Alcuin, Flaccus a native of Yorkshire, England, born A.D. 735, and educated under the care of Egbert and Albert, bishops of York, from whom he learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. Most of the schools of France were either founded or improved by him. He was sent to Rome about 780, and on his return passed through Parma, where he met with Charlemagne, who secured his services, gave him several abbeys in France, and retained him as his tutor and friend during the rest of his life. The palace of Charlemagne was converted into an academy, in which the family and the intimate counsellors of Charlemagne joined the latter in becoming pupils of Alcuin. This academy, in which all the members assumed antique names (Charlemagne called himself David, Alcuin Flaccus, etc.), was the origin of the famous palatine schools in the houses of the princes which so long rivalled the cloister schools in the houses of the bishops. In 794 Alcuin took a prominent part in the Council of Frankfort, at which the theological opinions of the Adoptianists (q.v.) were condemned. About 796 Alcuin retired from the court to the abbey of St. Martin, at Tours, which he soon made the most famous school of the age. He died May 19, 804. His Life, by Lorentz (Halle, 1829), translated by Mrs. Slee, was published in London, 1837. The best edition of his works is entitled Alcuini opera post primam editionem a D. A. Quercitano curatam, etc., stud. Frobenii Abbatis (Ratisbon, 1777, 2 vols. fol.). This edition contains 232 letters from Alcuin, and also several letters from Charlemagne in reply to Alcuin. They are a very valuable source of information for the ecclesiastical history of the age, and extend to the year 787. Other letters, not contained in this edition, have been discovered by Pertz. Alcuin, in these letters, strongly declares himself against all compulsion in matters of faith, and in favor of religious toleration. The theological works of Alcuin comprise Quoestiunculoe in Genesim (280 questions and answers on important passages of the Genesis); Enchiridium seu Expositio pia et brevis in Psalmos Poenitentiales, a literal commentary on the penitential Psalms; a commentary on the gospel of John; a treatise on the doctrine of the Trinity; and a number of homilies or panegyrics on the lives of the saints. He left, besides many theological writings, several elementary works in the branches of philosophy, rhetoric, and philology; also poems, and a ῥlarge number of letters. He is acknowledged as the 'most learned and polished man of his time,' although his writings are chiefly compilations from older authors. The edition of Alcuin, published at Paris by Duchesne in 1617, in one vol. fol., is divided into three parts. Contents of Part I (On Scripture):
1. Interrogationes et responsiones, seu liber Quoestionum in Genesis, containing 181 questions, with their answers, addressed to Sigulphus, his disciple and companion. The last question and reply are very much longer than the others, and were in after times included among the works of St. Augustine. They are also included, with some changes, in the third book of the Commentary on Genesis, attributed to St. Eucherius, bishop of Lyons.
2. Dicta super illud Geneseos, "Faciamus llominemn ad Imaginem Nostram." This has been printed among the works of St. Ambrose, with the title "Treatise on the Excellence of Man's Creation;" and also among the writings of St. Augustine, "Of the Creation of the Man."
3. Enchiridium seu Expositiopia et brevis in 7 Psalmos Poenitentiales, in Psalm. 118 et in Psalmos Graduales; addressed to Arno, archbishop of Salzburg; printed at Paris, separately, in 1547, 8vo, but without the preface, which D'Achery has given in his Spicilegium (old ed. 9, 111, 116).
4. De Psalmorum Usu liber.
5. Officia per Ferias, a kind of breviary, in which he marks in detail the Psalms to be said on every day of the week, together with hymns, prayers, confessions, and litanies.
