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Saturday 5 April 2014

St. Isidore of Seville, Doctor of the Church (560 - 636) – a patron saint of learning

St. Isidore of Seville 
Isidore was born in Seville in about 560 and after his father’s death he was educated by his brother Leander, Archbishop of Seville. He was instrumental in converting the Visigothic kings from the Arian heresy which all but swamped the Catholic Church with the belief that Jesus was a creation of God, not God Incarnate.  Varieties of Arian thinking persist to this day.

St. Isidore was made Archbishop of Seville after his brother’s death; and he took a prominent part in councils at Toledo and Seville.

The Council of Toledo laid great emphasis on learning, with all bishops in the kingdom commanded to establish seminaries and to encourage the teaching of Greek and Hebrew, law and medicine.

The ancient institutions and classic learning of the Roman Empire were fast disappearing when Isidore was ordained. In Spain a new civilization was beginning to evolve itself from the blending racial elements that made up its population.

For almost two centuries the Goths had been in full control of Spain, and their contempt of learning threatened to put back her progress in civilization.

Realizing that the spiritual as well as the material well-being of the nation depended on the full assimilation of the foreign elements, St. Isidore worked to weld together the various peoples who made up the Hispano-Gothic kingdom.

Arianism, which had taken deep root among the Visigoths as, as mentioned, defeated. Isidore promoted the study of Aristotle. This was long before the Arabs discovered him and seven centuries before 13th-century medieval Christian philosophers, Aquinas and others recovered the work of Aristotle.

Isidore was the first Christian writer to compile a summa of universal knowledge.  His encyclopedia summarized all learning known to the time. In it many fragments of classical learning are preserved which otherwise would be lost.

Isidore was the last of the ancient Christian Philosophers, the last of the great Latin Fathers. He had immeasurable influence on the educational life of the Middle Ages.

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