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Nikolaus von Kues —world-renowned philosopher and polymath

Nikolaus von Kues (Nicolaus Cusanus: 1401-1464), born as son of the rich Mosel sailor and merchant Henn Cryfftz, received his higher education at the Universities of Heidelberg and Padua. In keeping with the end of medieval times, his main subjects were mystic, scholastic, canonical law and theology. His doctoral degree was awarded by the University of Padua in canonical law. Cusanus rejected a teaching position as lawyer in the Brabantish Leuven and instead chose a church career. His career path was therefore predictable, although his succession to Cardinal status was quite exceptional for his heritage in those days. His position as Cardinal was mainly spent at the Church of 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 Gothic chapel of the Nikolaushospital. While Cusanus's life was certainly exceptional, it was far from spectacular and it is difficult to speculate why people still talk about him today. It is unlikely that his church career has made him a significant figure, more likely his writing about philosophy and science that made him stand out as an avant-gardist of the new age. His work has something of a diverse flavour, possibly due to his Italian bias and his friendship with the mathematician Paolo Toscanelli.This may have contributed to the disparate disciplines embraced in Cusanus's work. His unique collection of hand written pieces seems to make him an exponent of humanism.

Portrait of Cusanus in the Gothic Chapel of the Nikolaushospital in Bernkastel (Mosel Valley)
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