Bertold von Regensburg - Encyclopedia


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BERTOLD VON REGENSBURG (c. 1220-1272), the greatest German preacher of the later middle ages, was a native of Regensburg, and entered the Franciscan monastery there. From about 1250 onwards his fame as a preacher spread over all the German-speaking parts of the continent of Europe. He wandered from village to village and town to town, preaching to enormous audiences, always in the open air; the earnestness and straightforward eloquence with which he insisted that true repentance came from the heart, that pious pilgrimages and the absolution of the Church were mere outward symbols, appealed to all classes. He died in Regensburg on the 13th of December 1272. His German sermons, of which seventy-one have been preserved, are among the most powerful in the language, and form the chief monuments of Middle High German prose. His style is clear, direct and remarkably free from cumbrous Latin constructions; he employed, whenever he could, the pithy and homely sayings of the peasants, and is not reluctant to point his moral with a rough humour. As a thinker, he shows little sympathy with that strain of medieval mysticism which is to be observed in all the poetry of his contemporaries.

The best edition of Bertold's German sermons is that by F. Pfeiffer and J. Strobl (2 vols., 1862-1880; reprinted, 1906); there is also a modern German version by F. Gebel (4th ed., 1906). The Latin sermons were edited by G. Jakob (1880). See C. W. Stromberger, Bertold von Regensburg, der grässte Volksredner des deutschen Mittelalters (1877), K. Unkel, Bertold von Regensburg (1882), and E. Bernhardt, Bruder Bertold von Regensburg (1905); A. E. Schonbach, Studien zur Geschichte der altdeutschen Predigt (Publications of the Vienna Academy, 1906).

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