Church historian; b. Coblenz on the Rhine, Sept. 22, 1845; d. Innsbruck, Austria, Feb. 25, 1932. At the completion of his early studies with the Christian Brothers in Coblenz, Grisar took courses in philosophy and theology at Munster under a renowned Bavarian neo-Thomist, Albert Stockl. Further theological study at the University of Innsbruck led to a doctorate in 1868. That year, Grisar was ordained and joined the Society of Jesus, beginning his Jesuit training in Rome. Returning to Austria after two years, he was appointed unexpectedly to the professorship of Church history at Innsbruck in 1871. At this point, Grisar dedicated himself to the serious study of Church history. His association with the University of Innsbruck continued until 1889. The lifelong influence of Von Rankean historiographical principles upon Grisar's prolific writings had already become evident in this early period of his career (see ranke, leopold von; historicism; historiography, ecclesiastical). In 1877, Grisar became one of the founders of the Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie; and his occasional, lengthy visits to Rome produced several articles for the Civiltá Cattolica.
To encourage Grisar's special talents, his superiors relieved him of teaching duties at Innsbruck and transferred him to Rome, where he undertook historical and archeological research. The first fruit of this work was the Analecta Romana (Rome 1899), a collection of 15 studies on the early history of Rome. This was followed by his Geschichte Roms und der Päpste in M.A. (Freiburg im Breisgau 1901; Eng. tr. 1908), undertaken partly in criticism of the Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter (1859–72) by Ferdinand Gregorovius. After the publication of the first volume of this classic history of Rome and the popes, Grisar's health forced him to return to Austria, leaving the completion of the work to others. At Innsbruck, he turned his attention to research on Martin Luther that produced Luther (3 v. Freiburg im Breisgau 1911–12; Eng. tr. 1913–14), Lutherstudien (6 v. Freiburg im Breisgau 1920–23), Der deutsche Luther im Weltkreig und in der Gegenwart (Freiburg im Breisgau 1924), and Martin Luthers Leben und sein Werk (Freiburg im Breisgau 1926; Eng. tr. 1930). Grisar's analysis of Luther is, by his own description, psychological rather than biographical in orientation. Though intended to be more objective and moderate in tone than previous Catholic studies such as that by Heinrich Seuse denifle in 1903, it tends to emphasize negative qualities in Luther's personality. Contemporary Catholic appraisals of the Reformer appear more balanced than Grisar's without totally replacing it. Among his other works are the publication of addresses given at the Council of Trent by the Jesuit Diego Laínez, Jacobi Lainez disputationes Tridentinae (Rome 1886); S. Gregorio Magno (Rome 1904); Das Missale im Licht der römischen Stadtgeschichte (Freiburg im Breisgau 1925); Marienblüten. Systematische Marienlehre aus dem grossen Marienwerk des Petrus Canisius (Freiburg im Breisgau 1930).
Bibliography: An autobiography is found in Die Religion-swissenschaft der Gegenwart in Selbstdarstellungen (Freiburg 1927) 37–56. Necrologies appear in f. s. betten, American Catholic Historical Review 18 (1932) 229–232. Zeitscrift für katholische Theologie 56 (1932) 145–147. La civiltaà cattolica 1 (1932) 567–571. For the place of Grisar's study on Luther, see e. w. zeeden, Martin Luther und die Reformation im Urteil des deutschen Luthertums, 2 v. (Freiburg 1950–52) v. 1, tr. r. m. bethell, The Legacy of Luther (Westminster, Md. 1954). a. herte, Das katholische Lutherbild im Bann der Lutherkommentare des Cochläus, 3 v. (Münster 1943). j. grisar, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. m. buchberger (Freiburg 1930–38) 4:707–708. r. bÄumer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, (Freiburg 1957–65) 4:1238. k. g. steck, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 1957–65) 2:1878–79. a. m. bozzone, Dizionario ecclesiastico 2:276–277.