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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Hardwin von Grätz, known as Ortuinus Gratius or Ortwin (1475 – May 22, 1542), was a German humanist scholar and theologian.

Ortwin was born in Holtwick (now in the District of Coesfeld, Westphalia) and died in Cologne.


He belonged to an impoverished noble family, and was brought up in the house of his uncle Johannes von Grätz at Deventer (it was for this reason that he generally called himself "Daventriensis"). He was educated at the local school, by Alexander Hegius. In 1501 he went to the University of Cologne to pursue his philosophical studies.

As a member of the Kuyk Burse, Ortwin became licentiate in 1505, magister in 1506, and professor artium in 1507. His salary as professor being insufficient, he accepted the position of skilled adviser and corrector in the Quentell printing establishment, where many classical authors of the Middle Ages were published under his direction. These, according to usage, he provided with introductions and rhymed dedications.

As a disciple of Hegius, Ortwin was a humanist and adherent of Peter of Ravenna; he also enjoyed the friendship of prominent intellectuals. But things soon changed. He was attacked bitterly by the younger generation, especially Hermann von dem Busche, on account of his taking the part of the Cologne University theologians and the Dominicans on the occasion of the Reuchlin controversy, as well as on account of his Latin translations of various writings of the Jewish convert, Pfefferkorn.

Ortwin had at that time just finished a literary tournament with von dem Busche, and had been made the laughing-stock of the literary world by the venomous Epistolae obscurorum virorum, which were addressed to him. His adversaries succeeded in vilifying him from both the moral and scientific standpoints, denouncing him as a drunkard and guilty of other vices, and as an incompetent Latin and Greek scholar. He ignored the attacks, and did not defend himself from the beginning. He only attacked his defamers when Pope Leo X excommunicated the author, readers, and disseminators of the Epistolae (1517). His defence, entitled Lamentationes obscurorum virorum, was very weak and missed its mark, so that the portrayal of his character remained distorted up to modern times. In 1520 he was ordained to the priesthood and devoted himself thenceforth entirely to literary work.


The magnum opus of his literary activity is: Fasciculus rerum expetendarum ac fugiendarum (Cologne, 1535), a collection of sixty-six more or less weighty treatises of various authors on ecclesiastical and profane history, dogma and canon law, compiled to expose the noxious elements in the Church's organism, and prepare a way for a future council to remedy them. It has been wrongly claimed that this work, put on the Index on account of its anticlerical tendency, was not from the pen of Gratius.

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