Devotio Moderna: the Netherlandish Phenomenon at the Junction of Times
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Devotio Moderna: the Netherlandish Phenomenon at the Junction of Times
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The article considers to which extent the religious movement Devotio moderna influenced the northern (Christian) humanism and Reformation. The movement appeared in the Northern Netherlands at the end of the XIVth century aiming a renascence of the early Christian community rules of life. There were two organizational structures in the movement: common life brotherhoods leading a life of monks but without taking the monastic vows, and Augustinian monasteries of the Windesheim capitula which were widespread in the Netherlands and Germany in the XVth century. The involvement of the broad layers of the population, especially urban ones, in the cultural and historical process was a peculiar feature of this movement. It spread by the trodden trade routes, which confirms the burgher character of Devotio moderna. The Devotio moderna religious ethics was based on two points: on the individuals’ work of one’s own spiritual self-perfection following the way of Christ’s terrestrial life — this being put at the forefront and the second point concerned the necessity of transmitting this experience to the other people. The scholastic university theology was being rejected as not benefiting the spiritual life. The work concerning the religious education of the people was carried out in several directions. Religious treatises, simple in language and content, were being created by the Windesheim canonics — among them was Thomas a Kempis whose work ‘De Imitatione Christi’ was second to the Bible by the number of publications. Copied in Devotio moderna scriptoria, books of the Holy Scripture and simple in language and content ethic and religious works in Latin and vernacular diffused religious knowledge among the literate population. The common life brothers’ houses became centres where on Sundays laity and schoolchildren gathered for pious conversations and for the Holy Scripture reading in their native language. Brothers also kept dorms for schoolchildren — the future humanists and reformers were brought up there. Profoundly personal attitude towards God and requirement of the relentless spiritual work of the individual, together these things prepared the ground for the perception of the Reformation doctrines. Unlike the Italian humanism, the negation of the speculative theology, studying and copying Church Fathers’ works, especially those of Augustine and Hieronymus, gave the northern humanism specifically Christian character.
religious movements of the Late Middle Ages, Devotio moderna, individuals' self-perfection following Christ, Christian humanism, Reformation
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