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Jacob Van Hoogstraten

Theologian and controversialist, b. about 1460, in Hoogstraeten, Belgium; d. in Cologne, January 24, 1527

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Hoogstraten (also HOCHSTRATEN), JACOB VAN, theologian and controversialist, b. about 1460, in Hoogstraeten, Belgium; d. in Cologne, January 24, 1527. He studied the classics and theology with the Dominicans at Louvain, and in 1485 was among the first in the history of that institution to receive the degree of Master of Arts. He there entered the order, and after his ordination to the priesthood in 1496, he matriculated in the University of Cologne to continue his theological studies. The general chapter held in 1498 at Ferrara appointed him professor of theology in the Dominican college of Cologne. In 1500 he was elected prior of the convent in Antwerp, and on the expiration of his term of office returned to Cologne, where, in February, 1504, he received the degree of Doctor of Theology. At the general chapter of Pavia in 1507 he was made regent of studies, and thereby became professor of theology in the university. His vast theological attainments and his natural ability to impart knowledge made him an exceptionally successful teacher.

Hoogstraten began his controversial career by publishing in defense of the mendicant orders, who had been accused of abusing their privileges, his “Defensorium fratrum mendicantium contra curatos illos qui rivilegia fratrum injuste impugnat” (Cologne, 1507). Yn the following year he published several works against the eminent Italian jurist, Pietro Tomasi of Ravenna, who was then lecturing in the German universities. During his controversy with the Italian jurist he was elected prior of the convent of Cologne, and thus became inquisitor general of the archbishoprics of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier. He played his principal role, however, in the controversy with Johannes Reuchlin (q.v.) on the confiscation of Jewish books, in the course of which Reuchlin’s opponents were satirized in the famous “Epistolae obscurorum virorum.” While he took no active part in the earlier stages of the controversy, his sympathies, nevertheless, as is evidenced by his relations with the converted Jew, Pfefferkorn, were with Reuchlin’s opponents. Influenced no doubt, to some extent by the unfavorable attitude of the universities towards the Jewish books, Hoogstraten on September 15, 1513, in his capacity as inquisitor, summoned Reuchlin to appear within six days before the ecclesiastical court of Mainz to answer to the charges of favoring the Jews and their anti-Christian literature. The latter appealed to Rome; whereupon Leo X authorized the Bishop of Speyer to decide the matter. Meanwhile, Hoogstraten had Reuchlin’s “Augenspiegel”, a previously published retort to Pfefferkorn’s “Handspiegel”, publicly burned at Cologne. On March 29, 1514, the Bishop of Speyer announced that the “Augenspiegel” contained nothing injurious to the Catholic Faith, pronounced judgment in favor of Reuchlin, and condemned Hoogstraten to pay the expenses consequent upon the process. The latter appealed to Rome, but the pope postponed the trial indefinitely. At the instance of Fratiz von Sickingen and others, the Dominicans deprived Hoogstraten of the office of prior and inquisitor, but in January, 1520, the pope annulled the decision of the Bishop of Speyer, condemned the “Augenspiegel”, and reinstated Hoogstraten.

Although to us living in the twentieth century the attitude of Hoogstraten and his party may be censured as severe, yet when viewed in the light of the medieval spirit we find much that will palliate the views then prevalent. Among the other works of Hoogstraten besides those already mentioned, the following are the more important: (I) “Defensio scholastica principum Alemanniae in eo, quod sceleratos detinent insepultos in ligno contra P. Ravennatem” (Cologne, 1508); (2) “Justificatorium principum Alemannise, dissolvens rationes Petri Ravennatis, quibus Principum judicia carpsit” (Cologne, 1508); (3) “Tractatus de cadaveribus maleficorum morte punitorum” (Cologne, 1508); (4) “Tractatus magistralis, declarans quam graviter peccent quierentes auxilium a maleficis” (Cologne, 1510); (5) “Apologia Fr. Jacobi Hoogstraeten” (Cologne, 1518); (6) “Apologia altera” (Cologne, 1519); (7) “Destructio cabbalae” (Cologne, 1519); (8) “Margarita moralis philosophis E in duodecim redacta libros” (Cologne, 1521).


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