Founder of the Vivarium


He spent his career trying to bridge the cultural divides that were causing fragmentation in the 6th century between East and West, Greek culture and Latin, Roman and Goth, and Catholic people with their Arian ruler. He speaks fondly in his Institutiones of Dionysius Exiguus, the calculator of the Anno Domini era.

In his retirement he founded the monastery of Vivarium on his family estates on the shores of the Ionian Sea, and his writings turned to religion.

“The first section of the Institutiones deals with Christian texts, and was intended to be used in combination with the Expositio Psalmorum. The order of subjects in the second book of the Institutiones reflected what would become the Trivium and Quadrivium of medieval liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, dialectic; arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy. While he encouraged study of secular subjects, Cassiodorus clearly considered them useful primarily as aids to the study of divinity, much in the same manner as St. Augustine. Cassiodorus’ Institutiones thus attempted to provide what Cassiodorus saw as a well-rounded education necessary for a learned Christian, all in uno corpore, as Cassiodorus himself put it.3

In the end, however, the library at Vivarium was dispersed and lost, though it was still active ca. 630, when the monks brought the relics of Saint Agathius from Constantinople, to whom they dedicated a spring-fed fountain shrine that still exists.4 Despite the demise of the Vivarium, Cassiodorus’ work in compiling classical sources and presenting a sort of bibliography of resources would prove extremely influential in Late Antique Western Europe.5" -Wikipedia

“Cassiodorus devoted much of his life supporting education within the Christian community at large. When his proposed theological university in Rome was denied, he was forced to re-examine his entire approach to how material was learned and interpreted.6 It is demonstrated through the Virae that, like Augustine of Hippo, Cassiodorus viewed the act of reading as a transformative act for the reader. It is with this in mind that he designed and mandated the Vivarium, which demanded an intense regimen of reading and meditation. By ascribing a specific order of how one is to read, Cassiodorus hoped to create the discipline necessary within the reader to become a successful monk. The first work in this succession of texts would be the Psalms. To Cassiodorus, the untrained reader would need to begin with this work because of its appeal to emotion and temporal goods.7 By examining the rate at which copies of his Psalmic commentaries were issued, it is fair to assess that as the first work in his series, Cassiodorus’s educational agenda had been implemented to some degree of success.8

Beyond demanding the pursuit of discipline among his students, Cassiodorus had a high regard for the liberal arts. He believed that all art takes its inspiration of the Bible, and therefore was necessary to explore for a complete understanding of scripture.9 These arts were divided into trivium (which included rhetoric, idioms, vocabulary and etymology) and quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy."


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