Kastílie 1312

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Education in medieval Castile

Teacher lectures at general school. Cantigas de Santa Maria 265, Florencia MSBR20, folio 24v.

Codex of laws by Alfonsao X. called “The Livro de las legies”, now more commonly known as the “Siete Partidas”, dating from 1265, devotes a separate section to education. According to the king, the education is one of the pillars of defense and brings profits to the country.

Therefore, the King supports the creation of schools, as a community of masters and disciples, established on selected site with the intention of teaching science. The King's support includes a regular annual salary for school teachers, the protection of teachers, pupils and their messengers on the road to and from school and at the school's headquarters. Schools, their teachers and students are, according to the king's order, protected by the canonical law.

King defines general schools and special schools.

General school can only be established by the Pope, the Emperor or the King. General schools are required to provide at least one teacher for each of the following subjects: grammar, logic, rhetoric and law. Optional but desirable subjects are arithmetic, geometry, astrology.

A special school may be established by the prelate or the board of the local government. It is taught by single master.

cantigas_de_santa_maria-004-sml.jpg Cantigas de Santa Maria 004, special, church school for children. Both Christian and Jewish children do attend.

To establish a school, the king recommends choosing a city with clean air and a lovely environment. Teachers are paid yearly salary. Amount of salary depends on the depth of master's knowledge and on the subject being taught. The salary is paid in three installments - at the start of studies, at Easter and on the feast of St. John the Baptist. In the case of a long-term illness, the master receives the rest of the salary till the end of the school year. In the event of master's death, the remainder of the annual salary is paid to his heirs.

Payrolls from the University of Salamanca to year 1254 AD declare the payment of 500 maravedís to civil law masters, one canon law decretalist receives 300, two decretalists got 500 each, two grammar masters get 200 each, two medicine masters get 200 each, pedel gets 200 and the music teacher receives 50 maravedís. Maravedí had a book value of 22g of silver at that time. The University of Salamanca was the first to teach and award diploma for music practice.

According to the law, legal science is and has been a source of justice, and it is more beneficial to the world than all others. That is why masters of law are most respected and have special privileges. Immediately after the appointment, they are titled masters and receive a peerage. The door to the king is open to them at any time, the judges must show them honor and offer a seat. They do not have to pay taxes and no one can demand military or any other service from them. After 20 years of teaching they are entitled to the earl's title.

Teaching is done by reading pre-approved books and providing explanations.

The law foresees that masters and students may come from foreign countries and are therefore are allowed to form study fraternities and associations. They may meet at any time to decide on the study circumstances and to protect their persons and property. They can also elect a Rector, a person superior to everyone in the school. The Rector protects the good name of the school and punishes pupils when needed. Apart from the matter of bloodshed, the disputes between students are primarily decided by their master.

The school bookseller is responsible for study books and selling or renting them to students. The quality of the information in the books offered by the bookseller must be assessed by the Rector's committee before the commencement of instruction. The bookseller also supervises students who make copies of books.

Furthermore, the law describes how the master examinations take place. Who wants to become a master must first be a student, or properly complete the studies. Afterwards, his integrity, good reputation and good manners are examined in a secret investigation. The Commission shall examine his knowledge of the scientific books which the future master wishes to teach. It examines both expert understanding of text and commentary, as well as explanatory skills and purity of style. Finally, he promises that he will teach his discipline of science well and conscientiously and that he offered no bribe to the commission members.

It should be noted that the law code does not distinguish between church and secular schools. Nor does it mention private teachers and monastic education. Similar school laws were established in Central Europe at the turn of 16-17. stol.n.l.

Cantigas de Santa Maria by Alfonso X., 1284, depicts students at lecture in general school and children attending the lecture at special school. Cantigas provide us additional information that not only Christian but also Jewish students attended the school. Cantigas depict the monastery reading rooms many times as well. In Libro de los Juegos we find illuminations of the royal scriptorium.

jewish-scribes.jpg Libro de los Juegos, royal scriptorium

Three universities had been established in Castile by the end of the 13th century. Salamanca, Valladolid (1241) and Madrid (Alcalá) (1293). In Portugal, the university in Coimbra was founded in 1290.

map_of_medieval_universities.jpg map of medieval universities in Europe with foundation dates

The school at Salamanca has been operating continuously since 1164, making it one of the world's oldest universities. Originally it was founded as a church school and in 1218 the study was open to everyone interested. In 1252 King Alfonso X granted the University of Salamanca the status of a university, which was ratified by Pope Alexander IV in 1255. At the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, students most often travelled to Bologna, Paris, Montpellier and Salamanca. Universities in Oxford and Paris were selective and focused on theology, trivia and quadrivia. Law, medicine, logic, grammar and music were taught in Salamanca and Bologna. Theology was not taught in Salamanca until the end of the 14th century. The University of Salamanca was the first in the world to make its library available to the public. At the end of the 14th century, between 500-600 students visited lectures at Salamanca. The students were exclusively male and there were more clerics than laymen among the students. According to some sources, the first Spanish women, Juliana Morell, received a doctorate in law in 1608 in Avignon. Teaching was done in Latin. Till the 15th century, the teaching was done in the Monastery of the Old Cathedral, houses rented by the Town Hall and in the Church of St. Benito. Before founding of Charles University in Prague in 1348, the University of Salamanca, Spain, was a frequent target of Czech students when they completed the education offered by the Vyšehrad Chapter.

768px-salamanca_san_benito_noche.jpg Church of st. Benito in Salamanca. University teaching took place here till the 15th century AD.

capilla_de_santa_catalina-catedral_vieja_de_salamanca-university-master-exam.jpg Chapel of st. Catherine in the Old Cathedral of Salamanca. Till the 15th century, students of the University of Salamanca took examinations for the master of the field in this place. Part of university library was stored here too.



Cantigas de Santa Maria 2, saint Ildefons from Toledo in archbishop's study room.


Cantigas de Santa Maria 56, monk in the monastery study room.


Cantigas de Santa Maria 138, left st. John Chrysostom in his study room.


Cantigas de Santa Maria 7. Savants and artists frequently worn biret called “capiello un forma de boina”. Here bishop with his suite.


Cantigas de Santa Maria 119. The judge in a costly suit enjoys rich feast, while being fanned by peacock feather flabellum. He wears noble's hat called “capiello caballero”, declaring he belongs to the peerage.


Vidal Mayor, Kingdom of Aragón, 1290-1310. The judge hears lawyer with his client.


In 1252, king Jaime I receives the first manuscript of the Aragonese Fueros (laws), from the bishop, lawyer and his mentor Vidal de Canellas. This manuscript later became the law code Vidal Mayor. In the lower scene we can see a court with a royal family, rich noblemen and magnates.


Student manuscript for teaching geometry, Oxford, England, circa 1300 AD. Ink and pigment on parchment 17.5 x 12.5 cm.