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Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464)

  1. Donald F. Duclow

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0989

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Duclow, D. F. 2011. Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


German canonist, cardinal, philosopher, and theologian, Nicholas was born in Kues (Bernkastel-Kues) on the Mosel river. A degree in canon law from Padua (1423) launched his ecclesiastical career. At the Council of Basle his Catholic Concordance (1433) defended conciliarism, which affirmed a general church council's authority over the pope. In 1437 Nicholas, supporting Pope Eugenius IV's efforts to unite the Greek and Latin churches, sailed to Constantinople to prepare for the Council of Florence (1439). He then traveled for ten years throughout Germany to win support for Eugenius over Basle's anti-pope, Felix V. For his successful efforts, Nicholas was named cardinal. In 1450–1452 he toured Germany and the Low Countries as papal legate. Appointed Bishop of Brixen (Bressanone) in the Tyrol, Nicholas' attempts to reclaim diocesan independence from secular control and to reform monasteries provoked conflict. At his friend Pope Pius II's urging, Nicholas settled in Rome (1458), where he served in the Curia and acted as vicar general (1459). Living simply, he continued — not without frustration — to advocate reform. In 1464 he died at Todi on his way to join Pius II's abortive attempt to launch a new Crusade.


  • Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464);
  • German canonist, philosopher, theologian;
  • council of basle's catholic concordance, and conciliarism;
  • the catholic concordance, and political theory;
  • on the peace of faith, dialogue for peace