to the world of the treasures of knowledge inherited from the past, long buried out of sight by the successive tides of barbarian invasion. Disce ut doceas (learn in order to teach) was the motto of his life, and the supreme value he attached to the office of teaching is recognizable in his admonition to his disciples that the idle youth would never become a teacher in his old age (Qui non discit in pueritia, non docet in senectute, Ep. 27). Alcuin was eminently qualified to be the schoolmaster of his age. Although living in the world and occupied much with public affairs, he was a man of singular humility and sanctity of life. He had an unbounded enthusiasm for learning and a tireless zeal for the practical work of the class-room and library, and the young men of talent whom he drew in crowds around him from all parts of Europe went away inspired with something of his own passionate ardour for study. His warm-hearted and affectionate disposition made him universally beloved, and the ties that bound master and pupil often ripened into intimate friendship that lasted through life. Many of his letters that have been preserved were written to his former pupils, more than thirty being addressed to his tenderly loved disciple Arno, who became Archbishop of Salzburg. Before he died Alcuin had the satisfaction of seeing the young men whom he had trained engaged all over Europe in the work of teaching. "Wherever", says Wattenbach, in speaking of the period that followed, "anything of literary activity is visible, there we can with certainty count on finding a pupil of Alcuin's." Many of his pupils came to occupy important positions in Church and State and lent their influence to the cause of learning, as the above-mentioned Arno, Archbishop of Salzburg; Theodulph, Bishop of Orléans; Eanbald, Archbishop of York; Adelhard, the cousin of Charles, who became Abbot of (New) Corbie, in Saxony; Aldrich, Abbot of Ferrières, and Fridugis, the successor of Alcuin at Tours. Among his pupils also was the celebrated Rabanus Maurus, the intellectual successor of Alcuin, who came to study under him for a time at Tours, and who subsequently in his school at Fulda, continued the work of Alcuin at Aachen and Tours.

The development of the Palace School, however, important as it was, was only a part of the broad educational plans of Charlemagne. For the diffusion of learning, other educational centers had to be established throughout the kingdom, and for this, in an age when education was so largely, under the control of the Church, it was essential that the clergy should be a body of educated men. With this object in view, a series of decrees or capitulars were issued in the name of the Emperor, which enjoined upon all clerics, secular as well as regular, under penalty of suspension deprivation of office, the ability to read and write and the possession of the knowledge requisite for the intelligent performance of the duties of the clerical state. Reading-schools were to be established for the benefit of candidates for the priesthood, and bishops were required to examine their clergy from time to time, to ascertain the degree of their compliance with these educational laws. A scheme for universal elementary education was also projected. A capitular of the year 802 enjoined that "everyone should send his son to study letters, and that the child should remain at school with all diligence until he should become well instructed in learning" (West, 54). Following the decrees of the Council of Vaison, a primary school was to be established in every town and village to be taught by the priests gratuitously. It is impossible to say to what extent Alcuin deserves credit for the organization of the vast educational system which was thus set up, comprising a central higher institution, the Palace School, a number of subordinate schools of the liberal arts scattered throughout the country, and schools for the common people in every city and village. His hand is nowhere visible in the series of legislative enactments referred to; but there can be no doubt that he had much to do with the instigation, if not with the framing, of these laws. "The voice", Gaskoin aptly says, "is the voice of Charles, but the hand is the hand of Alcuin". It was with Alcuin, too, and his pupils that the responsibility rested for carrying out the legislation. True, the laws were only imperfectly carried into effect; the measures planned and partially put into practice for the enlightenment of the people did not meet with complete success; the movement for the revival and diffusion of learning throughout the Empire did not last. Yet much was accomplished that did endure. The accumulated wisdom or the past, which was in danger of perishing, was preserved, and when the greater and more permanent renaissance of learning came, several centuries later, when the light began to pierce through the storm-clouds of feudal strife and anarchy, the foundations laid in the eighth century were still there, ready to receive the weight of the higher learning which the scholars of the new revival should build up" (Gaskoin, 209). Alcuin's poems range from brief, epigrammatic verses, addressed to his friends, or intended as inscriptions for books, churches, altars, etc., to lengthy metrical histories of biblical and ecclesiastical events. His verses seldom rise to the level of real poetry, and, like most of the work of the poets of the period, they often fail to conform to the rules for quantity, just as his prose, though simple and vigorous, shows here and there a seeming disregard for the accepted canons of syntax. His principal metrical work, the "Poem on the Saints of the Church at York", consists of 1657 hexameter lines and is really a history of that Church.

