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Humanist and theologian, b. at Schlettstadt, Alsace, 25 July 1450; d. there, 17 Nov., 1528. He went to the school at Schlettstadt conducted by Ludwig Dringenberg, and from 1464 was a student at the University of Freiburg (baccalaureus, 1466); later he went to Erfurt and Heidelberg (magister, 1471). He then studied canon law for three years, and finally theology. In 1483 he was cathedral preacher at Speyer. In 1498 Philip, the Elector Palatine, called him to Heidelberg as professor of rhetoric and poetry. From 1513 he lived at Schlettstadt, where a circle of pupils and admirers gathered around him. Differences of opinion caused by the Lutheran doctrine broke up this literary society, and Wimpfeling died lonesome and embittered.
His literary career began with a few publications in which he urged the more frequent holding of synods, the veneration of the Blessed Virgin, and an improvement of the discipline of the clergy. The "Elegantiarum medulla" (1493) is an extract from Valla's books on the elegance of the Latin language. In the "Isidoneus germanicus" (1496) he presented his pedagogical ideals, and opposed Scholasticism. The teaching of grammar should lead to the reading of heathen writers who were not immoral and especially of the Christian writers. He also laid emphasis on learning the practical sciences. His most important work, "Adolescentia" (1500), was intended to supplement "Isidoneus". Here he set forth the ethical side of his pedagogical scheme. The troubles of the Church spring from the bad training of the young; consequently, young people must be trained so as to be well-established in morals. He then discusses the details of twenty laws for young men. He showed himself a fiery patriot in the "Germanic" (1501), which involved him in a feud with Murner. His "Epitome rerum germanicarum" is a short history of the Germans, drawn in some particulars from other historians. In several writings he opposed abuses in the Church. After Luther's excommunication he took part in the attempt to prevail upon the Curia to withdraw the ban. This caused him to be suspected of having written a lampoon on the Curia, "Litancia pro Germania", that was probably composed by Hermann von dem Busche. In 1521 he submitted to the Church, of which he was ever afterwards a loyal son. In 1524 he added to Emser's dialogue against Zwingli's "Canonis missae defensio" a letter to Luther and Zwingli, in which he exhorted them to examine the Scriptures carefully in order to discover for themselves that the Canons of the Mass contains nothing contrary to the doctrines and customs of the early Church. He then retired from the struggle, and was ridiculed by fanatical partisans of Luther as a renegade and a persecutor of heretics. He was one of the best representatives of moderate humanism, one who honestly sought and wanted much that was good, but who generally only half attained his desires.
SCHMIDT, Histoire litteraire de l'Alsace (Paris, 1879), I, 1-187; II, 317- 39; KNEPPER, Jakob Wimpfeling (Freiburg, 1902).