The Cusanus Institute is devoted to studying the life and thought of Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464), both in their contemporary context and in their enduring relevance for later epochs.

At the same time, we take the work on Nicholas of Cusa as a springboard for further methodological and interdisciplinary reflection on topics in medieval intellectual history. The Institute is open to students, scholars, and members of the general public who are interested in using its library or attending its seminars, lectures, or conferences. The Cusanus Institute also serves as a host institute for visiting scholars from abroad. Those interested in doing advanced work at the Institute on Nicholas of Cusa or in medieval intellectual history should call or write for more information.

The Cusanus Institute staff consists of Marco Brösch (research), Ingrid Fuhrmann (secretary), Alexandra Geissler (research staff, press and public relations, social media), Viki Ranff (research), and Petra Schulte (director).

The Cusanus Institute sees itself as a workshop for intellectual history, a center for Cusanus scholarship, and a place of academic dialogue.

A Workshop for Intellectual History

Focused on primary sources and critically engaging with current approaches, the Cusanus Institute develops interdisciplinary perspectives on the intellectual history of the Middle Ages. In doing so, it examines the relationship between knowledge and nonknowledge, imagination and ideas, and the social and cultural practices of processing information about the world.

A center for Cusanus Scholarship

A central task of the Institute is to plan and carry out projects for a better understanding of the work of Nicholas of Cusa. Notable projects include the German translation of his sermons, the digital preservation and modern cataloging of his private library, and a study of his reception of Pseudo-Dionysius.

Nicholas of Cusa: Sermons in German Translation

Viki Ranff
The Satoshi Oide Foundation and the Günter Klotz and Helena Klotz-Makowiecki Foundation

The first project undertaken by the Institute – and the occasion of its founding – was the scholarly curation of Nicholas von Cusa’s Latin sermons (over 300 in all) for the Heidelberg Academy edition of his works (volumes XVI–XIX). For the past several years now, the center has been working on a four-volume edition of Nicholas’s sermons in German translation. The second and third volumes have already been published, while the fourth will go to press in 2018. The first will appear last, as many of the early sermons contained in this volume are already available to German readers in the translation by Joseph Sikora and Elisabeth Bohnenstädt from 1952.

The sermons span a period of more than thirty years, from Christmas of 1430 to June 5, 1463. Though unevenly distributed across the phases of Nicholas’s life, they nevertheless give insight into the evolution of his themes and theological thinking more broadly. The sermons range from early texts shaped by the interpretation of Church authorities to pastorally motivated, image-rich orations and, in later years, fully developed theological treatises. Nicholas himself collected many of his sermons for posterity, convinced as he was that they would contribute to the central concern of theology: understanding the mystery of Christ and its formative influence on the Christian conception of man.

One goal of the translation is to make the sermons accessible to readers with little or no knowledge of Latin. To aid general understanding – and in keeping with the Cusanian spirit – a critical apparatus points out biblical quotations and allusions, references to earlier theologians, internal references, and important secondary literature.

Digitizing the manuscripts of the Cusanus Library
Petra Schulte, Marco Brösch, Alexandra Geissler

In cooperation with the Cusanusstift and the Trier Center for Digital Humanities, the Cusanus Institute plans to recatalog and digitalize the private library of Nicholas of Cusa and bring the questions and methods of intellectual history to bear on its holdings. The library, which is housed in the historic Cusanusstift building in Bernkastel-Kues, is one of the most important collections in the late Middle Ages, containing 316 manuscripts and over 100 incunabula from every known branch of knowledge in the medieval era. 81 manuscripts from the original collection are held by other institutions, including the British Library (London) and the Bibliothèque royale de Belgique (Brussels).

Nicholas of Cusa’s Reception of the Church Fathers
Viki Ranff

As a follow-up to a current postdoctoral project on the topic of the likeness of God in man in the works of Pseudo-Dionysius, Johannes Scotus Eriugena, and Nicholas of Cusa, the Institute plans to undertake a broader study of Nicholas’s engagement with the Church Fathers, beginning with his wide-ranging reception of Pseudo-Dionysius. A thinker of the late fifth to early sixth century who combined elements of Neoplatonism with Christian theology, Pseudo-Dionysius was held in high esteem by later theologians thanks in part to his pseudonymous identification as Dionysius the Areopagite, a judge who had become a disciple of Paul after the Areopagus sermon. Pseudo-Dionysius had an extraordinary influence on Nicholas’s writings, and its traces can even be found in his private library, as the Institute’s study will show.

A place of academic dialogue

In addition to the scholarly study of medieval texts, a critical element of our work is the promotion of academic dialogue – through everyday encounters at the institute as well as at our lectures, conferences, and seminars. Two recurring highlights in a calendar of events designed to encourage discussion are the Trierer Cusanus Lecture and the International Cusanus Symposium.