- Vadianus, Joachim
- (Joachim von Watt, 1484-1551)Swiss hu-manist, physician, and religious reformer. Born at St. Gallen into a prominent family of merchants and civic officials, he was educated at the local grammar school and then at the University of Vienna, where he associated with the humanist Conrad Celtis and received B.A. (1504) and M.A. (1508) degrees. During an episode of plague at Vienna he interrupted his studies (1506-1507) and for a time taught school at Villach in Carinthia. He also visited Venice and Padua while away from Vienna. After returning to Vienna, he taught at the university, lecturing on classical authors, especially those who wrote on geography. He produced a commentary on Book 7 of Pliny's Natural History (1515) and another on Pomponius Mela (1518). His edition of Mela reflected a preference for authors who based their geographical writings on direct experience rather than on the reports of others. Vadianus personally visited Polish salt-mines and climbed Swiss mountains to extend his understanding of topics that today would be classed as geological. His mastery of humanistic Latin and his publications marked him out as a leading scholar.The Emperor Maximilian I crowned Vadianus poet laureate in 1514, and he became professor of rhetoric and poetry and rector of the university in 1516, on his way to a doctorate in medicine (1517). He conducted an active correspondence with other humanists. Al-though the path to a successful university career was open, he chose to return to his native St. Gallen, where he settled in 1520 after an ex-tensive journey through eastern Germany and Poland. In 1519 he married a daughter of the patrician Grebel family of Zürich. His re-turn to St. Gallen involved his appointment as town physcian, and he succeeded his father as a member of the small council, the principal agency of local government.Aside from practicing medicine, Vadianus' other goal was to spread humanistic culture in his native region. He established close ties with the humanist community at Basel and in the summer of 1522 during a visit there met Erasmus. At Basel he assisted in the ed-itorial work on a new edition of the Helvetiae descriptio / Description of Switzerland by another prominent Swiss humanist, Henricus Glareanus. He also published an enlarged version of his edition of Pomponius Mela. By the early 1520s he had also become deeply in-terested in the movement for religious reform. He read many of the works of Martin Luther and had long known the major Swiss Protestant leader, Huldrych Zwingli. Vadianus organized a biblical study group and lectured to its members on the early Christian creeds and the book of Acts. His interest was not so much in dogmatic dis-putes as in questions of practical religion.Vadianus led the establishment of a Reformed church at St. Gallen on the pattern created at Zürich, and his election as mayor (Bürgermeister) of St. Gallen in 1526 made him a leader of both the religious Refor-mation and the political life of his city. When the local Benedictine abbey was secularized in 1529, he acted to preserve its valuable collec-tion of manuscript books, and in general he pursued a moderate, though clearly Protestant, religious policy. Vadianus spent most of his later years engaged in historical work. The manuscripts of the abbey consti-tuted the major source for a history of the abbey, a history of the city, a history of the Lake Constance region, a history of monasticism, and his-tories of the Roman emperors and Frankish kings. He also conducted an extensive correspondence, of which some 4,000 items survive.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.