The School of Alexandria

The School of Alexandria was undoubtedly the earliest important institution of theological learning in Christian antiquity. It was a school in which many other disciplines were studied; such as humanities, science and mathematics, but its main discipline was religion. According to the historian Eusebius, its founder was Saint Mark the apostle who initially appointed Justus as its dean (Justus later became the sixth patriarch of Alexandria). Most of the eminent leaders of Alexandria were either teachers or students of this School. The first great dean of the school was Pantaenus. Besides being a great teacher, he was credited as one of those who adopted the Greek alphabet in the Coptic script. His successor was Clement of Alexandria (c.150–215), a most illustrious pupil. Clement wrote abundantly, although sadly much of his work has been lost. Origen (c.185–254) succeeded Clement around the year 215 AD, and was Clement’s most brilliant pupil. As a young man he was extremely ascetic by nature. He carried out the word of the Gospel literally; to the extent of castrating himself. This fact resulted in the troubled times he had with Pope Demetrius I of Alexandria. Nevertheless, he wrote many great works; one of the most important being the ‘Hexapla’ which was a critical edition of the Old Testament presented in six parallel columns containing both Greek and Hebrew scripts. Another important dean of the school was Didymus the Blind who formed a system of engraved writing for the blind; fifteen centuries before Braille. Following the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, the School was shut down due to persecutions inflicted by the emperors of Constantinople. In 1893, Pope Cyril V inaugurated a new seminary in Cairo. Besides this main one, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III has also established many seminaries in Egypt, as well as in Europe, the USA and Australia.