Article

Jean Gerson

Daniel Hobbins

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online February 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0032
Jean Gerson

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
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Jean Gerson (b. 1363–d. 1429; also Jean de Gerson, or, originally, Jean Charlier) was the most popular and influential theologian of his generation, the most important architect of the conciliar solution to the Great Schism (1378–1415), and the leading figure at the Council of Constance (1414–1418). He came from a family of modest means in the Champagne region of France. As a young student at the College of Navarre in Paris, he came in contact with humanist currents from Italy (he probably read Petrarch at this time), which left some traces in his writings. He first gained fame as a popular preacher in Paris in the early 1390s and then followed his master Pierre d’Ailly as the chancellor of the University of Paris in 1395. He gained international renown as a result of his leading role at the Council of Constance, which put an end to the Great Schism. Following the Council he traveled in Germany and then to Lyon, where his brother was a Celestine monk. Although still chancellor, he never returned to Paris, which had fallen under the control of his political enemies, the Anglo-Burgundians. He wrote hundreds of works in Latin and French and in a variety of genres. They survive in thousands of manuscripts, especially in German-speaking lands, and attest to his tremendous popularity as a moral and spiritual authority in 15th-century Europe. Gerson’s wide-ranging interests extended well beyond the traditional limits of university masters, and his writings serve as a window into 15th-century life and thought. His complete works were first printed in 1483 (many individual works were printed before this) and were frequently reprinted through the first quarter of the 16th century. Later humanists and university theologians alike claimed him as one of their intellectual fathers. Until around 1970, most research on Gerson was carried out by French scholars, many of them clerics, and was published in a few French journals. Since then the scholarship has fragmented, with major contributions in German, Italian, and English as well as French. Because of the complexity and range of Gerson’s contributions to late medieval thought and culture, the student of Gerson must track scholarship in a variety of disciplines and on topics as diverse as mystical theology, music, conciliarism, and Joan of Arc.

Article.  10536 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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