Feast Day : April 4
Patronage: computer technicians; computer users; computers; the Internet; savants; students
Also known as: Isidore the Bishop; Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages
The last of the great Latin Fathers, Isidore was born at Cartagena, Spain, about 560, into a noble Hispano- Roman family. His elder brother Leander, younger brother Fulgentius and sister Florentina also came to hold senior positions within the Christian Church. Isidore received his elementary education in the cathedral school of Seville, the first of its kind in Spain. His brother Leander, then archbishop of Seville, was one of his teachers. As he matured, Isidore most likely assisted Leander in governing the archdiocese, because he succeeded him as archbishop in 601. As archbishop, Isidore devoted himself to strengthening the Spanish Church. He worked hard to turn the Visigoths away from the Arian heresy, rewriting liturgies and breviaries for their use. He convened councils at Seville in 613 and Toledo in 633. At the latter, attended by all the bishops of Spain, he was given precedence over the local archbishop on the basis of his exceptional merit as the greatest teacher in the country. Indeed, it was in the area of education that Isidore made his greatest mark, earning him his sobriquet, “Schoolmaster of the Middle Ages.” At the Toledo council, he introduced and saw passed a decree commanding all dioceses to establish cathedral schools along the lines of that school he himself had attended in Seville. He compiled a 20-volume encyclopedia of knowledge (containing information on everything that was known in seventh-century Europe), a chronicle of events from the Creation to his own time, and a history of the Goths and Vandals. He completed and updated St. Jerome’s biographies of the great men and women of the Bible. He also wrote books on theology, astronomy and geography, as well as new rules for monasteries. As he felt his death approaching, he invited two bishops to visit him. On April 4, 636, they accompanied him to the church, where one covered him with a sackcloth while the other put ashes on his head. Thus dressed in the habit of a penitent, Isidore raised his hands to heaven and prayed for forgiveness. After receiving the viaticum, he asked for the prayers of those present, forgave those who had sinned against him, exhorted all to charity, bequeathed his earthly possessions to the poor and gave up his soul to God. In art, Isidore is depicted as an elderly bishop with a pen and a book, or with his encyclopedia. Sometimes he is shown with his brothers and sisters, SS. Leander, Fulgentius and Florentina. More rarely, he is a bishop standing near a beehive, or surrounded by bees—bees symbolizing oratorical eloquence.