Nicholas of Clamanges

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Christian humanist and theologian; b. Nicholas Poillevillain, Clamanges (Champagne, Diocese of Châlons), c. 1360; d. Paris, 1437. At the age of 12 he entered the College of Navarre in Paris, where he pursued literary and theological studies. He quickly won renown and made many lasting friendships in the circle of the humanists at courtJohn of Montreuil, James of Nouvion, Gonthier Col, and later Nicholas of Blaye; and at the papal court in Avignon, John Muret and John of Moccia. In 1393 he became rector of the University of paris, where his friends and colleagues included peter of ailly and Jean gerson. Urged by his friends, he went to Avignon, where in 1397 he became papal secretary under the anti-pope benedict xiii. Having escaped death during the plague of 1398, he returned to Langres. Although he was deeply involved in the political pressures surrounding the avignon papacy, Nicholas nevertheless seriously promoted measures for ending the western schism. After Benedict's escape from Avignon, Nicholas rejoined him until the second withdrawal of obedience of 1408. He then returned to France permanently, residing in Langres, Valprofond, and Fontaine au Bois. In 1432 he returned to the College of Navarre in Paris; he engaged in writing till his death.

Above all Nicholas was a distinguished man of letters, an authentic Christian humanist. His was not a combative temperament; he never took sides directly in the factions that tore France asunder or the parties that divided the Church. It was by his letters and treatises that he intervened in the affairs of his century. Of his 151 extant letters, 138 were edited by J. Lydius, the others by A. Coville. Of his treatises, De fructu eremi and De fructu rerum adversarum were written c. 1408 at the time of his trials. Literary works include a tale and several poetic pieces, e.g., Descriptio et laus urbis Januae, Deploratio calamitatis ecclesiasticae, Descriptio vitae rusticae, Descriptio vitae tyrannicae. His other works treat of the internal strife in France (De lapsu et reparatione justitiae and the Oratio ad Galliarum principes ) or deal with the Schism and the misfortunes of the Church, especially his De ruina et reparatione ecclesiae and De praesulibus simoniacis.

His vehement but justified criticism of the morals of ecclesiastics has sometimes caused Nicholas to be considered a precursor of the reformation. But such was not the case. His critiques were no harsher than those of Peter of Ailly or Dietrich of nieheim. He was neither a revolutionary nor a pagan. Although greatly influenced in his style and arguments by the ancient writers whom he cited abundantly, he always returned to the Scriptures and his reflections and counsels are authentically Christian. Also extant are several beautiful prayers, a commentary on Isaias, De filio prodigo, De novis festitatibus non instituendis, and De studio theologico, in which he voices his deep conviction: We must not belabor the word of God; with it we must nourish our souls and give it abundantly to others.

Bibliography: Opera omnia, ed. j. m. lydius (Leiden 1613); Le Traité de la ruine de l'église, ed. a. coville (Paris 1936). a. coville, Recherches sur quelques écrivains du XIV e et du XV e siècle (Paris 1935). j. leclercq, "Les Prières inédites de Nicolas de Clamanges, " Revue d'ascétique et de mystique 23 (Toulouse 1947) 171183. e. vansteenberghe, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 11.1:597600. g mollat, Catholicisme 2:1165. r. bÄumer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 7:983984.

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Nicholas of Clamanges

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