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The cathedral school of Trondheim, founded in 1152, is the oldest school in Norway. Today, the Katedralskole serves as secondary school.

Cathedral schools began in the Early Middle Ages as centers of advanced education, some of them ultimately evolving into medieval universities. Throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, they were complemented by the monastic schools. Some of these early cathedral schools, and more recent foundations, continued into modern times.

Early schools[edit]

Philosopher on one of the archivolts over the right door of the west portal at Chartres Cathedral.

In the later 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 Spain at the Second Council of Toledo in 527.[1] 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 (France) during the sixth and seventh centuries.[2]

During and after the mission of St Augustine to the Southern British, Cathedral schools were established as the new dioceses were themselves created (Canterbury 597, Rochester 604, York 627 for example). This group of schools forms the oldest schools continuously operating. A significant function of Cathedral schools was to provide boy trebles for the choirs, evolving into choir schools, some of which still function as such.

Charlemagne, 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."[3] Subsequent documents, such as the letter De litteris colendis, required that bishops select as teachers men who had "the will and the ability to learn and a desire to instruct others"[4] and a decree of the Council of Frankfurt (794) recommended that bishops undertake the instruction of their clergy.[5]

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. Speyer was renown for supplying the Holy Roman Empire with diplomats.[6] The court of Henry I of England, himself an early example of a literate king, was closely tied to the cathedral school of Laon.[7]

Characteristics and development[edit]

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 schools. Then there was the schola major, which taught older students. These would later become secondary schools.

The subjects taught at Cathedral schools ranged from literature to mathematics. These topics were called the seven liberal arts: grammar, astronomy, rhetoric (or speech), logic, arithmetic, geometry and music. In grammar classes, students were trained to read, write and speak Latin 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 discovering the art of solving mathematical problems, 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 (grammar, rhetoric and dialect), the rest of the liberal arts, as well as scripture study and pastoral theology.

Cathedral Schools Today[edit]






The Netherlands[edit]


South Africa[edit]


United Kingdom[edit]




  • Bergen katedralskole
  • Hamar katedralskole
  • Kristiansand katedralskole
  • Oslo katedralskole
  • Stavanger katedralskole
  • Trondheim katedralskole

United States[edit]

Among others:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Riché 1978, pp. 126f.
  2. ^ Riché 1978, pp. 282–90
  3. ^ Pierre Riché, Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1988, p. 191. ISBN 0-8122-1096-4
  4. ^ Charlemagne: "De Litteris Colendis"
  5. ^ Pierre Riché, Daily Life in the World of Charlemagne, Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 1988, pp. 192. ISBN 0-8122-1096-4
  6. ^ Geschichte der Stadt Speyer. Vol 1, Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-17-007522-5
  7. ^ C. Warren Hollister, Henry I (Yale English Monarchs), 2001 p. 25.


  • NN (1999), "Domschulen", Lexikon des Mittelalters 3, Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, p. columns 1226–1229 
  • Kottje, R. (1999), "Klosterschulen", Lexikon des Mittelalters 5, Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler, p. columns 1226–1228 
  • Riché, Pierre (1978), Education and Culture in the Barbarian West: From the Sixth through the Eighth Century, Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, ISBN 0-87249-376-8 

External links[edit]

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Natchez Democrat
Mon, 14 Jul 2014 22:15:00 -0700

Congratulations are in order for the Cathedral School family. Last weekend, parents, faculty, students and friends helped furnish the newly constructed Cathedral Middle School building. The 14,500-square-foot building was made possible through generous ...

Wells Journal

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Fri, 11 Jul 2014 05:10:47 -0700

India Cooper brought back a gold medal for Great Britain again after competing in the fourth race of the World Biathle Series. The Wells Cathedral School pupil won the Youth B race in Erding, Germany, completing two 1km runs either side of a 200m open ...

Wells Journal

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Thu, 03 Jul 2014 02:16:09 -0700

Wells Cathedral School pupil Thomas Sinclair won the intermediate boys' 100m butterfly race at the National Schools Swimming Championships in Bristol at the weekend. The Year 11 pupil, who swims for the South West ESSA team, produced a personal ...

Salisbury Journal

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Mon, 07 Jul 2014 05:59:24 -0700

PUPILS at Salisbury Cathedral School made their own films and showcased them in a festival to raise money for the charity HeadSmart. The idea developed from a brainstorming session by the school council to come up with innovative ways to fundraise.

Salisbury Journal

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Thu, 03 Jul 2014 08:17:41 -0700

BUDDING actors at a Salisbury school took to the stage for a heartfelt performance about peace. Year 2 pupils at Cathedral School Pre-prep performed Seed of Peace, which follows the story of two soldiers who travel to different countries in the First ...
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Mon, 28 Jul 2014 08:56:15 -0700

Her father, Sam Nunn, was elected to the Senate when she was six, and Michelle Nunn attended Washington's prestigious National Cathedral School and then the University of Virginia and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government before returning to ...

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