Trithemius, Johannes (Tritheim)

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Benedictine scholar, spiritual writer, and abbot; b. Trittenheim on the Moselle, Feb. 1, 1462; d. Würzburg, Dec. 13, 1516. He entered the Benedictines at Sponheim, an abbey of the congregation of Bursfeld (see bursfeld, abbey of), at the age of 20 and the following year was elected to the office of abbot. In this position he strove vigorously to create a center of scholarly study and to reform monastic discipline. During the 23 years in which he was abbot he succeeded in gathering a collection of books that made the abbey library one of the most renowned in Europe at that time. Trithemius himself was highly regarded in the world of scholarship, and he counted among his friends men such as Conrad Celtis, Johann reuchlin, and Johann von dalberg and enjoyed the favor and friendship of the Emperor Maximilian. His attempt at disciplinary reform, however, was resisted by malcontents in the community, and as time went on the opposition increased rather than diminished. In 1503 he resigned his abbacy and retired to seek peace and quiet at the small Scottish monastery of St. Jacob at Würzburg, where he was elected abbot in 1506. He gave much of his energy during the last ten years of his life to writing books. He wrote in all more than 80 works, only a portion of which appeared later in printed editions. Among his historical works were Catalogus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum (1494), De viris illustribus Germaniae (1495), De viris illustribus Ordinis S. Benedicti, and a number of volumes of annals and chronicles. A part of his historical writing was published by M. Freher under the title Joannis Trithemii opera historica (Frankfurt 1601). Some of his ascetical work was published by Johannes busaeus under the title Joannis Trithemii opera pia et spiritualia (Mainz 1604) and is considered among the best devotional literature of the time. What he had written incidentally about the Immaculate Conception in his De laudibus S. Annae led to an attack by Wig and Wirt. Trithemius also took an interest in the occult and left works on witchcraft and cryptography.

Bibliography: n. scheid, Catholic Encyclopedia 15:6263. p. lehmann, Merkwürdigkeiten des Abtes Johannes Trithemus (Sitzungsberichte der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaft zu München 1961.2). Esp. for further biog. references, j. beckman, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche ī 10:296298. h. bÜttner, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 3 6:104243.

[p. k. meagher]