Portrait: Erasmus of Rotterdam, Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian

Wednesday, 28 December 2016 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: European Union, Portrait

Erasmus statue in Rotterdam © Frank Versteegen/cc-by-sa-3.0

Erasmus statue in Rotterdam © Frank Versteegen/cc-by-sa-3.0

Erasmus of Rotterdam was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher, and theologian. Erasmus was a classical scholar and wrote in a pure Latin style. Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet “Prince of the Humanists”, and has been called “the crowning glory of the Christian humanists”. Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, which raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote On Free Will, The Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia: Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works. The popularity of his books is reflected in the number of editions and translations that have appeared since the sixteenth century. Ten columns of the catalogue of the British Library are taken up with the enumeration of the works and their subsequent reprints.

Erasmus lived against the backdrop of the growing European religious Reformation, but while he was critical of the abuses within the Catholic Church and called for reform, he kept his distance from Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon and continued to recognise the authority of the pope, emphasizing a middle way with a deep respect for traditional faith, piety and grace, rejecting Luther’s emphasis on faith alone. Erasmus remained a member of the Roman Catholic Church all his life, remaining committed to reforming the Church and its clerics’ abuses from within. He also held to the Catholic doctrine of free will, which some Reformers rejected in favor of the doctrine of predestination. His middle road (“Via Media“) approach disappointed and even angered scholars in both camps. Erasmus died suddenly in Basel in 1536 while preparing to return to Brabant, and was buried in Basel Minster, the former cathedral of the city. A bronze statue of him was erected in his city of birth in 1622, replacing an earlier work in stone.

Erasmus wrote both on ecclesiastic subjects and those of general human interest. By the 1530s, the writings of Erasmus accounted for 10 to 20 percent of all book sales in Europe. He is credited with coining the adage, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” With the collaboration of Publio Fausto Andrelini, he formed a Paremiography (collection) of Latin proverbs and adages, commonly titled Adagia. Erasmus is also generally credited with originating the phrase “Pandora’s box“, arising through an error in his translation of Hesiod‘s Pandora in which he confused pithos (storage jar) with pyxis (box).

Erasmus by Hans Holbein the Younger Erasmus by Hans Holbein the Younger Erasmus statue in Rotterdam © Frank Versteegen/cc-by-sa-3.0
<
>
Erasmus statue in Rotterdam © Frank Versteegen/cc-by-sa-3.0
His more serious writings begin early with the Enchiridion militis Christiani, the “Handbook of the Christian Soldier” (1503). In this short work, Erasmus outlines the views of the normal Christian life, which he was to spend the rest of his days elaborating. The chief evil of the day, he says, is formalism – going through the motions of tradition without understanding their basis in the teachings of Christ. Forms can teach the soul how to worship God, or they may hide or quench the spirit. In his examination of the dangers of formalism, Erasmus discusses monasticism, saint worship, war, the spirit of class and the foibles of “society.” The Enchiridion is more like a sermon than a satire. With it Erasmus challenged common assumptions, painting the clergy as educators who should share the treasury of their knowledge with the laity. He emphasized personal spiritual disciplines, and called for a reformation which he characterized as a collective return to the Fathers and Scripture. Most importantly, he extolled the reading of scripture as vital because of its power to transform and motivate toward love. Much like the Brethren of the Common Life, he wrote that the New Testament is the law of Christ people are called to obey and that Christ is the example they are called to imitate.

According to Ernest Barker, “Besides his work on the New Testament, Erasmus laboured also, and even more arduously, on the early Fathers…Among the Latin Fathers he edited the works of St Jerome, St Hilary, and St Augustine; among the Greeks he worked on Irenaeus, Origen and Chrysostom.” Erasmus also wrote of the legendary Frisian freedom fighter and rebel Pier Gerlofs Donia (Greate Pier), though more often in criticism than in praise of his exploits. Erasmus saw him as a dim, brutal man who preferred physical strength to wisdom. One of Erasmus’s best-known works, inspired by De triumpho stultitiae (written by Italian humanist Faustino Perisauli), is The Praise of Folly, published under the double title Moriae encomium (Greek, Latinised) and Laus stultitiae (Latin). A satirical attack on superstitions and other traditions of European society in general and the western Church in particular, it was written in 1509, published in 1511, and dedicated to Sir Thomas More, whose name the title puns.

The Institutio principis Christiani (Education of a Christian Prince) (Basel, 1516) was written as advice to the young king Charles of Spain (later Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor). Erasmus applies the general principles of honor and sincerity to the special functions of the Prince, whom he represents throughout as the servant of the people. Education was published in 1516, three years after Niccolò Machiavelli’s The Prince; a comparison between the two is worth noting. Machiavelli stated that, to maintain control by political force, it is safer for a prince to be feared than loved. Erasmus preferred for the prince to be loved, and strongly suggested a well-rounded education in order to govern justly and benevolently and avoid becoming a source of oppression. As a result of his reformatory activities, Erasmus found himself at odds with both the great parties. His last years were embittered by controversies with men toward whom he was sympathetic. Notable among these was Ulrich von Hutten, a brilliant but erratic genius, who had thrown himself into the Lutheran cause and declared that Erasmus, if he had a spark of honesty, would do the same. In his reply in 1523, Spongia adversus aspergines Hutteni, Erasmus displays his skill in semantics. He accuses Hutten of having misinterpreted his utterances about reform and reiterates his determination never to break with the Church. The Ciceronianus came out in 1528, attacking the style of Latin that was based exclusively and fanatically on Cicero’s writings. Etienne Dolet wrote a riposte titled Erasmianus in 1535. Erasmus’s last major work, published the year of his death, is the Ecclesiastes or “Gospel Preacher” (Basel, 1536), in which he comments on the function of preaching.

