Incept-Master-art - 7/31/98
"On the Inception of a University Master" by Mistress Nicolaa de Bracton of
NOTE: See also the files: p-education-msg, universities-msg, Art-of-Arith-art,
Latin-msg, per-latin-art, apprentices-msg.
KEYWORDS: university master inception period medieval Laurel ceremony SCA
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefanıs Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
"On the Inception of a University Master"
by Mistress Nicolaa de Bracton of Leicester.
I spoke with a number of people at Investiture who expressed interest in
learning the background of my Laureling ceremony, which was based in part on an
extant ceremony from the University of Cambridge for the inception ceremony of a
When I began researching the ceremony, I recalled quite quickly that
universities were, in fact, guilds of a sort--at least their associations of
masters were considered as such. Admission to the rank of master at a
university shared quite a lot of similarities with admission to the rank of
master in a craft guild. Rather than a period of apprenticeship followed by
work as a journeyman, the scholar first studied for several years before
attaining the rank of Bachelor (allowing him limited lecturing privileges).
Further study and teaching (usually directly linked with a particular master or
masters) led in a few more years to the point at which the candidate was ready
to begin a full teaching career.
At the university level by the thirteenth centuries, studying at the
university level involved two things: first, attending lectures at which works
were ³read²--the lecturer not only reading a particular work out loud, but also
the glosses and commentary on the work. In this way, students studied the major
works of basic theology, canon law, and natural philosophy. Also important was
the formal disputation, or, to give it its period name, determining of
questions; this was the process at the core of the scholastic method of
inquiry. A master would pose a question of philosophy , theology, or canon law,
and then would proceed to cite authorities and their various positions on the
issue. After discussion amongst the students, the master would then draw a
conclusion based on those sources and his interpretation of them.
Determination, because of the extensive knowledge needed to array authoritative
statements on the sides of an issue,was the especial hallmark of the master. It
is not surprising, therefore, that the public determination of a question was
part of the ceremony involved in ³incepting² (the word is Latin for ³beginning²
) as a master.
After having been observed by the university masters for a sufficient
amount of time, a candidate would be allowed to seek his license to teach from
the chancellor of the university. This, in itself, did not make him a master,
however. Upon receiving the licentate, the candidate had to swear an oath to
incept within a certain period of time at that university. This ceremony
usually took an entire day, unless several masters were incepting the same day
(more on that in a moment). The candidate would appear at the collegiate church
of the university, for the first time wearing the cappa clausa of the master
(in the thirteenth century, this resembled a hooded poncho, with handslits in
front; it was always black). His fellows would sometimes publicly praise or
admonish him; to which he was supposed to respond by pulling his hood over his
head in humility. He would next be presented with his biretta (scholarıs hat)
and invested with a ring . He would then swear publicly , often on an open book
symbolizing knowledge, to do various things: At Cambridge, for instance, he
would promise to uphold the statutes and customs of the university, to keep the
peace of the university, to not reveal the secrets of the guild of masters, and
to teach there for at least a year. Thence, he would be seated in the
³masterıs chair² and commence his public determination, which could take several
hours. Because of time constraints, new masters often did not actually present
their determinations on the day of their inception but might simply outline it;
if this were the case, the rector would say the phrase ³ad hec et ad alia
sufficiunt magistrorum responsa², which translated loosely, means ³this is
enough for us to consider you a master²--so long as the determination went
ahead the next day.
Traditionally, a newly-incepted master would host a feast after the
ceremony for his fellow masters. Here, strict guidelines were passed by
universities to ensure that these feasts did not get out of hand, either in
expense or in behaviour. The next day, the established masters would not
lecture, in honour of the new master, who was expected to complete his
determination. The new master was now a ³regent master², tied to his university
for at least a year as a lecturer. After that, he could lecture where he
wished, although in practice most masters probably stayed at their home
The standard Middle Kingdom Laureling ceremony contains many of the same
elements of the inception ceremony, including the promise to observe the
statutes of the Order and to share knowledge. Public praise was handled by
Master Hector of the Black Height (standing in for Mistress Sarra Graeham, who
had originally begged the boon) and ³advice on the burdens of peerage² by Duke
Sir Finnvarr de Taahe (who stood for three Orders--Pelican, Knight, and Royal
Peerage). When I rewrote the ceremony, I had to compress a two-stage process
taking place on two separate occasions down to a single short ceremony, but I
was able to keep the basic oaths the same. Here is the ³meat² of the ceremony:
Crown: As it is the judgment of the Order of the Laurel that you are fit to
join their ranks, We are resolved to create you Mistress of the Laurel. Give
your word now that you will observe , preserve, and conserve the statutes,
privileges, and customs of this Order.
Candidate: Promitto ("I promise" in Latin)
The rector (one of the members of the Order) shall place the candidate's hand on
the open book. The Crown will continue:
Crown: Do you pledge to keep the peace of the academy, to lecture within our
Society for at least one year, and to ever strive for greater knowledge and
wisdom, mindful that with wisdom, you shall surely grow?
Crown: Will you promise to teach your students to do likewise?
The rector shall close the book and give it to the candidate, saying "ad hec et
ad alia sufficiunt magistrorum responsa".
Crown: Then thus we confer the license to teach as a master. Be invested with
the symbols of your new status, and wear them that all might know of your skills
and service as your peers have attested and We have acknowledged today. Rise,
Mistress Nicolaa, Magistra Laurae
Since I did not want to burden Court with a long public lecture, I had
Master Hector (who was acting as rector--we had a good laugh over the rhyme) say
the phrase ³ad hec et ad alia.....² I actually did my promising on an old book
from Robarts Library--overlaid with printouts from a microfilm of the text Iım
editing for my PhD thesis. Instead of a ring, I got a medallion; and I had my
cappa clausa presented at the same time. The ceremony ended with the giving of
the license to teach (which would have normally come before) by Their Majesties-
-embodied physically in my Laurel scroll.
The original ceremony was found in Hackett, M.B. The Original Statutes of
the University of Cambridge: The Text and its History. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1970
Copyright 1996 by Susan Carroll-Clark, 53 Thorncliffe Park Dr. #611,
Toronto, Ontario M4H 1L1 CANADA. Permission granted for republication in
SCA-related publications, provided author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.
Copyright © Mark S. Harris (Lord Stefan li Rous)
All Rights Reserved
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