Ulrich von Hutten
Ulrich von Hutten was a German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 scholar, poet and reformer. He was an outspoken critic of the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 and a bridge between the humanists
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....

 and the Lutheran
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

. He was a leader of the Imperial Knight
Imperial Knight
The Free Imperial Knights, or the Knights of the Empire was an organisation of free nobles of the Holy Roman Empire, whose direct overlord was the Emperor, remnants of the medieval free nobility and the ministeriales...

s of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...



His life may be divided into four parts: his youth and cloister life (1488–1504); his wanderings in pursuit of knowledge (1504–1515); his strife with Ulrich of Württemberg
Ulrich, Duke of Württemberg
Herzog Ulrich von Württemberg succeeded his kinsman Eberhard II as Duke of Württemberg in 1498, being declared of age in 1503.-Early life:...

 (1515–1519); and his connection with the Reformation (1510–1523).

Youth and cloister life

Hutten was born in Burg Steckelberg, now in Schlüchtern
Schlüchtern is a town in the Main-Kinzig district, in Hessen, Germany. It is located on the river Kinzig at the southwest of a hill called Landrücken, approx. 30 km southwest of Fulda.-History:...

, Hessen. He was the eldest son of a poor and not undistinguished knightly family. As he was small of stature and sickly his father destined him for the cloister, and, when he was ten years old, his father placed him at the nearby Benedictine
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 in Fulda
Fulda is a city in Hesse, Germany; it is located on the river Fulda and is the administrative seat of the Fulda district .- Early Middle Ages :...

 to be educated as a monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

. The monastic school there was highly regarded in Germany, and he received an excellent education. However, he disliked the mode of life, and in 1505 fled to Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

. He thus obtained his freedom, but incurred the undying anger of his father.

Pursuit of knowledge

In Cologne, Hutten met Hoogstraten
Jacob van Hoogstraaten
Jacob van Hoogstraten was a theologian and controversialist, born about 1460, in Hoogstraeten, Belgium; died in Cologne, 24 January 1527.- Education, professor :...

, Johannes Rhagius (also known as Johannes Aesticampianus), and other scholars and poets. In 1506, he went to Erfurt
Erfurt is the capital city of Thuringia and the main city nearest to the geographical centre of Germany, located 100 km SW of Leipzig, 150 km N of Nuremberg and 180 km SE of Hannover. Erfurt Airport can be reached by plane via Munich. It lies in the southern part of the Thuringian...

, but soon after rejoined Rhagius at Frankfurt am Oder where a new university was opening. There he took his master's degree and published his first poem. In 1507, he followed Rhagius to Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

. In 1508, 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica reports him a shipwrecked beggar on the Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

n coast, while the New International Encyclopedia
New International Encyclopedia
The New International Encyclopedia was an American encyclopedia first published in 1902 by Dodd, Mead and Company. It descended from the International Cyclopaedia and was updated in 1906, 1914 and 1926.-History:...

 describes him as stricken down with the pestilence and recovering.

In 1509, he was studying theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 at the University of Greifswald, where he was at first received kindly. However his burgher patrons could not tolerate the poet's airs and vanity and ill-timed assertions of his higher rank. Wherefore Hutten left Greifswald, and as he went was robbed of clothes and books, his only baggage, by the servants of his late friends. In the dead of winter, half starved, frozen, penniless, he reached Rostock
Rostock -Early history:In the 11th century Polabian Slavs founded a settlement at the Warnow river called Roztoc ; the name Rostock is derived from that designation. The Danish king Valdemar I set the town aflame in 1161.Afterwards the place was settled by German traders...


In Rostock, again the humanists received him gladly, and under their protection he wrote against his Greifswald patrons, thus beginning the long list of his satires and fierce attacks on personal or public foes. Rostock could not hold him long, and he wandered on to Wittenberg, where in 1511 he published his Ars Versificatoria, a work on versification.
His next stop was Leipzig, and thence to Vienna, where he hoped to win the emperor Maximilian
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

's favour by an elaborate national poem on the war with Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

. But neither Maximilian nor the University of Vienna
University of Vienna
The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world...

 would lift a hand for him.