Read more on Erasmus House Museum, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and Wikipedia Erasmus von Rotterdam (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




Recommended posts:

Share this post: (Please note data protection regulations before using buttons)

Coburg, values and change

Coburg, values and change

[caption id="attachment_150172" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Veste Coburg © Kerem Ozcan[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]Coburg is a town located on the Itz River in Bavaria, Germany. Its 2005 population was 42,015. Long one of the Thuringian states of the Wettin line, it joined with Bavaria by popular vote in 1920. Before 1918, it was the smaller of the two capital cities in the united duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Coburg's Coat of Arms honoring the city's patron Saint Maurice was granted in 1493. [caption id="attachmen...

[ read more ]

The Gulf States: Bon voyage!

The Gulf States: Bon voyage!

[caption id="attachment_170648" align="aligncenter" width="590"] © Hégésippe Cormier/cc-by-sa-3.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]The Arabian Gulf (the Arab states call the west side of the Persian Gulf Arabian Gulf) is a mediterranean sea in Western Asia. The body of water is an extension of the Indian Ocean (Gulf of Oman) through the Strait of Hormuz and lies between Iran to the northeast and the Arabian Peninsula to the southwest. The Shatt al-Arab river delta forms the northwest shoreline. The gulf has many fishing grounds, ext...

[ read more ]

Seaside Resort architecture

Seaside Resort architecture

[caption id="attachment_28007" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Ahlbeck Pier © Niteshift/cc-by-sa-3.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]Resort architecture or Bäder architecture (German: Bäderarchitektur) is an architectural style that is especially characteristic of spas and seaside resorts on the German Baltic coast. The style evolved since the foundation of Heiligendamm in 1793, and flourished especially around the year 1900, when resorts were connected to big cities via railway lines. Until today, many buildings on the German coa...

[ read more ]

Theme Week Lebanon - Tyre

Theme Week Lebanon - Tyre

[caption id="attachment_151397" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Remains of ancient columns at Al Mina excavation site © Heretiq/cc-by-sa-2.5[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]Tyre, sometimes romanized as Sour, is a city in the South Governorate of Lebanon. There were approximately 117,000 inhabitants in 2003. However, the government of Lebanon has released only rough estimates of population numbers since 1932, so an accurate statistical accounting is not possible. Tyre juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean and is located about ...

[ read more ]

The barque Europa

The barque Europa

[caption id="attachment_152983" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Figurehead © flickr.com - Jose Luis Cernadas Iglesias[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]Sailing ship Europa is a steel-hulled barque from in the Netherlands. Originally it was a German lightship, named Senator Brockes and built in 1911 at the H.C. Stülcken & Sohn shipyard in Hamburg. Until 1977, it was in use by the German Federal Coast Guard as a lightship on the river Elbe. In 1985 a Dutchman bought the vessel (or what was left of it), and in 1994 she was fully restore...

[ read more ]

The brig-sloop HMS Beagle

The brig-sloop HMS Beagle

[caption id="attachment_200634" align="aligncenter" width="590"] HMS Beagle Replica in 2017 in Punta Arenas © S p-hunter/cc-by-sa-4.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]HMS Beagle was a Cherokee-class 10-gun brig-sloop of the Royal Navy, one of more than 100 ships of this class. The vessel, constructed at a cost of £7,803 (£613,000 in today's currency), was launched on 11 May 1820 from the Woolwich Dockyard on the River Thames. In July of that year she took part in a fleet review celebrating the coronation of King George IV of the Uni...

[ read more ]

Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in Tabgha

Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in Tabgha

[caption id="attachment_28224" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Mosaic in the church © Berthold Werner[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish, shortened to The Church of the Multiplication, is a Roman Catholic church located at Tabgha, on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. The modern church rests on the site of two earlier churches. The church is maintained and overseen by the Benedictine Order. Nearby are other Christian sites, especially the Mount of Beatitudes north, Caperna...

[ read more ]

Theme Week Jordan

Theme Week Jordan

[caption id="attachment_165864" align="aligncenter" width="590"] Petra at night © Susanahajer/cc-by-sa-3.0[/caption][responsivevoice_button voice="UK English Female" buttontext="Listen to this Post"]Jordan is an Arab kingdom in Western Asia, on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the east and south, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north, Israel, Palestine and the Dead Sea to the west and the Red Sea in its extreme south-west. Jordan is strategically located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe. The capital, Amman is Jordan's most populous city...

[ read more ]

Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲
La Condamine and Port Hercule © Diego Delso/cc-by-sa-4.0
Theme Week Monaco – La Condamine

La Condamine is the central Ward in Monaco. The city district is located around Port Hercule (Port de Monaco) and...

© flickr.com - Aurelie et Herve/cc-by-2.0
Theme Week Monaco

Monaco is a sovereign city-state and microstate, located on the French Riviera. France borders the country on three sides while...

© EMP|SFM Archive/cc-by-sa-3.0
Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle

EMP Museum is a nonprofit museum, dedicated to contemporary popular culture in Seattle. EMP Museum was founded by Microsoft co-founder...

Schließen