Staupitz, Johann von
STAUPITZ, JOHANN VON
Vicar-general of the German Augustinians at the time of Martin luther's revolt and personal counselor of Luther; b. probably at Motterwitz, near Leisnig, 1468–69; d. Salzburg, Austria, Dec. 28, 1524. There is little certain knowledge about his early years. He studied at Cologne and Leipzig from 1483 to 1489 and entered the augustinian order perhaps at Munich. Made doctor of theology in 1500 he took a leading role in founding the University of Wittenberg, where in 1502 he was named professor and first dean of the theological faculty. Staupitz was elected vicar-general of the order in 1503. From 1508, he was on close personal terms with Luther at Wittenberg. He acted as Luther's spiritual director, recommended Biblical study and later ceded to him his own chair of theology. Staupitz taught him, Luther said, to regard the love of God and of his justice as the starting point and not the goal of all true penance and therefore to understand true penance as above all a change of heart. Hence his crusade against the contemporary preaching of indulgences that Luther thought overemphasized satisfaction, "the vilest part of penance." Staupitz at first supported Luther in the ensuing controversy, but he gradually withdrew from the ranks of his partisans. Resigning as vicar-general in 1520, Staupitz signed a statement of his submission to the Pope and moved to Salzburg, where in 1522 he entered the Benedictine Order. Eventually he was elected abbot of St. Peter's Abbey. Luther was much affected by the desertion of Staupitz, but in his last letter to Staupitz, Sept. 17, 1523, disavowed any hard feelings against the man who, he said, had led him to the light of the gospel.
Staupitz did not share Luther's heterodox views, and he even called for their condemnation as heresy. A Thomist and a mystic, he was a prominent director of souls, a noteworthy preacher, and a pious, kindhearted man. He was of a gentle and compromising nature, however, and this explains the ambiguous and uncertain role he played during the critical years of Luther's break with the Church.
Bibliography: a. jeremias, ed., Johann von Staupitz, Luthers Vater und Schüler (Berlin 1926). h. wriedt, Gnade und Erwählung: Eine Untersuchung zu Johann von Staupitz und Martin Luther (Mainz 1991).
[t. s. bokenkotter]