Alcuin (Ealhwine)


b York, c735, d ?Tours, France, c804. He was educated in the cathedral school in his native York under Archbp Egbert, becoming its master in 766 and gaining a scholarly reputation as librarian. In 782 the emperor Charlemagne invited him to court at Parma as an educational and religious adviser, where he rapidly emerged as a leader in the intellectual and cultural renaissance in Europe. After a period of teaching at Aachen, he was made Abbot of Tours in 796, set up a further school and library, and remained there until his death 8 years later. He drew on Augustine and Boethius, teaching by the dialogue method and consolidating the use of Latin; some 300 of his letters survive. Other writings included doctrinal works, educational manuals on maths, grammar and history, and a revised lectionary (a list with a modern ring), but although he also wrote verse such as his metrical history of the church in York ‘in the style of Fortunatus’ (qv), he was not a hymnwriter as such. He is briefly mentioned in the 1907 ‘New Supplement’ to Julian because of one 1901 translation (‘His connection with hymnology is slight’—J Julian), and his name appears in current hymn-books only in relation to the version included here: see notes. References to his hymns being ‘sung in Charlemagne’s court’ are therefore without foundation; though born some 60 years after the death of Caedmon, the first known poet in English, he did nothing to build on Caedmon’s achievement. His Latin works (Opera) were published in Paris in 1617; he was not ambitious, nor ordained beyond the order of deacon, and is described as ‘efficient rather than original’. (The ‘Alcuin Club’ was founded in 1897 to promote certain styles of Anglican liturgy and has no connection with the scholar whose name it adopted.) No.693.

Hymns and songs by Alcuin (Ealhwine)

Number Hymn Name
693 Eternal Light, shine in my heart