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Hermann of Fritzlar

Author of two works on mysticism written in German.

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Hermann of Fritzlar.—with this name are connected two works on mysticism written in German. The first, “Das Heiligenleben”, preserved in a single manuscript, is a collection of ninety-one short sermons on the lives of the saints, composed between 1343 and 1349, the matter being drawn from other books, as is expressly stated in the introductory sermon. The sermons, which begin with the feast of St. Andrew, contain here and there mystical considerations, wholesome and concise, which give the work a distinct place in the history of mysticism. Some are merely theoretical, as definitions, notes on union with God, the birth of Christ in the soul, etc.; others are based on the personal experience of the writer. This work, for a long time attributed to Hermann of Fritzlar, whose name is quoted at the end, was compiled, at his request, by Gisiler of Slatheim, one of the Dominican preachers of that period, who played a prominent part in the history of German mysticism. Gisiler, formerly a reader of theology at Cologne and Erfurt, had made for himself a collection of sermons; now he compiled another work, drawing largely from his former one, and adding, with several of his own sermons, extracts from the travels and mystical considerations of Hermann; the simultaneous use of the first and third person may be easily noticed.

The other work attributed to Hermann, “Blume der Schauung” (Flower of Contemplation), and quoted in the sermon on the Annunciation, has been lately found in a manuscript of Nuremberg; it consists of a number of questions, often loosely thrown together, on union with God through the contemplative life, the various models to be assigned to this life, the road to perfect contemplation, etc.; many authorities are quoted, especially St. Augustine, St. Bernard, St. Thomas, Pseudo-Dionysius, Origen, Eckhart, etc. In their mysticism the two works show traces of the influence of Eckhart; but in neither can be exactly determined the part due personally to Hermann. Even the person of Hermann is only known from the scattered suggestions and reminiscences in his works; he was neither a Dominican nor a Franciscan, but a pious layman; he sometimes attacks the manners of the clergy; he had travelled much, but stories of travel, descriptions of customs, etc., cannot always be used as a proof of Hermann’s authorship, as they are found also in other collections of sermons (for instance the carnival at Rome); the writer speaks chiefly of Rome, then of Spain and St. James of Compostela, for he has visited the tombs of all the Apostles save those of Sts. John and Thomas; he has seen also Lisbon, Paris, and St-Denis, Salerno, Amalfi, etc. The sermons, at least the first set compiled by Gisiler, were written at Erfurt.



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