So he went on to Italy, and settled at Pavia to study law. In 1512, his studies were interrupted by war: in the siege of Pavia by papal troops and Swiss, he was plundered by both sides, and escaped, sick and penniless, to Bologna. On his recovery, he served for a short time as a private soldier in the emperor's army, but by 1514 was back in Germany.
Thanks to his poetic gifts and the friendship of Eitelwolf von Stein (d. 1515), he won the favour of the elector of Mainz, Archbishop Albert of Brandenburg. Here high dreams of a learned career rose on him: Mainz should be made the metropolis of a grand humanist movement, the centre of good style and literary form.

Strife with Ulrich of Württemberg

But the murder in 1515 of his relative Hans von Hutten by Ulrich, duke of Württemberg
Ulrich, Duke of Württemberg
Herzog Ulrich von Württemberg succeeded his kinsman Eberhard II as Duke of Württemberg in 1498, being declared of age in 1503.-Early life:...

, changed the whole course of his life; satire, chief refuge of the weak, became Hutten's weapon; with one hand he took his part in the famous Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum
Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum
The Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum was a celebrated collection of satirical Latin letters which appeared 1515-1519 in Hagenau, Germany...

(The Letters of Obscure Men), and with the other launched scathing letters, eloquent Ciceronian orations, or biting satires against the duke. These works made him known throughout Germany.

Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum was written in support of Hutten's mentor, the prominent theologian Johannes Reuchlin, who was engaged in a struggle to prevent the confiscation of Hebrew texts. Epistolæ contained a series of fictitious letters addressed to Hardwin von Grätz
Hardwin von Grätz, known as Ortuinus Gratius or Ortwin , was a German humanist scholar and theologian.Ortwin was born in Holtwick and died in Cologne.-Life:...

, which sarcastically attacked the scholastic theologians who were acting against Reuchlin.

Hutten went again to Italy to take the degree of doctor of laws, and returned to Germany in 1517. There the emperor took Hutten under his protection and bestowed on him the honors of a poet's laureate crown and knighthood. However, he also spared Ulrich, duke of Württemberg. While in Italy, Hutten had become imbued with a fierce hatred for the papacy, which he bitterly attacked in his preface to an edition of Laurentius Valla's De Donatione Constantini, published in 1517. He thus helped prepare the way for Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...


In 1518, he accompanied his patron, Archbishop Albert, on several official journeys to Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and to the Diet of Augsburg
Diet of Augsburg
The Diet of Augsburg were the meetings of the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire in the German city of Augsburg. There were many such sessions, but the three meetings during the Reformation and the ensuing religious wars between the Roman Catholic emperor Charles V and the Protestant...

, where Luther had his famous conference with Thomas Cajetan
Thomas Cajetan
Thomas Cajetan , also known as Gaetanus, commonly Tommaso de Vio , was an Italian cardinal. He is perhaps best known among Protestants for his opposition to the teachings of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation while he was the Pope's Legate in Wittenberg, and perhaps best known among...

. Subsequently, Hutten established a small printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

, and published pamphlet
A pamphlet is an unbound booklet . It may consist of a single sheet of paper that is printed on both sides and folded in half, in thirds, or in fourths , or it may consist of a few pages that are folded in half and saddle stapled at the crease to make a simple book...

s written in the German language
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 attacking the Pope and the Roman clergy.

Participation in the Reformation

Archbishop Albert denounced him at Rome, whereupon in 1519 Hutten became a supporter of Luther and his calls for religious reform. Unlike Luther, Hutten tried to enforce reformation by military means when he, along with Franz von Sickingen
Franz von Sickingen
Franz von Sickingen was a German knight, one of the most notable figures of the first period of the Reformation.-Biography:He was born at Ebernburg near Bad Kreuznach...

 attempted to begin popular crusade within the Holy Roman Empire against the power of the Roman Catholic Church in favour of Luther's reformed religion. In what is known as the Knights' Revolt
Knights' Revolt
The Knights' Revolt of 1522 was a revolt by a number of Protestant and humanist German knights led by Franz von Sickingen, against the Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Emperor...

