Rudolph Agricola in his own words
In 1479, Agricola returned from Italy and became the city secretary of Groningen. Humanists like him were sought after in such positions due to their intellectual and literary qualities. As an ambassador of the powerful city of Groningen, he went on missions to Holland and Flanders.
He continued to maintain contacts with friends from his time in Italy. For example, on October 22, 1482, he wrote a letter to Johann von Plieningen, who was then in Rome, trying to secure a good position.
In this context, Agricola gives him advice. Especially in Rome, you encounter many people with ambitious goals. Being modest or waiting passively yields nothing in such a situation. Be alert and take advantage of all the opportunities that life offers you.
Keeper of Special Collections, University Library Groningen
'Let us, with all our might, strive to embrace the true disciplines of human civilization and create something to leave behind that earlier generations wouldn't have dared to hope for and later generations won't disapprove of.'
Since the late 1460s, Agricola studied in the Italian city of Pavia, but occasionally returned to Groningen to visit his family and friends. During these visits, he stayed at the Selwerd monastery, of which his father was the abbot. He also frequented the wealthy Aduard monastery, where Abbot Hendrik van Rees regularly hosted intellectuals inspired by humanism, a new educational movement that had already flourished in Italy in the 14th century and found its first followers in the Netherlands in the 1460s, particularly in Frisia.
From Selwerd, Agricola wrote these words on February 5, 1471, in a letter to his like-minded friend Antonius Liber, who worked as a teacher and sacristan at the Martinikerk in the city of Groningen.
Agricola's letters reveal his understanding of what humanism entailed and how he actively advocated for it. The core of humanism, as referenced by Agricola, encompassed the five disciplines of civilization: grammar (language), rhetoric (communication), poetry (writing skills), historiography (practical conduct), and ethics (theoretical conduct).
Translation and explanation by dr. Adrie van der Laan, curator of Special Collections, University Library, University of Groningen.
' Humanitate doctrinaque dari nullum potest maius.'
' There is no greater gift than intellectual and scholarly formation.'
Rodolphus Agricola, 1476
In 1475, Rudolph Agricola left the University of Pavia to study in Ferrara. There, he had the opportunity to study classical Greek, which he considered essential for a thorough study of the humanities.
According to Agricola, following the Italian humanist tradition, the entire culture and literature of the Greco-Roman antiquity should serve as the foundation for the humanities. He was also hired by Duke Ercole d'Este as an organist at his court, which was known for its cultural richness. In the summer of 1476, Agricola had the honor of opening the new academic year in the presence of the duke. This was a significant distinction at a university renowned for many internationally renowned scholars. On this occasion, Agricola delivered a eulogy on the sciences, in which he made the above statement.
As a humanist, he dedicated himself to the humanities, which he considered the core and pinnacle of human civilization. In Agricola's view, this civilization and formation represented the highest goal and aspiration of education.
This speech by Agricola has never been fully translated into Dutch, but a portion of it was translated by Prof. Dr. Marc van der Poel in his book "Rudolf Agricola Over dialectica en humanisme" (Baarn: Ambo, 1991).
Naturalis philosophia ut nihil quod usquam gigneretur, relinqueret ignotum, penetravit aperuitque cuncta totamque rerum naturam non cognitioni solum, sed servituti quoque et usibus exhibuit humanis.
Science penetrates everything, exposes everything, and reveals the entire nature of things, not only for knowledge, but also to serve humanity and be useful to it.
Rodolphus Agricola, 1476.
In 1475, Rudolf Agricola left the University of Pavia to study in Ferrara, where he could also study classical Greek, which he deemed necessary for a thorough study of the humanities. According to Agricola, the entire culture and literature of Greek and Roman antiquity should be the foundation of the humanities, as was the case in Italian humanism.
The Duke of Ferrara, Ercole d'Este, also hired Agricola as an organist at his court, which was characterized by great cultural wealth. In the summer of 1476, Agricola had the honor of opening the new academic year in the presence of the Duke. This was no small distinction at a university renowned for its many scholars of international fame. On this occasion, Agricola delivered a eulogy on the sciences, in which he made the above statement. As a scholar of the humanities, he devoted himself to the study of classical literature, but he recognized the value of the sciences in a broad sense for the optimal formation of humanity, as he also emphasized in this speech. In his view, optimal formation was the highest goal and aspiration of education, and as a committed Christian, he also saw humanity as the crown of creation. In fact, his faith was strengthened by the achievements of human science.
Agricola's speech has never been translated in its entirety into Dutch, but a part of it was translated by Professor Dr. Marc van der Poel in his book Rudolf Agricola Over dialectica en humanisme (Baarn: Ambo, 1991).
Dr. A.H. (Adrie) van der Laan, Curator of Special Collections, University Library, University of Groningen.
|05 February 2024 10.01 a.m.