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Alcuin was born about 730 near York into a noble family related to Willibrord, the ﬁrst missionary to the Netherlands. He was educated at the cathedral school in York under Archbishop Egbert, a pupil of Bede. He thus inherited the best traditions of learning and zeal of the early English Church. After ordination as a deacon in 770, he became head of the York school. Following a meeting in 781 with the Emperor Charlemagne in Pavia (Italy), he was persuaded to become the Emperor’s “prime minister,” with special responsibility for the revival of education and learning in the Frankish dominions.
Alcuin was named Abbot of Tours in 796, where he died on May 19, 804, and was buried in the church of St. Martin.
Alcuin was a man of vast learning, personal charm, and integrity of character. In his direction of Charlemagne’s Palace School at Aachen, he was chieﬂy responsible for the preservation of the classical heritage of western civilization. Schools were revived in cathedrals and monasteries, and manuscripts of both pagan and Christian writings of antiquity were collated and copied.
Under the authority of Charlemagne, the liturgy was reformed, and service books gathered from Rome were edited and adapted. To this work we owe the preservation of many of the Collects that have come down to us, including the Collect for Purity at the beginning of the Holy Eucharist.
I. Almighty God, who in a rude and barbarous age didst raise up thy deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray thee, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth thine eternal truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
II. Almighty God, in a rude and barbarous age you raised up your deacon Alcuin to rekindle the light of learning: Illumine our minds, we pray, that amid the uncertainties and confusions of our own time we may show forth your eternal truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 39:1–9
Preface of a Saint (1)
From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.
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