The Church’s gifts to civilisation

Language

Greek Bible

The centrality of Greek and Latin to Catholicism has greatly facilitated popular literacy, since true alphabets are far easier to learn than the symbols of logographic languages, such as Chinese. Spread by Catholic missions and exploration, the Latin alphabet is now the most widely used alphabetic writing system in the world. Catholics also developed the Armenian, Georgian and Cyrillic alphabets and standard scripts, such as Carolingian minuscule from the ninth to 12th centuries, and Gothic miniscule (from the 12th). Catholicism also provided the cultural framework for the Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy), the Cantar de Mio Cid (“The Song of my Lord”) and La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland), vernacular works that greatly influenced the development of Italian, Spanish and French respectively. The Catholic Hymn of Cædmon in the seventh century is arguably the oldest extant text of Old English. Valentin Haüy (d 1822), brother of the Abbé Haüy (the priest who invented crystallography), founded the first school for the blind. The most famous student of this school, Louis Braille (d 1852), developed the worldwide system of writing for the blind that today bears his name.

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