Monday, October 30, 2017

Sparking Ideas With a Variety of Books and a Lecture...

Last week I read this aloud in our morning time....
Irish monks gathered an incredible store of scholarship from all over western Europe. During the troubled fifth and sixth centuries many scholars came to Ireland from the upheavals of the Continent, bringing with them manuscripts and knowledge of the classical authors. Ireland became the grand repository for this intellectual treasure and the Irish monks copied and codified this information. They wrote commentaries on it, and handed the knowledge on from one generation to the next. They read Virgil and Solinus and, in translation or original, had access to Greek authors. In their geographical concepts the monks understood that the world was round - "like a well-formed apple" was how it was sometimes put. They understood Ptolemy's concept of geography, and could read how the Romans had sent a fleet around Scotland and found islands lying to the north. The flowering of early Christian culture in Ireland, about which so much has been written, was a process that lasted almost five hundred years. Irish monks were acknowledged to be the best-educated and best-informed men in all the western Europe; and in due course they set out to carry their knowledge back into the mainland. They founded schools, advised kings and even emperors (Charlemagne was a great admirer of Irish learning) and established monasteries from Lombardy to Austria. They and their pupils were regarded as Europe's wandering intelligentsia. As a Frankish observer put it, "Almost all Ireland, despising the sea, is migrating to our shores with a flock of philosophers." - The Brendan Voyage by Tim Severin, p. 80
Immediately, it brought me back to a talk by Dr. Christopher Perrin at the CiRCE Regional Conference last January titled something like: The Monastery School: How Classical Education was Preserved and Extended for Almost 1000 Years (and what we can learn from it). Dr. Perrin talked about an idea he got from C. S. Lewis in regard to sometimes when we have lost our way, the quickest way back is to return home. He went on to talk about going back to the monastic tradition to learn from them in an effort toward a classical education renewal, relating this idea of going back to go forward. One of the books Dr. Perrin referenced was How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill, which I happened to find at a library sale after. It has been on my shelf since. However, after reading that quote in The Brendan Voyage and looking back at my notes from Dr. Perrin's lecture, I have moved it to the bedside and am looking forward to reading it soon in an attempt to learn more about Irish academia in the monasteries and the preservation of Western civilization.

Also, in reading Ruben's history lesson last week, the chapter in Famous Men from the Middle Ages was about Charlemagne, who is also mentioned in the quote above from Severin's book. Because of that history reading, I understood who Charlemagne was and the significance of him being mentioned in the quote. Instantly, I was reminded how Education is the Science of Relations and how important it is to spread a wide feast for our children. My relations were sparked by a series of ideas obtained through a lecture and variety of reading. Had I not been exposed to Dr. Perrin's talk and a variety of books, I would not have had those ideas which prompted my desire to learn more about the scholars of Ireland.


  1. I'm reading The Brendan Voyage aloud to my daughter & we're both really enjoying it.
    How the Irish Saved Civilization has been sitting in my Abebooks wish list as I wasn't sure whether it was worth getting. I think I 'll go ahead and buy it!

  2. Yes, we are really enjoying The Brendan Voyage as well. I'm reading it aloud as part of our morning time.

    I can't wait to hear what you think of How the Irish Saved Civilization if you make the purchase! You'll probably get to reading it before me, lol.

  3. Great connections, Melissa! It is always funny to me how I read something somewhere and then all of the sudden it pops up everywhere! I am looking forward to The Brendan Voyage when we get to Year 7. The Perrin lecture sounds wonderful. I think the monasteries' role in preserving literature and knowledge is often overlooked in the shadow of the Renaissance. The Middle Ages definitely weren't as "dark" intellectually as they are often portrayed! ;)

  4. "The Middle Ages definitely weren't as "dark" intellectually as they are often portrayed!" ....I love this Celeste. Oh, so true!