Denifle, Heinrich Seuse

views updated


Dominican historian of the Middle Ages; b. Imst (Tirol), Jan. 16, 1844; d. Munich, June 10, 1905. While a student at Brixen, Denifle (baptismal name, Josef Anton) decided to enter the Dominican Order in Graz. As a cleric he was especially influenced by his confrères, Franz Brentano (professor of philosophy), Bernard Zeno (friend of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico), and Andreas Frühwirt (later general of the order). From 1870 to 1880 Denifle devoted himself exclusively to his order's work as a teacher and preacher in Graz. When Pope Leo XIII commissioned a new edition of the works of thomas aquinas, Cardinal T. zigliara, the chairman of the commission, brought Denifle to Rome as his collaborator in 1880. In 1883 Leo appointed him one of the three assistant papal archivists. This position determined Denifle's subsequent research labors as a historian. In an effort to make Vatican source materials accessible to research, he cultivated ties with the directors of the various historical institutes in Rome (Theodor Sickel, Ludwig von pas tor, Johann Peter kirsch, and Paul Fridolin kehr). Upon conclusion of his work on the history of the University of paris, Denifle returned to Rome (1899), thereafter devoting all his time to visiting Austrian and German archives and libraries to collect material for his work on Luther. He died in Munich on his way to Cambridge.

Denifle's merit as a historian lies chiefly in his investigation of the history of late medieval thought. Besides studies and editions on the history of mysticism and scholasticism, his writings include pioneer works on the history of the universities in the Middle Ages. His study on Luther, which was neither his chief work nor his specialization, became his best-known writing and the object of the most violent criticism. In this work Luther is presented as the product of a decadent age. Of lasting value for research on Luther was Denifle's discovery of a copy of the hitherto unknown Luther commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, dating from 1515 to 1516.

Bibliography: Works. Die Universitäten des Mittelalters bis 1400 (Berlin 1885; repr. Graz 1956), only v. 1 pub.; La Désolation des églises, monastères et hôpitaux en France pendant la guerre de cent ans, 2 v. (Paris 189799); Luther und Luthertum, 2 v. (Mainz 190409); É. l. m. chatelain, Chartularium universitatis parisiensis, ed. h. denifle and e. chatelain, 4 v. (Paris 188997). Literature. m. grabmann, P. Heinrich Denifle (Mainz 1905). g. p. gooch, History and Historians in the Nineteenth Century (2d ed. New York 1952; pa. Boston 1952). a. walz, Andreas Kardinal Frühwirth (Vienna 1950); Analecta Denifleana (Rome 1955); Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912) 14:221245; Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 3:227228.

[h. rumpler]