Heinrich Seuse (c. 1295-1366)

  • Pupil and teacher in the “College of Self-Abandonment”

    The Dominican friar from Constance, Heinrich Seuse (often known in English as Henry Suso) was the most important disciple of Meister Eckhart and the most widely read mystical author in late medieval convents.

    In his autobiographical work Exemplar Seuse describes himself as “a servant of eternal wisdom”. This “servant” spends the first phase of his life up to the age of forty in selfimposed asceticism: he systematically mortifies his body and invents ever more arduous exer-cises. In the second phase of his life, the 'servant' learns to endure life's afflictions. This does not happen entirely voluntarily and is described as the transition into the highest stage of education, the “College of Self-Abandonment”. In these years he becomes pupil and teacher at the same time because he does not only learn the required selfrenunciation but also initiates others into the art of mystical 'unbecoming'.

    Seuse's most important disciple was Elsbeth Stagel from Zurich, who lived in the Dominican convent of Töss near Winterthur. This intellectually gifted woman was impatient to learn the mystical teachings of her pastor and correspondent Heinrich.

    Seuse's Exemplar is only preserved in its entirety in four illuminated manuscripts. The famous manuscript from the monastery library of Einsiedeln is from Constance where Seuse lived for many years. The audio station introduces visitors to the dialogue between the 'servant', his disciple Elsbeth and a mystical dog.

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    Audio (German): “Die Stunde des Hundes” (Ausschnitte)