1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alberus, Erasmus

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ALBERUS, ERASMUS (c. 1500–1553), German humanist, reformer and poet, was a native of the village of Sprendlingen near Frankfort-on-Main, where he was born about the year 1500. Although his father was a schoolmaster, his early education was neglected. Ultimately in 1518 he found his way to the university of Wittenberg, where he studied theology. He had here the good fortune to attract the attention of Luther and Melanchthon, and subsequently became one of Luther’s most active helpers in the Reformation. Not merely did he fight for the Protestant cause as a preacher and theologian, but he was almost the only member of Luther’s party who was able to confront the Roman Catholics with the weapon of literary satire. In 1542 he published a prose satire to which Luther wrote the preface, Der Barfüsser Mönche Eulenspiegel und Alkoran, an adaptation of the Liber confermitatum of the Franciscan Bartolommeo Albizzi of Pisa (Pisanus, d. 1401), in which the Franciscan order is held up to ridicule. Of higher literary value is the didactic and satirical Buch von der Tugend und Weisheit (1550), a collection of forty-nine fables in which Alberus embodies his views on the relations of Church and State. His satire is incisive, but in a scholarly and humanistic way; it does not appeal to popular passions with the fierce directness which enabled the master of Catholic satire, Thomas Murner, to inflict such telling blows. Several of Alberus’s hymns, all of which show the influence of his master Luther, have been retained in the German Protestant hymnal. After Luther’s death, Alberus was for a time Diakonus in Wittenberg; he became involved, however, in the political conflicts of the time, and was in Magdeburg in 1550–1551, while that town was besieged by Maurice of Saxony. In 1552 he was appointed Generalsuperintendent at Neubrandenburg in Mecklenburg, where he died on the 5th of May 1553.

Das Buch von der Tugend und Weisheit has been edited by W. Braune (1892); the sixteen Geistliche Lieder by C. W. Stromberger (1857). Alberus' prose writings have not been reprinted in recent times. See F. Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Erasmus Alberus (1894).