Book Series Lectio, vol. 13

Trilingual Learning

The Study of Greek and Hebrew in a Latin World (1000-1700)

Raf Van Rooy, Pierre Van Hecke, Toon Van Hal (eds)

  • Pages: 426 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:7 b/w, 5 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English, French
  • Publication Year:2023

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60106-9
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-60107-6
  • E-book
  • Available

This volume advocates a broad approach toward the phenomenon of sacred trilingualism, in terms of both time and topics, by presenting case studies from medieval and early modern Europe and by offering a first kaleidoscopic view of the subject


“(An) interesting and varied exploration of early modern Greek and Hebrew teaching (... ...) a valuable addition to scholarship.” (Eleanor Dickey, in Historiographia Linguistica 49/2-3, 2023, p. 380-384)


Raf Van Rooy (*1990) is Assistant Professor at the Department of Latin Literature (KU Leuven, Belgium). He investigates the history of linguistics and Greek studies as well as code-switching to Greek in early modern Neo-Latin literature. Recent books include Language or Dialect? (Oxford), Greece’s Labyrinth of Language (Berlin), and New Ancient Greek in a Neo-Latin World (Leiden/Boston).

Pierre Van Hecke (*1970) is Professor of Hebrew Bible at the faculties of Theology and Religious Studies and of Arts of the KU Leuven. He is a member of the Research Unit Biblical Studies. He obtained doctorates in Oriental Studies (KU Leuven, 2000) and in Theology (Tilburg University, 2006).

Toon Van Hal (*1981) studied ancient languages and history. He is interested in the development and circulation of ideas on language throughout time. He teaches Ancient Greek linguistics, in addition to historiography of linguistics and elementary Sanskrit at the KU Leuven.


In 1517, the Brabant city of Louvain witnessed the foundation of the Collegium Trilingue (Three Language College). Funded by means of the legacy of the humanist and diplomat Jerome of Busleyden (d. 1517) and steered by guiding spirit Erasmus of Rotterdam, this institute offered courses in the three so-called sacred languages Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, which students could attend for free. However, this kind of initiative was not unique to Louvain in the early 16th century. In a time span of barely twenty years, Greek and Hebrew were also offered in Alcalá de Henares (near Madrid), Wittenberg, and Paris, among other places. It would not take long before these ‘sacred’ languages were also on the educational agenda at universities throughout the whole of Europe.

The present volume examines the general context in which such polyglot institutes emerged and thrived, as well as the learning and teaching practices observed in these institutes and universities. Devoting special attention to the study of the continuity, or rather the discontinuity, between the 16th-century establishment of language chairs and the late medieval interest in these languages, it brings together fifteen selected papers exploring various aspects of these multilingual undertakings, focusing on their pedagogical and scholarly dimensions. Most of the contributions were presented at the 2017 LECTIO conference The Impact of Learning Greek, Hebrew, and ‘Oriental’ Languages on Scholarship, Science, and Society in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, which was organized at the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the Louvain Collegium Trilingue.


Introduction: Trilingual Learning in Context (Raf Van Rooy, Pierre Van Hecke & Toon Van Hal)

Part I. Greek and Hebrew: Borders and Landmarks
Greek Studies in Renaissance Italy: Protagonists, Centers, and Areas of Impact (Luigi-Alberto Sanchi)
Hebrew Students and Teachers across Borders in the Renaissance (Saverio Campanini)

Part II. New Foundations: Institutes, Methods, Manuals
Institutionalizing Trilingual Learning: The Foundation of Hebrew and Greek Chairs at European Universities in the Early Sixteenth Century (Toon Van Hal)
Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros and the Greeks at the Collegium and University of San Ildefonso (1495-1517) (Benito Rial Costas)
Chrétien Wechel (c. 1495-1554) and Greek Printing in Paris: Education, Networks, and Questions of Orthodoxy (Natasha Constantinidou)
In Rutger Rescius’ Classroom at the Leuven Collegium Trilingue (1543-1544): His Study Program and Didactic Method (Raf Van Rooy)
Reading Vergil through Homer: The Role of the Greek Language in Petrus Nannius’ Deuterologiae sive Spicilegia (Xander Feys)

Part III. Knowledge in Practice: Greek and Hebrew in Active Use
Teaching Greek and Hebrew in Early Modern Estonia (Janika Päll & Anu Põldsam)
Greek among Other Academic Disciplines: The Case of a Handwritten Greek Oration from Sixteenth-Century Lithuania (Tomas Veteikis)

Part IV. Bridging Traditions: Jewish and Classical Philology
Greek in the Arukh of Nathan b. Jehiel (Ayelet Wenger)
The Maḥbarot of ‘Immanu’el of Rome and the Classical Tradition (Vito Andrea Mariggiò)

Part V. Trilingual Learning and Beyond: Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic in Theology, Philosophy, and Law
Melanchthon as Advocate of Trilingual Humanism (Ralph Keen)
Nec quidquam feliciter sit quod accuratione cum Alcorano certare queat: Latin Translations of the Qurʾān as Teaching Material for Arabic Learners in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century Europe (Katarzyna K. Starczewska)
Hebrew as the Original Philosophic Language in the Writings of Medieval Jewish Scholars (Abraham Melamed)
De la jurisprudence de Reuchlin aux artes d’Érasme. La consolidation de la culture gréco-romaine (Laurent Waelkens)