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By Prof. Paul F. Grendler
Nov 23rd, 2015

The digitalisation by the Archivum Romanum Societatis Iesu of the Monumenta Paedagogica Societatis Iesu. Edidit ex integro refecit novisque textibus auxit Ladislaus Lukács S. I.  7 volumes.  Rome: Monumenta Historica Soc. Iesu, 1965-1992, is very good news for scholars and anyone else interested in education. The volumes contain 5,275 pages of documents, introductions, notes, and indices. The first document is dated 1540, the last 1616. The editor, Father Laszló Lukács (1910-1998), was a Hungarian Jesuit who also published important articles on the development of Jesuit schools in the sixteenth century and edited several volumes of documents on the Society in Hungary. The overall focus of the volumes is how the Jesuits developed the Ratio Studiorum (Plan of Studies) of 1599. It contains all of the important documents in the early history of Jesuit education. 

            A few examples. Ignatius Loyola founded as many schools as possible as quickly as possible. When he died on July 31, 1556, he left forty-six schools and a desperate teacher shortage. His successor, Diego Laínez (1512-1565, vicar general from 1556 and superior general from 1558) found the solution. On August 10, 1560, he sent a letter to all the superiors of the Society telling them that the ministry of the schools was as important as all the other ministries combined, and that every Jesuit, except for the brothers, would teach (vol. 3, pp. 304-06). This decree solved the teacher shortage and determined the career paths of almost all Jesuits to the present day.   

             The Jesuits sought the right curriculum and pedagogy from the beginning. In 1546 a Jesuit in Rome, most likely Ignatius himself, wrote a letter giving strict instructions on what young Jesuits at Padua should study and the pedagogical exercises they should practice in order to remember what they learned (vol.1, pp. 3-17). This was the first attempt to draft a plan of studies. 

            Volumes 5, 6, and 7 contain the two 1586 drafts of the Ratio Studiorum, the 1591 draft,  and the final version adopted in 1599. Provinces and individual Jesuits were encouraged to present their views. They certainly did.  For example, Father Fulvio Cardulo (1529-1591), who taught rhetoric for many years in the Roman College, argued passionately for the importance of the humanities. He believed that they were particularly efficacious in training lay boys who would be future leaders of civil society. He chided the Society’s leadership for devoting too much attention to theology and not enough to the humanities (vol. 7, pp. 128-31). The committees drafting the Ratio Studiorum heard him and emphasized the humanities.

            The vast majority of the documents are written in Latin, other documents are written in Italian and Spanish, and a tiny handful are in French and Portuguese. Father Lukács wrote his introductions and notes in Latin as well. Fortunately, there is an abridged English translation of the introduction to volume 5, that summarizes the history of the Ratio Studiorum, in Church, Culture & Curriculum. Theology and Mathematics in the Jesuit Ratio Studiorum. Translated and Edited with an Introduction by Frederick A. Homann, S.J.  Philadelphia:  Saint Joseph’s University Press, 1999, pp. 17-46. Anyone who dips into these volumes will learn a great deal about early Jesuit schooling and about education as a whole, because many of the educational issues with which the early Jesuits grappled are with us today.            

Paul F. Grendler

Professor Emeritus of History, University of Toronto                                  

2014 International Galileo Galilei Prize


The Monumenta Paedagogica are available on the Archivum Romanum Societatis Jesu (Jesuit Archives) official website.