cathedral school


Cathedral schools began in the
Early Middle Ages The Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages (historiography), Dark Ages, is typically regarded by historians as lasting from the late 5th or early 6th century to the 10th century. They marked the start ...
as centers of advanced education, some of them ultimately evolving into
medieval universities A medieval university was a Corporation#History, corporation organized during the Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, similarly to th ...
. Throughout the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the 5th to the late 15th centuries, similarly to the Post-classical, Post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roma ...
and beyond, they were complemented by the
monastic school Monastic schools ( la, Scholae monasticae) were, along with cathedral school Cathedral schools began in the Early Middle Ages The Early Middle Ages or Early Medieval Period, sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages (historiography), Dark Ages, ...
s. Some of these early cathedral schools, and more recent foundations, continued into modern times.

Early schools

In the later
Roman Empire The Roman Empire ( la, Imperium Rōmānum ; grc-gre, Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn) was the post-Roman Republic, Republican period of ancient Rome. As a polity it included large territorial holdings aro ...

Roman Empire
, as Roman municipal education declined, bishops began to establish schools associated with their cathedrals to provide the church with an educated clergy. The earliest evidence of a school established in this manner is in
Visigothic The Visigoths (; la, Visigothi, Wisigothi, Vesi, Visi, Wesi, Wisi) were an early Germanic people who, along with the Ostrogoths, constituted the two major political entities of the Goths within the Roman Empire in Late Antiquity, or what is ...
Spain , image_flag = Bandera de España.svg , image_coat = Escudo de España (mazonado).svg , national_motto = , national_anthem = , image_map = , map_caption = , image_map2 ...

at the Second Council of Toledo in 527. These early schools, with a focus on an apprenticeship in religious learning under a scholarly bishop, have been identified in other parts of Spain and in about twenty towns in
Gaul Gaul ( la, Gallia) was a region of Western Europe Western Europe is the western region of Europe. The region's countries and territories vary depending on context. Beginning with foreign exploration during the Age of Discovery, roughly fro ...

(France) during the sixth and seventh centuries. During and after the mission of
St Augustine
St Augustine
to England, cathedral schools were established as the new dioceses were themselves created (
Canterbury Canterbury (, ) is a and , situated in the heart of the , a local government district of , England. It lies on the . The is the of the and the worldwide owing to the importance of , who served as the to the around the turn of the 7th ...
597, Rochester 604,
York York is a cathedral city with Roman origins at the confluence of the rivers River Ouse, Yorkshire, Ouse and River Foss, Foss in North Yorkshire, England. It is the historic county town of Yorkshire. The city has long-standing buildings and str ...
627 for example). This group of schools forms the oldest schools continuously operating. A significant function of cathedral schools was to provide
boy A boy is a young male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female gamete, or ovum, in the process of fertilization. A male cannot sexual reproduction, reproduce ...
trebles for the choirs, evolving into choir schools, some of which still function as such.
Charlemagne Charlemagne ( , ) or Charles the Great ( la, Carolus Magnus; 2 April 748 – 28 January 814) was King of the Franks The Franks The Franks ( la, Franci or ) were a group of Germanic peoples The historical Germanic peoples (fro ...

, king of the Franks and later Emperor, recognizing the importance of education to the clergy and, to a lesser extent, to the nobility, set out to restore this declining tradition by issuing several decrees requiring that education be provided at monasteries and cathedrals. In 789, Charlemagne's '' Admonitio Generalis'' required that schools be established in every monastery and bishopric, in which "children can learn to read; that psalms, notation, chant, computation, and grammar be taught." Subsequent documents, such as the letter ''
De litteris colendisThe is a well-known letter addressed by Emperor Charlemagne Charlemagne (; ) or Charles the Great or ''Carolus'', whence in English or in German (for this individual, specifically ''Karl der Große''). The French form and the Italian or ...
'', required that bishops select as teachers men who had "the will and the ability to learn and a desire to instruct others" and a decree of the
Council of Frankfurt The Council of Frankfurt, traditionally also the Council of Frankfort, in 794 was called by Charlemagne Charlemagne (; ) or Charles the Great or ''Carolus'', whence in English or in German (for this individual, specifically ''Karl der Gro ...
(794) recommended that bishops undertake the instruction of their clergy. Subsequently, cathedral schools arose in major cities such as Chartres, Orleans, Paris, Laon, Reims or Rouen in France and Utrecht, Liege, Cologne, Metz, Speyer, Würzburg, Bamberg, Magdeburg, Hildesheim or Freising in Germany. Following in the earlier tradition, these cathedral schools primarily taught future clergy and provided literate administrators for the increasingly elaborate courts of the
Renaissance of the 12th century The Renaissance of the 12th century was a period of many changes at the outset of the High Middle Ages The High Middle Ages, or High Medieval Period, was the period Period may refer to: Common uses * Era, a length or span of time * Full sto ...
. Speyer was renowned for supplying the Holy Roman Empire with diplomats. The court of
Henry I of England Henry I (c. 1068 – 1 December 1135), also known as Henry Beauclerc, was King of England This list of kings and queens of the begins with , who initially ruled , one of the which later made up modern England. Alfred styled himself ...

