Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Böser Fritz

Friedrich I ruled Heidelberg from 1451-1476. He had a number of nicknames such as the exalted "Friedrich der Siegreiche," and "Pfälzer Fritz," but he was also known as "Böser Fritz" which translates roughly as "evil Fritz".

Friedrich I showed an interest in the academy because he thoroughly reformed the University of Heidelberg in 1452. In 1456, he invited Peter Luder to become the first instructor in the studia humanitas in a German university. Alas, Luder left the university only four years later. He wanted to become a professor but had not actually possessed the academic qualifications for the post--he apparently did not actually have a degree. What he lacked in credentials he made up for in profligacy, fathering a number of illegitimate children. To ingratiate himself with the ruler, he wrote a long ode in 1458 singing his praises. Two years later, he used the plague coming through as an excuse to skip town and move to the University of Erfurt. The university's first essay into humanities appears to have been something of a disaster.

Friedrich was a successful general, expanding his territory through a number of wars. Notable among them was the 1462 sack of Seckenheim. At one fell stroke he captured the Markgraf of Baden, the Bishop of Metz, and the Graf of Baden-Württemberg, all of whom he held for ransom. When the kingdoms paid the ransom, Friedrich found his coffers flowing with gold which he subsequently invested, and donated.

With all of the money Friedrich attracted lots of mendicant orders who wanted to use his funds to support their studies in philosophy and theology. One was set up at the corner of Hauptstrasse and Brunnengasse, where the psychological institute now is. (There is probably something significant in that change). The Cistercians also set up shop in Heidelberg with his assistance. It probably is not the only time in history when theologians lived off funds forcibly taken from others. At least the Cistercians believed in working for a living.