« Ahasuerus Ahaus, Heinrich von Ahaz »

Ahaus, Heinrich von

AHAUS, ɑ̄´´hauz´, HEINRICH VON (Hendrik van Ahuis): Founder of the Brethren of the Common Life in Germany; b. in the principality of Ahaus, near Münster, 1370; d. in Münster 1439. He was descended from a noble family whose ancestors dated back to the ninth century, and who took their name from their territories on the River Aa. In 1396 he took religious orders and, influenced by his aunt, formerly abbess of Vreden in 97 Gelderland, then a member of the Sisterhood of the Common Life at Deventer, affiliated himself with the followers of the new teaching in that town. He remained at Deventer probably till the year 1400, living in close association with the companions and successors of Groote, the founder of the fraternity, such as Florentius Radewyns, Brinckerink, Gerhard Zerbolt, and Thomas a Kempis. Having mastered the principles and the organization of the Brethren, and imbued with their zeal, he returned to Westphalia and in the year of his arrival founded a brotherhood at Münster. The death of his father left him with ample means with which he erected a house for the accommodation of the Brethren. Later he ceded to them his magnificent residence and estate at Springbrunnen, which became the seat of the general chapter of the fraternity. Living without vows or written regulations, and given up to the practise of the humble Christian virtues, the Brethren, nevertheless, met with opposition from many of the clergy and laity. The former looked askance at their close intermingling of the ascetic and spiritual with the secular life, and resented the influence which they speedily began to exert in the field of education, while the citizens of Münster regarded the activity of the fraternity in the production of beautiful books, which constituted the chief source of their livelihood, as unwelcome competition. The Dominicans were the most zealous of their opponents and at the instance of one of that order, Matthæus Grabow, complaint against the Brethren was lodged with the Council of Constance. Owing to the intercession of Gerson and Pierre d’Ailly, however, they obtained a complete vindication (1418), and the persecution served only to hasten the rapid spread of their influence. Ahaus was one of the representatives sent to Constance to defend the cause of the brotherhood.

In 1416 Ahaus established at Cologne the second great house of the fraternity; and in 1428 a union was effected between the chapters of Cologne and Münster whereby the two houses were constituted practically one body. In 1441 this union was joined by the chapter of Wesel in Cleves, which had been founded by Ahaus in 1435. To the end of his life Ahaus busied himself with the erection of new chapters and the active supervision of the established houses; and, in addition to the three great chapters mentioned, many smaller foundations were established in the dioceses of Münster and Osnabrück. Communities of Sisters of the Common Life also were established at Emmerich, Herford, Hildesheim, and other places, aside from the mother house at Münster, with the foundation of which Ahaus was not connected. The labors of Ahaus exercised a beneficent influence upon the condition of the Church in Germany. The standard of learning among the clergy was raised, and monasticism was purified of many of its evils, while its ideals of a spiritual life received wide extension through the founding of secular communities. The Brethren were also influential in the establishment of schools, in the diffusion of literature both in manuscript and in printed form, and in the extension of the use of the vernacular for religious purposes.

L. Schulze.

Bibliography: L. Schulze, Heinrich von Ahaus, in ZKW, iii., 1882.

« Ahasuerus Ahaus, Heinrich von Ahaz »
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