Alcuin as a theologian

Alcuin's work as a theologian may be classed as exegetical or biblical, moral, and dogmatic. Here again the characteristic that has been noted in his educational work is conspicuous it is that of conservation rather than originality. His nine Scriptural commentaries — on Genesis, The Psalms, The Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Hebrew Names, St. John's Gospel, the Epistles to Titus, Philemon, and the Hebrews, The Sayings of St. Paul, and the Apocalypse — consist mostly of sentences taken from the Fathers, the idea, apparently, being to collect into convenient form the observations on the more important Scriptural passages of the best commentators who had preceded him. A more important Biblical undertaking by Alcuin was the revision of the text of the Latin Vulgate. At the beginning of the ninth century, this version had displaced in France, as elsewhere throughout the Western Church, the Old Itala (Vetus Itala) and other Latin versions of the Bible; but the Vulgate, as it existed, showed many variants from the original of St. Jerome. Uniformity in the sacred text was in fact, unknown. Every church and monastery had its own accepted readings, and varying texts were often to be found in the Bibles used in the same house. Other scholars besides Alcuin were engaged in the task of endeavouring to remedy this condition. Theodulph of Orléans produced a revised text of the Vulgate which has survived in the "Codex Memmianus". The original work of Alcuin has not come down to us, the carelessness of copyists and the extensive usage to which it attained having led to numberless, though for the most part unimportant variations from the standard he sought to fix. In his letters he simply mentions the fact that he is engaged, by the order of Charlemagne, "in emendatione Veteris Novique Testamenti" (Ep., 136). Four Bibles are shown by the dedicatory poems affixed to them to have been prepared by him, or under his direction at Tours, probably during the years 799-801. In the opinion of Berger the "Tours Bibles" all represent in a greater or less degree, notwithstanding their variations in detail, the original Alcuinian text (Hist. de la vulg., 242). Whatever the exact changes made by Alcuin in the Bible text may have been, the known temper of the man, no less than the limits of the scholarship of the age, makes it certain that these changes were not of a far-reaching kind. The idea being, however, to reproduce the genuine text of St. Jerome, so far as possible, and to correct the gross blunders which disfigured the Sacred writings, the Biblical work of Alcuin was, from this point of view, important. Of the three brief moral treatises Alcuin has left us, two, "De virtutibus et vitiis", and "De animae ratione", are largely abridgments of the writing of St. Augustine on the same subjects, while the third, "On the Confession of Sins", is a concise exposition of the nature of confession, addressed to the monks of St. Martin of Tours. Closely allied to his moral writings in spirit and purpose are his sketches of the lives of St. Martin of Tours, St. Vedast, St. Riquier, and St. Willibrord, the last being a biography of considerable length.

