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Jacques de Vitry


Historian, crusade preacher, hagiographer, bishop of Acre (121628), and cardinal bishop of Tusculum (1228); b. Reims region, c. 1170; d. Rome, 1240. Jacques studied at Paris and, as a canon regular, developed an abiding interest in the feminine religious movement that centered around mary of oignies (d. 1213) in the Diocese of Liège. His Vita Mariae Oigniacensis (Acta Sanctorum, June 5:542572) defines the prototype of the beguines. In 1216 he secured papal recognition for them. In 1213 Jacques de Vitry preached against the albigen ses. In seven extant letters [R. B. C. Huygens, Lettres de J. de V. (Leiden 1960)] that date from 1216 to 1221, he left an account of the Fifth crusade. He was back in the West by 1225, and in his last years he associated with Pope gregory ix. His works offer invaluable insight into the contemporary scene. The first part of his Historia orientalis et occidentalis [ed. F. Moschus (Douai 1597)] describes conditions in the East, but it shows the influence of william of tyre. The second part presents the monastic and quasi-monastic movements of Belgium and Italy, together with vignettes of John of Nivelles, fulk of neuilly, and peter cantor. In particular the Beguines, humiliati, and franciscans, with their emphasis on the vita apostolica and the primitive Church, appealed to him. If clerical delinquency and worldliness caused concern, this multiplicity of religious life provided the answer to internal decay and the threat of sectarianism. As sermones ad status, his Sermones vulgares (Paris, Bib. Nat. lat. 1759) are a substantial contribution to estates literature, for several lay callings as well as the secular clergy and monastic orders are addressed. These sermons are seeded with exempla (see exemplum) derived from both literary sources and personal experience, a preaching style that he popularized. Two other collections of sermons include Sermones feriales et communes [the exempla, ed. J. Greven (Heidelberg 1914)] and Sermones in epistolas et evangelia dominicalia (Antwerp 1575).

See Also: preaching (history of); laity in the middle ages.

Bibliography: jacques de vitry, The Exempla, or Illustrative Sermons from the Sermones Vulgares, ed. t. f. crane (London 1890). p. funk, Jakob von Vitry: Leben und Werke (Leipzig 1909). d. birch, "Jacques de Vitry and the Ideology of the Middle Ages" in Pilgrimage Explored (Woodbridge 1999). j. hammesse et al., eds., Medieval Sermons and Society: Cloister, City, UniversityProceedings of the International Symposia at Kalamazoo and New York (Louvain 1998).

[e. w. mcdonnell]

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