1312 | Vienne

Spreading the Word

Pope Clement V establishes language studies.

Clement, bishop, servant of the servants of God. In perpetual memory of the matter. Imitating the example of Him whose place on earth we unworthily fill who wished the apostles to go throughout the world preaching the Gospel trained in every language, we desire Holy Church to abound in Catholics acquainted with the languages which the infidels chiefly use, who may come to know the infidels themselves and be able to instruct them in sacred institutions and add them to the company of worshippers of Christ by knowledge of the Christian faith and reception of baptism. Therefore, that linguistic ability of this sort may be obtained by efficacy of instruction, with the approval of this holy council we have provided for establishing courses in the languages to be mentioned, wherever the Roman Curia happens to reside, also in the universities of Paris, Oxford, Bologna, and Salamanca, decreeing that in each of these places Catholics having sufficient knowledge of the Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, and Aramaic languages—namely, two trained in each tongue—shall offer courses there and, translating books faithfully from those languages into Latin, teach others those languages carefully and transfer their ability to these by painstaking instruction, so that, sufficiently instructed and trained in these languages, they may produce the hoped-for fruit with God’s aid and spread the faith salubriously to infidel nations.

© 1971 by Columbia University Press. Used with permission of Columbia University Press

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Pope Clement V

From a statute of the Council of Vienne. Serving as pope from 1305 to 1314, Clement V moved the papal residence to Avignon, where it remained until 1377. The edict was in part inspired by Ramon Llull, a Catalan mystic and poet, whose masterwork, known simply as Ars magna, attempted to create a more logical underpinning for Christian apologetics, so as to be more effective in argument against the Muslims. In his native Majorca, Llull convinced King James II of Aragon to create a school for the study of Oriental languages.