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  • Die Sermones des Nikolaus von Kues. Merkmale und ihre Stellung innerhalb der mittelalterlichen Predigtkultur. Akten des Symposions in Trier vom 21. bis 23. Oktober 2004
  • Jasper Hopkins
Die Sermones des Nikolaus von Kues. Merkmale und ihre Stellung innerhalb der mittelalterlichen Predigtkultur. Akten des Symposions in Trier vom 21. bis 23. Oktober 2004. Edited by Klaus Kremer and Klaus Reinhardt. [Mitteilungen und Forschungsbeiträge der Cusanus-Gesellschaft, 30.] (Trier: Paulinus, Cusanus-Institut. 2005. Pp. xlii, 270.)

The present volume presents papers from the first of two international symposia focused on the sermons of Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464). The complete 293 sermons are now available in edited, printed form in Vols. XVI-XIX of the series Nicolai de Cusa Opera Omnia (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 1970-2006). To anyone who is studying Nicholas' thought the sermons are an essential resource, constituting, as they do, approximately one-third of his writings. Some of the sermons were put into written form after they were preached; some were written down before they were preached; and some were preached without ever being written down. The 293 sermons of which we are in possession are more correctly referred to as sermon-sketches—some of which are lengthy sketches, others of which are quite short. Although all of the sermons except for two (viz., XXIV and LXXVI) are written in Latin, most of them were preached in German. As a result, the written sermons give us only thematic impressions of what Nicholas actually preached more or less extemporaneously. There can be no doubt that at times he also preached in Latin, especially when preaching in Rome and when preaching to priests. In preaching to the latter, his sermons were, presumably, oftentimes macaronic. Moreover, the German Sermon LXXVI, unlike Sermon XXIV, is not from the hand of Nicholas himself; rather, it is the report of a hearer in Vienna, where it was preached.

By contrast with Cusanus, Meister Eckhart wrote some 243 sermons (fifty less than did Cusanus). Over half of them (140 in number) were in German, whereas the others (103 in number) were in Latin. But what is it that explains why Nicholas wrote only one Sermon in German but preached most of them in German?How long, typically, did a sermon, as preached, last?Have there survived manuscripts (of the sermons) written in Nicholas's own hand?Is there evidence that Nicholas was an effective preacher, an interesting preacher?How highly philosophical and theological are his sermons?How extensive is his use, in the sermons, of dramatization, parable, anecdote?How rich and how novel are his metaphors? What sources does he cite?What themes seem to be the most prominent? These and other questions are raised—and answered (in some cases decisively, in other cases tentatively)—in the present collection of symposium papers. Thus, as in the first paragraph above, the papers furnish us with a wealth of knowledge about the background context, the thematic contents, and the varied forms of Nicholas's Predigten. Accordingly, the volume is to be highly recommended to medieval and Renaissance scholars.

Klaus Kremer provides an introductory overview that does much more than merely summarize the other contributors' papers. Thereby it stands on its [End Page 311] own as a major contribution to the volume. Maarten Hoenen, in explicating the relationship between exegesis and philosophical teachings in the sermons, makes innovative comments on Nicholas' way of interrelating faith and reason. Walter Euler explores the historical development of the sermons and identifies changing emphases. He seeks to group the sermons into different time-periods—periods of development that differ from Nicholas' own estimate thereof in his De Aequalitate. Marc-Aeilko Aris looks at the different audiences addressed by Nicholas and investigates the influence that respective audiences had on the construction of the sermons. Kazuhiko Yamaki focuses intensively on Nicholas' use of the book-metaphor—a metaphor that includes Nicholas' speaking of "the book of conscience,""the book of the soul,""the book of man's intellectual nature,"and so on. Georg Steer delves into Nicholas' knowledge of, and use of, Eckhart's sermons. And Volker Mertens examines Nicholas' preaching as it is situated in the context of the vernacular homilizing...


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