JACOB (JAMES) OF VITRY (JACQUES DE VITRY): Bishop of Akko, cardinal bishop of Tusculum; b. at Vitry (20 m, s.e. of Châlons-sur-Marne); d. at Rome Apr. 30, 1240. While a student in Paris he heard of the miraculous deeds of Mary of Nivelles, in Belgium, who, from about 1205; belonged to the society of Beguines organized by the mother of Ægidius, prior of Oignies, on the southern border of the province of Namur. He soon removed to Oignies as canon of the Augustinian chapter. In his intercourse with the Beguines, and especially with Mary, he appropriated views and principles which from this time decided the course of his life. At the wish of Mary, about 1210, he procured ordination as priest. About 1211 he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome. Afterward he became, through Mary, acquainted with Bishop Fulco, of Toulouse, who, in 1213, adopted him as companion in his agitation for a crusade against the Albigenses. Jacob left Oignies after Mary's death (June 23, 1213), and preached in North France in behalf of a crusade against the heretics. Soon he preached also a new crusade to the Holy Land. His success induced the cathedral chapter of Akko to elect him bishop, but Jacob preferred to remain in France, and went to Italy in 1216 to try to secure appointment as legate for the crusade in that country. Honorius III., however, consecrated him bishop of Akko, and Jacob went to his eastern see. Thence he traveled as an itinerant preacher through all places that were still in the possession of the Christians, and eagerly participated in the expeditions of the large army of crusaders that gathered in Akko. In May, 1218, he marched against Damietta, but the plan failed and in 1221 he was compelled to return to Akko. From that time he tried all possible means to rid himself of his office, but the pope was relentless. Nevertheless he allowed Jacob to return to Europe in 1226 to preach the crusade as he had done in 1214. In this function he appears in 1227 in northern France, and also in the bordering districts of Germany. Later he became temporarily vicar of the bishopric of Liége; and finally Gregory IX., his intimate friend and protector, released him from his Oriental office, and made him bishop of Tusculum, Frascati, and cardinal (1228).
Jacob of Vitry was first of all a preacher. His whole literary activity was governed by the habit of gathering material for sermons and religious devotion. Two things contributed to his success and influence as a preacher: (1) his skill in illustrating moral principles by examples, anecdotes, parables, and fables; and (2) his manner of addressing sermons to groups and classes, such as prelates, secular and regular canons, scholars, lawyers, monks, knights, merchants, etc. Both were innovations and created a new epoch in the development of the art of preaching. Encouraged by the popularity of his sermons, Jacob collected them at the end of his life. He makes six divisions in this collection: i.-v., sermones de tempore, sermons in the usual style for the pericopes of the church year; vi., sermones vulgares, sermons for different classes. The latter are of considerable value for the history of Church and culture, depicting in realistic manner the conditions of West European society of his age. Jacob's homiletic and edificatory tendencies characterize him also as a historian. His most important historical works are the Liber de mulieribus Leodiensibus and Vita S. Mariae Oigniacensis which were composed between 1213 and 1216. The life of Mary contains the most valuable documents for the inner history of the older Beguinism. Of less importance, though of greater renown, is his Historia orientalis or Historia Hierosolyrnitana abbreviata, which he began in 1219. It is largely copied from a similar work of William of Tyre. Of much greater historical value are his letters from 1216 to 1221, which depict the Fifth Crusade with great fidelity.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: For a guide to the chief editions of his Letters and his Historia orientalis consult Potthast, Wegweiser, pp. 633-634. For his life consult: ASB, June, iii. 237-258; F. L. Matzner, De Jacobi Vitriacensis . . . vita et rebus gestis, Munich, 1863; idem, in KL, v. 1176-1187; Histoire littéraire de la France, xviii. 209-246; M. Barroux, Jacques de Vitry, Paris, 1885; T. A. Archer and C. L. Kingsford, The Crusades, passim, New York, 1895; and other literature cited under CRUSADES. On his writings consult: J. L. D. G. Saint-Genvis, Sur les lettres inédites de Jacques de Vitry, Brussels, 1847; G. Zacher, Die Historia orientalis des Jacob von Vitry, Königsberg, 1885.
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