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Henry Herp

A fifteenth century Franciscan of the Strict Observance and a distinguished writer on mysticism

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Herp (or HARP, Lat. CITHAROEDUS, or ERP as in the old manuscripts), HENRY, a fifteenth century Franciscan of the Strict Observance and a distinguished writer on mysticism, praised by Mabillon, Bona, etc. Only the last thirty years of his life are known to us. Born either at Duren (Marcoduranus), at Erp near Duren, or at Erps-Querbs near Louvain, Herp appears as rector of the Brethren of the Common Life, first in 1445 at Delft in Holland, then at Gouda, “to the great good of his subjects”. In 1450, on a pilgrimage to Rome, he took the habit of St. Francis at the Convent of Ara Coeli. Twenty years later we find him provincial of the Province of Cologne (1470-73), then guardian of the convent of Mechlin in Belgium, where he died in 1478. The Franciscan Martyrology of Arturus of Rouen gives him the title of Blessed. Of his works, only one was printed during his life-time, “Speculum aureum decem praeptorum Dei” (Mainz, 1474); it is a collection of 213 sermons on the Commandments for the use of preachers and confessors. Another collection of 222 sermons (Sermones de tempore, de sanctis, etc.) was printed in 1484, etc. Both frequently quote the Doctors of the Middle Ages, especially St. Thomas, Alexander of Hales, St. Bernard, etc., and were often reprinted.

The other works of Herp, of which some—still unpublished—are to be found in the libraries of Cologne, Brussels, etc., are devoted to mystical subjects. The principal of these is the “Theologica Mystica”, written on Mount Alverno and published in full at Cologne in 1538 by the Carthusian Th. Loher, with a dedication to George Skotborg, Bishop of Lund. It was reprinted five times before 1611, and translated into French, German, etc. The whole work comprises three parts: “Soliloquium divini Amoris”, “Directorium Aureum contemplativorum”, “Paradisus contemplativorum”. The second part, the most famous, was written originally in Flemish (Spiegel der Volcomenheyt), printed in 1501, etc.; then, with several short treatises on kindred matters, it was translated into Latin under the title given above (Cologne, 1513, etc.), into Italian, Spanish, German, etc. The edition of the mystical theology, dedicated to St. Ignatius in 1556 by Loher, was censured by the Index (1559, 1580, 1583, etc.). Corrected editions followed with an “Introductio ad doctrinam” (Rome, 1585), an “Index Expurgatorius” (Paris, 1598), where can be found, as well as in the “Index of Sotomayor” (1640), the opinions to be corrected. As a whole and in the chief divisions of his doctrine, Herp shows several points of contact with his compatriot John of Ruysbroeck; he has some beautiful passages on the love of God and of Christ. The Franciscan Chapter of Toledo in 1663 recommended his works as standard writings in mystic theology.


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