Clement of Ireland

Saint Clement of Ireland
Born ca. 750 AD
Died 818 AD
Auxerre, France
Honored in Roman Catholic Church
Feast 20 March

Saint Clement of Ireland (Clemens Scotus) (ca. 750 – 818) is venerated as a saint by the Catholic Church. A Scot born in Ireland, he founded a school for boys under the patronage of Charlemagne and figures in the Carolingian Renaissance of learning.

An Irish monk of St. Gall, usually identified as Notker the Stammerer, who wrote a Life of Charlemagne dedicated to Charles the Fat (d. 888), says that Clement with his unnamed companion, both "Scots of Ireland"[1] travelling in the company of traders, arrived on the coast of Gaul "in the moment when Charlemagne had begun to reign as sole king" (i.e. ca 771); they set themselves up in the market as venders of learning. Word of them reached the ear of Charlemagne, who sent for them to come to his court. Ailbe was then given the direction of the "monastery of Saint Augustine" near Pavia, identifiable as the Abbey of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro, "sometimes named after Saint Augustine, because it contained many of his relics".[2] Clement was requested to remain in France as the master of a school of learning for boys both noble and common, that was established and supported by Charlemagne. These events may have taken place in the winter of the year 774, after Charlemagne had been in Italy.

Clement was regent of the palace school at Paris until his death. It was not until 782 that Alcuin became master of the royal school at Aachen, but even the fame of Alcuin in no wise diminished the acknowledged reputation of Clement. Though St. Clement is no longer claimed as founder of the University of Paris, the fact remains that this remarkable Scots-Irish scholar planted the seeds of learning at Paris.

Many anecdotes are related of St. Clement's life, especially as regards his success as a teacher of youth. Among his pupils were Bruno, Modestus, and Candidus, who had been placed under his care in 803 by Ratgar, Abbot of Fulda. When Alcuin retired to Tours in 796, his post as rector of the School of the Palace was naturally given to Clement. In 803, as an old man, Alcuin wrote from his retirement to Charlemagne, querulously commenting on "the daily increasing influence of the Irish at the School of the Palace". Alcuin died 19 May 804, and Charlemagne survived till 28 January 814.

The 17th-century hagiographer John Colgan, in his Acta Sanctorum Hiberniae (Louvain, 1645) says that he was living in 818, and gives the date of Clement's death as 20 March and the place as Auxerre, where he was interred in the church of Saint-Amator.

The Universalist Hosea Ballou claimed Clement as a Christian Universalist, one of only a few in the Middle Ages.[3] This is not proven by Bonifaces' letter to pope Zacharias (745). He was deposed from the priesthood by Boniface Winfred for denying the authority of the canons, "introducing Judaism," having married and fathered two sons, and teaching that when Christ descended into hell he released all the damned.[4][5]


  1. ^ Clement's companion, not named in the text, is identified as Albinus, or Ailbe
  2. ^ Lewis Thorpe, ed. Einhard and Notker the Stammerer: Two lives of Charlemagne :1969:189 note 3 on Notker, Life, §1.
  3. ^ Ballou "An early effort was that of a certain Clement of Ireland, who was rebuked by Boniface for alleging that Christ, when he descended into hell, liberated all the souls which he found imprisoned there." cf. Dean Johnson. Will All Humankind Eventually be Saved?." Undated. Accessed Nov. 13, 2007.
  4. ^ Blunt Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties and Schools
  5. ^ Rev. John McClintock and James Strong. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature. Volume 10, 1895, pp. 109-33.
 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed (1913). "St. Clement of Ireland". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

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