St John Baptiste de la Salle

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Priest teacher and founder.

St John was born in Rheims, France, in 1651 to a wealthy family. He was given a canonry as a young man. He trained for the priesthood at Saint Sulpice. In 1678 he became a priest, and could have continued living a rather relaxed life. Instead, he decided to devote himself to the education of poor boys. He gave up his canonry and fortune and set about training a group of young men who were the first Brothers of the Christian Schools. They established free schools in Paris, Rome and later in England.

The success of the congregation drew great hostility from professional schoolmasters and others.

St John was the first person to set up teacher training colleges and he sought to inspire his teachers with 'a father's love for their pupils, ready to devote all their time and energies to them.'

His system of education, outlined in his book 'The Conduct of Christian Schools' was a milestone in educational theory at the time, in particular his idea of teaching children in their mother tongue instead of Latin was very radical.

St John Baptiste de la Salle also wrote several books on prayer and meditation. He died at Rouen in 1719. He was canonised in 1900.

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