Church historian; b. Krautergersheim (Alsace), Dec. 6, 1853; d. Munich, Jan. 29, 1930. After theological studies in Strasbourg, he was ordained Aug. 4, 1878, and served as a curate until 1883. Because of sickness he had to withdraw from parochial work and settled near Munich, where he led the quiet life of a scholar until his death. He earned a doctorate in theology in 1896 at the University of Munich.
Paulus was first brought into contact with the Reformation period and the religious culture of the Middle Ages by his studies in the history of his Alsatian homeland. It was J. janssen's work on the history of the German people that led him to devote all his efforts to a study of the Reformation period, especially of Luther's Catholic literary opponents until then neglected by scholars. In about 50 publications he saved a great number of these theologians from oblivion. With a genuine love for truth he sought to do justice to Luther's reputation, but he also helped to undo the legends about him: Luthers Lebensende (Frankfurt 1898); Johann Tetzel, der Ablassprediger (Mainz 1899); Hexenwahn und Hexenprozess im 16. Jh. (Frankfurt 1910); Protestantismus und Toleranz im 16. Jh. (Frankfurt 1911). His chief work, however, is Geschichte des Ablasses im Mittelalter (3 v. Paderborn 1922–23). Because of his search for the whole truth and his faithfulness to the facts, he prepared the way toward a new Catholic outlook on the Reformation.
Bibliography: l. pfleger, Historisches Jahrbuch der Görres-Gesellschaft 50 (1930) 205–226; Nikolaus Paulus, ein Priesterund Gelehrtenleben, 1853–1930 (Kevelaer 1931). r. bÄumer, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 1957–65) 8:235.