Henry I of England
, himself an early example of a literate king, was closely tied to the cathedral school of Laon. C. Warren Hollister, ''Henry I'' (Yale English Monarchs), 2001 p. 25.

Characteristics and development

Cathedral schools were mostly oriented around the academic welfare of the nobility's children. Because it was intended to train them for careers in the church, girls were excluded from the schools. Later on, many lay students who were not necessarily interested in seeking a career in the church wanted to enroll. Demand arose for schools to teach government, state, and other Church affairs. The schools, (some notable ones dating back to the eighth and ninth centuries) accepted fewer than 100 students. Pupils had to demonstrate substantial intelligence and be able to handle a demanding academic course load. Considering that books were also expensive, students were in the practice of memorizing their teachers' lectures. Cathedral schools at this time were primarily run by a group of ministers and divided into two parts: Schola minor which was intended for younger students would later become
elementary school A primary school (in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and South Africa), junior school (in Australia), elementary school or grade school (in North America and the Philippines) is a school A school is a ...

elementary school
s. Then there was the schola major, which taught older students. These would later become
secondary school A secondary school describes an institution that provides and also usually includes the building where this takes place. Some secondary schools provide both lower secondary education (ages 11 to 14) and upper secondary education (ages 14 to 18) ...
s. The subjects taught at cathedral schools ranged from literature to mathematics. These topics were called the
seven liberal arts Liberal arts education (from Latin "free" and "art or principled practice") is the traditional academic program in Western higher education. ''Liberal arts'' takes the term ''Art (skill), art'' in the sense of a learned skill rather than spec ...
grammar In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language, meaning that it is a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise study of language. Linguistics encompasses the analysis of every aspect of language, as well as the me ...
astronomy Astronomy (from el, ἀστρονομία, literally meaning the science that studies the laws of the stars) is a natural science that studies astronomical object, celestial objects and celestial event, phenomena. It uses mathematics, phys ...
rhetoric Rhetoric () is the Art (skill), art of persuasion, which along with grammar and logic (or dialectic – see Martianus Capella), is one of the Trivium, three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetoric aims to study the techniques writers or sp ...
(or speech),
logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is the capacity of consciously making sense of things, applying logic Logic (from Ancient Greek, Greek: grc, wikt:λογική, λογική, label=none, lit ...

arithmetic Arithmetic (from the Ancient Greek, Greek wikt:en:ἀριθμός#Ancient Greek, ἀριθμός ''arithmos'', 'number' and wikt:en:τική#Ancient Greek, τική wikt:en:τέχνη#Ancient Greek, έχνη ''tiké échne', 'art' or 'cra ...
geometry Geometry (from the grc, γεωμετρία; ' "earth", ' "measurement") is, with , one of the oldest branches of . It is concerned with properties of space that are related with distance, shape, size, and relative position of figures. A mat ...

music Music is the of arranging s in time through the of melody, harmony, rhythm, and timbre. It is one of the aspects of all human societies. General include common elements such as (which governs and ), (and its associated concepts , , and ...

. In grammar classes, students were trained to read, write and speak
Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Roman Republic, it became the dominant la ...

which was the universal language in Europe at the time. Astronomy was necessary for calculating dates and times. Rhetoric was a major component of a vocal education. Logic consisted of the criteria for sound or fallacious arguments, particularly in a theological context, and arithmetic served as the basis for quantitative reasoning. Students read stories and poems in Latin by authors such as Cicero and Virgil. Much as in the present day, cathedral schools were split into elementary and higher schools with different curricula. The elementary school curriculum was composed of reading, writing and psalmody, while the high school curriculum was
trivium The trivium is the lower division of the seven liberal arts Liberal arts education (from Latin "free" and "art or principled practice") is the traditional academic program in Western higher education. ''Liberal arts'' takes the term ''Art ( ...
(grammar, rhetoric and dialect), the rest of the liberal arts, as well as scripture study and
pastoral theology All branches of theology, whether theoretical or practical, purpose in one way or another to make priests, pastors, and others in a pastoral role "the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God" ( 1 Corinthians 4:1). Pastoral t ...

Cathedral schools today

While cathedral schools are no longer a significant site of
higher education Higher education is tertiary education Tertiary education, also referred to as third-level, third-stage or post-secondary education, is the education Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge ...
, many
Roman Catholic Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus Romulus was the legendary founder and first king of Rome , established_title = ...

Roman Catholic
Anglican Anglicanism is a Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia * ...

, and
Lutheran Lutheranism is one of the largest branches of Protestantism Protestantism is a form of Christianity Christianity is an Abrahamic religions, Abrahamic Monotheism, monotheistic religion based on the Life of Jesus in the New Testament, life ...
cathedrals operate as
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secondary Secondary is an adjective meaning "second" or "second hand". It may refer to: * Secondary (chemistry), term used in organic chemistry to classify various types of compounds * The group of (usually at least four) defensive backs in gridiron football ...
schools. Most of those listed below are modern foundations, but a few trace their history to medieval schools.


