seven liberal arts

“The liberal arts are divided into the trivium and quadrivium, since by these, as by certain paths [or viae], the lively mind enters in to the secrets of philosophy.” St. Thomas Aquinas

What is classical education based on?  Was is the sequence in which a student should accommodate the skills and knowledge, was it done before and can it be done now?

Homeschooling my kids I can see how exhausting the task seems to be. During the last year I started to reexamine the whole educational approach we’ve had. I realized that the path we are on might not take us to the goals that we were hoping to achieve at the end of our journey. And I am talking here about our human efforts, which we, as parents are responsible to provide. There is, of course, God’s grace and without it, we can’t progress in educating the whole person. Gaining knowledge, even the best and most desirable, without following God’s plan is worthless in a sense which the Scripture points  into:

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. 1 Kor 8:1-2

My initial quest was simple: How can I teach another human being how to think? How can I provide a way for a child to be equipped with the tools in order for them to be able to search for the ultimate Truth? How can wisdom be imparted?

We are setting more so this year on a classical education approach, and my oldest dd is enrolled in The Classical Liberal Arts Academy this year, so far for two courses.

Looking for the basic, short and clear explanation of what classical liberal education consists of, I found few sites that used this beautiful Medevial illumination by a 12th century nun, Herad of Landsberg, which explains well the road of the ancient educational path taken by many Christians before us.

All of the info below was taken from The Seven Liberal Arts and Hortus Deliciarum (the original drawing).



She sits on the throne as a queen, wearing a crown with three heads: ethics, logic and physics which were, according to Plato, three parts of teaching of philosophy.  She holds a banner stating: All wisdom comes from God, only the wise can do whatever they want.

Socrates and Plato

At the foot of philosophy are sitting two great Greek thinkers, who although Gentiles, were regarded as precursors of Christian thought. The text surrounding the two philosophers suggests that they thought first ethics, then physics, then rhetoric as the ones which scrutinize the underlying nature of all things.

The Seven Liberal Arts

In the upper corner we read:

“Seven fountains of wisdom flow from Philosophy which are called the seven liberal arts.  The Holy Spirit is the inventor of the seven liberal arts, which are: Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry, Astronomy.”

On the inner circle banner we read: I, Divine Philosophy, I govern all things with wisdom, I have seven arts which I govern.

The Liberal arts are portrayed as noble ladies dressed in robes. Three of them correspond to the rivers that flow to the right, they relate to language or letters, and they are Grammar, Rhetoric and Dialectic, forming Trivium.

The next four of them represent Quadrivium, arts of second degree, relating to harmony: music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy.  Each of bears a special emblem and is represented by an inscription on the arch surrounding it.


She holds a book and a whip and says:

Per me quivis discit, vox, littera, syllaba quid est..

By me does anyone learn what is the voice, the letter and the syllable.


She holds a tablet and stylus and says:

Causarum vires per me, rhetor alme, requires.

By me, kind Rhetorician, you will seek the force of motives/cases.


Dialectic holds a head of a dog barking and says:

Argumenta sino concurrere more canino.

I allow arguments to battle in the manner of a dog.


Music holds a harp and two other instruments are near her. She says:

Musica sum late doctrix artis variatae.

I am Music far and wide the teacher of the arts of variation.


Arithmetic has a cord with beads (abacus) and she says:

Ex numeris consto, quorum discrimina monstro.

From the numbers I exist, of which I teach the differences.


Geometry holds compass and an unit of measurement and says:

Terrae mensuras per multas dirigo curas.

By many pains, I direct the measurements of the eart


Astronomy holds a magnifying glass or a mirror and says:

Ex astris nomen traho, per quae discitur omen.

I draw my name from the starts, by which the omen is learned.

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2 thoughts on “seven liberal arts

  1. I am considering CLAA for my 16 yr. old son for this year. I am looking into Grammar 1. Classical Vocab., Sacred Scripture, and World Geo. We will be taking the Kolbe History and Lit. this year as well. My question is does the Grammar 1 count as 1 year of Latin study? It looks to be very advanced so I am wondering how long it takes to complete. Also I don’t see any information on the Sarcred Scripture course on the forums, is it available? I am very interested in the lifestyle the CLAA promotes, this is all so new to me but very exciting as well! Thank you for your help! Oh, can you email me if you respond? We are currently in a hotel as we are in the process of moving from Japan back to the US this week.

    In Christ,
    Cheryl Kirkpatrick

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