It is upon his dogmatic writings that the fame of Alcuin as a theologian principally rests. Against the Adoptionist heresy he stood forth as the foremost champion of the Church. It is a proof of his power of penetration — a quality of mind which some historians appear to deny him altogether — that he so clearly perceived the essentially heretical attitude of Felix and Elipandus toward the Christological question, an attitude whose heterodoxy was shrouded perhaps even from their own eyes in the beginning, by the specious distinction between natural and adoptive sonship; and it was a worthy tribute to the range of his patristic scholarship when Felix, the chief intellectual defender of Adoptionism, after the disputation with Alcuin at Aachen, acknowledged the error of his position. The condemnation of the rising heresy by the Synod of Regensburg (Ratisbon), in 792, having failed to check its spread, another and a larger synod, composed of representatives of the Churches of France, Italy, Britain, and Galicia, was convened at Frankfort by the order of Charles, in 794. Alcuin was present at this meeting and no doubt took a prominent part in the discussions and in the drawing up of the "Epistola Synodica", although, with characteristic modesty, he furnishes no evidence of the fact in his letters. Following up the work of the Synod, he addressed to Felix, for whom he had formerly entertained high esteem, a touching letter of admonition and exhortation. After his transfer to Tours, in 796, he received from Felix a reply which showed that something more than friendly entreaty would be needed to stay the progress of the heresy. He had already drawn up a small treatise consisting mainly of patristic quotations, against the teaching of the heretics, under the title "Liber Albini contra haeresim Felicis", and he now undertook a larger and more thorough discussion of the theological questions involved. This work, in seven books, "Libri VII adversus Felicem", was a refutation of the position of the Adoptionists, rather than an exposition of Catholic doctrine, and hence followed the lines of their arguments, instead of a strictly logical order of development. Alcuin urged against the Adoptionists the universal testimony of the Fathers, the inconsistencies involved in the doctrine itself, its logical relation to Nestorianism, and the rationalistic spirit which was forever prompting to just such attempted human explanations of the unsearchable mysteries of faith. In the spring of 799 a disputation took place between Alcuin and Felix in the royal palace at Aachen, which ended by Felix acknowledging his errors and accepting the teachings of the Church. Felix subsequently paid a friendly visit to Alcuin at Tours. Having sought in vain to bring about the submission of Elipandus, Alcuin drew up another treatise entitled "Adversus Elipandum Libri IV", entrusting it for circulation to the commissioners whom Charlemagne was sending to Spain. In 802 he sent to the emperor the last, and perhaps the most important, of his theological treatises, the "Libellus de Sancta Trinitate", a work which is uncontroversial in form, although probably suggested to him during the discussions with the Adoptionists. The treatise contains a brief appendix entitled "De Trinitate ad Fridegisum quaestiones XXVIII". The book is a compendium of Catholic doctrine concerning the Holy Trinity, St. Augustine's treatise on the subject being kept steadily in view. It is uncertain to what extent Alcuin shared in the attitude of remonstrance assumed by the Frankish Church, at the instance of Charlemagne, towards the badly translated and ill understood decrees of the second Council of Nicaea, held in 787. The style of the "Libri Carolini" which condemn, in the name of the King, the decrees of the Council, favours the assumption that Alcuin had at least no direct part in the composition of the work.

Alcuin as a liturgist

Besides his justly merited fame as an educator and a theologian, Alcuin has the honour of having been the principle agent in the great work of liturgical reform accomplished by the authority of Charlemagne. At the accession of Charles the Gallican rite prevailed in France, but it was so modified by local customs and traditions as to constitute a serious obstacle to complete ecclesiastical unity. It was the purpose of the King to substitute the Roman rite in place of the Gallican, or at least to bring about such a revision of the latter as to make it substantially one with the Roman. The strong leaning of Alcuin towards the traditions of the Roman Church, combined with his conservative character and the universal authority of his name, qualified him for the accomplishment of a change which the royal authority in itself was powerless to effect. The first of Alcuin's liturgical works appears to have been a Homiliary, or collection of sermons in Latin for the use of priests. The Homiliary which was printed under his name in the fifteenth century was by a different hand, although it is probable, its Dom Morin contends, that a recently discovered manuscript of the twelfth century contains the genuine Alcuinian sermons. Another liturgical work of Alcuin consists of a collection of the Epistles to be read on Sundays and holy-days throughout the year, and bears the name, "Comes ab Albino ex Caroli imp. praecepto emendatus". As, previous to his time, the portions of Scripture to be read at Mass were often merely indicated on the margins of the Bibles used, the "Comes" commended itself by its convenience, and as he followed Roman usage here also, the result was another advance in the way of conformity to the Roman liturgy. The work of Alcuin which had the greatest and most lasting influence in this direction, however, was the Sacramentary, or Missal which he compiled, using the Gregorian Sacramentary as a basis, and to this adding a supplement of other liturgical sources. Prescribed as the official Mass-book for the Frankish Church, Alcuin's Missal soon came to be commonly used throughout Europe and was largely instrumental in bringing about uniformity in respect to the liturgy of the Mass in the whole Western Church. Other liturgical productions of Alcuin were a collection of votive Masses, drawn up for the monks of Fulda, a treatise called "De psalmorum usu", a breviary for laymen, and a brief explanation of the ceremonies of Baptism.

