A Brill Calendar: November 15
Jacobus Remius and Religious Education
Few social needs were more vital during the first three centuries of Leyden University than to provide Dutch society with an adequate supply of god-fearing men, capable of delivering soul-lifting sermons to Calvinist flocks and administering sacraments; Christian burials included.
That was the reason that the States of Holland ordered and organized in Leyden a ‘Collegium’, responsible for the education and training of youngsters in this field. Everything was regulated by the college for these students, down to their choice of lodgings; for these very students were the supply for a booming religious ‘market’. One regent of this authority was Jacobus Revius, charged with this task for sixteen years; until the day of his death, November 15, 1658.
Born in Deventer city in 1586 as Jacob Reefsen, Revius knew Leyden well, having read theology there, followed by study in the Frisian High School of Franeker. As practitioner of the new religion, he had seen service in the ‘Far East’ of the Republic, in Overijssel Province; beyond the IJssel river (as seen from Holland Province, of course, hence the name).
When Revius arrived for his new position at his Alma Mater in 1642, the environs buzzed with heated discussions & debate on teachings of the French philosopher René Descartes. His controversial book, ‘Discours de la methode’, was published in Leyden seven years earlier by Jan Maire, a respected member of the bookish brotherhood in the city.
It is seldom that two tempers differ so dramatically: Revius, staunch Protestant, a brilliant, even great poet in his mother tongue, fierce opponent of Popish fads & fallacies, versus the Moses of modern philosophy. Descartes had already lived and worked in Holland and Leyden when local authorities prohibited all printing and disseminating of Cartesian books as from February 8, 1648. Revius’ influence on this momentous decision must have been considerable; the year corresponds to his tract ‘Methodi cartesianae consideratio theologica’. Descartes died in 1650.