Alma mater

History is so delicious! Isn’t it? Maybe its just me. We learn so much from it. Today I found something interesting connected with this phrase, “alma mater”.

Let me first start by noting with amazement how much we derived from those darn Romans. Culture, language, law, societal system, etc. Alma mater is one of those phrases that date clear past the death of Christ and finds its landing in early Roman mythological speak. “Nourishing mother” is the direct translation, and was first used as a title for goddesses. From there early Christians who were of Catholic faith started using alma mater to describe the Virgin Mary. Then a more traditional use of the term as we know it began in a university in Italy. The University of Bologna, which is the oldest known university in the world, had this phrase as its motto. It is thought from this use of the phrase we get our familiarized usage of this term, alma mater studorum, which translates to “nourishing mother of studies”.
Another point of interest in the world of education happened around the 1600’s through 1700’s. This was an age of reviving among Christians in which laymen, pastors and scholars challenged views of God and the Church. They compared what the scriptures taught against what had been traditionally taught by the Pope and his Catholic Church, and there continued a division that was started by other men like Martin Luther and John Calvin. What Puritans realized was that there was an extreme lack of men to lead churches, or just groups of people with educated knowledge of the scriptures. Out of the Puritan movement came a resurgence of education and scholarship. Schools were started to educate people, to prepare them for the ministry to be pastors, scholars, or whatever the need was. From this was birthed schools like Oxford, Yale, and Cambridge. Much of the great ivy-league schools we know of today, were actually instituted to accomodate a growing need for pastors. Interesting, right?


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