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Konrad of Megenberg

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Scholar and writer, b. probably at Mainberg, near Schweinfurt, Bavaria, 2 February, 1309; d. at Ratisbon, 11 April, 1374. The dates of birth and death are not absolutely certain, and Konrad himself calls his native place Megenberg. He studied at Erfurt and Paris ; at the latter university he obtained the degree of Master of Arts, and he taught philosophy and theology there for several years. In 1337 he was named head of St. Stephen'sschool at Vienna. From 1342 he lived at Ratisbon, where he was first a parish priest, proving himself to be an able preacher. Later he became a cathedral canon, and member of the town council. In 1357 he made a journey to the Curia at Avignon. Konrad is one of the most prolific German writers of the fourteenth century. His best-known and most widely read work is his "Buch der Natur", which is still of importance for the history of culture. According to his own statement he was engaged in writing it in 1349. A Latin work, "de naturis rerum", of the Dominican Thomas of Cantimpré (d. 1263), served as model. Konrad, however, prepared his book with considerable freedom; much of the original was omitted, his own observations were introduced, corrections were made, and so on. His work gives a survey of all that was known of natural history at that time and is, besides, the first natural history in the German language. It was widely read up to the sixteenth century, and numerous manuscript copies of it are still extant, eighteen being at Munich. The first printed edition with a date is of 1475, and was issued at Augsburg from the shop of Hans BŠmler, under the title of "Puch der Natur". It was printed at least six times before 1500; some of the editions were illustrated, all are now rare incunabula. A new edition of the original text was issued by Franz Pfeiffer (Stuttgart, 1861), with an introduction; an edition in modern German was edited by H. Schulz (Greifswald, 1897). Of Konrad's numerous other writings there should be mentioned: the "Sphære", a small compendium in German of astronomy and physics, prepared from the Latin work of Joannes à Sacrobosco ; the poem "Planctus ecclesiæ in Germania" (1337); a hymn in praise of the Virgin, and other poems; a work on morals, "Speculum felicitatis humanæ (1348); "De erroribus Begehardorum et Beguinarum"; "De translatione imperii" (1355); the large work "Oeconomica", written between 1353 and 1363; "Tractatus contra mendicantes ad Papam Urbanum V"; several biographies of saints, and some historical treatises, chiefly dealing with the local history of Ratisbon. In his writings Konrad shows himself to be a strong adherent of the pope, an opponent of the philosophy of Occam, and a stern critic of the moral failings of his age and of the clergy.

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