Gerson, John

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Gerson, John

John Gerson (Jean Charlier de Gerson) (gûr´sən; zhäN shärlyā´ də zhârsôN´), 1363–1429, French ecclesiastical statesman and writer. He studied (1377–94) under Pierre d'Ailly at the Univ. of Paris, where he took his doctorate in theology and succeeded Ailly as chancellor (1395). Both Ailly and Gerson were anxious to end the Great Schism (see Schism, Great). When they were unsuccessful in having both Benedict XIII (see Luna, Pedro de) and Gregory XII resign, they began to urge that the schism be ended by action of a general council. The Council of Pisa resulted, and Gerson wrote a tract (1409) to defend it. The tract is a classic statement of the counciliar theory (later condemned)—that a council can supersede the pope when the good of the church requires it. Gerson was not at Pisa, but he did attend (1414) the Council of Constance (see Constance, Council of) as head of the French delegation. There, he supported Ailly in ending the schism and led in the condemnation of John Huss. But Gerson had made an enemy of John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy; from 1408 he had publicly demanded that John do penance for the murder of Louis, duc d'Orléans. Fearing John, Gerson did not return to France from Constance but went to Vienna to teach. From 1419 he lived in Lyons, where he wrote many works, chiefly theological, and a tract defending Joan of Arc. He strongly condemned as immoral the Roman de la Rose of Jean de Meun. Gerson opposed the nominalist philosophy of William of Occam, and as chancellor he began the change to realism as the official philosophy of the Univ. of Paris.

See J. B. Morrall, Gerson and the Great Schism (1960); D. C. Brown, Pastor and Laity in the Theology of Jean Gerson (1987).

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