A complete edition of Alcuin's works, with the exception of some of his Epistles, is to be found in Migne, comprising volumes 100-101 of the "Patrologia Latina". The text of the Migne edition was first published by Froben, Abbot of St. Emmeran, at Ratisbon, in 1777, a previous and less complete edition having been published by Duchesne at Paris, in 1617. A critically accurate edition of the "Epistles" of Alcuin, together with his poem, "On the Saints of the Church at York", his "Life of St. Willibrord and the "Life of Alcuin", composed about 829, is found in the fourth volume of the "Bibliotheca Rerum Germanicarum", under the title "Monumenta Alcuiniana" edited by Jaffé, Wattenbach, and Duemmler (Berlin, 1873). This edition contains 293 of Alcuin's Epistles, against the 230 in Migne.

Burns, James. "Alcuin." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 19 May 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01276a.htm>.

Blessed Alcuin of York, OSB Abbot (PC)

(also known as Flaccus Albinus)

Born in York, England, c. 735; died at Saint Martin's in Tours, France, May 19, 804. Alcuin studied under Saint Edbert at the York cathedral school, was ordained a deacon there, and, in 767, became its head. Under his direction it became a well-known center of learning. Alcuin travelled to Rome to obtain the pallium for his bishop and at Parma met Charlemagne who immediately enlisted his services in the cause of education. He was invited by Charlemagne to set up a school at his court in Aachen, Germany, in 781, where Charlemagne himself became a pupil. Alcuin also became Charlemagne's adviser.


Alcuin was appointed abbot of Saint Martin's Abbey at Tours in 796 by Charlemagne. At Tours he restored the monastic observance with the help of Saint Benedict of Aniane. Later his was abbot of monasteries at Ferrières, Troyes, and Cormery. It is not certain if Alcuin was ever ordained beyond the diaconate, though some scholars believed he did become a priest in his later years.

Under his direction the school at Aachen became one of the greatest centers of learning in Europe. He was the moving force and spirit of Carolingian renaissance and made the Frankish court the center of European culture and scholarship. He fought illiteracy throughout the kingdom, instituted a system of elementary education, and established a higher educational system based on the study of the seven liberal arts, the trivium and the quadrivium, which was the basis of the curriculum for medieval Europe.

He encouraged the use of ancient texts, was an outstanding theologian and exegete. Using his skills he fought the heresy of Adoptionism, which was condemned at the Synod of Frankfurt in 794, and exerted an influence on the Roman liturgy that endured for centuries. He wrote biblical commentaries and verse and was the author of hundreds of letters, many still extant, and a widely used rhetoric text, Compendia.

He died at Saint Martin's in Tours, where he had developed one of his most famous schools. Though his cult has never been formally confirmed, many martyrologies list his name as beatus. He may also have been a Benedictine (Attwater2, Benedictines, Delaney).

