- Wimpheling, Jakob
- (1450-1528)German humanist and cler-gyman, known as an influential but generally conservative figure among the reform-minded humanists of the early 16th century. Born at Sélestat in Alsace and educated in the excellent local Latin school and then at Freiburg-im-Breisgau (B.A. 1466), Erfurt, and Heidel-berg (M.A. 1479, licentiate in theology 1496), he was ordained as a priest and served churches near Heidelberg during his theological studies. He also taught in the faculty of arts. In 1484 he became cathedral preacher at Speyer but returned to the Heidelberg faculty in 1498. Although Wimpheling's candidacy for appointment as a cathe-dral canon at Strasbourg in 1501 was unsuccessful, he remained in that city from 1501 to 1515, supporting himself by income from other church offices, tutoring children, and editing and authorship of more than 40 books for local printers. In 1515 he moved back to Sélestat and spent the rest of his life there.Initially, Wimpheling was sympathetic to Martin Luther's criticism of indulgences and corruption among the German clergy and at the pa-pal curia. But as he realized that Luther's theology was contrary to tra-ditional doctrine and that the unity of the church was in danger, he broke with Luther and worked to prevent Lutheran preachers from functioning in Sélestat. His last years were spent in isolation, since Catholic leaders had not forgiven him for his denunciations of ecclesi-astical corruption while those humanists who had become Lutheran re-garded his opposition to the Reformation as a betrayal.During his literary career, in which he published more than a hun-dred books, Wimpheling produced Latin poems, a Latin school drama modelled on Terence, Stylpho (1484), and a number of peda-gogical works that endorsed study of classical authors but also warned repeatedly against the moral corruption that lurked in pagan poets. These books included Elegantiarum medulla / Kernel of Ele-gances (1493), Isidoneus germanicus / A Guide for Germans (1497), and especially the influential Adolescentia /Youth (1500). Teachers, he recommended, should use classical texts in order to develop good Latin style in their pupils but should be very careful in selecting which authors to teach, avoiding sensual authors and concentrating on those who inculcated sound moral principles.Wimpheling's conservatism became clear in a controversy be-tween him and a more radical humanist, Jakob Locher, of the Uni-versity of Ingolstadt, who attacked scholastic education in ways that Wimpheling, despite his own earlier criticisms of the scholastics, could not endorse; his Defensio theologiae scholasticae et neoterico-rum / Defense of Scholastic Theology and the Moderns (1510) upheld scholastic theology. He also wrote a manual for the education of princes (Agatharchia, 1498) and a number of works that show that even a quite conservative humanist could engage in bitter denuncia-tion of clerical immorality, especially among the monks and friars, and could denounce the corrupt patronage system that neglected ded-icated and well-educated priests (like himself) and conferred the best appointments on well-connected but unqualified persons. Wim-pheling also edited the writings of others, especially while working for the flourishing printing industry in Strasbourg. He edited works of Sebastian Brant, Giovanni Pico della Mirándola, and Erasmus, but also medieval theologians such as Jean Gerson, Heinrich von Langenstein, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Ludolph of Saxony. Despite his conservatism and his diminished influence during the Reforma-tion crisis of his last years, Wimpheling was one of the most influen-tial reformist humanists of the early 16th century and insisted that ed-ucation must combine cautious study of classical literature with inculcation of Christian piety.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.