A model for Christendom? Erasmus, Poland, and the reformation

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Abstract

This article examines the close ties that developed between Desiderius Erasmus and the Polish kingdom and the implication of these relationships on our understanding of the religious landscape of late medieval and early modern Europe. Few regions embraced Erasmus as enthusiastically as Poland, and nowhere else did he have such a concentration of allies positioned at the highest levels of society including the king himself. More than any other figure from western Europe, Erasmus helped shape the intellectual and religious agenda of the Polish kingdom during this period. A close analysis of this relationship expands our understanding of Reformation Europe in a number of critical ways. It brings Poland, normally viewed peripherally in this period, into key debates and discussions of the Reformation. Erasmus's relationship with Poland also speaks to wider issues and processes of change in the Christian world. As confessional distinctions were becoming more pronounced in the 1520s and 1530s and hope for ecclesial reunion receded, Erasmus looked to Poland as a model for Christendom. He held up the kingdom as an example of how difference could be accommodated and compromise could be reached through wise leadership in church and state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-37
Number of pages20
JournalChurch History
Volume83
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

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