ALCUIN, or ALBINUS (735–804), celebrated as a theologian, man of letters, and more especially as the coadjutor of Charlemagne in his great educational reforms, was born at York in the year 735. His English name was Ealhwine. He was educated at the cloister school in his native city, and under the archbishop Egbert, and Ethelbert, the master of the school, a man apparently of wide attainments, acquired a training as many-sided as was possible for the time and with more of a literary tendency than was then usual, except in the Northumbrian and Irish schools. Virgil, in particular, is said to have been the author most studied and most beloved, and the Virgilian influence is distinctly traceable in the Latin poems which form no small part of Alcuin's works. With his master, Ethelbert, Alcuin travelled, as was the custom then, to find something new of books or studies. On his return he began to assist in the conduct of the school, and an increasing share of the labour fell to him when Ethelbert in 767 was raised to the archbishopric of York. On Ethelbert's resignation in 778 the archbishopric fell to one of his former pupils, Eanbald, who was not consecrated till 780, and the conduct of the school and of the rich library connected with it to Alcuin, with the title ‘Magister Scholarum.’ Three years later Alcuin, on his return from Rome, whither he had gone to procure the pallium for Eanbald, met Charlemagne at Parma in 781. Of Charlemagne he is said to have had personal knowledge at an earlier date, though there is no decisive evidence of the fact, and on this occasion the great monarch, who was then planning his organised attempt at elevation of literary studies in his empire, pressed Alcuin to take up his residence at Aachen and lend him the aid of his ability and experience. Alcuin, obtaining the permission of his ecclesiastical superior, yielded to the request and settled on the continent under the protection of Charlemagne, where, with the exception of a two years' visit to England (790–792), he remained to the close of his life. He was sent to England in 790 to arrange a renewal of peace between Charlemagne, and Offa, king of Mercia.

For the first eight years of his long residence with Charlemagne, Alcuin, handsomely endowed by his patron with the abbeys of Ferrières, Troyes, and St. Martin at Tours, was occupied mainly with the education of the members of the royal family itself. The school of the palace was attended by the sons and other near relatives of the emperor, and not unfrequently by the emperor himself. Of the character of the instruction one can judge from the short treatises on grammar, logic, and other elementary disciplines which are extant in Alcuin's works. The matter was the scanty remnant of the older culture that survived in the writings of Augustine and Boethius, in the compendia of Isidore, Capella, Cassiodorus, and in the grammatical writings of Priscian and Donatus. The form was generally the familiar scholastic device of dialogue, in which the master and pupil converse or catechise one another. On the whole there is no originality in these works of Alcuin, but there is a certain freshness which is quite in keeping with his character as not merely a scholastic teacher but a cultivated man of letters, capable of taking a lively interest in general affairs and of advising his great master on topics not ordinarily included in school instruction.

After his return from the brief visit to England, Alcuin was involved in some of the numerous ecclesiastical disputes of the time, and in particular had to exert himself, with pen and personal influence, against a form of the Adoptian heresy which seems to have been troubling the church. He took an important part in the council of Frankfort, at which this heresy was condemned, and compiled a book, ‘Liber Albini quem edidit contra Hæresin Felicis,’ to expose the errors of Felix, bishop of Urgel. In 796 he obtained permission from Charlemagne to withdraw from the stirring life of court and church, and settled at Tours, of which he had been created abbot. The school of Tours, once famous, had fallen into decline, but under Alcuin's stimulating influence it acquired more than its former place, and became the nursery of many other seminaries of like character. It was for France what the school of York had been in England. Even in his retirement at Tours, however, Alcuin did not cease to be the right hand of Charlemagne in all educational matters. He corresponded constantly with him, and was ready with advice or with the aid of his presence on all occasions when required. A few years before his death Alcuin seems to have resigned the conduct of the two abbeys held by him—St. Martin of Tours and that of Ferrières—but still continued his headship of the school at Tours. He died in 804.