BathurstBathurst may refer to: People * Bathurst (surname) Places and jurisdictions In Australia * Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia and the following things associated with the city ** Bathurst Region, the local government area for the Bathurst u ...
– Cathedral Primary School * BunburyBunbury Cathedral Grammar School *
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St George's Anglican Grammar School *Rockhampton – The Cathedral College, Rockhampton, The Cathedral College *Sydney – St Andrew's Cathedral School *Sydney – St Mary's Cathedral College, Sydney, St Mary's Cathedral College *Townsville – Cathedral School, Townsville, The Cathedral School of St Anne and St James *Wangaratta – Cathedral College Wangaratta, Cathedral College


*Hamilton, Ontario, Hamilton – Cathedral High School (Hamilton, Ontario), Christ the King *Toronto – St. Michael's Choir School


*Ribe – Ribe Katedralskole *Aarhus – Aarhus Katedralskole *Aalborg – Aalborg Cathedral School, Aalborg Katedralskole *Viborg, Denmark, Viborg – Viborg Katedralskole *Odense – Odense Katedralskole *Roskilde – Roskilde Katedralskole *Haderslev – Haderslev Katedralskole


*Turku – Katedralskolan i Åbo


*Paris – :fr:École cathédrale de Paris, École cathédrale de Paris


* Colegio San José de los Infantes (founded in 1781)


*Bangalore – Cathedral High School, Bangalore *Lucknow - Cathedral School of Lucknow, Cathedral Senior Secondary School, Hazratganj, Lucknow

The Netherlands

* Koorschool St Bavo, Haarlem * Kathedrale Koorschool Utrecht


* Bergen katedralskole * Hamar katedralskole * Kristiansand katedralskole * Oslo katedralskole * Stavanger katedralskole * Trondheim katedralskole


*Punjab, Pakistan – Cathedral High School

South Africa

*Cape Town – St. George's Grammar School (Cape Town), St. George's Grammar School *Kimberley, Northern Cape, Kimberley – St Cyprian's Grammar School, Kimberley, St Cyprian's Grammar School


*Linköping – Katedralskolan, Linköping, Katedralskolan *Lund – Katedralskolan, Lund, Katedralskolan *Skara – Katedralskolan, Skara, Katedralskolan *Uppsala – Katedralskolan, Uppsala, Katedralskolan *Växjö – Katedralskolan, Växjö, Katedralskolan

United Kingdom


* The seven King's Schools established, or re-endowed and renamed, by King Henry VIII in 1541, are located in The King's School, Canterbury, Canterbury, The King's School, Chester, Chester, The King's School, Ely, Ely, The King's School, Gloucester, Gloucester, The King's (The Cathedral) School, Peterborough, The King's School, Rochester, Rochester and The King's School, Worcester, Worcester * London – St Paul's Cathedral School (Anglican), Westminster Abbey Choir School (Anglican), Westminster Cathedral Choir School (Roman Catholic) * Bristol – Bristol Cathedral Choir School (a former cathedral school, it is now an Academy (English school), academy) * Chelmsford Cathedral, Chelmsford * Chichester – The Prebendal School * Durham, England, Durham – Chorister School, Durham, Chorister School * Exeter – Exeter Cathedral School * Hereford – Hereford Cathedral School * Lichfield – Lichfield Cathedral School * Lincoln, England - Lincoln Minster School * Oxford – Christ Church Cathedral School * Salisbury – Salisbury Cathedral School * Southwell Minster, Southwell – The Minster School, Southwell * Wells, Somerset, Wells – Wells Cathedral School * Winchester – The Pilgrims' School * York – The Minster School, York


* The Cathedral School, Llandaff * St John's College, Cardiff (the United Kingdom's only
Roman Catholic Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus Romulus was the legendary founder and first king of Rome , established_title = ...

Roman Catholic
cathedral school which teaches up to Sixth Form)

United States

Among others: *Arlington, Virginia – St. Thomas More Cathedral School *Boston, Massachusetts – Cathedral High School (Boston), Cathedral High School *Charlotte Amalie, United States Virgin Islands, Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands – All Saints Cathedral School *Kalamazoo, Michigan – St. Augustine Cathedral School *New York, New York – Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, The Cathedral School, on the Upper East Side *New York, New York – The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine, New York, The Cathedral School of St. John the Divine *Salt Lake City, Utah – St. Vincent DePaul Parish School *Raleigh, North Carolina – Sacred Heart Cathedral (Raleigh, North Carolina), Sacred Heart Cathedral School *Washington D.C. – National Cathedral School (girls) / St. Albans School (Washington, D.C.) (boys) / Beauvoir School (elementary) *Natchez, Mississippi - Cathedral Greenwave

See also

*List of choir schools *Monastic school *Carolingian Schools *School of Chartres *School of Reims



* * *

External links


{{Authority control Cathedral schools, Medieval European education Education in the United Kingdom Independent schools in the United Kingdom, * School types