, they attacked the lands of the Archbishop of Trier
Archbishopric of Trier
The Archbishopric of Trier was a Roman Catholic diocese in Germany, that existed from Carolingian times until the end of the Holy Roman Empire. Its suffragans were the dioceses of Metz, Toul and Verdun. Since the 9th century the Archbishops of Trier were simultaneously princes and since the 11th...

 in 1522. The archbishop held out, however, and the knights were eventually defeated in 1523, destroying them as a significant political force within the empire.

Following his defeat, Hutten tried to convince Erasmus of Rotterdam to side with the Reformation. Erasmus refused to take sides, and he also refused to see Hutten when the latter came to Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

 in 1523, ill and impoverished, to see him. Their estrangement culminated in a literary quarrel between the two humanists.

He died in seclusion on the island of Ufenau
Ufenau is an island located, with the neighbouring island of Lützelau, in Lake Zürich in Switzerland between Freienbach and Rapperswil .- Geography :...

 on Lake Zurich
Lake Zurich
Lake Zurich is a lake in Switzerland, extending southeast of the city of Zurich. It is also known as Lake Zürich and Lake of Zürich. It lies approximately at co-ordinates ....


Health issues

For the final 15 years of his life, Hutten suffered from the 'French disease' (or syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis...

), of which he died. He wrote a text in 1519, De morbo gallico (On the French disease) about the symptoms of what is thought to be syphilis
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum subspecies pallidum. The primary route of transmission is through sexual contact; however, it may also be transmitted from mother to fetus during pregnancy or at birth, resulting in congenital syphilis...

 and its treatment with Guaiacum
Guaiacum, sometimes spelled Guajacum, is a genus of flowering plants in the caltrop family Zygophyllaceae. It contains five species of slow-growing shrubs and trees, reaching a height of approximately but are usually less than half of that...

. His text is regarded as one of the first patient narratives in the history of medicine
History of medicine
All human societies have medical beliefs that provide explanations for birth, death, and disease. Throughout history, illness has been attributed to witchcraft, demons, astral influence, or the will of the gods...



Hutten was more open in the expression of his opinions than any other man, probably, of his age. He did much to prepare the way for the Reformation and to promote it. He was a master of the Latin language, and excelled in satirical and passionate invective. His literary life is generally divided into three periods: (1) Period of Latin poems (1509–16); (2) period of letters and orations (1515-17); (3) period of dialogues and letters in Latin and German (1517–23). In all he published some 45 different works.

His chief works were his Ars versificandi (The Art of Prosody
Prosody (linguistics)
In linguistics, prosody is the rhythm, stress, and intonation of speech. Prosody may reflect various features of the speaker or the utterance: the emotional state of the speaker; the form of the utterance ; the presence of irony or sarcasm; emphasis, contrast, and focus; or other elements of...

, 1511); the Nemo (1518);
a work on the Morbus Gallicus (1519); the volume of Steckelberg
complaints against Duke Ulrich (including his four Ciceronian
Orations, his Letters and the Phalarismus) also in 1519; the Vadismus
(1520); and the controversy with Erasmus at the end of his life.
Besides these were many poems in Latin and German.

His most noteworthy contribution to literature was his portion of the Epistolae obscurorum virorum. It is not known with certainty how far Hutten was the parent of this
celebrated work. At first the
cloister world, not discerning its irony, welcomed the work as a
defence of their position; though their eyes were soon opened by
the favor with which the learned world received it. The Epistolae
were eagerly bought up; the first part (41 letters) appeared at the
end of 1515; early in 1516 there was a second edition; later in 1516
a third, with an appendix of seven letters; in 1517 appeared the
second part (62 letters), to which a fresh appendix of eight letters
was subjoined soon after. In 1909 the Latin text of the Epistolae
with an English translation was published by F. G. Stokes. Hutten,
in a letter addressed to Robert Crocus, denied that he was the author
of the book, but there is no doubt as to his connexion with it.
Erasmus was of opinion that there were three authors, of whom
Crotus Rubianus was the originator of the idea, and Hutten a chief
contributor. D. F. Strauss, who dedicates to the subject a chapter
of his admirable work on Hutten, concludes that he had no share in
the first part, but that his hand is clearly visible in the second part,
which he attributes in the main to him. To him is due the more
serious and severe tone of that bitter portion of the satire. See
W. Brecht, Die Verfasser der Epistolae obscurorum virorum (1904).

