Friday, January 20, 2012

Matthias Flacius Illyricus (updated)

UPDATE: Link fixed, and Clemens Radl provides links to another digital facsimile of the 1556 edition from the Uni Mannheim's CAMENA project, and to a facsimile of the 1562 edition from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Thanks!

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Recently I've been reading Martina Hartmann's Humanismus und Kirchenkritik: Matthias Flacius Illyricus als Erforscher des Mittelalters (Stuttgart: Thorbecke, 2001). It's an excellent overview of the life of a fascinating Reformation figure and one of his principle works, the Catalogus testium veritatis of 1556. Hartmann convincingly argues that Flacius was not just a tireless Lutheran combatant in sixteenth-century confessional battles, but also one of the founders of scholarly engagement with medieval ecclesiastic history. The model of history that Flacius helped found, in which the Middle Ages were characterized by papal oppression, while persecuted heretics and fifteenth-century developments were precursors to the Reformation, influenced historians well into the twentieth century.

Hartmann shows that Flacius, as the first editor of Otfrid von Weißenburg's Evangelienharmonie and the Latin preface to the Heliand, also made important contributions to the prehistory of German Studies. Usually the foundations of the discipline are seen no earlier than the late eighteenth century, a good two hundred years later than Flacius.

I had been aware that the Catalogus testium veritatis contained references to medieval and early modern prophecies, but I had never been able to consult a copy, and when I last checked, no digital edition was available. But now the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel has digitized a copy, and its contents are quite interesting. Flacius provided short descriptions of Joachim of Fiore, Birgitta of Sweden, Savonarola, Hildegard of Bingen, Johannes de Rupescissa, Johann Hilten, Johannes Wunschelberg (and, in the second edition of 1562, the prophecy of Gamaleon), Mechthild, pseudo-Methodius and Wolfgang Aytinger, Andreas Osiander's edition of the Vaticinia de summis pontificibus, sybilline prophecies, Joseph Grünpeck (as the "Speculum visionis"), Vincent Ferrer, and Dietrich von Zengg/Theodericus Croata, among others. Now I wish that I could consult a copy of the expanded second edition of 1562 (VD16 F 1294) and the German translation of 1573 (VD16 F 1295).


  1. First of all: the link to Wolfenbüttel doesn't work correctly (the "permalink: " has to be removed from the URL).

    There is also another digitized version of the 1556 edition in the Camena project:
    (the advantage of this digitization is that there is a table of contents).

  2. And the 1562 edition seems to be available at the Bavarian State Library: