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Papal Latin

LATIN 556 (Not currently offered)

Papal Latin
(Not currently offered)

  • Course ID:LATIN 556
  • Semesters:1
  • Department:Classics
  • Teachers:Tom Cox

Description and Objectives

This course aims to give an overview of the reciprocal influence Popes have had on Latin and the Latin style that has developed in one of the oldest institutions in the world. The goal will not be merely to understand and appreciate style, but to challenge the students to grow in their own knowledge of Latin and to understand the primary language of theology and philosophy in the West.

To that end, we will focus on the different eras of the Papacy month by month.

September – John Paul II (Fides et Ratio)

October – Leo XIII (Rerum Novarum)

November – Sylvester II and Pius II (Letters)

December – Gregory and Leo the Great (Homilies, Hymns, and Sermons)





The teacher will provide most texts, but the students wil need a good dictionary (physical format preferred, but digital tools tolerated) and a good grammar. The best digital dictionary is logeion. 

Wiktionary can also provide dependable definitions and etymologies.


Course Requirements

Each day will also work predictably, so that students can form habits that promote lifelong language learning and use.

The week will work cyclically, so that we can know what’s expected of us regardless of the week.

On Mondays, we will give a historical overview of the papacy, a few centuries at time. We will also review our memory work with a quiz.

On Tuesdays, we will translate the selection we’re focusing on for the week. This tends to be round-robin and involve the Randomizer (with Mr. Cox tagging in for every other sentence).

Wednesdays will be covered by the Floater.

On Thursdays, we will finish translating the section and discuss its grammar, style, and significance.

On Fridays, we will be quizzed on the material we covered that week, including any review material if the passage has been continuous over multiple weeks.



Successful Students

Learning a language requires consistent exposure to meaningful input in all four modalities: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. To that end, a student should forge habits of interacting in all four modalities each day, preferably outside of the classroom as much as possible.

It takes ~600-900 hours of meaningful exposure to Latin to achieve fluency, and even in high school Latin we get at most 100 hours in the classroom each year. If you come out feeling half fluent or not at all fluent, don’t blame your teachers or the system. *You* are the language learner, and must take seriously a slow and steady approach that will balance challenge, engagement, and understanding. Thus, to master any language requires more time than just what is spent in the classroom, assuming all the classroom time is well-spent.



Additional Resources