For a complete catalogue of the writings of Hutten, see E. Böcking's
Index Bibliographicus Huttenianus (1858). Böcking is also the editor
of the complete edition of Hutten's works (7 vols., 1859–1862). A
selection of Hutten's German writings, edited by G. Balke, appeared
in 1891. Cp. S. Szamatolski, Huttens deutsche Schriften (1891).
The best biography (though it is also somewhat of a political
pamphlet) is that of D. F. Strauss (Ulrich von Hutten, 1857;
4th ed., 1878; English translation by G. Sturge, 1874), with
which may be compared the older monographs by A. Wagenseil
(1823), A. Bürck (1846) and J. Zeller (Paris, 1849). See also
J. Deckert, Ulrich von Huttens Leben und Wirken. Eine historische
Skizze (1901).


In addition to Hans von Hutten, Ulrich von Hutten was also related to the German adventurer Philipp von Hutten
Philipp von Hutten
Philipp von Hutten was a German adventurer, an early European explorer of Venezuela.-Biography:He passed some of his early years at the court of the Roman emperor Charles V...



A line from the third of Hutten's three essays collectively entitled 'Invectives', videtis illam spirare libertatis auram, was the inspiration for the motto of Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

, Die Luft der Freiheit weht.

As a student at the University of Bonn
University of Bonn
The University of Bonn is a public research university located in Bonn, Germany. Founded in its present form in 1818, as the linear successor of earlier academic institutions, the University of Bonn is today one of the leading universities in Germany. The University of Bonn offers a large number...

, Carl Schurz
Carl Schurz
Carl Christian Schurz was a German revolutionary, American statesman and reformer, and Union Army General in the American Civil War. He was also an accomplished journalist, newspaper editor and orator, who in 1869 became the first German-born American elected to the United States Senate.His wife,...

 began work on a tragedy based on Hutten's life. He abandoned it, never to return to finish the work, when the 1848 revolution broke out in Germany.

He is included in the canon of saints
Saints of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica
The Gnostic Saints of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica are a series of historical and mythological figures commemorated within the current of Thelema. They were first listed in Liber XV, the Gnostic Mass, which is the central rite of Ordo Templi Orientis and its ecclesiastical arm, Ecclesia Gnostica...

 of Liber XV, The Gnostic Mass
Liber XV, The Gnostic Mass
Aleister Crowley wrote The Gnostic Mass — technically called Liber XV or "Book 15" — in 1913 while travelling in Moscow, Russia. In many ways it is similar in structure to the Mass of the Eastern Orthodox Church. However, the comparison ends there, as Liber XV is a celebration of the principles of...

 of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica
Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica
Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica , or the Gnostic Catholic Church, is the ecclesiastical arm of Ordo Templi Orientis , an international fraternal initiatory organization devoted to promulgating the Law of Thelema. Thelema is a philosophical, mystical and religious system elaborated by Aleister Crowley,...

, penned by the infamous Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley , born Edward Alexander Crowley, and also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast, was an influential English occultist, astrologer, mystic and ceremonial magician, responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. He was also successful in various other...


Hutten's refuge in Ufenau and his death are the subject of a poem by Conrad Ferdinand Meyer
Conrad Ferdinand Meyer
Conrad Ferdinand Meyer was a Swiss poet and historical novelist, a master of realism chiefly remembered for stirring narrative ballads like "Die Füße im Feuer" .-Biography:...

, Huttens letzte Tage.
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