- Gansfort, Wessel
- (ca. 1419-1489)Dutch humanist and theologian, closely linked to the spiritual movement known as Devotio Moderna. A native of Groningen, about 1432 he went to Zwolle, where he lived in a house of the Brethren of the Common Life, first as a pupil and later as a teacher, and became a close friend of Thomas à Kempis, the probable author of the famous book of meditations, The Imitation of Christ. In 1449 he matriculated in the University of Cologne (B.A. 1450, M.A. 1452). He then spent several years travelling, first in Germany, where he associated with other influential scholars, including Johann Reuchlin and the theologian Gabriel Biel, and then in Italy, where he lived and studied at Rome, Venice, and Florence. He spent most of the years 1458-1470 at Paris, continuing his study of philosophy and theology. In 1475 Gansfort returned to the Netherlands and spent the last years of his life there, frequently as a guest of monasteries at Zwolle and Groningen. The latter, a Cistercian convent, was the center for meetings of an informal association of humanists known as the Academy of Aduard, a group that included pioneering northern humanists such as Rudolf Agricola and Alexander Hegius.Gansfort's writings include several works on religious meditation, the most influential being Scala meditationis / Ladder of Meditation, and he became known (and in the opinion of some contemporaries, dangerous) because of his rejection of medieval scholastic theology. His works emphasized the importance of inward, personal devotion expressed in moral action, and he affirmed the central role of the Bible as the source of Christian life and doctrine. Both Martin Luther and Erasmus later found some similarity between his beliefs and those of Luther. Modern scholars have had difficulty defining the influence of his works on the origin of Protestantism. Several of them were collected and published at Basel and Wittenberg in 1522. His treatise on the Eucharist (De sacramento eucharistiae) was one of the sources of the rejection of the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation by later Protestants and influenced the eucharistic doctrine of the reformer of Zürich, Huldrych Zwingli.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.