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Mondays with Miss Mason–F for Fresco in Florence

September 26, 2011

Note: this post is part of an ongoing series. For more information on Charlotte Mason and Mondays with Miss Mason, please read the first post.

the fresco in Florence

This fresco from the Spanish Chapel in  Santa Maria Novella in Florence displays an important feature of Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy–all knowledge is spiritual, descended from the Holy Spirit, as depicted in two paintings by Andrea di Bonaiuto da Firenze, a painter of the 1300’s.

 In the first picture we get a Pentecostal Descent, first, upon the cardinal virtues and the Christian graces, then, upon prophets and apostles, and below these upon the seven Liberal Arts represented each by its captain figure, Cicero, Aristotle, Zoroaster, etc., none of them Christian, not one of them a Hebrew. Here we get the magnificent idea that all knowledge (undebased) comes from above and is conveyed to minds which are, as Coleridge says, previously prepared to receive it; and, further, that it comes to a mind so prepared, without question as to whether it be the mind of pagan or Christian; a truly liberal catholic idea, it seems to me, corresponding marvellously with the facts of life. From Vol. 6


That is, the Florentines of the Middle Ages believed in “the teaching power of the Spirit of God,” believed not only that the seven Liberal Arts were fully under the direct outpouring of the Holy Ghost, but that every fruitful idea, every original conception, be it in geometry, or grammar, or music, was directly derived from a Divine source. (From Vol. 6)

Next, that knowledge, in this light, is no longer sacred and secular, great and trivial, practical and theoretical. All knowledge, dealt out to us in such portions as we are ready for, is sacred; knowledge is, perhaps, a beautiful whole, a great unity, embracing God and man and the universe, but having many parts which are not comparable with one another in the sense of less or more, because all are necessary and each has its functions. Next, we perceive that knowledge and the mind of man are to each other as are air and the lungs. The mind lives by means of knowledge; stagnates, faints, perishes, deprived of this necessary atmosphere.

That, it is not for a man to choose, “I will learn this or that, the rest is not my concern”; still less is it for parent or schoolmaster to limit a child to less than he can get at of the whole field of knowledge; for, in the domain of mind at least as much as in that of morals or religion, man is under a Divine Master; he has to know as he has to eat.

That, there is not one period of life, our school days, in which we sit down to regular meals of intellectual diet, but that we must eat every day in order to live every day.  (From Vol. 6)

To me this idea is very liberating. All truth is God’s truth. I think in this day and age there is a lot of fear of various types of knowledge. The scientific world and the academic world seem to be locked in battle with the religious world. However, Mason opens it up. Going back to the source–God Himself.  The debates will continue of course. And the knowledge must pass through these dusty mortal shells, but it is an awe-inspiring idea to think from her perspective and the Florentines of old.

More eloquent thoughts on the subject:

Naomi on The Descent of the Holy Spirit

Karen Andreola–All Education is Divine

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