CÆSARIUS OF HEISTERBACH, hais'ter-bah: Monk; b. probably at Cologne c. 1180; d. at Heisterbach (20 m. s. of Cologne) c. 1240. He received an excellent education at Cologne and gained a good knowledge of the Church Fathers and classical writers. In 1198 or 1199 he entered the monastery of the Cistercians at Heisterbach and spent his life there in quiet seclusion. He became master of the novices, and also prior according to Henriquez (Monologium Cisterciense, ad diem 25 Sept.). His literary activity is closely connected with his monastic duties. Only sixteen of his many writings are extant and most of these are still in manuscript. One of the best known is the Dialogus miraculorum or De miraculis et visionibus sui temporis (ed. J. Strange, 2 vols., Cologne, 1831; index, Coblenz,1857; see bibliography below for title of German select transl.). As master of the novices Cæsarius had to acquaint the future monks with the regulations, opinions, and decisions of the order, and he believed the best way to accomplish this was by means of examples. At the request of his abbot he committed his instructions to writing and the copiousness and variety of his material, drawn from the recent past as well as more remote antiquity, is surprising. His written sources belong mostly to the Cistercian order, but he also drew from oral communications. Each narrative is intended to have a religious or moral practical application, but Cæsarius knew how to include everything under these heads, and thus it happens that his stories contain many points of interest for contemporaneous history and the history of civilization. In a series of pictures he brings before us the life on the Lower Rhine, especially at Cologne, and we often meet with popular beliefs and superstitions in which survivals of old Germanic mythology may still be discovered. The Dialogus is especially important for information concerning ecclesiastical customs and conditions, especially in the monastic life. The regulations of the monasteries, especially among the Cistercians, the chorus-singing and work, the eating and sleeping, the fasting and bloodletting of the monks–all comes before us in living examples. Cæsarius is much in earnest about the evils of confession; he suppresses the worst, but what he tells is bad enough and his judgment upon it is severe (cf. iii. 41 and 45). For the rest the dialogue from beginning to end is a witness to the mania for miracles and the belief of the time in the marvelous. One finds everywhere an interference of partly divine, partly demonic powers with earthly happenings, and when it takes place the most incredible becomes credible. Here is the weak point of the book which must not be overlooked, despite the poetic charm of many narratives and the morally pure personality of Cæsarius. He contributed his share to cause the belief in witchcraft and sorcery, in incubi and succubi, and all sorts of devilish intervention, to be regarded as a constituent part of Christian belief. The praise bestowed on the Dialogus induced Cæsarius to prepare a second work of the kind, not however in the form of dialogue, the Libri VIII miraculorum, of which only three books are preserved (ed. Aloys Meister, Rome, 1901, supplementary vol. to the Römische Quartalschrift). Cæsarius's historical works include a Catalogus episcoporum Coloniensium (in J. F. Böhmer, Fontes rerum Germanicarum, ii., Stuttgart, 1845, 272-282, and, ed. H. Cardauns, in MGH, Script., xxiv., 1879, 345-347; Germ, transl. by M. Bethany, Elberfeld, 1898) and a Vita sancti Engelberti, an archbishop of Cologne who was murdered by a relative in 1225 (in Böhmer, ut sup., 294-329). This work insures to Cæsarius a place among the most prominent biographers of the Middle Ages. The first book


describes the personality of Engelbert; the second describes in dramatic manner the dangers with which the arrogance of insubordinate vassals threatened the archbishop, and ends with a thrilling account of the final catastrophe. The third book treats of the miracles of Engelbert, who was revered as martyr. Lastly, Cæsarius deserves no minor place among the preachers of his time. His homilies (edited by the Dominican J. A. Koppenstein, 4 parts, Cologne, 1615-28) are indeed monastic, not popular, sermons, like those of Bernard of Clairvaux. But both have in common the rich application of Holy Writ, the connection of moral and allegorical exposition, and the endeavor to edify their hearers. In spite of their simplicity they reveal an indeed unsought for, but not unconscious art in their plan. Peculiar to Cæsarius and corresponding to his method, already noted, is the very copious intertwining of historical examples from modern times. He was a true child of his time, and belongs to its best. In him still lives the spirit of the old Cistercians, as Bernard impressed it on the order. He unites an earnest orthodoxy with fervent piety and a highly moral sentiment. Though implicitly devoted to the Church, nevertheless he has a keen eye for its obvious defects, and his judgment was incorruptible. Though a zealous monk, he did not lose all interest in the events of the world, and the political disorders of the time, with all the misery which they brought, concern him.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Kaufmann, Cäsarius von Heisterbach, Cologne, 1850, 2d ed., 1862; W. Cave, Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum historia literaria, year 1225, 2 vols., London, 1688-98; J. Hartzheim, Bibliotheca Coloniensis, pp. 42-45, Cologne, 1747; Histoire littéraire de la France, xviii. 194-201, Paris, 1835; Braun, in Zeitschrift für Philosophie und katholische Theologie, pp. 1-27, Bonn, 1845 (contains a list of his writings prepared by himself); A. W. Wybrands, De Dialogus miraculorum van Cœsarius van Heisterbach, in Studien en Bijdragen, ii. 1-116, Amsterdam, 1871; K. Unkel, Die Homilien des Cäsarius von Heisterbach und ihre Bedeutung für die Kultur und Sittengeschichte des zwölften und dreizehnten Jahrhunderts, in Annalen des historischen Vereins für die Niederrhein, xxxiv. (1879) 1-67; A. Kaufmann, Wunderbare und denkwürdige Geschichten aus den Werken des Cäsarius von Heisterbach, in Annalen des historischen Vereina für den Niederrhein, Cologne, 2 parts, 1884-91; Wattenbach, DGQ, ii. 412, 485.


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