6. Epistola de illo Cantici Canticorua loco, "Sexaginta sent Reginer, "etc.
7. Commentaria in Ecclesiasten.
8. Commentarium in S. Joh. Evangelium, libri 7, printed at Strasburg in 1527. By the preface at the head of book 6, it appears that Alcuin was at the time employed, by order of Charlemagne, in revising and correcting the Vulgate. Copies of this work in MS. are extant in the library at Vauxelles and at Rome: —
Part II (Doctrine, Morals, and Discipline):
1. De Fide S. Trinitatis libri 3, ad Carolum 1. cum Invocatione ad S. Trinitatem et Symbolo Fidei.
2. De Trinitate ad Fridegicum Quaestiones 28.
3. De Differentia ceterni et sempiterni, immortalis et perpetui AEvi et Temporis, Epistols.
4. De Animce Ratione, ad Eulaliam Virginem.
5. Contra Felicem Orgelitanum Episc. libri 7, This work was composed in A.D. 798, and in the Biblioth. Patrum is erroneously attributed to Paulinus of Aquilea.
6. Epistola ad Elipandum (Bishop of Toledo).
7. Epistola Elipandi ad Alcuinum, a defense made by Elipandus.
8. Contra Elipandi Epistolam, libri; a reply to the above, addressed to Leidradus, archbishop of Lyons, Nephridius of Narbonne, Benedict, abbot of Anicana, and all the other bishops, abbots, and faithful of the province of the Goths. The Letter of Elipandus to Felix, and the Confession of Faith made by the latter after having retracted, are added at the end. The above are all the dogmatical works contained in Part II; the others are works on discipline.
1. De Divinis Officiis liber, sive Expositio Romani Ordinis. This work appears to have been erroneously attributed to Alcuin, and to be the work of a later hand; indeed, it is a compilation made from authors, many of whom lived after his time, such as Remigius, a monk of Auxerre, and Helpericus, a monk of Saint-Gal, who lived in the eleventh century.
2. De Ratione Septuagesimae, Sexagesimae, et Quinquagesimae Epistola; a letter to Charlemagne on this subject, and on the difference in the number of weeks in Lent, together with the emperor's reply.
3. De Baptismi Caeremoniis, ad Odwynum Presb. Epistola.
4. De iisdem Crerem. alia Epistola. Sirmondus attributes this to Amalarius, archbishop of Treves; and, as the writer speaks of himself as "archbishop," having. "suffragans" under him, it cannot be the work of Alcuin, who was only deacon. It appears from this letter that triple immersion was in use at that period, as well as the custom of giving the holy eucharist and confirmation to the newly baptized.
5. De Confessione Peccatorum, ad Pueros S. Martini Epistola.
6. Sacramentorum Liber, containing the collects, secrets, prefaces, and post-communions for 32 different masses.
7. Homilier 3,
8. Vita Antichristi, ad Carolum M.; this is properly the work of Adso, abbot of Montier-en-Der.
9. De Virtutibus et Vitiis, addressed to Count Wido or Guido. This is one of the chief of the moral treatises of Alcuin, and is divided into 36 chapters. Various discourses, placed in the appendix to the works of St. Augustine, are taken from this treatise, viz., those numbered 254, 291, 297, 302, and 304 in the new edition.
10. De vii A tibus liber imperfectus, containing only what relates to grammar and rhetoric. The preface is the same with that which Cassiodorus puts at the head of his work on the same subject.
11. Grammatica. This was printed separately at Hanau in 1605.
12. De Rhetorica et de Virtutibus Dialogus (Paris, 1599).
13. Dialectica. Like the last, is in the form of a dialogue between Alcuin and Charlemagne (Ingolstadt, 1604).
14. Disputatio Regalis. A familiar dialogue between Pepin, afterward king of Italy, and Alcuin —
Part III (History, Letters, and Poetry):
