07: The World of Learning

“higher” education: assumes a level of previous schooling

Recovery of ancient knowledge, plus modern innovations

Regional variations north and south


Paris, 14th c lecture. Grandes chroniques de France.  – Castres, bibliothèque municipale, ms. 3, f. 277r
Northern Europe: main schools are church-based (monastic or cathedral), from 11th c reforms

Paris: important cathedral school

  • Focus on logical analysis, argumentation
  • Guild model: mastering the art of instruction
  • Papal attention: Innocent III, Honorius III, Gregory IX
  • 1231 Gregory IX grants Paris a charter: ius ubique docendi
  • Other northern cities follow Paris model


Fragment from the tomb of jurist Giovanni da Legnano, Medieval Museum, Bologna

Legal studies center by era of Investiture controversy

Also medicine

Corporate body of students to regulate instruction; then professors

Other Italian cities follow Bologna model; Rome in 1240s

University education and higher clergy

Conflicts over expertise and authority between universities, papacy

Curriculum and organization of subjects

  • Four main faculties: arts, law, medicine, theology
  • 4-5 years at least for B.A.
  • 3-5 with teaching M.A.
  • Doctorate: higher faculties
  • Liberal arts: trivium (grammar logic rhetoric); quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music); “old” Aristotle
  • New translations of ancient texts (Greek to Latin)

New translations of Arabic scholarship (commentaries, new works)

Aristotle, (some) Galen, many more

Logic as key method field




  • 1244-5   Innocent IV: Studium Romanae Curiae
  • 1303 Boniface VIII: bull grants rights to   Studium Urbis
  • 1318  rights affirmed to award degrees in civil and canon law
  • Funding: taxes on subject towns such as Tivoli
  • Theology: mendicants, notably Dominicans (Santa Sabina 1219: Honorius III)
  • Location: near Sant’Eustachio

1370s classes moved to Trastevere

1406 Innocent VII plans to renew university: bull written by Leonardo Bruni

1431 Eugenius IV did renew university

New funding source: tax on imported wine sold in city taverns (17.5%); moved back to Sant’Eustachio Major growth 15th c


Part 2: the Humanist Movement

“rebirth” of letters:

  • Recovery of ancient texts, literature
  • Writing new works

Earliest centers: Padua, Florence.

Rome: 15th+

Private (otium); education (outside university); new career paths; university

Who are our humanists?

  1.   Advocates of a curriculum based on ancient writers, emphasizing eloquent writing   (studia humanitatis)

Grammar, rhetoric, poetry, history, moral philosophy

Rhetoric as key discipline

  1. career paths: urban “Man of letters”: secretary, diplomat, notary, teacher, administrator
  2. reader, writers, editors of classical literature, Greek and Roman

founders of first major European libraries devoted to open access and research

Why ancient models?

  1. ancients wrote better, more eloquently
  2. humanistic studies mold character
  3. Note: sciences are not affected by this at first

Vernacular as well: medieval models (Provencal)

Francesco Petrarca (1304-74) and Rome

  • Exiled Florentine family
  • 1312 Avignon
  • University (Montpellier-Bologna)
  • Back to Avignon: household of cardinal, Giovanni Colonna until 1337
  • Livy and Rome
  • 1337 first visit to Rome; 1340 crowned as poet on Capitoline by Robert King of Naples
  • 1345 Discovery of Cicero’s letters
  • other literary model: Augustine (354-430), who combined eloquence with Christian faith
  • Support for Cola di Rienzo

Rome: ancient grandeur, modern squalor

File:Leonardo bruni, epistole, firenze, 1425-1500 ca. (bml, pluteo52.6) 07 iniziale R.jpg

Bruni, portrait from Bib. Med. Laurenziana

Leonardo Bruni  (c. 1370-1444): Florence with Roman connections

From Arezzo, to Florence to study law; interested in Greek, other humanistic studies

Friend of Poggio Bracciolini

Apostolic secretary: Innocent VII, stayed to work for Gregory XII and Alexander V

1410-11 in Florence as chancellor

1411 Rome: secretary to John XXIII (Council of Constance)

Then back to Florence, chancellor 1427-44


Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459)

  1. near Arezzo,  to Florence to study notarial arts (age 16-17)

In Florence: like Bruni, circle of Coluccio Salutati; Greek language, textual editing

Apostolic secretary: John XXIII (Council of Constance); manuscript collecting Cluny, Fulda, St. Gall

1417-23 England

Papal secretary: Martin V, Eugene IV, Nicholas V

Handwriting reform

Facetiae: in print by 1470 1472 edition

Poggio Bracciolini’s preface to trans. of Diodorus Siculus’ Bibliotheca historica. Dedication copy to Nicholas V.   Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 1812, fol. 1r.

Rome as location for humanists’s career paths

  • New church administration/bureaucracy
  • Natural humanist interest in Rome