Fifteenth-Century Carthusian Reform: The World of Nicholas Kempf


Fifteenth-Century Carthusian Reform argues that monastic theology offers a medieval Catholic paradigm distinct from the scholastic theology that has been the conventional source for medieval-oriented interpretations of Renaissance and Reformation. It is based on thorough study of the manuscript record.
Nicholas Kempf (ca. 1415-1497) taught at the University of Vienna before becoming the head of Carthusian monasteries in rural Austria and Slovenia. Faced with calls for reform in church and society, he placed his confidence in the patristic Christian idea of reform: the reform of the image of God in the human person. This contemplative monastic idea of reform depended on authoritative structures, especially the monastic rule and rational — yet divinely inspired — discernment by a spiritual director. What seemed like simpleminded submission to monastic structures was actually a way to avoid relying on human effort for salvation. By returning to one's true self (the image of God), one opened oneself up for genuine social relationships. To activist reformers, whether adherents of medieval scholasticism, Renaissance humanism, or modern Enlightenment, this monastic idea of reform has seemed escapist, backward-looking, and "womanish." Monks accepted these labels but read them as signs of hidden strength. This book attempts to read through monastic lenses.

Biographical Note

Dennis D. Martin (Ph.D. in History, University of Waterloo, Canada) is Associate Professor of historical theology at Loyola University, Chicago.

Review Quotes

' a scholarly tour de force' James Overfield, Catholic Historical Review, 1993 ' It is the very valuable contribution of Professor Martin to have rescued those works from five hundred years of Charthusian obscurity.' John B. Wickstrom, Speculum, 1994. ' I encourage monastic women and men and monastic sympathizers to obtain this book and to find in its crooked lines a path to an understanding of themselves, their communities, and their traditions.' Brian Patrick McGuire, Bulletin of Monastic Spirituality, 1995. ' This thoroughly-researched book has much to offer the church historian...E.J. Brill published this book, and every scholar knows what that means.' Joseph F. Kelly, Church History, 1995. ' auf allen Ebenen ein höchst informatives, lesenswertes Buch.' Martin Ohst, Theologische Rundschau, 2002.


Research and academic libraries, advanced graduate students and specialists in Medieval, Reformation, Renaissance history and gender studies.

Index Card