The Death of Erasmus

melanchthon_erasmusOn his way [back to the Netherlands] he stopped in Basel in the house of Jerome Froben, August, 1535, and attended to the publication of Origen. It was his last work. He fell sick, and died in his seventieth year, July 12, 1536, of his old enemies, the stone and the gout, to which was added dysentery.

He retained his consciousness and genial humor to the last. When his three friends, Amerbach, Froben, and Episcopius, visited him on his death-bed, he reminded them of Job’s three comforters, and playfully asked them about the torn garments, and the ashes that should be sprinkled on their heads. He died without a priest or any ceremonial of the Church (in wretched monastic Latin: “sine crux, sine lux, sine Deus”), but invoking the mercy of Christ. His last words, repeated again and again, were, “O Jesus, have mercy; Lord, deliver me; Lord, make an end; Lord, have mercy upon me!”

One thought on “The Death of Erasmus

  1. Jona Lendering 13 Jul 2016 at 2:26 pm

    According to Beatus Rhenanus’ “In Memoriam”, the last words of the great scholar were: “O Jesu, misericordia; Domine, libera me; Domine, fac finem; Domine, miserere mei; Lieve God.” The two last words are translated by Beatus Rhenanus as “Care Deus”.

    I have always wondered why Erasmus, who had been living in the Latin language for all his life, fell back to Dutch at his very, very last moment. What was he thinking? (I understand from modern linguists that it is not uncommon that people revert to their mother’s tongue.)


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