Wolfgang Capito (1478-1541) was one of the most important figures of the Reformation, a leading churchman who turned from Catholic to Protestant. A professor of theology and advisor to the Archbishop of Mainz, he moved to Strasbourg and worked for two decades toward the reformation of the city, which became, after Wittenberg, the most active centre of the Reformation movement. This volume - the first of three - is a fully annotated translation of Capito's existing correspondence, covering the years 1507-1523. The letters reveal his dialogue with leading humanists and reformers, such as Erasmus and Luther (with whom Capito had a contentious relationship), and reflect the cultural and political milieu of the time. They also offer significant insights into the progress of the Reformation. Erika Rummel's head- and footnotes provide historical context by identifying classical and biblical quotations as well as persons and places.
The volume will aid historians of the Reformation by elucidating as yet imperfectly understood aspects of Capito's thought, such as his efforts to promote concord between the reformers, his stand in the Eucharistic controversy, the nature and limitations of his tolerance toward Anabaptists, and his views on the relationship between secular and church governments.
Much of the literature on the Reformation has a quality of inevitability about it, giving the impression that the Reformation was preordained to succeed. The letters of Wolfgang Capito instead reveal the intense inner conflict of an important Reformation leader and the anxiety he felt in accepting the new beliefs. Capito was less self-conscious than many of his peers: he was not looking over his shoulder creating an image for posterity; he struggled over his religious beliefs. His was no sudden conversion, and he was far from at peace with himself. This excellent volume makes an important contribution to Reformation studies and to the broader field of intellectual history.' Miriam Usher Chrisman, Department of History, University of Massachusetts