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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Alcuin of York

Alcuin of York (c. 735 – 804) was an English scholar, who in 782 took up residence at Charlemagne's court in Aachen. He conceived new forms of education reconciling the classical studies of antiquity with those of religious texts. The reforms that he initiated led to the opening of schools throughout the Holy Roman Empire.

In 796 Alcuin was made abbot of Saint Martin's at Tours, where he remained until his death. Alcuin had a reputation for holiness, yet he is not included in the canon of saints and never advanced to holy orders beyond those of deacon.

One phrase of Alcuin is frequently quoted, from a letter to Charlemagne in 800: Vox populi, vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God). In isolation it sounds like an early call for democracy, but this was precisely the opposite of Alcuin's meaning. He urges the emperor that 'those people should not be listened to who keep saying Vox populi, vox Dei, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness'.

His words “Lord, open our lips. And our mouth shall proclaim your praise,” begin many Anglican services.

Alcuin produced the epitaph for his own gravestone, which reads “My name was Alchuine, and wisdom was always dear to me.”

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