« Abraham, Apocalypse of Abraham A Sancta Clara Abraham Ecchellensis »

Abraham A Sancta Clara

ABRAHAM A SANCTA CLARA: Monastic name by which a famous German preacher, Ulrich Megerle, is usually known; b. at Kreenheinstetten (20 m. n. of Constance), Baden, July 2, 1644; d. in Vienna Dec. 1, 1709. He was the son of an innkeeper, and received his education from the Jesuits at Ingolstadt and from the Benedictines at Salzburg. In 1662 he entered the order of the barefooted Augustinians, and rose to positions of authority, becoming prior of his house, provincial, and definitor. After 1668 or 1669, with the exception of seven years (1682-89) spent at Graz, he was attached to the Augustinian Church in Vienna. He was primarily a preacher, and his first published works were reprints of sermons. His definite literary activity dates from the plague of 1679, which called forth three small books; but these, as well as similar occasional writings—such as Auf, auf, ihr Christen (1683), inspired by the danger of the Turkish invasion and imitated by Schiller in the Capuchin’s address in Wallensteins Lager, viii.; Gack Gack (1685), a book for pilgrims; Heilsames Gemisch-Gemasch (1704)—are of comparatively slight importance. His principal work, Judas, der Erz-Schelm (4 parts, 1686-95), is an imaginary biography of the betrayer of Christ, written from the standpoint of a satirical preacher. About the same time he wrote a compendium of moral theology, Grammatica religiosa (1691) in which the more dignified Latin precludes the characteristic pungent flavor of his vernacular works.

Abraham represents the Catholicism of his age not in its noblest, but in its most usual form. He is fanatical, eager to make converts, intolerant; constant in praise of the Jesuits, full of the bitterest reproaches against Protestants and Jews. He has the most childish notions of science; but he makes very skilful use of his scanty equipment of learning. He has a perfect command of every rhetorical artifice, and knows how to play upon the feelings of his hearers, to appeal to their weaknesses, and to call up vivid pictures before their minds, not disdaining to raise a laugh. Satire is his strongest weapon; and he is a direct inheritor of the old German satiric tradition. He exercises the functions of a critic with the fearlessness of a mendicant friar; neither his audience, nor the court, nor his brethren of the clergy are spared. The burlesque manner which he uses in treating the most serious subjects was popular in the fifteenth century, and may have suited that age; but it was out of place in the second half of the seventeenth. The force of the contrast becomes apparent when it is remembered that Abraham was appointed court preacher in 1677, sixteen years after the same title had been conferred on a Bossuet. It is only fair, however, to recall what the general level of education was in Roman Catholic Germany at the time, and to see in Abraham rather a popular entertainer than a preacher.

A complete edition of his works in twenty-one volumes was published at Passau and Lindau 16 (1835-54), and selections at Heilbronn (7 vols., 1840-44) and Vienna (2 vols., 1846). Single works are accessible in many editions (Judas der Erz-Schelm, Stuttgart, 1882; Auf, auf, ihr Christen, Vienna, 1883).

(E. Steinmeyer.)

Bibliography: T. G. von Karajan, Abraham a Sancta Clara, Vienna, 1867; W. Scherer, Vorträge und Aufsätze zur Geschichte des geistlichen Lebens in Deutschland und Oesterreich, Berlin, 1874; H. Mareta, Ueber Judas den Erzschelm, Vienna, 1875; A. Silberstein, Denksäulen im Gebiete der Cultur and Literatur. Abraham a Sancta Clara, ib. 1879; E. Schnell, Pater Abraham a Sancta Clara, Munich, 1895; C. Blanckenburg, Studien über die Sprache Abrahams a Sancta Clara, Halle, 1897.

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