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Martin Eisengrein

Learned Catholic theologian and polemical writer; b. December 28, 1535; d. May 4, 1578

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Eisengrein, MARTIN, a learned Catholic theologian and polemical write; b. of Protestant parents at Stuttgart, December 28, 1535; d. at Ingolstadt, May 4, 1578. He studied the humanities at the Latin school of Stuttgart, and the liberal arts and philosophy at the University of Tübingen. To please his father, who was burgomaster of Stuttgart, Eisengrein matriculated as student of jurisprudence at the University of Ingolstadt, May 25, 1553, but before a year had passed he was at the University of Vienna, where he took the degree of Master of Arts in May, 1554. During the tolerant rule of Ferdinand I, Eisengrein, though still a Protestant, became in 1555 professor of oratory and, two years later, of physics at the University of Vienna, a Catholic institution. Though his Catholic surroundings and especially his frequent intercourse with the Jesuits of Vienna may have had great influence in bringing about his acceptance of the Catholic Faith, still his conversion was one of conviction, as is apparent from his numerous controversial writings and his scrupulous solicitude for the integrity of Catholic Faith and morals at the University of Ingolstadt. His conversion took place about 1558. In 1559 he received a canonry at St. Stephen’s in Vienna, and a year later he was ordained priest. In 1562 he went to the University of Ingolstadt whither he had been invited by the superintendent of the university, Frederick Staphylus. He was appointed pastor of the church of St. Maurice, which was incorporated with the university, and in April of the same year he was elected rector of the university. Besides being professor, he devoted much of his time to the study of theology and, after receiving the degree of licentiate in this science on November 11, 1563, he began to teach it in January, 1564. Duke Albert V of Bavaria chose him as councillor, appointed him provost of the collegiate church of Moosburg, and shortly afterwards of the collegiate church of Altotting and the cathedral church of Passau. In 1563 and 1564 he took part in the politico-religious conferences at the imperial court of Vienna; in 1566 Duke Albert sent him to Pope Pius V to advocate the appointment of Prince Ernest as Prince-Bishop of Freising, and in 1568-9 he was imperial court chaplain at Vienna. In 1570 he was appointed superintendent of the University of Ingolstadt, and henceforth he turned his whole attention to the advancement of the university.

Just at this time the friction between the lay professors and the Jesuits, which dated from the time when the latter began to hold professorial chairs at the university in 1556, threatened to become serious. In 1568 Eisengrein and Peter Canisius had peacefully settled certain differences between the two factions, but when in 1571 Duke Albert decided to put the poedagogium and the philosophical course into the hands of the Jesuits, the other professors loudly protested. By his tact Eisengrein succeeded in temporarily reconciling the non-Jesuit professors to the new arrangement. Soon, however, hostilities began anew, and in order to put an end to these quarrels, the Jesuits transferred the Poedagogium and philosophical course to Munich in 1573. It seems that the Jesuits were indispensable to the University of Ingolstadt, for two years later they were urgently requested by the university to return, and in 1576 they again went to Ingolstadt. In the settlement of the differences between the Jesuit and non-Jesuit professors, Eisengrein always had the welfare of the university at heart. He publicly acknowledged the great efficiency of the Jesuits as educators in an oration which he delivered before the professors and students of the university on February 19, 1571, and he was pleased to see their influence gradually increase at Ingolstadt. There were indeed, some differences between Eisengrein and the Jesuits in 1572, but the estrangement was only temporary, as is apparent from the fact that he bequeathed 100 florins to the Jesuit library.

The greatest service which Eisengrein rendered the University of Ingolstadt was his organization of its library. It was owing to his efforts that the valuable private libraries of John Egolph, Bishop of Augsburg, Thaddeus Eck, chancellor of Duke Albert, and Rudolph Clenek, professor of theology at Ingolstadt, were added to the university library. Eisengrein’s activities were not confined to the university. By numerous controversial sermons, some of which are masterpieces of oratory, he contributed not a little to the suppression of Lutheranism in Bavaria. Many of his sermons were published separately and collectively in German and Latin during his lifetime. Some have been edited by Brischar in “Die kath. Kanzelredner Deutschlands” (Schaffhausen, 1867-70), I, 434-545. He is also the author of a frequently reprinted history of the shrine of the Blessed Virgin at Altotting (Ingolstadt, 1571) and a few other works of minor importance.



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