European Education: The Middle Ages


Figure 1.--.

After the fall of Rome, formal schooling in the West disappeared. The rare vestiges of school were the song schools of the cathedrals and monasteries. The boys chosen at first were taught to prepare them for holy orders. We have only limited information about the clothing for these early choristers. Formal schooling in Europe outside of church schools were rare in Europe until about the 10th century. The great bulk of the population was iliterate. The number of children attending schools was very limited for several more centuries. There were similarities in the development of schools throughout Europe, but the pattern varied significantly in many areas. We have little information at this time about clothing at these early schools. There does appear to have been some uniformity in the clothing worn by the choristers in the early song schools. This appears to have been less common in the secular schools which slowly developed during the second millennium.

Chronology

After the fall of Rome, formal schooling in the West disappeared. The rare vestages of school were the song schools of the cathedrals and monestaries. The boys chosen at first were taught to prepare them for holy orders. We have only limited information about the clothing for these early choristers. Formal schooling in Europe outside of church schools were rare in Europe until about the 10th century. The great bulk of the population wa iliterate. The number of children attending schools was very limited for several more centuries. We have little information at this time about clothing at these early schools. Even during the late middle ages, the most advanced schools in the Western world were the Arab Islamaic schools called "mederasas". We note grammar schools being founded in England during the 12th century. One such school was the Lancaster Grammar School, one of the earliest such schools in England.

Extent

The medieval era covered a very long period in European history, roughly a millenia--500 Ad-1500 AD. Educational trends thus varied substantially during that long period. Education in the medieval era was very limited. Rome and the Christian West was over run by pagan Germanic tribes (5th century AD). The Germans were a pre-literate, pagan people without schools or any formal system of education. After comquering Western Europe, they became the new ruling, aristocratic class. School for much of Western history was reserved for the children of the well-to-do. The early middle ages were an exeption. The Germanic war leaders had little use fir education. The Germanic leader to begin to promote education was Charlemagne (9th century AD). Learning was not valued and radidly declined in the west. By the late-middle ages education in Europe began to become more widepread. As the pace of commercial activity quickened and cities grew, there were increasing demand for young people with reading abd writing a numeracy skills. At the end of the medieval period, the Protestant Reformation which focused on personal Bible study was a major factor (16th century).

The Church

The only preserve of learning was the Church. Virtunally no one outside the Church learned to read and write. Even the nobiklity in the early-meduieval era was iliterate. Even priests and monks were barely literate. Church authorities attempted to promote learning. Schools were set up in monastaries and important churches. They were for boy choirs as well as boys preparing for holy orders. They schools were some the first established in Western Europe since the fall of Rome. These schools were for boys, but some girls preparing to be nuns also learned to read and write. For centuries, education was the purview of the Church or to much lesser extent Jewish synagogues.

School Types

The types of schools that developed in medieval Europe were quite similar. For several centuries, the monastaries provided theconly schools in Europe, especially during the early-medieval (Dark Ages), but even during the mid-medievl era. Someof these schools survived into the modern era. and exmple is the Batuecas Monastary School in Spain. Only in the late-medieval era did more destinctive schools appear.

School Life

School life was very differet in medieval Europe. Most schools had no access to books. Before printing was developed, books were enomously expensive and were not used in schools. Pupils leared by rote. The abilities of medieval teachers, often called masters, varied greatly. Most were priests, often with only a very basic education themselves. The size of classes varied greatly. Informal parish schools could be quite small. Schools in large cities could have classes of more than 100 boys. Schools were for boys. Medieval Europeans saw no need to school girls, although theymight attend classes in local parish schools. The school day could be quite long. Boys might be at school for more than 12 hours. Discipline could be very strict and the pupils were often beaten.

Universities

At about the same time the Renaissance began (14th century), universities began to develop in Western European cathedral towns. Some of the most important early universities wre located Paris, Oxford, and Bologna. The teachers at these universities were initially monks or priests. Only boys could study there.

Clothing

There does appear to have been some uniformity in the clothing worn by the choristers in the early song schools. This appears to have been less common in the secular schools which slowly developed during the second millenium.

Countries

There were similarities in the development of schools throught Europe, but the pattern varied significantly in many areas.

England

There was of course no comprehensive national educational system in medieval England. As a result a variety of different schools developed. England like other European countries had a variety of different schools. Few children at the time attended these schools and the quality of the teaching was often very poor. I am not sure what kind of schools excisted in England during the Roman era. The only schools we know of in the ealy medieval period (5th and 6th centuries) schools operated by the Church. Although information is limited this must be the case as very few people were literate, including the aristocracy. The few people who were literate were priests, and only some of them. The earliest schools we know of are song schools at cathedrals and monestaries. Song schools served not only to provide coral singers to add to church services, but also to train priests. At first most of the boys in early song schools were preparing for a religious vocation. Thus the St. Albans Chour School is sometimes looked on as the first English school tracing its origins to the monestary sing school in the 6th century. Gradually other schools developed in early medieval England. Unfortunately information on these schools is very limited. Some paish churches set up informal schools. Some monastaries set up almonry schools for the poor. There were also chantry schools. These were also church schools. As the medieval era progressed schools with more secular foundation appeared, but were often still associated with the church either through the curriculum or religious scholars who taught in the schools. The first secular schools which appeared were the schools founded by the guilds which were organized in medieval cities. Then grammar schools began to appear. The grammar schools became a key institution in English education. Much of our knowledge is of the more fully evolved grammar schools from the late medieval era. Many of these schools had royal sponsors, several still operatingbin England bear the name of their royal sponsors. A major development in English education was the appearance of universities (10th century). English universities evolved in cathedral citirs, probably from early grammar schools.

France

The father of French education is generally considered to be Charlemagne, the father of the French nation. Charlemegne (742-814), who was largely uneducated, respected learning and incouraged the resumption of formal education. He reversed the descent toward barbarianism in western Europe that had followed the fall of the Roman Empire. We only have limited information, however on how boys were educated at the time and what they wore.

Italy


Germany


Switzerland

Switzerland was developing as a multi-cultureal country. The majority of the population was German speaking. Schools in the German areas were very similr to those in the German states. An example of a Swiss German school is that of Myconius' school (16th century).

Boy Bishops

A popular tradition at midieval schools, especially cathedral, monastic, and other church schools, was the boy bishop tradition. Gradually the tradition spread and a community or parish might choose a boy bishop from a secular school.






HBC






Navigate the Relate Boys Historical Clothing Uniform Pages
[Return to the Main education history page]
[Return to the Main school uniform history pages]
[Return to the Main medieval page]
[Main garment page]
[Blazers] [Bookbag] [Caps] [Coats] [Hose] [Kilts] [Pants] [Shirts]
[Shoes] [Smocks [Suits] [Seaters] [Ties]



Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing School Uniform Country Pages
[Main School Uniform Page]
[Main National School Uniform Page]
[Australia] [England] [France] [Germany]
[Ireland] [Italy] [Japan] [New Zealand] [Poland] [Singapore] [Scotland]
[Singapore] [United States]



Navigate the Boys' Historical Clothing Web Page
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]



Created: January 16, 2003
Last updated: 5:42 AM 11/3/2015