Education of the Laity (2)

Lay cleric teaching boys the Our Father with ornamental initial
St John’s Coll. MS S. 30, f. 72r
Laurent d’Orléans, Somme le Roi
London?, ca 1310–1320

Image reproduced by kind permission of the Master and Fellows of St John’s College

The Somme le Roi is essentially a catechism written to teach the laity the doctrine of the Church, an equivalent for the laity of a Summa to instruct the clergy in theology, of which the Summa theologica of St Thomas Aquinas would be the best example. Texts for use by the laity were in the vernacular, and this was written in Old French but was translated into other European languages. Laurent d’Orléans (d. ca 1300), a Dominican, was the prior of St Jacques, Paris, and confessor to King Philippe III le Hardi of France (d. 1285) for whom he wrote this text around 1280. In its structure, arranging its text around the Ten Commandments, the articles of the Apostles’ Creed, the Beatitudes and the Our Father, together with the Virtues and Vices, it was an ancestor of the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Here is the section of the text on the Our Father illustrated by a miniature of a layman teacher instructing boys, and beginning with the words ‘When first introducing a child to reading teach him the Pater noster’. This luxury copy was probably made in London early in the fourteenth century and is in Anglo-Norman French. The text was adapted into Middle English as the Ayenbite of Inwyt completed in 1340.

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