Alcuin: Theology and Thought

By Douglas Dales

An insightful and rigorous study of the theology of Alcuin of York, showing his importance in the development of the early medieval Church.

ISBN: 9780227173947


Alcuin: Theology and Thought is a thorough and wide-ranging consideration of Alcuin’s spiritual and intellectual life as a teacher in York, and later on the Continent as a protagonist in the Adoptionist crisis, as a theologian of mission, and as a fearless and prophetic moral authority.

Douglas Dales demonstrates that Alcuin accomplished the pastoral and evangelistic approach set out by his forebears, the Venerable Bede and Gregory the Great, and was instrumental in the reform of the liturgy and proliferation of the Bible. The author examines Alcuin’s surviving works to reveal a depth of human love and spiritual experience that gives resonance to his liturgical writing and prayers, and his sensitivity to the path of penitence, to loyalty to others, to moral rectitude and the desire for holiness. There is no other study in the English language that deals with Alcuin’s theology in depth. Here the author grapples with Alcuin’s doctrinal idiom and theological impetus with sympathy, lucidity, and insight.

Alcuin: Theology and Thought complements Dales’ previous volume, Alcuin: His Life and Legacy, also displaying the author’s academic rigour and dexterity. This book will be of immense value to anyone teaching, or learning about, early medieval history as well as theology in universities.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 360

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Douglas Dales was Chaplain of Marlborough College, Wiltshire, from 1984 to 2012 and is now a parish priest in the diocese of Oxford. He is the author of several studies in Anglo-Saxon church history and other areas of theology, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of Alcuin: his Life and Legacy, Dunstan: Saint and Statesman, Living Through Dying: The Spiritual Experience of Saint Paul and Light to the Isles: Mission and Theology in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon Britain.


Foreword by Dr Rowan Williams
Alcuin’s Principal Writings
Latin and Greek Vocabulary

Part One: Alcuin’s Formation and Reputation
1. The Legacy of Bede
2. Formation at York
3. Scholars at Charlemagne’s Court
4. Controversy over Images

Part Two: The Adoptionist Crisis
5. Spanish Adoptionism
6. The Frankish Reaction
7. Felix and Alcuin
8. Alcuin’s Christology
9. Alcuin’s De Fide

Part Three: Mission, Episcopacy and Monarchy
10. Mission
11. Hagiography
12. Alcuin and the Bishops
13. King Dei Gratia

Part Four: The Bible
14. The Tours Scriptorium
15. Alcuin and the Old Testament
16. Alcuin and the New Testament

Part Five: Prayer
17. Cultivating Prayer
18. Penitence
19. Liturgy

Part Six: Education
20. The Teacher
21. Cultivating the Mind
22. Theology for the Laity

Part Seven: Poetry
23. The Poet and his Friends
24. The Poet at Work
25. Alcuin’s Theology of Friendship



Endorsements and Reviews

Alcuin deserves to be recognised – far more than has often been the case – as a key figure in the evolution of the mediaeval mind; and no one reading this book could fail to see him in this light. This is a fine and welcome tribute to one of the greatest gifts the British Church gave to the wider Catholic fellowship in the early Middle Ages.
Dr Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury

… a thorough and careful account … with full scholarly apparatus and a warm appreciation of Alcuin’s achievement in making the complexities of Augustine and much else intelligible in a different world, which was already under Viking attack as he wrote.
Lucy Beckett, in The Times Literary Supplement, 28 June 2013

… offers an enjoyable introduction to an important period in the history of the Church in Western Europe.
Dr G.R. Evans, in Church Times, 8 November 2013

Covering his life, influences, and works, this book offers its reader a well-researched study in Alcuin. … The book as a whole is quite detailed … and is perhaps more suited to those seeking a more robust academic read. … a useful book on the life and times of a significant Christian figure.
Kris Hiuser, University of Chester, in Theological Book Review , Vol 25, No 2

Douglas Dales’ two books on Alcuin are well researched and well expressed, based on a wide range of scholarship, both historical and theological, and the books combine to provide important source material for scholars working on either Alcuin or his very powerful friend, Charlemagne. … There are excellent sections in both books on Alcuin’s early life and problems in England, and his enforced stay in Europe. His wide ranging literary works are well discussed, as are his relationship with Charlemagne and with his fellow courtiers, and the theological implications are well covered in great depth, and the final chapter on poetry is very interesting. … the two books should serve to reinforce the important role played by Alcuin as a key theologian and significant politician at a very interesting period of European history.
John R.C. Martyn, University of Melbourne, in Journal of Religious History, Vol 38, No 1

Dales’s project is even more ambitious than advertised, embracing nothing less than Alcuin’s entire oeuvre, together with the broader circumstances of Charlemagne’s cultural and religious programs. … The author marshals an impressive body of material, including many extracts from Alcuin’s letters and a broad array of citations to secondary scholarship.
Eric Knibbs, Williams College, in The Medieval Review, 3 May 2014

Comprehensive study on Alcuin of York. The author examines his thoughts and his works, as well as the political role within the court of Charlemagne.
Medioevo Latino, Vol 35, 2014

The notes for the book printed in the back are evidence of Dale’s knowledge of Alcuin’s works, his sources and the extensive scholarship has appeared in recent years.
George Hardin Brown, in Revue D’Histoire Ecclesistique, Vol 109, Issue 1

A survey of Alcuin’s many contributions to the Carolingian intellectual heritage, especially as regards theology, drawing on the rich research of recent decades … This relatively short book will be useful for those studying this period of early medieval history and theology in schools and universities.
Anneli Luhtala, in Journal of Theological Studies, Vol 66, Issue 1

Alcuin’s literary and poetic skill, his philosophy as a Christian educator, and the other departments of his work, ministry and relationships, are handled in a way that build up a three-dimensional picture not just of the man, but of the age as a whole. … True to the man, and in explanation of his influence, the second volume ends with the theme ‘Alcuin’s Theology of Friendship’. These two volumes are indeed worth befriending.
Charles Miller, in Fairacres Chronicle, Vol 48, No 2

[Alcuin: Theology and Thought and Alcuin: His Life and Legacy] are superbly written and really complement each other without their content overlapping.
J. Robert Wright, in Anglican and Episcopal History, Vol 83, No 4