- Thomas à Kempis
/tom"euhs euh kem"pis/.
* * *orig. Thomas Hemerkenborn 1379/80, Kempen, near Düsseldorf, Rhinelanddied Aug. 8, 1471, Agnietenberg, near Zwolle, Bishopric of UtrechtChristian theologian and probable author of The Imitation of Christ.He went to Deventer, Neth., с 1392 and joined the Brethren of the Common Life, a community devoted to the care and education of the poor. In 1387 he entered the Augustinian monastery of canons regular at Agnietenberg. He was ordained a priest in 1413 and devoted himself to copying manuscripts and directing novices. He is credited with writing The Imitation of Christ, the most influential devotional work in Christian literature after the Bible. Noted for its simple language and style, it emphasizes spiritual over materialistic life and affirms the rewards of a life centred on Christ. The Imitation and his other treatises and sermons are the best representation of the devotio moderna, a new form of religious devotion that arose at the end of the 14th century.
* * *original name Thomas Hemerkenborn 1379/80, Kempen, near Düsseldorf, the Rhineland [now in Germany]died Aug. 8, 1471, Agnietenberg, near Zwolle, Bishopric of Utrecht [now in The Netherlands]Christian theologian, the probable author of De Imitatione Christi ( Imitation of Christ), a devotional book that, with the exception of the Bible, has been considered the most influential work in Christian literature.About 1392 Thomas went to Deventer, Neth., headquarters of the learned Brethren of the Common Life, a community devoted to education and the care of the poor, where he studied under the theologian Florentius Radewyns, who in 1387 had founded the Congregation of Windesheim, a congregation of Augustinian canons regular (i.e., ecclesiastics living in community and bound by vows). Thomas joined the Windesheim congregation at Agnietenberg monastery, where he remained almost continually for over 70 years. He took his vows in 1408, was ordained in 1413, and devoted his life to copying manuscripts and to directing novices.Although the authorship is in dispute, he probably wrote the Imitation. Remarkable for its simple language and style, it emphasizes the spiritual rather than the materialistic life, affirms the rewards of being Christ centred, and supports Communion as a means to strengthen faith. His writings offer possibly the best representation of the devotio moderna (a religious movement created by Gerhard Groote, founder of the Brethren of the Common Life) that made religion intelligible and practicable for the “modern” attitude arising in the Netherlands at the end of the 14th century. Thomas stresses asceticism rather than mysticism, and moderate—not extreme—austerity. A critical edition of his Opera Omnia (17 vol., 1902–22; “Complete Works”) was published by M.J. Pohl.Additional ReadingR.R. Post, The Modern Devotion: Confrontation with Reformation and Humanism (1968).
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