Sedulius Scottus

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Sedulius Scotus or Scottus (fl. 840-860) was an Irish teacher, Latin grammarian and scriptural commentator, who lived in the 9th century. Sedulius is sometimes called Sedulius the Younger, to distinguish him from Coelius Sedulius (a 5th-century poet). The usual Irish form of the name is Siadhal, but he appears to have been called Suadbar.[1]


Sedulius Scotus was, during the reign of the Emperor Lothair (840-855), one of a colony of Irish teachers at Liège. It appears from the manuscript records of the 9th century that there was a teacher at St. Lambert, Liège, who was known as Sedulius Scotus, and was a scribe and a poet. He was a student of Greek, and, according to Bernard de Montfaucon, it was he who copied the Greek Psalter (now no. 8047 in the "Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal", Paris). His poems, to the number of ninety, are published by Traube in the Poetae Aevi Carolini, which is a portion of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica.

It is quite probable that, towards the end of his days, he went to Milan, following the example of his countryman, Dungal, who established a school at Pavia. When and where he died is unknown.


Sedulius's most important works are his treatise De Rectoribus Christianis, a commentary on Porphyry's Isagoge, or introduction to the logic of Aristotle, and a scriptural commentary Collectanea in omnes beati Pauli Epistolas. The first of these is a noteworthy contribution to Christian ethics. It is the first, apparently, of a long line of treatises written during the Middle Ages for the instruction of Christian princes and rulers, a dissertation on the duties peculiar to that state of life, a Mirror for Princes, as such works came to be called at a much later period.

Sedulius's work shows, among other traits, a deep moral feeling, a realization of the fact that the mission of the state is neither purely economic on the one hand nor exclusively ecclesiastical, on the other. The question of the relations between Church and State had, indeed, been raised, and Sedulius affirms the rights of the Church, to defend them. He is not on the side of those who, seeing in Charlemagne the ideal of a pontiff and ruler in one person, were in favor of the idea that the prince should in fact be supreme in matters religious. On the contrary, he is in favor of a division of temporal and spiritual powers and requires of the prince a careful observance of the Church's rights and privileges. The description of the qualifications of the Queen[2] is not only Christian in feeling and tone, but also humanistic, in the best sense of the word.

The commentary on the Isagoge was known in Western Europe in the Latin version only.

Not the least interesting of the writings of Sedulius are his letters, some of which are published in the "Neues Archiv", II, 188, and IV, 315. In them are narrated the vicissitudes of the Irish exiles on the Continent, and an insight is given into the attitude towards those exiles by the authorities, civil and ecclesiastical, as well as by the people.

"The Scholars of Clonard"[edit]

The poem, "The Scholars of Clonard", is attributed to Sedulius:

Look on the marble columns surpassing the stars,
which the sand of the saint-bearing land supports here
happy, famous Ailerán, Vinnau, Fergus,
shining lights made by gift-carrying God.
O He sent a great present of Scotia [i.e.Ireland],
rich relics which Pictonia [i.e. Poitiers] wishes to be its own,
whence comes Titan and where night established the stars
and where midday is hot with blazing hours
[i.e. the east and the west and the south].

(The Celtic Latin Tradition of Biblical Style, p. 129, edited and translated by David Howlett, Dublin, 1995)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ See Dáibhí Ó Cróinín', 'The Irish as Mediators of Antique Culture on the Continent', in Paul Leo Butzer and Dietrich Lohrmann (eds.), Science in Western and Eastern Civilization in Carolongian Times (Basel, Boston, and Berlin: Birkhäuser Verlag, 1993), 41-52 at 50-1.
  2. ^ Hellmann, pp. 34 sq.
  • Hellmann, Sedulius Scotus (Munich 1906); Cath. Univ. Bulletin (April, 1898, and July, 1907)
  • Montague, John, ed. The Faber Book of Irish Verse (1974); Nune Viridant Segetes and Apologia Pro Vita Sua, p. 65.

External links[edit]

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Sedulius Scotus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.