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(Properly Dobeneck), surnamed Cochlæus (from cochlea, a snail shell) after his birthplace Wendelstein, near Schwabach.
Humanist and Catholic controversialist, b. 1479; d. 11 Jan., 1552, in Breslau. His early education he received at the house of his uncle, Hirspeck. About 1500 he began his humanistic studies under Grienniger at Nuremberg. From 1504 he pursued his studies at Cologne and there relations sprang up between Cochlæus and the champions of humanism. In 1510 he obtained the rectorate in the Latin school of St. Lawrence in Nuremberg, where the "Quadrivium Grammatices" (1511 and repeatedly afterwards) and the "Tetrachordum Musices" appeared. At Nuremberg he became an intimate friend of Pirkheimer. With the latter's three nephews he went to Bologna to continue his humanistic and legal studies. His main object, however, was to pursue a course of theology, in which he obtained his doctorate in 1517, and then by the advice of Pirkheimer went to Rome. There, under the influence of the Oratorio del Divino Amore, Cochlæus turned his attention to the cultivation of a religious life. Ordained at Rome, he went to Frankfort, and after some hesitation, arising no doubt from consideration for his friends, he entered the arena as the opponent of the Lutheran movement. His first works were "De Utroque Sacerdotio" (1520) and several smaller writings published in rapid succession. In 1521 he met the nuncio Aleander at Worms and worked untiringly to bring about the reconciliation of Luther. During the following years he wrote tracts against Luther's principal theses on the doctrine of justification, on the freedom of the will, and on the teaching of the Church (especially the important work, "De Gratia Sacramentorum", 1522; "De Baptismo parvulorum", 1523; "A commentary on 154 Articles"; etc). Luther, to the vexation of Cochlæus wrote in answer only a single work, "Adversus Armatum Virum Cocleum".
After a short sojourn at Rome Cochlæus accompanied Compeggio to the negotiations at Nuremberg and Ratisbon. The Lutheran movement and the Peasants' War drove him to Cologne in 1525. From there he wrote against the rebellion and Luther, its real author. In 1526 he received a canonry at Mayence and accompanied Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg to the Diet of Speyer. After Emser's death Cochlæus took his place as secretary to Duke George of Saxony, whom he defended against an attack of Luther based on the false charge of an alliance between the Catholic princes at Breslau (cf. The Affaire of Otto v. Pack). Conjointly with Duke George he laboured strenuously in 1530, to refute the Augsburg Confession, and later directed against Melanchthon, its author, his bitter "Philippicae". Because of a pamphlet against Henry VIII of England he was transferred in 1535 to a canonry in Meissen. After the duke's death, owing to the advance of the Reformation, his further stay in Saxony became quite impossible. For the time being he found a refuge as canon first at Breslau and later at Eichstatt. With indomitable ardour he published pamphlet after pamphlet against Luther and Melanchthon, against Zwingli, Butzer, Bullinger, Cordatus, Ossiander, etc. Almost all of these publications, however, were written in haste and bad temper, without the necessary revision and theological thoroughness, consequently they produced no effect on the masses. His greatest work against Luther is his strictly historical "Commentaria de Actis et Sciptis M. Luther" (extending to his death), an armoury of Catholic polemics for all succeeding time. Forced to resign his benefice at Eichstatt in 1548, Cochlæus remained for a short time in Mayence to edit a work of Abbot Conrad Braun. In 1549, however, he returned to Breslau where he died shortly after. Naturally of a quiet and studious disposition he was drawn into the arena of polemics by the religious schism. There he developed a productivity and zeal unparalleled by any other Catholic theologian of his time. He did not, however, possess the other requisites for success in the same degree. Among his two hundred and two publications (catalogued in Spahn, p. 341 sq.) Are to be found, besides tracts bearing on the topics of the day, also editions of ecclesiastical writers and historical publications. Among these latter the work "Historiae Hussitarum XII Libri" (1549) is of great value even today because of the authorities used therein.
De Weldige-Kremer, De Joannis Cochlaei Vita at Scriptis (Münster, 1865); Otto, Johannes Cochlæus (Breslau, 1874); Gess, Johannes Cochlæus (Berlin, 1898); Schlecht, IV Cochlæusbriefe in Histor. Jahrbuch XX (1899), 768 sq.