Erasmus Alberus

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Erasmus Alberus (c. 1500-1553), German humanist, reformer, and poet, was born in the village of Sprendlingen near Frankfurt am Main about the year 1500. Although his father was a schoolmaster, his early education was neglected.

Ultimately in 1518 he found his way to the University of Wittenberg, where he studied theology. He had the good fortune to attract the attention of Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon, and subsequently became one of Luther's most active helpers in the Protestant Reformation.

Not only did he fight for the Protestant cause as a preacher and theologian, but he was almost the only member of Luther's party who was able to confront the Roman Catholics with the weapon of literary satire. In 1542 he published a prose satire to which Luther wrote the preface, Der Barfusser Monche Eulenspiegel und Alkoran, an adaptation of the Liber confermitatum of the Franciscan Bartolommeo Albizzi of Pisa, in which the Franciscan order is held up to ridicule.

Of higher literary value is the didactic and satirical Buch von der Tugend und Weisheit (1550), a collection of forty-nine fables in which Alberus embodies his views on the relations of Church and State.

His satire is incisive, but in a scholarly and humanistic way; it does not appeal to popular passions with the fierce directness which enabled the master of Catholic satire, Thomas Murner, to inflict such telling blows.

Several of Alberus's hymns, all of which show the influence of his master Luther, have been retained in the German Protestant hymnal.

After Luther's death, Alberus was for a time a deacon in Wittenberg; he became involved, however, in the political conflicts of the time, and was in Magdeburg in 1550-1551, while that town was besieged by Maurice of Saxony. In 1552 he was appointed Generalsuperintendent at Neubrandenburg in Mecklenburg, where he died on the 5th of May 1553.

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