Caesarius of Heisterbach
CAESARIUS OF HEISTERBACH
Cistercian ascetical writer and historian; b. c. 1180;d. Heisterbach, Germany, c. 1240. He was educated in Cologne at St. Andrew's and at the cathedral school (1188–98). On meeting Gevard, second abbot of heisterbach (S. Petrus de Monte) in 1198, he was moved to enter religious life. After delaying his entrance to go on pilgrimage to Our Lady of Rocamadour (Quercy in the Limousin), he became a monk at Heisterbach (c. 1199), where with a few interruptions he served as master of novices or as prior until his death.
Caesarius himself tells us the number and character of his writings. In the Epistula catalogica, prefaced to his homilies [ed. A. Hilka, Die Wundergeschichte des C. von H. 1 (Bonn 1933) 2–7], he enumerated for Peter, abbot of Marienstatt, 36 items of which today only 17 are extant. His writings include: (1) theological works, viz, homilies, Sermones and Expositiones [ed. A. Coppenstien, Fasciculus moralitatis C. von H. (Cologne 1615); A. Hilka 1:63–188, 3:381–390; J. H. Schütz, Summa Mariana
(Paderborn 1908) 687–716; other works unedited];(2) narratives, viz, Dialogus miraculorum [composed c. 1219–23; ed. J. Strange (Coblenz 1850)], Index nominum [ed. J. Strange (Coblenz 1857); 2d ed. 1922], and Libri VIII miraculorum (composed c. 1225–27, ed. A. Hilka 3:15–222); and (3) historical works, viz, Catalogus archiepiscoporum Coloniensium (composed c. 1225–38; Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Scriptores 14:332–347), Vita s. Elisabethae (written c. 1226–37 for Conrad of Marburg, ed. A. Huyskens in Hilka 3:17–50), and Vita s. Engelberti [written c. 1226–37 for Henry of Molenark; Acta Sanctorum Nov. 3 (1910) 644–81; Hilka 3:234–328].
From the theological and ascetical point of view the Dialogus miraculorum is important as a reflection of contemporary beliefs, customs, and folklore and as a continuation of the Cistercian tradition of exempla . Written as an exhortation to Christian perfection for his fellow religious, it presents definitions of virtues and vices, followed by supporting exempla. In this, Caesarius follows in the footsteps of such predecessors as Herbert de Torres and jacques de vitry. For modern tastes, these stories, culled from far and wide, along with his original contributions are "robust." The homilies, really meditations, since only the introduction and conclusion are in the oratorical manner, reflect medieval piety and belief. The purpose of the Libri VIII miraculorum (only three books extant) is to stir devotion to the Eucharist, confession, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The historical works, in general, are of high quality, even by modern standards. While the Vita s. Elizabethae is primarily a work of edification, the Catalogus, when dealing with contemporaries, and the Vita s. Engelberti are thoroughly reliable in fact and judgment.
Bibliography: The Dialogue on Miracles, 1220–1235, tr. h. von e. scott and c. c. s. bland, 2 v. (London 1929). j. t. welter, L'Exemplum dans la littérature religieuse et didactique du moyen âge (Paris 1927). j. m. canivez, Dictionnaire de spiritualité ascétique et mystique, ed. m. viller et al. (Paris 1932— ) 2:430–432. g. baader, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 2:965.
[j. m. marique]