Alcuin occupies a distinguished place in the literary history of the middle ages, not on account of his actual writings, but through his position as foremost man of letters in the restoration of teaching under Charlemagne. He was not a profound writer on any subject, nor have his Latin poems much artistic merit, but he was the best representative of a cultured life in a somewhat uncultured time, and his lively, active disposition seems to have harmonised exactly with the functions he was called on to discharge. M. Guizot, in a very admirable lecture (Civ. en France, leç. xxii.), calls Alcuin a theologian, but this does him injustice. Ecclesiastical and theological his interests were, but only because in the church alone was there any intellectual life, and on no point of theological controversy does Alcuin show the temper or training of the theologian by profession.

The writings of Alcuin may be arranged in two groups, prose and verse, and the prose writings may again be distributed into (1) elementary scholastic works, including those on philosophical and scientific subjects, (2) theological works, (3) historical works, (4) letters. To the first subdivision belong the compendia of grammar, rhetoric, and dialectics, with the cognate tracts on orthography and on virtues and the dialogue ‘Disputatio Pippini cum Albino Scholastico’ (Albinus was a name by which Alcuin was often known: he is also called Flaccus), also the essays ‘De Saltu Lunæ,’ ‘De Bissexto,’ and the better known work ‘De Ratione Animæ,’ which is founded on Augustine. To the second belong certain biblical commentaries or scripture interpretations, a treatise in three books ‘De Fide Sanctæ et Individuæ Trinitatis,’ and an essay on practical morals entitled ‘De Virtutibus et Vitiis.’ To the third belong four lives of saints, St. Martin, St. Vedast, St Richarius, St. Willibrord; of these the last is the only one of interest, Willibrord, the missionary to Friesland, having been a Northumbrian and a relative of Alcuin's. The letters, 232 in number, fall into three groups, the first containing the letters to Charlemagne; the second, the letters to friends in England, mainly during the earlier part of his residence in France; the third, letters to Arnulf of Salzburg, his friend and pupil. A summary of the letters to Charlemagne is given by Guizot (as above); a brief account of the others will be found in Ebert (as below). They are all of high interest for the literary history of the period, and give a remarkable insight into the general condition of society. Of the poems the longest and most important is the ‘Carmen de Pontificibus et Sanctis Ecclesiæ Eboracensis,’ which is of great historical value, as giving a picture of the famous school and library at York. It was edited by Canon Raine in 1878 for his ‘Histories of the Church of York,’ in the Rolls Series. The ‘Carmen’ is in hexameter verse, but Alcuin practised himself in various poetical forms, lyric and elegiac, and in his epigrams, metrical epistles, and acrostics, attempts, not always with success, less common metres.

Alcuin's works were first collected by Duchesne in 1617; a better edition is that by Frobenius, ‘B. Flacci Albini seu Alcuini Opera,’ Ratisbon, 1777, fol., 2 vols. in 4. Froben's edition, with a commentary on Revelations, edited by Angelo Mai, is reprinted in Migne's ‘Patrologiæ Cursus Completus,’ vols c.–ci., 1851. Supplements to these will be found in Jaffé's ‘Monumenta Alcuiniana,’ Berlin, 1873, and in the ‘Rhetores Latini Minores,’ ed. Halm, 1863.

[Alcuin's life, founded upon information from his disciple Sigulf, was written by an anonymous author before 829, and is printed by Duchesne, Frobenius, and Migne; later works are: Lorentz's Alcuin's Leben, 1829 (Halle); and translation into English, 1837; Monnier's Alcuin et Charlemagne, 2nd edition, 1863; Werner's Alcuin und sein Jahrhundert, 1876; Guizot's lecture, as above referred to, is a good account; very careful notices in the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, sub voce, by Dümmler, in Ebert, Allgem. Gesch. d. Litt. des Mittelalters im Abendlande, 1880, ii. 12–36, and by the present Bishop of Chester in the Dict. Christian Biog. Original notices of Alcuin occur in Eginhard's Vita Caroli Magni, and in the Chronicle of the Monk of St. Gall, in Jaffa's Monumenta Carolina.]