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18 September 2014
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Viking Conquest: Alcuin of York and the Viking Onslaught

Image of Alcuin of York
Alcuin of York 

Alcuin of York spent much of his life in continental Europe, as an adviser to Charlemagne the Great, and was in close touch with the intellectual élite of his time. His letters and other writings offer a vivid insight into the realities of life during Britain's Dark Ages.

Alcuin of York (c.735-804)

The famous scholar Alcuin of York is one of our best sources of information for the later eighth century. He was educated in the cathedral school at York and became a monk and teacher there.

He was a deacon of York when in 781 he was returning from a visit to Rome, and arrived in Parma. Here he met the king of the Franks - King Charles the Great, known as Charlemagne (768-814) - who recognised in Alcuin a scholar who could help him to achieve a renaissance of learning and reform of the Church. At the king's invitation, Alcuin joined the royal court, and became one of Charlemagne's chief advisers on religious and educational matters.

'This led to ... Latin being restored to its previous position as a literary language.'

Alcuin was made head of the palace school at Aachen, which was attended by members of the royal court and the sons of noble families, and he established a great library there. He revised the church liturgy and the Bible and, along with another great scholar, Theodulf of Orleans, he was responsible for a revival of intellectualism within the Carolingian empire.

This led to many schools of learning being attached to monasteries and cathedrals, and Latin being restored to its previous position as a literary language. In 796, Alcuin became abbot of St Martin's monastery at Tours, where he established a school and library.

Published: 2004-11-08

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