Cusanusstift with gothic chapel and medieval library
The poor-law infirmary "St. Nikolaus" of Bernkastel (Cusanusstift) was founded by
Cusanus and established throughout the years 1451-1457 in the historic part of Kues,
not far from the Mosel river banks. The hospital aimed to care for those of the poor
who could be restored to honest independence, but for many this was not likely to be
possible. Today, we find here the most famous parts of Cusanus' library with a unique
collection of handwritten, artfully decorated scientific books originating from the
9th - 15th century —one of the world's most precious private libraries. The building's
medieval cloister with its open colonade along with the gotic chapel, all this impresses
the visitor by the architectural perfectness.
With his scientific treatises and mnauscripts, his contributions to philosophy, science
and epistemology (the theory of the origin, nature, and limits of human knowledge)
Nikolaus von Kues (1401-1464) represents one of the constituent theorists who helped
overcoming medieval stagnation. Despite his "modern" ideas, Cusanus also made remarkable
career within the institutional church by achieving the position of a cardinal at Rome.
Such a career was quite unusual at these times given his non-aristocratic background.
His titular church as cardinal was S. Pietro in Vincoli at the bottom of Monte
Esquilino in Rome. An image of Cusanus can be found on his tombstone and he is also
depicted as benefactor on the middle part of the wing altar in the Cusanusstift's
gothic chapel. The house where Cusanus was born lies at the end of the village Kues,
upriver in the direction of Lieser.