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Alcuin, the Scholar

The Essay, Anglo-Saxon Portraits Episode 16 of 30

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 28 January 2013

The Anglo Saxons are somewhat out of fashion, yet the half millennium between the creation of the English nation in around 550 and the Norman Conquest in 1066 was a formative one.

This major series rediscovers the Anglo-Saxons through vivid portraits of thirty key individuals.

16. Alcuin. Mary Garrison from York University tells the story of one of York's most influential sons, Alcuin. In the eighth century, Alcuin was one of the most learned and influential men of the early Middle Ages and was remembered by contemporaries as 'the most learned man anywhere to be found'.

Mary paints a vivid portrait of this scholar whose legacy survives today in the liturgy and the style of manuscript lettering. His love of books created one of most important libraries of the middle age and he was one of the finest teachers of the eighth century. 'The light of understanding is natural to human minds', he said, 'just as flint has a spark within it by nature, but the understanding remains dormant like the spark in the flint without the frequent attention of the teacher.'

Producer: Sarah Taylor.


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  • Anglo-Saxon Portraits

    A series which rediscovers the Anglo-Saxons through vivid portraits of individuals.

  • Arts, Jazz & World

    A selection of Radio 3's arts, drama, world music and jazz programmes.


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