Humanism and Reformation

"Ackermann aus Böhmen" (The Farmhand from Bohemia) was written by the Bohemian notary, scribe and school principal Johannes from Teplá (Saaz) (1350-1414) on the threshold of German Renaissance Humanism around 1401 and first appeared in print around 1460 in Bamberg. The work, written in early New High German, is the first medieval literature to address the rebellion of man against death in a controversial discussion, thereby criticising God's omnipotence. The humanist Albrecht von Eyb (1420-1475), a native of the old Franconian aristocracy and canon of Eichstätt and Bamberg, played an important role in Franconian Renaissance Humanism with his "Ehebüchlein" (Marriage Booklet). Influenced by the role model of Italy, several famous humanist short stories are woven into the marriage booklet. This paper manuscript owned by Nuremberg physician and humanist Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514) contains verse adaptations from the "Ehebüchlein" and the "Spiegel der Sitten" (Mirror of Morals), also by Eyb. "Das Buch der Croniken und geschichten" (The Book of Chronicles and Stories) originates from Schedel himself, a world chronicle in the tradition of late medieval historiography modelled on ancient authors, church fathers and humanist historiographers: with over 2,000 pictures of 652 wooden sticks, it is the largest illustrated incunabulum and a real highlight.

Conrad Celtis (1459-1508) must also be mentioned for Nuremberg, which is very open to humanism, as the first German appointed by Emperor Frederick III (1415-1493) as "poeta laureatus" at Nuremberg Castle. Celtis belonged to the intellectual centre of a Nuremberg circle of humanists since 1491 and surpasses poetically due to his main lyrical work, the "Quatuor libri Amorum", dedicated to Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519). As a humanistic historical work for the city, he also leaves behind the Norimberga printed in 1502, the only surviving part of a planned geographic-historical universal work based on the Italian model. Celtis' pupil, Johannes Turmair, called Aventin (1477-1534), who came from Abensberg in Lower Bavaria, can certainly be regarded as the actual father of Bavarian historiography. His "Annales ducum Boiariae", started in 1517 and completed in 1533 under the popular title "Bayerische Chronik" (Bavarian Chronicle), are not only impressively written, but also ethnologically still worth reading today. Another important figure is the Nuremberg humanist Willibald Pirckheimer (1470-1532). His importance mainly lies in the indexing of Greek classic literature and early church writers. He emerges as a Latin stylist himself with his "Elegia in obitum Alberti Dureri" on his deceased friend Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528).

Humanism, however, was not only concentrated in Nuremberg, but also gained a foothold in Augsburg and Eastern Swabia around the middle of the 15th century; it finally found its home in Old Bavaria with the University of Ingolstadt, founded in 1472, and the literary scholarly society founded there by Aventin in 1516. The Reformation does not remain unaffected by this either, even though it is to be rated more soberly for Bavaria in terms of literary history.

The philosopher, humanist and theologian Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560), along with Martin Luther the driving force behind the German and European church reformation, tells him about the difficult situation of his fellow believers at the Reichstag in Augsburg in 1530 in a letter written by him in Latin. The Franconian knight Ulrich von Hutten (1488-1523) also wrote a sharp word against the church in his Latin and German polemic pamphlets, the best known of which is the "Gesprächbüchlein" (Discourse Booklet) from 1521. And one of the most important Latin elegicists of humanism, Petrus Lotichius Secundus (1528-1560), who was born in Niederzell near Schlüchtern and worked as far as Würzburg, took a reformatory position as a poet and abbot of a monastery that had converted to Protestantism.