1. Scriptum de Vita S. Martini Turonensis.
2. De Transitu S. Martini Sermo.
3. Vita S. Vedasti Episcopi A trebotensis; written about 796, at the request of the abbot Rado.
4. Vita Beatissimi Richardi, Presbyteri.
5. De Vita S. Willebrordi Trajectensis Epis. libri 2,
6. One hundred and fifteen letters, exclusive of many fragments of letters given by William of Malmesbury.
7. Poemata et Versus de pluribus SS. Many of these, however, are erroneously attributed to Alcuin.
Since Duchesne's edition, the following have been printed:
1. Treatise of the Procession of the Holy Spirit. This work is divided into three parts. In Part I he shows that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and from the Son; in Part II that He is the Spirit of the Father and of the Son; and in Part III that He is sent by the Father and by the Son. It is dedicated to Charlemagne; but as the name of Alcuin nowhere appears in the book, the only ground for believing it to be the work of Alcuin is the act of donation by which Didon, bishop of Laon (who was nearly contemporary with Alcuin), gave the MS. of the work to his cathedral church, prohibiting its ever being taken away from the library of that church under pain of incurring the anger of God and the Blessed Virgin. This may probably be the cause why the work was so long concealed.
2. Various letters — three of which are given by D'Achery, in his Spicilegium; one in the Irish letters of Archbishop Usher, published at Paris in 1665; two in the 5th volume of the Acts of the order of St. Benedict; three given by Baluze, in his Miscellany; twenty-six by Mabillon, in his Analecta, together with a poem, in elegiac verses. Baluze also gives Epistola et Praefatio in libros 7, ad Felicem Orgelitanum, 4, 413.
3. Two poems published by Lambecius.
4. Homilia de die natali S. Vedasti (Bollandus, February, p. 800).
5. Libri Quatuor Carolini de Imaginibus, attributed by Roger de Hoveden, in his Annals, to Alcuin.
6. Poema Heroicum de Pontificibus Anglis et SS. Ecclesiae Eboracensis, containing 1658 verses. Thomas Gale, dean of York, caused this to be printed from two MSS. Oudinus attributes this poem to Fridegodus, a Benedictine, who lived about 960.
7. Commentaries Brevis in Cantica Canticorum. Cave and others regard this as the same originally with the explication of the text, "Sexaginta sunt reginae," etc., in the first part of Duchesne's volume.
8. Breviarium fidei adversus Arianos, by Sirmondus (Paris, 1630); attributed to Alcuin by Chiffiet, on the authority of a MS.
9. The catalogue of the library of Centula mentions a Lectionary, indicating the epistles and gospels for every festival and day in the year, which was corrected and put in order by Alcuin. This is given by Pamelius in his collection of liturgical works (Cologne, 1561, 1571, and 1609, p. 1309).
10. A Book of Homilies, attributed to Alcuin by the author of his life, although probably he only corrected the Homiliary of Paul, the deacon, which was in two volumes, as well as that attributed to Alcuin. If the latter wrote a homiliary, it has not yet seen the light. (See Mabillon, Analecta, p. 18.) The Book of Homilies attributed to Alcuin, but really the work of Paul, was printed at Cologne in 1539.
11. Confessio Fidei; published as the work of Alcuin, with other treatises by Chifflet, at Dijon, 1656, 4to. It has been doubted by some writers whether Alcuin was really the author. Mabillon (Analecta, 1, 178, or 490 in the folio edition) gives proofs to show that he was so, one of which is, that the MS. itself from which Chifflet printed it assigns it to him by name. Besides all these works, some of the writings of Alcuin have been lost, others still remain in MS.: only, and others again have been erroneously ascribed to him. Some of them have been recently discovered by Pertz. — See Monnier, Alcuin and Charlemagne (with fragments of an unpublished commentary of Alcuin on St. Matthew, and other pieces, published for the first time (Paris, 2d ed. 1864, 32mo); Biog. Univ. 1, 466; Richard and Giraud, who cite Ceillier, Hist. des A ut. Sacr. and Eccl. 18, 248; Landon, Eccl. Dict. s.v.; Cave, Hist. Lit. ann. 780; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. c. 8, pt. 2, ch. 2, § 18; Christian Rev. 6, 357; Presb. Rev. Oct. 1862.